Chip Kelly’s second mega-trade in less than a week has left the City of Philadelphia scratching its proverbial head. Entering his third season as the Eagles head coach, Kelly followed up the shipping of running back LeSean McCoy by sending quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for quarterback Sam Bradford and two draft picks.
While the draft picks, a fourth-rounder this year and a second-rounder next year, could prove fruitful over the new two seasons, the real question is: just what are Kelly’s plans at quarterback for 2015 and beyond?
As of now, assumptions are all Eagles fans and even local media can make, with the latter group questioning if Kelly got fleeced by the Rams. But based off Tuesday’s trade, it seems like Kelly either believes Bradford can run his complex and high-speed system or that he’s collecting assets to move up in April’s NFL Draft in order to select former Oregon star Marcus Mariota.
As now, neither plan seems feasible or even realistic.
With Bradford now in tow, it seems likely that he and last year’s second-half starter Mark Sanchez would compete for the chance to start in 2015. Bradford, the former No. 1 pick and 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year, has endured two torn ACLs in each of the last two seasons and represents a $16.58 million salary cap hit next season.
Bradford missed all of last season, and played in only seven games in 2013, though that season he appeared to have turned a corner, compiling a career-high 90.4 passer rating with 14 touchdowns to four interceptions.
The 27-year-old will also rejoin Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who coached Bradford during his rookie year, a fact many have harped on since the trade went down, and that Bradford ran a spread offense and excelled when he won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.
But it does seem strange to bring in a player who isn’t used to running an offense as quick as Kelly’s, rather than keeping a proven starter in Foles. Though he’s coming off a broken collarbone suffered last season, Foles was a marvel in his first season under Kelly. He amassed 27 touchdowns to two interceptions in 13 games and led the NFL with a 119.2 passer rating in 2013.
Even keeping Sanchez for next season, and shipping Foles off without getting a quarterback in return, might have been a far better and less expensive deal for the Eagles. The former New York Jet completely rejuvenated his career with a solid nine-game run in Philadelphia last season, totaling 2,418 yards and 14 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, nearly bringing the team into the postseason.
And the Eagles re-signed Sanchez to a two-year, $16 million contract with only $5.5 million guaranteed.
But with no clear cut choice at quarterback, and the Eagles sitting at No. 20 overall in the first round of April’s draft, all the Bradford-for-Foles swap has really done is increased speculation about Mariota.
The Eagles now have eight total picks in this year’s draft, and all six for next season, some of which could be bundled to move high enough to snag Mariota, a hyper-athletic passer who maybe understands Kelly’s offense better than anyone in the country.
The 2014 Heisman winner wowed scouts with his athleticism at the scouting combine last month, but he’s still ranked by many experts as the second-best quarterback prospect behind Jameis Winston, and still a couple years away from being consistently productive in the NFL.
Originally it was believed Mariota could fall as far as the No. 6 overall pick to the Jets, and that Philadelphia could swoop in with an offer to leapfrog New York. However ESPN’s John Clayton also stated in a radio interview Wednesday that the Washington Redskins would take Mariota at No. 5 overall.
The timing of such a report is interesting, especially since the Redskins likely don’t want to see Kelly and the Eagles get arguably the most ideal quarterback for their system and run roughshod all over the NFC East.
Not to mention how high the Redskins themselves set the benchmark for moving up in the draft back in 2012, sending three-first-round picks and a second-rounder to, of course, the Rams for the No. 2 overall pick that became quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Right now the Eagles don’t have such a package to offer the Tennessee Titans at No. 2 overall, or even the Jacksonville Jaguars at No.3 or the Oakland Raiders at No. 4. Kelly may want to acquire Mariota, but not at the expense of too many draft picks.
"Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft," Kelly told reporters on Wednesday. "We will never mortgage our future to go all the way to get someone like that."