Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda: Andy Dalton at Backup QB
The Eagles plan at backup quarterback is set even if the decision-making behind it was hidden by the realization that the face of the franchise needs support publicly and a safety net privately.
Philadelphia is essentially married to Carson Wentz through the 2022 season after signing the former No. 2 overall pick to a massive four-year, $128 million extension in June of last year.
Like most Howie Roseman deals, Wentz's contract is a bit unique. The structure of the deal is built on roster bonuses but they are team-friendly ones, staggered in an effort to keep as much short-term flexibility in the salary cap as possible.
Wentz is completely locked in through the 2020 and 2021 seasons with extensive guarantees. From there, things get tricky with no guaranteed money from that point forward. However, if Wentz remains on the team in March of 2021, basically a slam dunk, an additional $15M in guarantees for 2022 kicks in, and the dead-cap number would be untenable from a budgeting standpoint.
The finances, though, aren’t a problem if Wentz produces and will actually look rather cost-effective when the next group of star QBs get their extensions, players like Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes.
Jalen Hurts was the surprise pick at No. 53 overall in April’s draft and expected to be a high-level, and maybe even more importantly, cost-effective backup for four seasons, something complicated early by the COVID-19 pandemic and the scaled-back offseason.
The Eagles clearly like Hurts’ skill set but the goal of having two top-10 players at the position is a specious one because the job description of any backup QB means he doesn’t play unless something happens.
In the case of Hurts, even if a small package of plays is inserted to take advantage of his unique traits it’s hard to imagine the impact of a more meaningful contributor like Miles Sanders, who happened to be taken at the No. 53 spot in the 2019 draft.
As for Nate Sudfeld, the Eagles’ actions speak louder than their words whether it was bringing in the post-40 Josh McCown last season or the rookie Hurts this time around. The belief is that Sudfeld isn’t a top-tier backup even if Doug Pederson is preparing for him to be the QB2, at least early in 2020, as Hurts gets up to speed.
Ironically, the Eagles actually know what the perfect backup QB situation looks like from 2017-18 Super Bowl run when Nick Foles played Mariano Rivera to the horse of a starting pitcher that was Wentz.
The goal here should have been veteran backup who can play closer if another late-season injury occurs to Wentz and the best option was Andy Dalton, the former Cincinnati starter who signed with division rival Dallas for a pittance despite over 130 NFL starts and many playoff runs earlier in his career for an organization that isn't exactly known for its support.
Roseman is known for kicking every tire he sees and even attempting to get Dalton would have required patience. He wasn’t released by the Bengals until April 30 after Joe Burrow was selected No. 1 overall in the draft.
Dalton is also a Texas native who already lived in the Dallas area but at one-year for $3M guaranteed with a ceiling of $7M that might have had to be pushed by another million or two by the Eagles to get him out of the Lone Star State would have been the better option for 2020 both from an experience and locker room standpoint.
COULDA: Brought back McCown and groomed him to be an offensive assistant on the fast track considering his reputation.
SHOULDA: Waited and signed Dalton if possible.
WOULDA: Been more honest from the get-go with the thought process behind the Hurts pick.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen