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February 27, 2019

Examining the Eagles' quarterback situation beyond Carson Wentz, after Nick Foles' exit

Howie Roseman announced on Wednesday that the Philadelphia Eagles would not be placing the franchise tag on Nick Foles, allowing him to walk free and clear as a free agent. Despite reports to the contrary, this was always the most likely, and sensible scenario.

Now that a conclusion has been reached on Foles' status with the team, the next question then becomes, who will Carson Wentz's backup be in 2019? Presently, the only other quarterback on the roster is Nate Sudfeld, the team's No. 3 quarterback each of the last two seasons. 

First, Sudfeld's contract status

Before we get to anything else, let's first note that Sudfeld is a restricted free agent.

With Foles soon to walk in free agency (and even if he were to be tagged), the Eagles will obviously place a restricted free agent tender on Sudfeld. It's just a matter of at what level. They have three choices. They can tender him at the first-round level, the second-round level, or at the level of his original draft position (or low tender). 

If another team were to sign Sudfeld to an offer sheet, the Eagles would have a chance to match that offer, or allow him to sign with the other team, gaining a draft pick in the corresponding round with which they tendered him. The higher the draft round the Eagles tender him at, the higher the cost his 2019 contract will be if he doesn't get any offers elsewhere. 

Did you get all that? OK, good. Here are the projected values of the restricted free agent tenders this year, via CBS' Joel Corry:

Since Sudfeld was originally drafted in the sixth round, if the Eagles tendered him at the "original round" level, a team could sign Sudfeld to an offer sheet, and the Eagles would only get a sixth-round pick in return if they couldn't match it. Sudfeld is worth far more than a sixth-round pick, so the Eagles absolutely do not want to see him get a nice offer from some other team, which would cost them either a lot of money to match, or only net them a sixth-round pick for losing their soon-to-be No. 2 quarterback. 

The strong bet here is that the Eagles will tender Sudfeld at the second-round level, as they would happily take a second-round pick in return for losing him, and no other team is likely to want him that badly. The difference of roughly $1.1 million between the original round tender and the second-round tender is insurance clearly worth paying, in my opinion, to a guy will may become the most important player on the team if Wentz goes down (again).

Locking Sudfeld up beyond 2019 by signing him to a multi-year deal also makes some sense.

So is Sudfeld the guy?

Doug Pederson did not commit to him being handed the job, when asked about his comfort level with Sidfeld taking over that role.

"Nate has done a great job," Pederson said. "Nate has really put himself in a position to compete for it. We just don't go around and give out jobs. At the same time, we want him to compete for that spot. I feel like he's earned the opportunity to do that. I'm comfortable with him, what he has done. He's been with us now for a few years and he understands our system."

What does Sudfeld bring to the table?

Pederson rattled off a slew of positive notes about Sudfeld's skill set.

"I think No. 1, obviously I like his size," Pederson said. "He's got a really good arm, and accurate. He continues to work his mobility, his pocket presence, his awareness. I think one of the things we saw this year, even though he was limited, not many game reps, but the stuff we saw in practice is how well he has become comfortable with our offense, how he prepares our defense over the course of the week, and he's a smart quarterback. He's highly intelligent, he's got great ideas, and again, he's somebody that we feel comfortable competing for (the backup job)."

So that all sounds good.

In my own personal view, throughout 2018 Eagles training camp, Sudfeld displayed a pretty deep ball, decent velocity, good accuracy in the intermediate areas of the field, and better mobility than you would expect of a 6'6, 227-pound quarterback. However, he lacked consistency at times. Those glimpses of Sudfeld's skill set carried over in to the preseason games.

The following is a cutup of all of Sudfeld's throws in the first two preseason games, with notes in a separate Sudfeld post from last August here, if you're interested:

And here are all of his throws in the Eagles' meaningless Week 17 game against the Cowboys in 2017.

Overall, the above performances are encouraging, in my view. 
During the 2018 regular season, Sudfeld was 1/2 for 22 yards, and a TD.

Who will Sudfeld compete with, if/when the team brings in another quarterback?

The Eagles are likely to carry three quarterbacks. They certainly won't go into OTAs with only two. But what variety of quarterback will that be? Will it be a veteran quarterback, or a younger player that the team can groom?

"I think it can go both ways, Pederson said. "You've seen what we've done the last couple of seasons since I've been here. We had Chase Daniel the first year, and then of course Nick the last two years. Chase obviously didn't have a ton of game experience. Nick had. And then when you have that quarterback in the waiting, so of speak, like a guy like Nate, who has seen a lot of football the last couple of years, its great opportunity for him. You can go either way."


Expect Sudfeld to be Wentz's primary backup, with the team adding a third young quarterback either in the draft or by some other means.

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