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March 22, 2018

Mailbag: How screwed are the Eagles when it's time to pay Carson Wentz?

In our weekly Eagles chat on Wednesday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow.

Question from BarryO: Watching these insane contracts being given out in free agency to crappy quarterbacks, how screwed are the Eagles when they have to give Carson Wentz, an actual good quarterback, a new contract?

It might not be that bad, really. One strategy that might make sense – and one that the Eagles want to launch anyway – is to set up the “quarterback factory,” in which they draft and begin to develop a new quarterback roughly every other year.

"We would always, each year, or every other year, try to draft a quarterback," said Jeffrey Lurie at the 2016 NFL Owners' Meetings. "At some point that’ll probably continue as long as there’s quality throughout the draft, and you can identify how you want to develop a quarterback over time."

The benefit of that is three-fold:

  1. By consistently bringing in quarterbacks to play behind Carson Wentz, you continuously have backups who were brought up in the system. They would learn the language of the Eagles' offense from Day 1, and can be molded by Doug Pederson and Co. into the type of quarterback the staff wants them to be.
  2. As they used to do, the Eagles could then flip those quarterbacks for more valuable assets down the line once they've blossomed into potential starters, like they did once upon a time with guys like A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb.
  3. Drafting quarterbacks would greatly help keep the cost of your quarterback position down, overall.

Here we'll focus on benefit No. 3. 

If you look at the last few years, the Eagles have spent a lot of money on the quarterback position. For example, here is what the Eagles have spent (in terms of salary cap space) on quarterbacks from 2016 to 2018:

 YearSalary cap space committed to the QB position 

Wait, how is that possible? Well, after they traded Sam Bradford and released Chase Daniel, they were still paying for those guys in the form of dead money. A breakdown of how much their quarterbacks counted against the cap in the graphic above:

•  2016Sam Bradford ($5.5 million), Chase Daniel ($5 million), and Carson Wentz ($4,850,243).

•  2017: Sam Bradford ($5.5 million), Chase Daniel ($6.1 million), Carson Wentz ($6,062,804), Nick Foles ($1,600,000), and Nate Sudfeld ($285,882).

•  2018: Carson Wentz ($7,275,365), Nick Foles ($7,600,000), and Nate Sudfeld ($630,000).

Going forward, there will be no more payouts to guys like Bradford or Daniel, and whenever Foles is no longer on the roster, whether that be via trade or Foles leaving in free agency next offseason, the Eagles would no longer have an expensive backup.

Is Wentz eventually going to make more than the roughly $15.5 million the Eagles are going to pay their quarterback position as a group this year? Yes, of course he is. So the cost is going to rise.

Still, quarterbacks drafted anywhere in Round 3 or beyond are going to make less than a million per year over the course of their rookie contracts. Drafting a new one roughly every other year would alleviate the necessity of paying big money to guys like Daniel or Foles, thus helping offset the extreme cost of paying your elite starting quarterback.

Question from Zeke: On 3rd and long, if Michael Bennett moves inside, then you have Graham-Cox-Bennett-Barnett, which presents the best pass rush combination. Does that leave Chris Long out on 3rd and long?

That may be where Long’s reported concern about his role is coming from. A season ago, Graham moved inside in those obvious pass rush situations, and Long played LDE. As you astutely note, with Bennett joining the fold, Long could be the odd man out.

To note, the Eagles still love to rotate their linemen, so Long should still see plenty of snaps, but there's little question his fun pass rushing opportunities will shrink.

Question from Norm Snead: Is Gibson out of the picture as OT depth? At one time he was a potential heir apparent to Peters.

Do you mean Dillon Gordon? He’s gone. The Eagles cut him in December, and he signed with the Chiefs.

Question from EaglesFanInNH: Other than Darby and Kendricks, is there anyone else you think the Eagles could/should trade for draft picks?

Yep. Foles.

Question from Norm Snead: Is the Eagles’ defensive line better or worse, ignoring cap space, etc.?

Unquestionably. Michael Bennett is a significant upgrade from Vinny Curry, and in my view, Haloti Ngata is an upgrade from Beau Allen, though obviously a short-term one.

Hit me up with this question again though if Chris Long retires.

Question from Noah Webster: You wrote, “They like Suds. I like Suds. I think he’d be a perfectly cromulent backup.” What does cromulent mean?

You, sir, need to embiggen your vocabulary.

Question from Kevin: Am I wrong in thinking compensatory picks are overrated? In a sense of them not signing anyone to get those?

Generally speaking, sure, they can be a bit overrated, perhaps. However, in the case of the Eagles this offseason, they don’t have much in the way of cap space, as we all know, so three things there:

  1. They’re not making any splash signings anyway.
  2. They have so few holes (if any, really) that the need to sign free agents doesn't exist in the same way it has every year over the last decade.
  3. And most importantly, if you think they’re up against the cap now, as noted above, when Wentz gets his new contract, there's going to be more money dedicated to that position, and therefore less money going to the rest of the roster. It’s imperative that the Eagles hit on as many draft picks as possible, since drafts picks are extremely cheap for four years. They only have six picks in this draft, so the more picks (think of them as lottery tickets) they can accumulate in 2019, the more shots they have at cheap labor making contributions on the field.

Question from Brian: Hey Jimmy. Love your work. Cleveland just offered you No. 1 and No. 4 for Wentz. Do you make that deal?

Thanks! And God no.

Question from DanInMarlton: What did activating and playing Sidney Jones in the last regular season game do to his post-rookie deal free agency status.

Sidney Jones did not earn an accrued season, which means that after his fourth season (the end of his rookie deal), he’ll be a restricted free agent, not an unrestricted free agent. In other words, his appearance in that game changed nothing.

Also… (Flashes Marlton gang sign)

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