The Philadelphia Eagles biggest question mark entering the 2016 offseason is whether they should bring back Sam Bradford. While choosing to give Bradford an long-term contract or using the franchise to see how Bradford performs in Doug Pederson’s offensive system next season seems like Eagles best way to be a competitive team, committing a lot of money and effort to build around a below average quarter would be a huge mistake.
Using spotrac.com’s NFL team salary cap tracker for the 2016 offseason the Eagles could have $18,821,908 or $14,696,908 in cap space, the first amount is referred to as cap space (W/TOP 51) and the second one is called cap space (W/ALL). While I don’t know the all the differences between top 51 and all and these figures do not reflect the recent resigning a of tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, according to Joel Corry’s November 17, 2015, article about projected 2016 franchise tag amounts, Bradford would be paid $19,748,000 if the Eagles choose to use the franchise tag. The Eagles could cut players and restructure contracts to fit Bradford’s franchise tag contract under the $14,696,908 amount, but they would only be able to sign the cheapest free agents to improve the team. A 7-9 team without a second round pick shouldn’t bring the same team back next season with only rookies, and that is what will likely happen if Bradford is franchise tagged.
The Eagles deciding to use the franchise tag is basically repeating what the Eagles did this past season, because it would give Bradford one season to show if he should be the face of the franchise. The 2016-2017 NFL season will be Bradford’s seventh season in the NFL, so why should anyone expect him to turn into the elite quarterback the Rams thought they were drafting with the first pick in the 2010 NFL draft? The 2013-2014 season when Bradford played nine games was the only time in his career when he showed any evidence that he might be a top ten QB. Bradford completed 60.7 percent of his passes, threw 14 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 90.9 during the 2013-2014 season. Looking at Bradford’s career statistics, he completed 60.1 percent of his passes, threw 78 touchdowns, 52 interceptions, and has an 81.0 QB rating. Bradford has a lower career QB rating than Kirk Cousins 91.3, Ryan Tannehill 85.2, and Brian Hoyer 82.2.
Bradford was ranked 26 in QB rating for the 2015-2016 season using ESPN’s NFL player passing statistics, and his best games came against teams with terrible defenses. The Eagles 39-17 win over the Saints and 35-30 win over the Giants were the only games this season that Bradford threw for more than 300 yards and at least two touchdowns in a win. The Saints were ranked 32 out of 32 teams in points give up per game with 29.8 and the Giants were ranked 30 out of 32 in the same category with 27.6.
Bradford has never had an elite player at wide receiver or tight end at any point in his career, but has managed to complete 60.1 percent of his passes. The brightest part of Bradford’s short time with the Eagles is the significant improvement to his throwing accuracy. Bradford completed 65 percent of his passes this past season and the people that believe it’s a good idea to keep him as the Eagles starting QB could use this to support their argument, but Bradford’s improved accuracy falls apart when he enters the red zone.
Inside 20 yards from a touchdown, Bradford completes only 46.30 percent of his passes this season. Tom Brady completes 60.19 percent, Cam Newton 57.50 percent, Ryan Fitzpatrick 52.05 percent, Brain Hoyer 51.06 percent, and Josh McCown 48.84 percent inside 20 yards from a touchdown this season. While Bradford is more accurate than Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick in this category, Bradford has never lead his team to the playoffs like the Cutler and Kaepernick, so how he performers in the red zone is one of the few examples that we can use to judge how Bradford performs in pressure situations.
When starting QBs in the NFL usually make between 16 to 22 million dollars a season, giving Bradford a long-term contract would be just as ridiculous as using the franchise tag. Taking a QB in the 2016 draft and using their cap space on other positions of need would be the Eagles best short-and-long-term strategy.