It’s the most important decision the Eagles will make this season and it will impact them for years to come – do they keep quarterback Sam Bradford?
There are basically three options for the Eagles: Don’t re-sign him; re-sign him to a long-term contract; or make him their franchise player, which means Bradford would make the average salary of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL, which would be around $20-25 million for the one-year deal.
Some people don’t like Bradford at all and want the Eagles to draft another quarterback this year and develop him into a franchise player. Some people just don’t want to tie up that much time on a long-term contract or spend that much franchise-tag money on a QB who has a history of injuries and has never led an NFL team to a playoff berth.
I’m already on record that the Eagles should spend the money to franchise Bradford. It would only be a one-year hit to Jeffrey Lurie’s very big wallet and it would give the Eagles time to decide whether Bradford really is the long-term answer.
As for the people who say the Eagles should simply use their first-round pick, No. 13 overall, on a QB, well, history isn’t on their side. It’s easy to say, “Oh, let’s get a franchise quarterback in the draft.” It’s much more difficult to do it, as a look at quarterbacks drafted since 2000 suggests.
In the last 15 years – which is a pretty good sample size — there have been plenty of elite quarterbacks drafted with the first two picks, including Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton, and there are a few with big-time potential, like Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
But when you get away from the first couple of picks things get a little dicey when it comes to drafting quarterbacks. From the fifth overall selection through the second round, there have been 39 quarterbacks drafted since 2000. Of those 39, there have been just five that we consider to be elite quarterbacks and four who could be. And that leaves 30 out of 39 drafted QBs who either were flops from the beginning or quickly faded into oblivion.
On picks 6 through 10, there have been five quarterbacks drafted since 2000 and almost all of them were duds – Byron Leftwich, Matt Leinart, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Tannehill, although Tannehill has shown some promise.
On picks 11-15 at least one team hit paydirt – the Pittsburgh Steelers, who selected Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th pick in 2004. Jake Cutler was also drafted in that 11-15 slot and even though he’s put up good numbers, he’s not the man I want leading my team. And the only other QB drafted in that slot was Christian Ponder.
On picks 16-20 there’s one very good pick – former Delaware star Joe Flacco. But the others were Chad Pennington, Kyle Boller, Josh Freeman and E.J. Manuel.
On picks 21-25 there was also one very good pick – future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers. But the other six QBs drafted in that slot were J.P. Losman, Jason Campbell, Brady Quinn, Tom Tebow, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. Any takers?
On picks 26-32 – which takes us to the end of the first round — there was also one future Hall-of-Famer picked in this slot, Drew Brees. But that’s also when Patrick Ramsey was drafted and he was a bust, and we still don’t know about Teddy Bridgewater, who has had some success, but whose main job is handing the ball to Adrian Peterson.
The Eagles don’t even a pick in the second round, but even if they manage to get one history isn’t on their side when it comes to drafting quarterbacks. Of the 14 QBs drafted in the second round over the last 15 years there are only three who could be considered as really good players – Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Derek Carr, and the jury is still out on the last two.
As for the other second rounders, well, the names say it all – Kevin Kolb, John Beck, Kelly Clemens, Drew Stanton, Pat White, Jimmy Clausen, Quincy Carter, Marques Tuiasosopo, Brian Broham, Chad Henne and Brock Osweiler.
It gets even bleaker once you get past the second round. Buffalo may have a keeper in Tyrod Taylor, a sixth-round pick of the Ravens before he signed with the Bills. But other QBs drafted after the second round in the last 15 years include David Ragnone, Chris Simms, Tavaris Jackson, Josh McCown, Trent Edwards, Colt McCoy, Ryan Mallette Garrett Grayson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Sean Mannion and Matt Barkley.
So, the Eagles have to weigh the odds of finding a hidden gem in the draft. There are some highly-rated QBs available, led by Carson Wentz of South Dakota State, Paxton Lynch of Memphis, Jared Goff of and Connor Cook of Michigan State. And, frankly, I haven’t seen enough of any of them to make an informed analysis of whether they’ll be elite NFL players. But, as the evidence shows, the odds are against it.
And that’s why the Eagles should re-sign Sam Bradford, who has proven he can win in the NFL and has the enthusiastic support of his teammates. Bradford might not be the best quarterback in the world, but he’s probably the best the Eagles can get.