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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Future has arrived

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 3

Fisher column logo2Sam Bradford isn’t stupid.

When the Eagles traded up twice to secure the second overall pick in the NFL Draft, and then used that pick to select North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, Bradford could see the writing on the wall.

When the Eagles signed Bradford to a two-year, $36 million contract during the offseason, the often-injured quarterback thought he had found a home. The fact that the contract was only for two years and was front-loaded in terms of guaranteed money should have been a clue that the Eagles weren’t fully committed to Bradford as a long-term solution at quarterback, but his belief that he would have an opportunity to be the franchise’s quarterback for many more years certainly seemed justified.

That all changed when the Eagles drafted Wentz second overall. Teams don’t draft quarterbacks second overall in order to have them sit on the sidelines. That’s especially true when the team invests heavily in that quarterback by trading players and draft picks in order to move up in the draft to get him.

In my May 7th column about Bradford’s unhappiness after the Eagles drafted Wentz, I cited statistics reported by Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski. Of the 25 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 10 most recent drafts prior to this year, there were 25 quarterbacks selected in the first round. Fifteen of them started the first game of their rookie seasons. Twenty-one of them started before the midway point of their rookie seasons.

Even if he didn’t know those statistics, Bradford understood the situation. The selection of Wentz meant that, barring a career-threatening injury to Wentz, Bradford’s chances of being part of the Eagles’ future were extremely slim.

As the old adage says, slim just left the building.

The Eagles traded Bradford to the Vikings on Saturday in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and a conditional fourth-round selection in 2018. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the fourth-round pick could become a third-round pick if the Vikings reach the NFC Championship game this season, or a second-round choice if the Vikings win the Super Bowl this season.

The season-ending knee injury starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered Tuesday at Vikings practice created the opportunity for the Bradford trade. The Vikings weren’t content to let an opportunity to contend slip away. They wanted an established quarterback. They may have actually upgraded at quarterback, at least in the short term.

By contrast, the Eagles appear content to let an opportunity to contend for a division title in the weak NFC East pass by. Building for the future has taken priority over a potential short-term gain.

The Eagles clearly aren’t as good with Chase Daniel as the starting quarterback as they would be with Bradford as the starter. After watching the preseason, perhaps the Eagles realized that even with Bradford, they didn’t have enough weapons on offense to advance in the playoffs, even if they were fortunate enough to reach the postseason.

Perhaps, however, trading Bradford was the plan all along. Daniel’s $21 million contract for three years, with $12 million guaranteed, seemed like an awful lot of money to commit to a backup quarterback. Maybe the plan was always to try to trade Bradford, which would leave Daniel as the veteran mentor. The seemingly excessive money paid to Daniel may have been an indication that his role was always to greater than simply holding clipboards.

How long will Daniel remain the starter? That depends on Wentz’s development. He bruised two ribs during his first NFL action, causing him to miss the Eagles’ final three preseason games. But the feeling seems to be that as soon as he is ready, Wentz will be the starter.

If the wait for Wentz to start is longer than a few games, Eagles fans may grow impatient, just as they did when current head coach Doug Pederson started the first nine game of the 1999 season while Donovan McNabb, drafted second overall, waited in the wings.

My best guess is that Wentz will become the starter after the bye week, which comes after the third game of the season.

Regardless of when he starts, it’s clear that Sam Bradford’s intuition that he wouldn’t be part of the Eagles’ future was correct.

He just didn’t realize how quickly the future would arrive.

 

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