Philadelphia Eagles: Dealing with Bradford


‘If the Eagles really want Sam Bradford to be their quarterback of the future… why haven’t the signed him to a long-term deal?’

So has gone the logic of many-a-fan since the Philadelphia Eagles dealt Nick Foles and a second-round pick to the Rams for Bradford.

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But the logic is flawed.

All it takes is to simply evaluate a potential Bradford extension from both sides to see why one really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

We’ll start with the Eagles:

Bradford is making $13 million this year. And he’s got (if you hadn’t heard) a history of injury that goes back to his Oklahoma days and has followed him into the NFL.

He’s also yet to play a snap with the Eagles.

The only feasible advantage to offering up a multi-year extension to Bradford at this stage of the game would be to lower his cap number for this year.

But why?

The pricier free agents are signed. The guys on the market now are affordable if unattractive options.

Even if Bradford were itching for a deal (more on why he’s not later) and the Eagles could put one into place that would save them a few pennies in 2015… they’d have to commit future money to make it happen. Such a deal would put Bradford on the books for 2016, 2017, and beyond.

And, today, making a deal like that wouldn’t do the Eagles a lot of good.

And the Eagles seemed to know that when they made the trade… because the included in the deal contingencies that would give them a mid-round pick back from the Rams if Bradford misses a certain amount of time.

In other words: By acquiring Bradford the way they did, the Eagles were attempting to swing for the fences while, at the same time, trying to mitigate the damage that might be done if they whiffed completely. 

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Signing Bradford to a long-term deal now… before he’s tested his knee… before he’s taken a snap… before he’s shown that he can be more effective than a Nick Foles or a Mark Sanchez… would only serve to expand the damage. And prolong it.

And what about Sam?

Let’s put ourselves in Sam Bradford’s position for a moment… take a second to get used to the knee brace… and then consider a contract extension.

Bradford is in the final year of his $78 million rookie deal. He’s going to make $13 million this year no matter what. He’s a very, very wealthy 27 year old.

He’s also a professional athlete: highly competitive and full of belief in himself.

He’s also about to launch into a season with an offense that has made every quarterback, receiver, and runningback that has played in it look significantly better than they would have otherwise.

Bradford saw Nick Foles (who is not as good) throw for his famed 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.

He saw Mark Sanchez look like a legitimate NFL starter just a year removed from being laughed off the Jets.

He saw DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy enjoy the best years of their careers.

Like Maclin did after his missed season in 2013, Bradford is betting on a combination of himself and Chip Kelly.

Maclin knew that a year in Chip’s offense would raise his stock (and his price tag) dramatically. And he took a chance. And he’s now one of the highest paid receivers in the league.

Bradford, similarly, must be salivating at the thought of the kinds of numbers he might put up in Chip’s high-octane offense.

May 28, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford (7) during OTA

And salivating even more fervently when he matches those numbers up with the contract numbers they might demand.

Bradford, today, would be signing a contract as an oft-injured former #1 pick that hasn’t lit up the league and was just traded for another oft-injured former third-round pick that also hasn’t lit up the league.

Sure. He could probably get some guaranteed money for the next three or four years if he were willing to sign a team friendly deal.

But at what cost?

If Bradford plays out this season healthy… he is very likely to flip the script completely. He’ll likely be coming off of his best year as a pro. He’ll very likely have put up franchise-QB-type numbers. He’ll very likely have been at the helm of a good team that has been winning 10 games per year without a franchise QB.

And he’ll be a free agent.

Either the Eagles will have to offer him a massive deal similar to the one Cam Newton just signed in Carolina (roughly 5 years for $100 million) or he’ll be offered a franchise tag to play for $20 million in 2016 or he’ll be given the freedom to test the market (the Eagles wouldn’t allow this scenario to happen) where he’ll get a massive deal from someone else.

On the other hand? If he suffers another major injury? His career is likely to be over and he can rest on the $50 million of guaranteed money ($13 million of which comes this year) in his rookie deal.

In other words: By putting his faith in himself and in Chip Kelly’s system, Bradford could use 2015 to net him four to five times the guaranteed money he could get today by signing an extension before answering any questions about his health. 

Which brings us back to the Eagles. If they have faith in Bradford… why not offer him a deal, today, that pays him like a franchise quarterback and convinces him to extend rather than test the market next year?


That’s what a franchise tag is for. The Eagles, if Bradford performs like they believe he can, are in no danger of losing him. A star quarterback is well worth the $20 million or so that the franchise tag would pay them. So if Bradford lives up to the potential? He’s not going anywhere.

The only danger for the Eagles would be agreeing to pay him for years to come and then not getting what they paid for.

So what does it all mean?

We’re likely to see 2015 play out as a test-year for Sam Bradford. It’s hard to pay a true franchise quarterback too much money in today’s NFL… so if he passes the test?  Everybody wins.

If he fails?

The Eagles don’t owe him a dime moving forward.

And, sure, they don’t have a franchise quarterback. But what else is new?

Next: Eagles' Culture Becoming Clear

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