Things actually could be a lot worse for Sam Bradford right now.
The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback is facing free agency with a team that wants him back. That’s a good thing, considering there’s been an overhaul on the coaching staff and in the front office. A lot of times, when new guys come in — and, for all intents and purposes, Howie Roseman is a new guy after taking control of personnel back from Chip Kelly — they want their own players, not the ones the previous regime collected.
Bradford didn’t play particularly well last year, though he played better than the quarterbacks for a bunch of teams in the NFL, especially in the second half of the season. This is why the Eagles would like to have him back and have made no secret of that desire, despite the fact they won’t be using the franchise tag on their potential franchise quarterback.
This is all a very good thing. And for that, Bradford should be thankful.
"Sam’s part of the Eagles’ organization, and what he’s done the last half of last year I think has given him that opportunity to stay in Philadelphia," Eagles coach Doug Pederson, a former backup quarterback with the Packers and a starter for the Eagles during his playing career, told reporters at his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. "And listen, (once) being a player in his shoes, you have to want to be somewhere and I think Sam wants to be in Philadelphia."
Taking Pederson’s word for it, it appears both sides very much want to continue their relationship. So why hasn’t it?
Because there’s no rush to do so at this point. The franchise-tag period doesn’t end until March 1 and free agency doesn’t begin until eight days later. Bradford’s agent is veteran Tom Condon. This is not Condon’s first rodeo by any stretch. He knows how to maximize leverage, as he showed when he took the Drew Brees negotiations to the wire a few years ago after the Saints has tagged Brees.
Pederson acknowledged there’s still plenty of time for the sides to work things out. The negotiations have remained private, so it’s tough for outsiders to advise Bradford whether to accept whatever the Eagles are offering at this point.
But given the arc of Bradford’s career, which dipped when he suffered two ACL injuries and was traded from the Rams to the Eagles last offseason, it’s not out of line to remind him there’s a lot of value in the Eagles’ faith in him despite a 2015 season that led to a decent stat line (3,725 yards, 65-percent completion rate, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions) but some shaky play, particularly during the point of the season the Eagles were still in contention.
"Not only do you have to grade that, but you have to get with Doug and his staff," Roseman said. "One of the benefits we have as a front office is having Doug who played the position, having (offensive coordinator) Frank (Reich) who played the position, having ‘Flip’ (quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo) who played the position — and having their input into the evaluation process as well, and how they see (Bradford) fitting their system because they have a criteria of what they’re looking for as well."
Roseman didn’t outright say it, but it’s pretty clear all those signed off on the push to re-sign Bradford. Again, this is a very good thing for Bradford, who entered the league with a six-year, $78-million contract as the last No. 1 overall pick under the former rookie pay system.
In other words, this should be about more than money for Bradford. This should be about being in the right situation with an offensive-minded head coach, a solid coaching staff and a roster that has some pretty good weapons on offense. It should be about not having to start over once again, likely with a team that’s in even worse shape than the Eagles, who recently locked up five key players to long-term deals.
But make no mistake, the Eagles are preparing for life without Bradford as well, should he allow himself to be wooed by another suitor.
Former Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who has a fan in Roseman, could soon be on the outs with the Rams. Jeff Fisher stated Case Keenum is the expected starter, so Foles could be available either by trade or after an outright release.
And Pederson spent a few minutes talking up Kansas City Chiefs backup Chase Daniel, a free agent Pederson coached in Kansas City the last few years. Pederson first called Daniel a "solid backup" then even stated that he could see Daniel as a starter.
"What he’s done with Alex (Smith), the way he’s coached Alex behind the scenes, the way he prepares during the week, the way he studies, the way he puts himself in the starter’s mentality on Sunday and the couple of games he did start in Kansas City has proven he can take over a team," Pederson said.
Daniel was an undrafted free agent in 2009. Bradford was the first pick overall the following year. There’s no question who has more talent — and Bradford figures to be more confident next season after getting back into the rhythm of playing football this past season.
Roseman talked about "Plan A." That would be Bradford. There are also alternate plans. That means Daniel, Foles and others.
"There’s more money in the league than there has been the last couple of years. You can’t just say, ‘I’m going to go out and sign this player,’ because you’re competing with 31 other teams, so you have to have backup plans and contingency plans," Roseman said. "Our hope is we’re looking at a lot of different options at a lot of different positions but we’re getting Plan A in all of those."