Everybody Wins in a Sam Bradford Trade

The Philadelphia Eagles are in a frenzy.

It feels like the franchise has been in a frenzy since hurriedly moving on from Chip Kelly a week before the end of the Regular Season. The disappointment that came with Kelly’s failure plunged the franchise into aggressive moves, first re-signing the fulcrum of Kelly’s final roster before then trading away the farm for a shot at Carson Wentz.

Wentz will be the third quarterback the Eagles have invested in this offseason. The first was Sam Bradford. Bradford signed a two-year $35 million deal before the beginning of free agency. Despite signing Bradford, the Eagles then added Chase Daniel. Daniel was expected to be the backup, someone who knows Doug Pederson’s system, but reports quickly emerged that Daniel would compete with Bradford for the starting spot.

Even though the Eagles publicly denied that Daniel had a chance to start, those public denials lost credibility once they traded up in the draft with the Cleveland Browns. If the Eagles were really committed to Bradford as their starter, they would never have traded up for a shot at Wentz.

The get-out retort here is that the Eagles traded up for Wentz and re-signed Bradford with Daniel so they could allow Wentz to sit for two years. This sales pitch would make the greatest of con men blush.

By trading up for a shot at Wentz, the Eagles invested their short-term future in him. You don’t give away that many assets unless you love the prospect you are acquiring. If you view him as a developmental prospect, why invest so much to acquire him? Wentz is a polarizing prospect when you escape the echo chamber that is big draft media. Those who believe he is a great prospect always sell him the same way though, they call him “pro-ready.”

‘Pro-ready’ as a term is useless, but that’s a different discussion for a different day. Wentz’s main selling point is that he is ready to play in the NFL right now. He’ll be 24 before the end of his rookie season, so he’d want to be. So the Eagles have traded away huge capital to acquire a pro-ready quarterback who is going to sit for two seasons.

How does that make sense?

In today’s NFL, teams don’t sit their rookies for very long. Blake Bortles was going to sit for his first season no matter what. The Jaguars had him in the lineup before the end of September. Bortles isn’t an exception, he’s the norm. Since 2006, only two quarterbacks have been selected in the first round of the draft and not started a single game during their rookie seasons. Those two are Jake Locker and Brady Quinn.

26 quarterbacks in total have been selected over that period. 19 of the 26 started at least 10 games, seven started all 16 and at least three more would have if not for being injured.

Sitting a soon-to-be 24-year old quarterback so you can start someone you clearly don’t believe is good enough to be your long-term starter just makes no sense. It’s not like the Eagles just spent a first-round pick on a quarterback. They gave away valuable assets that would have been used to build a supporting cast around Bradford both for this year and next. This isn’t the same as the Green Bacy Packers taking Aaron Rodgers with Brett Favre already in place as the starter.

That is likely the caveat for Bradford. He is now playing with a bad supporting cast and has a fan-favorite quarterback with huge presence lingering over his shoulder.

Bradford wants out. Because he doesn’t have a track record of winz, he is being slaughtered in the media for wanting out. It makes sense though. If he was to stay in Philadelphia now it would only be about the money. He wants out for football reasons and the Eagles should facilitate him for football reasons. They gain nothing by having an unhappy Bradford starting for them in 2016.

Trading Bradford now wouldn’t force them to push Wentz into the starting lineup either. Daniel could be given this season to try and create a trade market after the year or lock up his backup spot once Wentz takes over in 2017 or 2018. It would also allow them to recoup some of the assets they sacrificed to move up in the draft for the North Dakota State quarterback.

There are a few teams who should trade for Bradford. Whether it’s a first-round pick, second-round pick or something cheaper, he would be an upgrade as a starter for most teams. For once he could be put in an offense where he could be a complementary piece or play with a talented supporting cast also. Jason from Overthecap.com offers answers to the financial questions above.

Of the teams that can easily assume Bradford’s contract, the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, one makes more sense than the rest.

Even though Chip Kelly isn’t involved in personnel moves in San Francisco, it would be ridiculous if he didn’t have any input at all. Kelly has a high opinion of Bradford, something he proved when he traded for him last season and something he reiterated during the season with unwavering support for his often under fire starting quarterback.

The Kelly connection isn’t the only reason the 49ers should be looking at Bradford. They aren’t in position to add a quality starter in the draft and are relying on Blaine Gabbert of the quarterbacks on their roster. Gabbert is a terrible quarterback and doesn’t fit well in Kelly’s system. Colin Kaepernick is the better player, but as the 49ers have found out recently he needs to be used in very specific ways. Kaepernick wants out also so it seems inevitable that he departs at some point before the start of next season.

At 28 years of age and fully healthy entering the season, Bradford could be in position to enjoy a similar career arc to Kurt Warner. The 49ers are in the process of rebuilding their roster and they wouldn’t need to commit any long-term money to Bradford to give him a trial run this year. For all the criticism Bradford receives, he has legitimately never played in a good offense and was one of the better quarterbacks in the league over the second half of last season.

You probably didn’t notice that improvement since his receivers dropped the ball with the consistency and impact of a DFS marketing strategy.

Bradford would be familliar with Kelly’s scheme, at worst aiding the head coach’s transition to working with a new roster. Furthermore, the 49ers would be in a better negotiating position than other teams because of their high spot in each round of the draft. If the Eagles can’t get a first-round pick back, then the 49ers become more appealing with their second or even third round picks if his value falls that far.

Of the other three teams that Jason mentioned, the New York Jets seem like the least likely option. Financially the Jets would need to alter contracts and they are being heavily linked with Paxton Lynch. Bradford would be a good fit in the Jets offense and a huge upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick because of his precision as a passer and ability to take care of the football.

The Denver Broncos wouldn’t need Bradford to be great. He could come in and be an average or below-average starter to still be a huge improvement over Mark Sanchez or one of the rookies in the draft. The Broncos could allow Bradford to be a complementary piece as they focus on running the ball and winning on the back of their dominant defense. The only concern for Bradford in Denver is his fit in Gary Kubiak’s scheme.

Asking Bradford to make elongated hand-offs and turn on bootlegs is something he did with ease early in his career. Now that he has multiple ACL tears that could be more of  stress for him physically.

Hue Jackson once took on a former first-round pick who had suffered through injuries and criticism. He set Carson Palmer’s career back on the right track, though the Raiders couldn’t take advantage of his strong play because of their limited talent. Palmer is now one of the best quarterbacks in the league with the Arizona Cardinals. The Browns would make a lot of sense for Bradford but they already have a veteran on the roster, Robert Griffin III, so they are more likely to add another quarterback in the draft if they do at all.

Bradford is a punching bag right now. He’s Kurt Warner in New York, Carson Palmer in Oakland, Alex Smith in San Francisco, Tony Romo when he was still a “choker” even. Our perceptions of quarterbacks often have so little to do with the individual’s actual play that acknowleding Bradford as a good player isn’t something that is done or accepted. He is a good player though, one who should be very attractive to the teams who are in need of a starting quarterback.

Who knows if moving on from Bradford for Wentz is a mistake or not, at this point it’s impossible to know. It’s obvious that the Eagles have messed up this situation though. Their saving grace would be to grant Bradford’s request to trade him so everybody wins.place.

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