The Eagles’ decision to let Chip Kelly control all personnel decisions ahead of the 2015 season left a great deal of instability when Kelly was fired in December, but Philadelphia has decided to bank heavily on the idea that the quarterback Kelly traded for can steady the ship at that position going forward. The new Eagles regime signed Bradford to a two-year, $36 million deal with $26 million guaranteed, and another $4 million available through incentives.
It remains to be seen what the guarantees really look like—these contracts can look very different upon close examination—but that’s still a lot of scratch for a quarterback who’s been bedeviled by injuries and the challenges of new schemes throughout his career.
It was believed that the trade from the Rams (the team that made him the NFL draft’s No. 1 pick in 2010) would benefit Bradford, and in some ways, it did. He posted his best season since 2012, completing 346 of 532 passes for 3,725 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for an Eagles team that lacked a consistent run game or reliable offensive line play.
The arrival of head coach Doug Pederson puts Bradford in yet another new system. Pederson is an Andy Reid disciple, and Bradford will work within the structure of a West Coast offense. That plays to his ability to move in the pocket and make accurate short-to-intermediate passes, and it’s clear Pederson believes Bradford is the best available option.
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“You can look at it from an Xs-and-Os standpoint,” Pederson said last week of Bradford at the combine. “You can also talk to people that have been around Sam Bradford and understand where he’s come as far as his development as a quarterback. The fact that he himself put himself in a leadership role toward the end of the season proves to me that he can handle going forward this role, and the opportunity to start.”
So, there’s that. There’s also the fact that without Bradford in the fold, the Eagles were either going to have to soldier on with Mark Sanchez, try to sign Brock Osweiler or Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency, or select one of the quarterbacks in an imperfect draft class. From that standpoint, the move makes sense: Bradford is the devil the Eagles know. Perhaps Pederson has seen enough on tape and talked with Bradford enough to have a positive impression—given the initial contract numbers, it certainly appears to be the case.
The Eagles are a franchise in transition and in search of stability at the game’s most important position. From that perspective, as much as this move will be bashed on its face, I think it’s an important statement from the front office to the players that there won’t be more turnover at the head of the offense. And if the guarantees turn out to be on the team-friendly side (as they likely will), it’s worth considering this might be a better deal than you might think.