The Eagles have a lot of work ahead of them, and it all starts with the selection of a new head coach. We have no idea who that will be, if for no other reason than Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie likes to go with wild cards, like he did with his three previous coaching hires – Ray Rhodes, Andy Reid and Chip Kelly.
No matter which coach Lurie and friends select to run their team, the Eagles have a priority list of things that need to be addressed this offseason. The top five priorities, in inverse order, are: 5 – Find an outside receiver with speed; 4 – Add a pass rusher for the defense; 3 – Re-sign Fletcher Cox, the heart of that defense; 2 -rebuild the offensive line in both free agency and the draft and make sure you get multiple big bodies in to revamp the Eagles’ biggest weakness in 2015; and, most importantly of all, 1 – re-sign quarterback Sam Bradford.
We know, there are a lot of people who aren’t convinced that Bradford is the answer to the Eagles’ biggest question. They’re not sold on his durability and his accuracy and they don’t think the Eagles should give him a long-term contract because he’s not the long-term answer.
So, who is? Some people brush that aside and say the Eagles would just be settling for the best available option and that Bradford isn’t a franchise QB. But as they brush it aside they also fail to answer that question. There is no “Franchise Quarterback’’ aisle at the local Acme and teams that have them tend to hold onto them. So, name one veteran QB who is better than Bradford and would be available.
Do you want Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick or Johnny Manziel? Their current teams would love to trade them away. Jay Cutler may have worn out his welcome in Chicago, but do really want that pouting underachiever on your team? And, hey, how about Nick Foles? The Rams would love to send him back to the Eagles (but they’ll keep that second-round pick they got in the deal, thank you very much). As for free agents, there will only be three of note and none of their teams is about to let them go anywhere – Washington’s Kirk Cousins, the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick and Denver’s Brock Osweiler.
And the Eagles would have to get lucky to strike it rich in the NFL draft. There aren’t many top-tier QBs available this year and the Eagles don’t pick until No. 13, so the odds are heavily against them finding the quarterback of their dreams in the draft, especially if they want to win now. None of the top-rated QBs – Paxton Lynch of Memphis, Jared Goff of California, Connor Cook of Michigan State or Carson Wentz of South Dakota State – are ready to step right into an NFL huddle. Bradford, of course, is ready to do that, and don’t forget he’s just 28 and about to enter the prime of his career.
Another thing in Bradford’s favor is that the Eagles’ two best receivers – slot receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz – both made heart-felt appeals to the Eagles to re-sign Bradford. Nobody knows better than those guys the value Bradford has compared to somebody else the Eagles might get, and they quickly point out how much better Bradford played in the second half of the season after he got his sea legs under him after missing two straight seasons with knee injuries, and after he got a chance to settle into Chip Kelly’s system and with Chip Kelly’s players.
Here’s one statistic, courtesy of Pro Football Focus, that shows how much better Bradford played in the second half of the season. On passes of 10-19 yards – which is how far the majority of completed passes travel in the NFL – Bradford had a passer rating of just 48.0 in the first half. In the second half, that rating was 129.7.
Sam Bradford is not the best quarterback in the world, but he’s probably the best the Eagles can get. And that will have to be good enough.