Don’t look now, but the start of the NFL’s 2018 business year begins four weeks from Wednesday, on March 14 to be exact, and the Eagles are just like every other team: Tough decisions are to be made. Salary caps are to be put in the best position possible. Free-agency strategy goes into effect. Roster evaluation ramps up.
And one position that, naturally, draws a lot of attention around the league is quarterback. The Alex Smith trade from Kansas City to Washington was a bombshell nestled right there in the middle of our Super Bowl mania. There is more to come, and all eyes will be watching the movement around the league.
In Philadelphia, the Eagles have an enviable situation. Perhaps, in fact, as solid and talent laden as they have ever enjoyed. Carson Wentz, the franchise quarterback, is rehabbing his torn ACL and LCL in the injured left knee and when we last heard from Wentz prior to the Super Bowl, he was pleased with his progress and hopeful and confident he would be on the field for the start of the 2018 season.
But let’s step back on that timetable, because it really important not to have one. Wentz won’t play until he is ready to play. Nobody is going to rush Wentz back on the field. His career is to be viewed through a 10-year (at least) window, not the prism of opening the 2018 season on national television at Lincoln Financial Field.
We do know this about Wentz: There isn’t a player in the NFL more motivated to get back to full health and return to playing great football. As supportive as Wentz was during the playoff and Super Bowl run, and as much as he enjoyed the team’s success, Wentz is as competitive as anyone. He wanted to be on the field. It hurt him to be sidelined. He missed the game.
Now he’s putting in the effort and the extra time to make sure he’s right and all the way back for this football team to lead the Eagles to future success.
But until Wentz is cleared to play, the Eagles have options. Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Foles is here, under contract for another season, and he’s obviously very capable of starting and winning until Wentz returns. There isn’t a better backup situation in the league. Foles is a starting quarterback in a backup role. He’s the Super Bowl MVP, for goodness sakes. He starred through the postseason.
The third-string quarterback is Nate Sudfeld, heading into his third NFL season. Added to the team’s practice squad after being released by Washington following the 2017 preseason, Sudfeld quickly made progress digesting the team’s playbook, improving his mechanics and eventually joining the 53-man roster when the Eagles learned that Sudfield was a candidate to be poached by another team.
In the regular-season finale, Sudfeld completed 19 of 23 passes against Dallas and added a 22-yard run. He was good enough that, as ridiculous as it was then and is even more absurd now, reporters asked head coach Doug Pederson prior to the playoffs if Pederson would consider turning to Sudfeld in the event that Foles struggled. Um, no.
But the point is, Sudfeld made some really impressive strides in a short period of time. He’s a big kid at 6-6 with a live arm and good mobility. He is a developmental quarterback who, should he continue to develop, can be a very valuable piece in this quarterback tree.
Wentz, Foles, Sudfeld. It’s a quarterback room that is loaded. It’s a quarterback room that provides options to the Eagles. It’s a quarterback room that could attract attention from other teams, and that’s where it gets interesting with respect to the start of the NFL’s business year on March 14 at 4 p.m.
What happens if teams inquire into the availability of Foles? Or Sudfeld? How do the Eagles respond if there are opportunities to discuss moving pieces?
Here’s what they do, and Howie Roseman certainly knows this and has been down this road before: He considers everything. He does what is right for this football team. He makes sure to think both about the short term and the long term and makes the decision that he thinks is right for the Eagles both now and in the next two to three seasons.
The Eagles have to look at their quarterback situation as one loaded with assets. And when you have assets, you have options. You don’t rush into moves. You don’t have any preconceptions. You instead carefully think through the potential options between now and March 14 so that if scenarios present themselves, you are prepped to make the right decisions.
Hey, the Eagles don’t have to do a thing at quarterback and they’re in better shape than any other team in a quarterback-starved league? Who else has three quarterbacks on the roster that they love, that they think can win games for them? What other team has a superstar quarterback like Wentz and a Super Bowl-winner (and MVP) in Foles as 1-2 on the depth chart?
At the same time, the depth of talent potentially presents opportunities, and the Eagles will be ready to make the right decisions should any opportunities come forth.
The Eagles are in a position of strength here. It’s a great place to be. As the quarterback pieces scatter throughout the league when free agency begins and the draft arrives, the Eagles sit in a great position.