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November 22, 2015

A look at the Eagles' competition for a new franchise quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft

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112215SamBradfordMarkSanchez Michael Perez/AP

Which QB will start when the Eagles take on the Patriots Sunday?

All season long, Eagles fans have been watching the standings, after the Eagles have piled up loss after disappointing loss. The focus on the standings-watching has been on the Giants, Cowboys, and Redskins. Because the NFC East has been so weak, the season never really felt over. There has always been at least some glimmer of hope -- that Sam Bradford's improvement would continue, that the defense would continue to play well, that the offensive line would keep up their momentum in establishing the run game, etc. 

However, while the Eagles remain just one game back of the Giants, they have suffered a pair of embarrassing, awful losses to the Dolphins and Buccaneers, and look nothing remotely close to a playoff contender. It's time to start keeping an eye on the standings in another respect.

The Eagles are going nowhere until they have a legitimate franchise quarterback. In the NFL, you either have a quarterback, or you don't, and if you don't, you have no chance. Last offseason, the Eagles tried to trade up to draft Marcus Mariota, but the Titans and Buccaneers were unwilling trade partners. This offseason, they should be in the hunt for a franchise quarterback once again.

The Eagles sit at 4-6 heading into Thanksgiving, and there are 14 other teams that are 4-6 or worse. A look at each of them:


• Cleveland Browns (2-8): The Browns are a rare team in the NFL with a more unstable quarterback situation than the Eagles. They are clearly candidates to draft a quarterback after Johnny Manziel has not panned out.

Likelihood: Extremely high.


Tennessee Titans (2-8): As mentioned above, the Titans drafted Mariota, and Mariota looks the part of a franchise guy. They will have no interest in a new quarterback.

Likelihood: Low.


San Diego Chargers (2-8): You never know what can happen with a new head coach if the Chargers decide to fire Mike McCoy, however, the Chargers just signed Philip Rivers to a large contract extension, and they are essentially locked into him through the 2017 season. Smart teams have their next quarterback waiting in the wings when they have aging quarterbacks like Rivers already in place, but it is not a dire, immediate need. Rivers turns 34 in December.

Likelihood: Moderate.

Cowboys helmet

Dallas Cowboys (3-7): The Cowboys won their first game since mid-September Sunday when Tony Romo returned to the starting lineup. If the Cowboys can rattle off a bunch of wins down the stretch, the Cowboys might fool themselves into thinking they're a Super Bowl contender in 2016. That might prompt them to draft for an immediate need, such as a pass rusher or an impact running back. Then again, if they go on a mini-run down the stretch this season, they may very well finish ahead of the Eagles in the standings.

Likelihood: Low to moderate.

Ravens helmet

Baltimore Ravens (3-7): Joe Flacco tore his ACL Sunday, but the Ravens very much view him as a franchise guy who won them a Super Bowl. The Ravens are prime trade-back candidates.

Likelihood: Low.


Detroit Lions (3-7): The Lions are pretty much locked into Matthew Stafford through the 2016 season. Stafford has talent, and the Lions have looked impressive under him at times. Other times, not so much. The Lions will have a new GM, which makes this an unpredictable situation, but my gut says they'll stick with Stafford.

Likelihood: Low to moderate.


San Francisco 49ers (3-7): Colin Kaepernick was benched this season in favor of Blaine Gabbert. It's hard to imagine him being in San Francisco next season at a cap number of almost $16 million. The 49ers will almost certainly be in the market for a new quarterback.

Likelihood: Extremely high.


• Miami Dolphins (4-6): Ryan Tannehill just signed a four-year deal worth up to $77 million, but is only locked in as the Dolphins' quarterback through the 2016 season. To be determined how their head coaching situation plays out, so again, this is a team that is hard to predict.

Likelihood: Moderate.


Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6): The Jaguars recently drafted Blake Bortles, and appear to be a very patient organization.

Likelihood: Low.


Oakland Raiders (4-6): Derek Carr has made impressive strides this season, and is developing into a quality starter.

Likelihood: Low.


Washington Redskins (4-6): Will the Redskins "like that" enough to feel confident in Kirk Cousins as their franchise quarterback? I wouldn't, but who knows with this team.

Likelihood: Moderate.


Chicago Bears (4-6): The Bears reportedly tried to trade up to get into the Marcus Mariota sweepstakes last offseason. Since Jay Cutler entered the league in 2006, he’s been to the playoffs once, and his lone playoff win came against a 7-9 Seahawks team that won a historically bad division. The Bears will be in the market for a new quarterback.

Likelihood: High.


New Orleans Saints (4-6): The Saints just drafted Garrett Grayson in the third round a year ago, so to some degree, they will have to decide whether they think he's a viable replacement for Drew Brees, who is clearly in decline.

Likelihood: Moderate.


• St. Louis Rams (4-6): The Rams just benched Nick Foles for Case Keenum, so there's a pretty good chance they'll be in the market for a new quarterback.

Likelihood: High.

So who's out there?

We've been profiling college quarterbacks since the offseason. You can start studying up on the following guys below (and others as we continue on with it):

• Michigan State's Connor Cook
• Ohio State's Cardale Jones
• USC's Cody Kessler
• Cal's Jared Goff
• Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel
• Mississippi State's Dak Prescott
• Memphis' Paxton Lynch

The above players are in no particular order of projected draft status, and many aren't even a certainty to declare for the draft, although Goff, Lynch and Cook are widely regarded as the top three at this point in the process. 

The list is also incomplete. Over the rest of the season, we'll probably profile other quarterbacks like Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), Carson Wentz (North Dakota State), Brandon Doughty (Western Kentucky), Jacoby Brissett (North Carolina State), Nate Sudfeld (Indiana), Kevin Hogan (Stanford), and Trevone Boykin (TCU).

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

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