January 31, 2018

Eagles' costly backup quarterback shuffle ultimately panned out

Eagles NFL
012918NickFoles James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles traded in Chase Daniel for Nick Foles, at a high cost.

On the first day of free agency back in 2016, Philadelphia Eagles GM Howie Roseman found a trio of starters, and made a pair of trades that would better position the Birds to move up to select coveted quarterback Carson Wentz in that year's draft. He also made one very costly move, the signing of backup quarterback Chase Daniel.

That was March 10th, 2016. Here's what Roseman did that day:

  1. Traded Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, and the 13th overall pick to the Miami Dolphins for the 8th overall pick, which would later be used to trade up to the 2nd overall pick, which would eventually become Carson Wentz.
  2. Traded DeMarco Murray and a 4th round pick to the Tennessee Titans for an early 4th round pick, which was also included  as part of the package to secure Wentz. 
  3. Signed OG Brandon Brooks.
  4. Signed S Rodney McLeod.
  5. Signed LB Nigel Bradham.
  6. Signed CB Ron Brooks.
  7. Signed QB Chase Daniel.

The signing of Daniel made a sense in terms of what he represented as a player. Daniel played for Doug Pederson in Kansas City, and knew the offense Pederson was about to install in Philadelphia after being hired as the head coach two months prior. Daniel was kind of like Pederson himself in 1999, when he was signed to help mentor then-rookie Donovan McNabb.

At the time the Eagles signed Daniel, Sam Bradford was still the Eagles' starting quarterback, but in hindsight, the Eagles had clearly made the decision by then to be aggressive and try to trade up for a young franchise quarterback. Daniel could serve as something of a mentor for that young quarterback, and that's what he became for Wentz in Wentz's rookie season.

However, the cost was exorbitant. Daniel signed a three-year contract worth $21 million ($12 million guaranteed), which could escalate to $36 million in incentives based on playing time, wins, and playoff appearances. That was for a player with 77 career pass attempts.

In the wake of the Daniel signing, the Eagles had the sixth-most salary cap committed to quarterbacks in the NFL in 2016, and the most in 2017, for two guys (Bradford and Daniel) who had a combined 12 years of NFL tenure, and 25 wins. The Eagles would, of course, draft Wentz a month or so later and trade Bradford for a first round pick in September.

During the 2017 offseason, the Eagles were convinced Daniel wasn't the answer at backup quarterback, at least at his cost.

"At the end of the (2016) season, we just had a conversation with Chase and said, ‘Either we’re going to have to restructure, take less, whatever it is to stay, or we’re probably going to have to move on,’" Doug Pederson revealed. "And it was fine. He understood. It was a business decision. He understood, and he’s back in a place where he kinda cut his teeth. I’m happy for him, excited for him that he’s in New Orleans behind Drew Brees. For us, it was a matter of finding a veteran guy."

Technically, with seven years of NFL experience under his belt, Daniel was a "veteran," though he certainly doesn't have anywhere near as much experience as Foles:

 Career statsComp-Att Yards TD-INT 
Nick Foles (29)833-1366 9752 61-29 
 Chase Daniel (31)51-78 480 1-1 


"I was big about trying to have a veteran guy," said Pederson. "I felt like we needed a guy who has played in some games in this league. When Nick became available and Kansas City wasn’t going to retain him it was just a no-brainer for us."

"I would say first and foremost that Jeffrey Lurie deserves a lot of credit for that," said Roseman, "because that was a big bill right there that we were asking him to take."

The Eagles paid Daniel $11.1 million, per spotrac, for one pass attempt. They paid him $4.1 million to play for the Saints this year. It would have been very easy for the Eagles to compound the mistake of signing Daniel by keeping him an additional season, rather than release him and take on a heavy cap hit.

The Eagles chose the latter, and subsequently signed Foles to a two-year deal worth $11 million, which is currently the 29th highest "average pay per year" at quarterback in the NFL, per overthecap.com

In other words, the Eagles paid two backup quarterbacks this season like low-end starters, despite the notion that the ideal scenario would be for them to have never seen the field. As it all played out, it's a good thing they did, or the Eagles might not be playing for their first Super Bowl this Sunday.


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