The 2016 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and new head coach Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2015 roster. The team went 7-9 last season and improvement is clearly needed. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 9, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2016 season. Today we'll start this offseason review series by looking at the quarterback position.
Numbers: 1018 snaps, 14 games started, 7-7 record, 346/532 (65%), 19 TD, 14 INT, 3725 yards, 7.0 Y/A, 86.4 rating, 39 rush yards, 10 fumbles
Review: The common narrative on Bradford is that he struggled to start to season but played well down the stretch. His defenders argue that he was negatively impacted by an unreliable running game, poor pass protection, and a high number of drops from his pass catchers. There's some truth to all of this. As was often the case when he was in St. Louis, Bradford did not find himself in an ideal position in Philadelphia.
With that said, the quarterback still needs to be held accountable for his performance. There are plenty of examples when Bradford struggled independent of the situation around him. He majorly struggled with accuracy and ball placement at times. His overthrown pass to a wide open Zach Ertz in Week 16 sticks out as a notable example. Some of his passes in the Saints game and the first Giants game were downright atrocious.
Bradford's stats aren't great. He ranks 11th in completion percentage, 25th in yards per attempt, tied for 33rd in TD/INT ratio, and tied for 26th in passer rating. Most advanced metrics do him no favors, either. Bradford ranks 34th by ESPN's QBR stat. Football Outsiders has him at 24th in their DVOA and DYAR metrics. Pro Football Focus is more positive on Bradford. He's their 12th best rated quarterback from the 2015 season. But when a PFF grade is the best thing you can point to about a player, that's not very encouraging.
A lot is made how well Bradford played down the stretch. There's no question he finished the season on a high note. But just how good was he really? Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice points out that Bradford's good stretch is basically comparable to how Brandon Weeden (!) performed in 2015. That's not a good thing.
Some will insist Bradford was doomed to failure because of the offensive line. For as much as Eagles blockers struggled in 2015, there were 20 more quarterbacks who faced a higher percent of pressure on their dropbacks. Football Outsiders indicates the Eagles were tied for the 19th best pass protection. That's obviously below average, but it's not insurmountable. Excuses being made for Bradford can only go so far.
Speaking of excuses, let's talk more about the drops. I already took a look at Bradford's stats would look like without ANY drops. Obviously that's unrealistic. Drops are part of the game. And while Bradford had the highest percentage of drops, he did not have the most number of drops. Tom Brady and Derek Carr both had 44, which is two more than Bradford had. They both played significantly better than Bradford. Brady threw for 36 touchdowns to seven interceptions and had the fourth best passer rating in the league. Carr had 32 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and the 19th best passer rating.
As I've said before, I don't consider myself to be pro-Bradford or anti-Bradford. I'm on the fence. But when I look at these poor stats and I think about what it's going to cost for the Eagles to re-sign him, I think the team might be best off by moving on. He seems to be average at best. He's not going to elevate the team around him. The Eagles shouldn't merely settle on a franchise quarterback, which is exactly what I said last year when some thought Nick Foles was "good enough."
Numbers: 173 snaps, 2 games started, 0-2 record, 59/91 (64.8%), 4 TD, 4 INT, 616 yards, 6.8 Y/A, 80.7 rating, 22 rush yards, 1 fumble
Review: Sanchez didn't really show any progress in his second year in the scheme. He struggled during the summer and he didn't play well when forced into action during the regular season. The Eagles had two of their worst games of the season with Sanchez starting. Part of that was because the defense collapsed but it was also because the offense couldn't stay on the field with him running the show.
Review: Lewis spent most of the season as the team's third string quarterback. He never played a snap and was only kept on the active game day roster when Bradford missed two games due to injury.
Who Could Leave
It's not unrealistic to say that all three quarterbacks currently on the roster could be gone.
Bradford is a free agent and there will be a big market for him. Signing him to a contract extension will not be cheap. The Eagles might opt to franchise tag him and keep him for one more year. They could also tag and trade him, which is the most preferable option since they'd be getting something back in return.
Sanchez can be cut to save $3.5 milllion. There are worse backup quarterback options out there than Sanchez, but the money he's due could be used better elsewhere.
Lewis, like Bradford, will be an unrestricted free agent. I'm guessing he won't be back.
Who Could Sign
Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel is the name that makes the most sense in free agency. The 29-year-old passer has been a backup for most of his career. He's never really had the chance to start and Doug Pederson, his former offensive coordinator, could offer him that in Philadelphia. Daniel could be a placeholder type guy while the Eagles develop a rookie behind him. And if by some chance Daniel plays well in the meantime, that's a bonus.
NFL Draft Options
The Eagles could conceivably take a quarterback with their first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Carson Wentz is the popular name, but will he make it to No. 13? Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff are also rumored to go in the first round.
The Eagles absolutely need to take a quarterback at some point in the draft. Even if Bradford is back, he hasn't done enough to prove he's the undisputed starter for years to come. The team needs to start developing a rookie quarterback and they might as well do it this year.