In the days leading up to the start of the 2015 NFL Draft, what are the biggest questions that need to be answered at each position? In our #EaglesDraft Position Preview series, we will explore how each position changed since the start of free agency and how the draft could impact the shape of the roster. Today, we start with the quarterback position ...
The Look Before Free Agency: Mark Sanchez finished off the 2014 season as the team's starting quarterback following the season-ending collarbone injury to Nick Foles. Sanchez went 4-4 as a starter, and set a franchise record for completion percentage (64.1 percent) along the way. Sanchez was also set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Foles guided the Eagles to a 6-2 start before the injury, but he wasn't as sharp as he was in 2013 when he earned Pro Bowl honors. Foles' turnover total increased while his passer rating decreased. Still, he was 14-4 as the Eagles' starting quarterback in two seasons under Chip Kelly. Matt Barkley became the primary backup once Foles went down, but didn't see any significant action in his second NFL season. G.J. Kinne spent the past two seasons with the Eagles on the team's practice squad.
After Free Agency: Things are just a little bit different at the quarterback position for the Eagles. The Eagles stunned the NFL with a trade on the first day of free agency. No, it wasn't for Marcus Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon, who is the subject of endless speculation when it comes to a possible reunion with Kelly in the NFL. The Eagles acquired another Heisman Trophy winner in Sam Bradford, the former No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma. With experience in the spread offense from college, pinpoint accuracy, quick decision-making and a strong arm, the Eagles believe that Bradford's potential upside in the Eagles' offense was too good to pass up - even if it cost the Eagles Foles along with draft-pick compensation.
Bradford is also coming off of a season-ending injury - an ACL that he re-tore in the preseason. The Eagles don't believe that Bradford, the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who held the same role in St. Louis at the time, would have ever become available if he was able to play in 2014. Bradford has continued his rehab in Philadelphia with an eye on being ready for Training Camp. The Eagles provided themselves with some quality insurance by re-signing Sanchez to a two-year deal.
The acquisition of Bradford has not quelled those who believe Kelly is still plotting to acquire Mariota. Kelly and the Eagles worked on the Bradford deal for weeks before it became official. Kelly knows how starved teams are for quality quarterback play and doesn't see how Mariota falls in the draft. He can look at last year's draft-day trade between the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns (the Bills surrendered their 2014 and 2015 first-round picks as well as a 2015 fourth-round selection to move up five spots for wide receiver Sammy Watkins) before even trying to comprehend what it would take to maneuver from No. 20 overall.
Kelly has squeezed enough out of Foles, Sanchez and Michael Vick to win 20 games and a division title in his two seasons as head coach. Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said recently at the NFL Annual Meetings that a franchise's ceiling is tied to its quarterback. Bradford was considered the best young quarterback prospect sine Peyton Manning when he came out in 2010. If Kelly can bring the best out of Bradford, the cost to acquire him will be a mere footnote. Until then, it will be a lot of patience and work behind the scenes so Bradford can have the chance to be ready when Training Camp rolls around in late July.
As we approach the NFL Draft, here's a look at the quarterbacks on the Eagles' roster ...