One of the biggest decisions the Eagles will have to make this offseason is what to do about Sam Bradford. Philadelphia's 2015 starting quarterback is going to be a free agent. Should they keep or let him go?
Keeping Bradford isn't going to be cheap. According to a Spotrac projection, his next contract is going to be worth about $18.7 million per year. That would make him the 12th highest paid quarterback on an annual basis. The entire deal is projected to be worth $56 million over three years.
That's a lot of money for a guy who has often struggled to stay healthy. Bradford only missed two games in 2015 but prior to that he missed 25 out of 32 possible games in 2013 and 2014 due to back-to-back ACL injuries.
Health isn't the only issue with Bradford. Performance is another concern. It's true Bradford improved over the course of the season. He finished the season on a high note:
Sam Bradford’s last 7 starts: 175/258 (67.9%), 1959 yards (7.6 y/a), 10 TD, 4 INT, 96.7 rating. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 3, 2016
Despite this, he still ranks 25th in yards per attempt, tied for 22nd in touchdowns, tied for seventh in interceptions, and 26th in passer rating. Football Outsiders' advanced metrics rank him 24th. It's true drops hurt Bradford's numbersr, but still, is that a guy the Eagles should be rushing to reward with a huge contract?
The truth is the team might not have any viable alternatives. Letting Bradford walk could help the Eagles get a compensatory pick in 2017 depending on how much he signs for, but Philadelphia would be left without a starter next season. The Eagles might able to get a starter in the 2016 NFL Draft but it's hard to base a plan solely on a rookie who might not even be available when the Eagles pick at No. 13 overall. It could be harder to find a viable option via free agency or trade.
There's always the possibility Bradford might not even want to come back to Philadelphia. The 28-year-old passer has publicly stated he's open to returning but it's far from a guarantee. If the Eagles want to put the franchise tag on Bradford, it could cost around $19 million for the 2016 season. If not, there will be a market for his services in free agency. The Houston Texans, for example, could be eyeing up Bradford considering how poorly Brian Hoyer played in the playoffs.
The Eagles may or may not be making a mistake by extending Bradford. They would definitely be making a mistake, however, if they put all their eggs in the Bradford basket and did nothing else to address the quarterback position aside from rewarding him. With or without Bradford back, this team needs to invest resources into fixing the most important position on the team.
NFL free agency doesn't begin until March so the Eagles have time to make their decision. It'll be up to Philadelphia's new collaborative power structure to get the decision right. So far, there are no indications on what the decision will be.