Nobody can deny that the Eagles have a much more defined understanding of their quarterback depth chart than they did one year ago. Back then, of course, the daily conversation looked to answer this question: Who is the best fit for Chip Kelly's offense?
We didn't know what offense the Eagles would run at the time, of course, and the opinions were rampant and, certainly, varied. As Kelly said it would, the competition played itself out on the field in the spring and summer, continued through the regular and playoff game and ended when the Eagles lost to New Orleans in the Wild Card round of the postseason.
So now we know this: Nick Foles stepped in when Michael Vick suffered a hamstring injury and made the starting quarterback job his own, not to let go for an instant in 2013. Vick was the perfect teammate during the weeks of his rehab for the injury and in the weeks after as he moved to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Foles. Matt Barkley, a fourth-round draft pick last April, played in two games, had the typical rookie ups and downs in tough spots, and now has a solid understanding of the NFL game and what he needs to do to make himself a better player at the highest level of the sport. G.J. Kinne played well in the preseason in his limited time, was added to the practice squad during the regular season and is on the team's roster after signing a contract following the 2013 campaign.
Although the quarterback situation is far more settled than it was through the months leading into 2013, it is far from finalized. Vick is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and has expressed a desire to be a starter in the NFL. Whether Vick gets that opportunity is one of the central stories when free agency begins in a month (March 11, 4 p.m.) and what happens there greatly impacts the Eagles at the quarterback position.
Kelly has said that Foles is the starter here, so that's not the issue. Foles deserves the job for the fantastic 2013 season he had and the development he has made in his two NFL seasons. He is a rising young quarterback who will improve with the additional snaps in the spring and summer training sessions and the timing he will continue to perfect with the rest of the offense.
Who is the backup here? Vick fit the role nicely after his hamstring injury and the ascension of Foles, but the veteran wants a crack at starting again and have that opportunity from another team in free agency. If Vick has a better chance to start and accepts it, we all wish him the best of luck. And if that happens -- a prospect the Eagles no doubt are considering and fully understanding -- the team has to consider its options.
Perhaps Barkley is the logical No. 2 in his second NFL season. He's a student of the game and a hard-working kid with a lot of talent. Barkley is seasoned beyond his years. He's had so much starting experience from his high school and collegiate days and he absorbed a lot of knowledge in his rookie NFL season.
If Vick moves on, would the Eagles promote Barkley? Would they sign a veteran free agent, just to make sure they have enough experience at the position? Would they use a draft pick -- at some point between May 8-10 -- and bring him in to compete? Is Kinne an option? Is there another quarterback out there who Kelly has worked with who might be a possibility?
The top brass has spend plenty of time considering all of the options. They have their plan in place, no doubt about it, and they understand the next steps far more deeply than anyone. What's next at quarterback? We wait to find out, knowing that what happens next -- Does Vick stay or go? -- is going to have a significant ripple effect on the picture at the most important position on the team, one that is more clarified than it was a year ago, but that still has a lot of directions it can take moving forward.