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July 08, 2018

A look at recent quarterbacks who got injured before the season, and how their teams reacted

A deep dive into the Nick Foles trade market

Before the start of the 2016 NFL season, a perfect storm occurred that allowed for Howie Roseman to rob the Minnesota Vikings of a first round pick (and more) for Sam Bradford.

As you all know, Teddy Bridgewater suffered a gruesome injury in practice just a couple weeks before the start of that season, leaving the Vikings, a team with Super Bowl aspirations, desperate for a quarterback, as their backup at the time was the uninspiring Shaun Hill. The Vikings paid a steep price for Bradford, and their season went sideways anyway, as they finished 8-8 after getting off to a 5-0 start.

One of the Philadelphia Eagles' storylines during the 2018 offseason has been whether or not the team would deal Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, as the team is absolutely loaded at the quarterback position. After free agency came and went with quarterback-needy teams such as the Cardinals, Broncos, Vikings, Bills, and Jets filling their holes with quarterbacks on the open market and in the draft, seemingly the only option left for a trade of Foles would be another "Teddy Bridgewater situation."

The Teddy Bridgewater perfect storm is unlikely to hit twice.

We went back five years and took a look at quarterbacks who suffered serious injuries during the preseason, and how their teams adapted. By my count, there were seven such scenarios over the last five years. Only two traded for quarterbacks in response to losing their starters.

2013 - Mark Sanchez, Jets 

With Sanchez competing with then rookie Geno Smith for the starting job, Rex Ryan made the ridiculous decision to play Sanchez during the fourth quarter of a preseason game behind the backup offensive line, and Sanchez seriously injured his shoulder.

What'd they do? At the time, Smith had some promise as a rookie, and he just won the job instead.

2014 - Sam Bradford, Rams

After tearing his ACL during Week 7 of the 2013 season, Bradford tore his ACL during a 2014 preseason game.

What'd they do? The Rams opted to roll with Shaun Hill and Austin Davis. They went 6-10.

2015 - Geno Smith, Jets

Smith got sucker punched by a teammate who thought Smith owed him money, breaking his jaw, and leaving him for an estimated return of 10 weeks.

What'd they do? The dropoff from Smith to Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't much (if at all), so the Jets just rolled with Fitz.

2016 - Tony Romo, Cowboys

After missing the majority of the previous season with a broken collarbone on a hit by the Eagles' Jordan Hicks, Romo was tackled awkwardly in a preseason game against the Seahawks, breaking a bone in his back. 

What'd they do? Romo's injury was thought to be serious, but not necessarily a season-ending injury. With Dak Prescott having played well during the preseason, the Cowboys opted to roll with him to start the regular season, with the anticipation that Romo would return at some point. As it turned out, Prescott earned Rookie of the Year honors, and Romo got Wally Pipp'd.

2016 - Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings

As covered above.

2017 - Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

Tannehill tore his ACL, a tough blow for a team coming off a playoff appearance in Adam Gase's first year as Miami's head coach.

What'd they do? They coaxed Jay Cutler out of the broadcasting booth to play one more season, lol.

2017 - Andrew Luck, Colts

Luck was still not right after having shoulder surgery, and while the Colts maintained that he could still return at some point, they likely knew that wasn't happening.

What'd they do? With Scott Tolzien serving as the backup, the Colts traded former first round wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots for Jacoby Brissett, who started 15 games. 

To note, it's also rare that a team like the Eagles exists that has a franchise starter, a backup worth trading for, and a No. 3 quarterback capable of becoming a No. 2. The Eagles have that in 2018, and they had something similar to that in 2016. While many of the teams above that suffered devastating quarterback injuries simply rolled with their backup quarterbacks, it's worth noting that there may not have been any good trade situations those seasons like the Eagles have in 2018.

So what teams could potentially look to trade for Foles if their starter got hurt? In my view, it would be a team that fits all or most of the following three criteria, in order of importance:

  1. There's a path for Foles to become the starter long-term, as in, not just a one-year rental.
  2. The dropoff from the starting quarterback to the backup is steep.
  3. The team has legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.

My short list:

• Steelers: They would fit all three criteria, as Ben Roethlisberger has mentioned retirement on multiple occasions, and the backup is Landry Jones.

• Jaguars: Blake Bortles is on shaky ground in Jacksonville to begin with, and yet, he's still far better than backup Cody Kessler. Say what you will about Bortles, but if he got hurt, it would be a season killer.

Colts: If Andrew Luck still isn't ready to return for the 2018 season (or he suffers another injury), there would have to be concerns about him ever playing again. Obviously, there would also be a Frank Reich connection here.

Dolphins: Miami is far from a Super Bowl contender, but if Tannehill went down again, they'd be down to Brock Osweiler. Foles could be a long-term answer.

Chargers: Philip Rivers turns 37 this season, the backup is Geno Smith, and the Chargers have a very good roster.

Buccaneers: They're not going to trade for Foles because Jameis Winston got suspended, but if he got hurt, that could be another story, as the head coach and GM would be looking to save their jobs.

Saints: Drew Brees will be 40 in January and the backup is Tom Savage. However, I'm not sure the Eagles would be interested in helping the Saints.

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