Another day, another post about Sam Bradford's impending free agency and the Eagles' quarterback situation. Whether the Eagles should keep Bradford or not has already been debated at length and that discussion won't stop until something actually happens. Therefore, this post isn't about what the Eagles should do with Bradford. Rather, it's a collection of information that potentially reveals how the situation will play out. I don't think Bradford will be back with the Eagles. Here are some reasons why.
Bradford wasn't that great in 2015
You can make excuses about the offensive line, running game, wide receivers, etc. Context is important and there's some credence to those arguments. But the objective data suggest Bradford wasn't very good in 2015.
He finished the season 11th in completion percentage, 25th in yards per attempt, tied for 33rd in TD/INT ratio, and tied for 26th in passer rating. When it comes to advanced metrics, Bradford ranks 34th by ESPN's QBR stat. Football Outsiders has him at 24th in their DVOA and DYAR metrics.
When you take the best seven game stretch of every NFL quarterback from the 2015 season, Bradford only ranks 21st. When you normalize his drop rate, he still ranks as an average quarterback.
Bradford's injury history is still concerning
One relatively healthy season (where he still missed two games) hardly makes Bradford a proven iron man. Bradford has been healthy enough to play only 63 out of 96 possible games in his career, which is 65.6%.
Bradford reportedly thought about retiring after suffering his second straight ACL injury. What if Bradford gets hurt again and revisits the idea of early retirement?
The Eagles were consistently one of the healthiest teams in the league under Chip Kelly. The Eagles are reportedly trying to keep sports science around in the Doug Pederson era, but it remains to be seen if the program will be as effective with Kelly gone. If the Eagles aren't as good at injury prevention in the Pederson era, that could mean Bradford is at greater risk.
Bradford will be expensive to re-sign
Bradford won't be giving the Eagles some kind of hometown discount. Even if he was willing to do that, which I highly doubt he is, his agent Tom Condon certainly won't be. Condon has a reputation for driving a hard bargain. In other words, he's really good at his job. Condon's deals are not team-friendly, as noted by former NFL agent Joel Corry. Condon got Alex Smith $17 million per year and he got Matthew Stafford $17.7 million per year. Remember how Jeremy Maclin got a contract bigger than everyone expected last offseason? It's no coincidence that Maclin's agent is Condon.
Contract projections indicate Bradford is set to make $18 million per year. Bradford's side reportedly turned down a deal worth $18 million annually during the season, however. It's worth noting Bradford denied ever receiving that offer.
Still, $18 million might be on the low end. There are arguably up to six NFL teams that could be bidding for Bradford's services if he hits free agency. Not to mention there was a report Condon wanted $25 million per year from the Eagles BEFORE the 2015 season.
I think the realistic number is around $20 million per year for Bradford. That would put him above Ryan Tannehill, who makes around $19.2 million.
Now it's time to revisit the first two points in this post. Do you think the Eagles really want to pay top dollar to a guy with average (at best) stats and an extensive injury history?
Bradford's biggest supporters in the building are gone
After the Eagles traded for Bradford, I heard from multiple sources within the organization about how high former head coach Chip Kelly and former vice president of player personnel Ed Marynowitz valued him. But you don't need sources to know that. Just look at how much of a bounty (2016 second round pick, Nick Foles) Kelly gave up for Bradford. Also consider Kelly's comments essentially saying he wanted Bradford back for the 2016 season.
Well, now Kelly and Marynowitz are both gone. It's not impossible that Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman like him, but it's certainly fair to wonder if he's their guy. Pederson has praised Bradford but he hasn't come out and said "he's our guy." Maybe the lukewarm comments are due to the fact the Eagles don't want to give Bradford more leverage. But if you have a quarterback you REALLY believe in, why not pound the table hard for him? It's not a position where you need to get cute and risk missing out like the Eagles did with Maclin last offseason.
Bradford's former offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, is also gone. Bradford said he would have loved to have Shurmur as head coach but obviously the Eagles didn't go in that direction.
A few questions I wonder about: Does Roseman really want to move forward with Kelly's guy? If the Eagles really liked what they saw out of Bradford, why not just keep Kelly around and hope things get better in 2016?
Bradford might not want to be back
This is picking right up from the last point. With Bradford's biggest supporters gone, he might not want to be back. Bradford was reportedly upset when Kelly was fired because he was looking forward to continuity. If continuity is something Bradford values highly, then his best shot could be signing with the 49ers. San Francisco has a lot of cap space and could need a new quarterback with Colin Kaepernick reportedly wanting out.
Multiple reports suggest Bradford doesn't love being in Philadelphia. From Peter King:
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.
(Houston is "only" a seven hour drive from OKC and the Texans need a quarterback, by the way.)
Next up, Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice:
according to several contacts, Bradford does not like Philadelphia. (Consider that a rumor more than a hard report, please.)
And the same sentiment noted again by Tim McManus of Birds 24/7:
we don't get the sense that he's dying to come back to Philadelphia
So even if you think the Eagles should keep Bradford and even if the team wants him to come back ... the feeling might not be mutual.
The Eagles can always prevent Bradford leaving in free agency by placing the franchise tag. The problem with that is it's a high cap number and it's only for one year. If Bradford doesn't want to stay, he could just play out the 2016 season and then leave. Tagging a quarterback who doesn't want to be back doesn't seem like a great idea. Teams should be aiming for long-term stability at the most important position.
Bradford is reportedly unlikely to get tagged
Speaking of the franchise tag, there's a report that the Eagles don't plan to use it on Bradford. Multiple Eagles beat writers denied that ESPN report, but then Adam Schefter doubled down on it. Schefter's report also notes the Eagles are interested in Nick Foles. It seems likely Foles would be brought in as a placeholder quarterback while the Eagles groom a rookie. If that's the case, Bradford doesn't fit into that scenario.
Doug Pederson wants to draft a QB
There’s some good quarterbacks in this draft. I’d love to be able to pick one up, develop him, and eventually he becomes your guy over time.
In speaking with reporters at the Senior Bowl, Pederson said he believes quarterback is one of the strongest positions in the draft. The Eagles could potentially pick a quarterback at No. 13. Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, and Jared Goff are the top three names that could be in the mix.
It's not impossible the Eagles could keep Bradford and also draft a quarterback. But the way the Eagles have operated this offseason, it's obviously reminiscent of the Andy Reid era. Part of the reason why Reid was so successful is because he drafted Donovan McNabb and developed him into a franchise quarterback. The Eagles might be looking to do the same thing here: draft and develop.
Letting Bradford go could eliminate a team in the market for a QB
The Eagles pick at No. 13. What if one of the top quarterbacks doesn't fall to them? It's possible. Letting Bradford walk could make it more likely the Eagles get one of their draft choices, though, if Bradford signs with one of the quarterback needy teams ahead of Philadelphia. The 49ers and Browns come to mind in this scenario. This point is hardly one of the main reasons why the Eagles would be interested in not bringing Bradford back. It's just something worth considering.
It's also possible the Eagles could get a compensatory draft pick by letting Bradford walk. The Eagles would have to be inactive in free agency in order to get that pick, though.
The sense I get from what I've heard is that Bradford won't be back. Note that this isn't a definitive report. It just seems to line up with all the preceding points in this post. Put another way: I definitely haven't heard anything that strongly suggests Bradford will return. Yet, at least.
As always, there's room for debate. One could argue there are signs that might signal a Bradford return is likely. Pederson publicly praised him. The Eagles' alternate options at quarterback are not plentiful nor obviously attractive. Bradford might be able to build off his late 2015 success. And so on.
For me, signs point to Bradford not being back in 2016.