It's common knowledge that Nick Foles will be the Eagles' starting quarterback heading into the 2014 NFL season. But behind Foles, the quarterback picture isn't so clear. Eagles coach Chip Kelly often maintains that the NFL is a league where having two quarterbacks who can start is a necessity. So who will be the Eagles backup next season? Before we delve into potential free agent options, let's take stock of the Eagles have on the roster already.
Matt Barkley - Barkley was selected by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft last season. He struggled to make a positive impression in training camp and preseason. I chalked this up to Barkley looking like a rookie who needs time to develop and adjust to the NFL game. It's also worth noting Barkley wasn't 100% recovered from shoulder surgery. Barkley's struggles continued when he saw limited playing time after both Foles and Michael Vick suffered injuries. Barkley showed he could move the chains but his numbers were ugly: 30/49 (61.2%), 0 TD, 4 INT, 300 yards, 6.1 Y/A, 44.6 QB Rating, -2 rush yards, and 3 fumbles. Barkley has a lot of prove before he can be counted on to be a solid backup, but I get the sense the Eagles are high on him. Barkley was hand-picked by Kelly. Call it being overly optimistic, but I have a feeling Barkley will be one of those players who makes a big jump in his second season.
G.J Kinne - Kinne, unarguably one of the greatest practice players of all time, will likely compete for the third QB spot. Kinne could end up on the practice squad again this year. Long live G.J.
Brad Smith - Not actually a QB, but did play QB in special situations for the Eagles last year. Smith's contract was recently reworked: he took a 350k pay cut but received 450k more guaranteed. If the Eagles feel comfortable enough with Smith to be a third string QB, they could save a roster spot by only keeping Foles and Barkley as the "real" QBs. I don't think this is the most likely option, but it's an interesting observation. At the least, I see Smith being the team's emergency QB.
Free Agent Backup QB Options
If the Eagles don't feel comfortable enough with Barkley as a backup, and/or if they just want to push him by giving him legitimate competition, there are some decent free agent QB options available. Here are a few names:
Michael Vick - Surprise! If Vick doesn't find a starting job elsewhere in the league, coming back to the Eagles would make sense. I think Vick gets a starting job so I don't see this option as likely, but it's worth mentioning. The Eagles haven't completely shut the door on this possibility
Jason Campbell - I've always liked Campbell for some reason. At age 32, he's made 80 career starts and has thrown for a a total of 87 TD to 60 INT with a 81.8 QB rating. He also boasts some mobility having rushed for a total of 1203 yards (5.0 yard/attempt).
Josh Freeman - Has proved capable of starting in the NFL. Weird fallout in Tampa Bay due to issues both on and off the field. Only 26. Is there still upside here? Is he salvageable?
Shaun Hill - 34 years old. Has proven to be a reliable backup.
Ryan Fitzpatrick - Doesn't have the best arm but is generally accurate and has proved to be a capable starter in the NFL.
Kevin Kolb - Kevin should probably just retire.
Rex Grossman - THE BEST THIRD STRING QB IN THE NFL
Dennis Dixon - Dixon actually isn't an unrestricted free agent, but I bring him up because I see his name thrown around as a suggestion sometimes. He's currently under contract with the Bills on a futures/reserve deal. Perhaps if the Bills release him this offseason it would make sense for the Eagles to bring him again back as a training camp arm. But I don't see it happening.
What the Eagles do (or don't do) in free agency could seem to affect their draft plans. If the Eagles add a veteran backup, there may not be room to keep a draft pick if the Eagles only keep three QBs: Foles, (veteran), Barkley. If the Eagles don't add a veteran QB, space opens up for a rookie QB: Foles, Barkley, (draft pick). It'll be interesting to see how the Eagles handle the position.