3,725 yards, 19 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions, 86.4 QB rating. The 2015 season totals are average at best for Sam Bradford. And when you see those pedestrian numbers, it’s hard to argue against people who think it’s best for the Eagles to move on from Bradford and select a quarterback in this year’s draft.
As the season went on and Sam Bradford got more comfortable behind a shaky offensive line, and his timing improved with a less-than-reliable wide receiving unit, Bradford looked good. Great? No. But much better than the beginning of the season, and what his stats indicated.
So why should the Eagles invest in Sam Bradford and re-sign him?
THE EYE TEST: As mentioned above, when the 2015 season started, you knew Sam Bradford wasn’t “right.” He was shaky in the pocket, timing with his receivers was off, and his accuracy was up and down. As the season progressed, especially after the bye week, you saw a completely different quarterback, and the numbers back it up.
In weeks 1-7, Sam Bradford threw 9 interceptions. In weeks 9-17, after the bye week, he threw just 4 interceptions. In weeks 1-7, Bradford had a 76% accuracy rating, according to PFF, which factors in passes on target. So if a receiver drops a ball, but the pass is accurate, the quarterback isn’t faulted. In weeks 9-17, Bradford had a 79% accuracy rating. Now, before people say “Well Bradford was Mr. Checkdown!”
In weeks 1-7, Sam Bradford had a 6.4 Yards per Attempt, which was 32nd out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks. In weeks 9-17, Bradford’s Yards per Attempt jumped to 7.6, which was 11th highest in the NFL. Not only was “Mr. Checkdown” more accurate after the bye week, he also was more comfortable and willing to take shots down the field.
THE VALUE OF THE POSITION: Quarterbacks aren’t grown on trees. There are maybe 8-12 reliable quarterbacks in the NFL. Some are superstars, like Brady, Manning, and Rodgers, who can lead almost any team to the playoffs. Then there are the second tier guys who need some help. Cam Newton in 2014 looked decent at best due to an awful offensive line. The Panthers went and addressed their offensive line issues, and Newton’s more than likely the MVP of 2015 and playing for a Super Bowl.
Matt Ryan won 13, 10, and 13 games from 2010-2013. Most would have called Ryan a top 8-10 quarterback. He had time to throw, and his receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones were studs. Since 2013, Matt Ryan has averaged 6 wins per season. Offensive line issues and bad receiver play will do that to a quarterback. Sound familiar?
The quarterback position is the most scrutinized position in sports. When teams are successful, the quarterback naturally gets too much credit, when teams fail, the quarterback typically takes too much heat. In 2015, anyone who watched the Philadelphia Eagles play knew Sam Bradford was one of the least worries the team had. The offensive line was a mess, the receiving core was unreliable, and the run-game was non-existent. Not many quarterbacks in this league, even respected ones would have played well in that situation.
THE CURRENT ROSTER: The Eagles current roster build isn’t necessarily a “re-build roster.” The Eagles have a lot of solid young pieces, but the contracts they gave to players like Byron Maxwell, DeMarco Murray last offseason, and re-signing Brent Celek a few days ago indicate they’re trying to win now. If you draft a quarterback at pick #13, you’re essentially re-building. Instead of completely re-building and drafting a quarterback, the smart thing to do is invest in the offensive line, and build a strong defense.
Chemistry, especially at the quarterback position is crucial to build with receivers. The two seasons before 2015. Sam Bradford’s seasons ended early due to ACL injuries. Meaning his entire offseasons, were dedicated to rehabbing and getting treatment on his knees. Typically offseasons are spent by players to improve their game, workout, get stronger, throw with receivers and build chemistry. Sam Bradford didn’t have that. So when Sam Bradford started the 2015 season rusty, it was little to no surprise.
As the season went on and Bradford got better, so did his connection with Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews. In the last 4 games of the season, Zach Ertz had 35 catches, 450 yards and 2 touchdowns. Over a 16 game stretch, that’s 128 catches, 1,800 yards, and 8 touchdowns.
THE CONTRACT: There is a notion that paying Sam Bradford $18-20 million per year is “overpaying.” If Sam Bradford was given a contract worth $18 million per year, that’d make him the 14th highest paid quarterback in the league. Not bad, right? Factor in the salary cap raising every year and other quarterbacks due for extensions. $18-20 million per year isn’t bad at all.
Bradford has been injury-prone in his career, so the number Eagles’ fans want to pay attention to is how much guaranteed money is offered to Bradford if he were to get a deal. I would expect a contract that is full of incentives, based on how many games he starts, wins, pro-bowls, etc. If the Eagles pay Bradford it’s not for what he’s done but what he will do.
THE CONCLUSION: Any opportunity you get to maybe land a top 12 quarterback, you have to gamble on it. Quarterbacks taken in drafts flop more than they don’t. The Eagles traded away Nick Foles AND a 2nd round pick for Bradford last offseason. He started slow, but played really well at the end of the season. Letting him walk and entering draft weekend with Mark Sanchez as your starting quarterback would be disastrous. Give Sam Bradford a 3-year deal, if a quarterback is there at pick #13, take him and ease the rookie into things.
Sam Bradford has been dealt some awful situations, give him a chance to build some camaraderie with players that have talent like Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz. Give him a good offensive line and a decent run-game. Give him some stability, something he hasn’t had in his 6 years of being in the NFL.