One of the biggest decisions the Philadelphia Eagles will have to make this offseason, after hiring a new head coach and personnel chief, is what to do at quarterback.
2015 Eagles starter Sam Bradford is scheduled to be a free agent and could command a big pay day on the open market. The Eagles could opt to be aggressive in trying to sign Bradford to a long-term deal, but he might not be worth the risk. And it's possible Bradford might not even want to come back, depending on who the Eagles hire. In his latest The MMQB column, Peter King makes it sound like Bradford's return to Philadelphia is far from a lock.
"Three interesting things I can confirm. One: Kelly had no idea this was coming. He was shocked. He figured the organization would rally at the end of the season and make a plan for 2016 that he hoped would include signing quarterback Sam Bradford long-term. Two: Lurie never offered him a chance to stay if he ceded personnel control. Lurie wanted Kelly out. Now. Three: Bradford won’t be motivated to return to Philadelphia over any other team now that free agency looms. His agent, Tom Condon, is a get-the-most-you-can-regardless-of-team guy, and Bradford isn’t crazy about Philadelphia the city anyway. He probably wishes there was a team in his favorite place, Oklahoma City. And who’s to say the next coach—current offensive coordinators Adam Gase of Chicago and Doug Pederson of Kansas City are popular early names—will want Bradford at $18 million a year or more?"
King's points make sense. The Eagles lost a popular Condon client in free agency last season when Jeremy Maclin signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Note that NFL insider Adam Caplan thought Maclin returning to Philadelphia was a lock last season until Maclin switched over to Condon's representation. At that point, Caplan knew it was going to be harder for a deal to get done, and he was right. Signing Bradford might be equally as difficult for the Eagles. Take a look at the contracts Condon has gotten for his other quarterbacks such as Alex Smith and Matthew Stafford. There's no team-friendly "pay as you go" type deal (i.e. Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton) with him.
The point about Bradford not being crazy about Philadelphia is also interesting. Bradford has openly expressed interest in returning to the Eagles, but he did say: "Obviously, [Philadelphia is] a lot different than anywhere I’ve ever been before." And that's true. Bradford grew up in Oklahoma before being drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Living in Philadelphia is his first experience on the East Coast. It's possible he might prefer the Midwest atmosphere, as King suggests.
In the end, money will be the most relevant factor in the Bradford negotiations. If the Eagles really want to keep their quarterback, they do have options. They can designate him with the franchise tag or the transition tag. Or they can just offer him a long-term contract extension. It's just a matter of whether he's really worth that big deal or not. Bradford wasn't spectacular in 2015 and he has an extensive injury history. On the other hand, he might be one the best option Philadelphia has at quarterback. It's not an easy situation for the Eagles to be in.