Chip Kelly usually has a strict policy about not discussing the contracts of his players. Philadelphia's head coach seemed to drop a hint about the future of Sam Bradford, however, during Kelly's Monday afternoon press conference.
"We've always wanted Sam here," said Kelly. "We wouldn't have traded for him if we thought he was going to be here for a year."
Bradford is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2015 NFL season. The Eagles inherited Bradford's current contract in a trade with the St. Louis Rams in the offseason. Bradford is making $12.9 million this year, but it's unclear what the future holds for him. The Eagles reportedly had some short-term contract discussions with Bradford prior to the season, but then Bradford's side reportedly decided to end negotiations after the quarterback played well in the preseason.
There's no doubt Bradford has played well in recent weeks. In his last four starts, Bradford has completed 65% of his passes for 898 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception. The Eagles are 5-1 in the last six games he's started and finished. Kelly praised Bradford's progress yet again on Monday.
"I think Sam, as a whole, has progressed as the season has gone along," said Kelly. "I know it takes a long while to play quarterback in this league. There’s so many different things you have to get. And when we got Sam, we knew with any quarterback it’s going to take time. Name any quarterback playing at a really high level now and they’ve been playing in the same system for years, not for months. And that’s Sam’s case is. He’s just been playing in our system for months."
"But I’ve said it, and I’ll continue to say it, I continue to see improvement from Sam on a weekly basis that gets you excited about him," Kelly said. "I thought he threw the ball extremely well yesterday. We could have helped him a little bit better. I thought we had too many drops that really would have extended a lot of things for us on Sunday. But I think Sam has improved in all aspects of his game.
Perhaps Bradford's progress can be tied to his increasing familiarity with the Eagles' scheme. Kelly continued to hammer home the importance of continuity at quarterback.
"I just know it’s not an easy position to play," Kelly said. "Just name a quarterback who is playing well right now, and then look at how many years they’ve been in that system. Very rarely is it a first year player that does that, whether he’s moving into a system or a rookie coming into the league."
"Andy Dalton was playing at a really high level, now what year is he in Cincinnati’s system?" Kelly asked. "Look at how well Cam [Newton] is playing, look what year that is with him in Carolina. It’s five years for him. And then you look at the [Aaron] Rodgers’s, the [Drew] Brees’s, the [Tom] Brady’s, the [Ben] Roethlisberger’s, the guys that are playing really, really well right now, it’s because they’ve got experience. It’s something you can’t manufacture. You have to let it play itself out."
Based on Kelly's reasoning here, it sure seems like he would like to have Bradford around for the long-term. It remains to be seen what kind of contract the quarterback warrants. Though he's played well recently, Bradford still ranks 27th in passer rating, 28th in yards per attempt, 25th in touchdown passes. He's tied for throwing the seventh most interceptions. With that in mind, it's hard to justify Bradford as the franchise quarterback of a legitimate championship contender.
Kelly might feel differently, however. It'll be interesting to see how the Eagles handle Bradford's contract situation this offseason.