The Inquirer is previewing the Eagles’ offseason. NFL free agency will begin on March 9, and the draft will be April 27-29.
Schedule of previews:
Monday, Feb. 13: Quarterbacks
Tuesday, Feb. 14: Running backs
Wednesday, Feb. 15: Wide receivers
Thursday, Feb. 16: Offensive line
Friday, Feb. 17: Tight ends
Monday, Feb. 20: Defensive ends
Tuesday, Feb. 21: Defensive tackles
Wednesday, Feb. 22: Linebackers
Thursday, Feb. 23: Cornerbacks
Friday, Feb. 24: Safeties
Carson Wentz, Chase Daniel
The Eagles have more long-term direction at quarterback than at any point since Donovan McNabb played in Philadelphia. For the first time since 2013, they plan to start the same quarterback as in the previous season.
Carson Wentz’s development is the source of considerable optimism within the organization because Wentz started all 16 games (the first Eagles quarterback to do so since 2008), and completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. After taking time to recharge after the season, Wentz is working on his throwing mechanics with personal quarterback coaches in California. He’ll return for the offseason program in April entrenched as the Eagles’ franchise quarterback and with a full year in the system under his belt. The team plans to upgrade the talent around Wentz in the offseason.
Chase Daniel is likely to return as the No. 2 quarterback. The Eagles signed Daniel to a three-year, $21 million contract last offseason with most of the financial obligations coming in the first two seasons. Because Wentz started all 16 games last season, Daniel played only once in spot duty and attempted just one pass. He is one of the team’s most expensive players in 2017, but there is not really a path to cap relief with his contract. Daniel also presents a clear value to the team. He’s a veteran backup who knows the system, which is important for coach Doug Pederson. Daniel is valuable for Wentz’s development and is a positive presence in the meeting room and locker room for Wentz.
The Eagles will obviously return with Wentz, and there doesn’t appear to be much of a decision to make on Daniel, either. Daniel counts $8 million against the salary cap this season, with $7 million in dead money if the Eagles released him. So he’s a well-compensated backup quarterback, but the cap obligations are such that there’s no alternative that would give the Eagles financial relief.
There’s no roster decision at quarterback other than whether the Eagles will carry two or three on the 53-man roster. They went with two on the roster in 2016, with Aaron Murray on the practice squad, saving the roster spot to go deeper on the offensive line. The Eagles did not sign Murray to a futures contract and will likely add two quarterbacks this offseason. It’s common to have four quarterbacks in training camp. The question is whether they keep three on the active roster. Pederson said last season that they want to create a pipeline of young quarterbacks, so the Eagles could add a late-round quarterback or undrafted rookie to develop (more below).
With two quarterbacks already on the depth chart, the Eagles will not be major players for the quarterbacks on the market. For the sake of discussing free-agent quarterbacks, Washington’s Kirk Cousins is the top pending free agent at the position, with Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon a distant second. Dallas’ Tony Romo, Chicago’s Jay Cutler, and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor also might change teams. But those aren’t options for the Eagles.
There are potential backup quarterbacks hitting the market, but that’s also not what the Eagles are seeking with Daniel on the roster. And a No. 3 developmental quarterback won’t usually come on the free-agent market. The Eagles could find one who was in a camp last year, but the quarterback depth will most likely come around the draft. If Kansas City moves on from Tyler Bray (6-6, 215 pounds), he's only 25 with good size and experience under Pederson.
This is not considered an especially strong quarterback draft class, but the Eagles are not looking for one in the first round. So Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky will not be on the Eagles’ radar. This is clearly not a position of need.
The Eagles are more likely to look at a quarterback on Day 3 or on the undrafted market to groom as a potential backup (and down-the-road trade option). At the Senior Bowl, Pederson got an up-close look at Cal’s Davis Webb, Colorado’s Sefo Liufau, Pitt’s Nathan Peterman, and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs. Webb impressed at the Senior Bowl and has the prototypical size (6-5, 229) that the Eagles liked about Wentz. The combine will offer more insight on some of those late-round quarterbacks.
Penn’s Alek Torgersen attended the East-West Shrine Game and played just a few miles from the Eagles’ headquarters, so they could have insight on the 6-2, 215-pound Ivy Leaguer.
They could also look for a big-school prospects with traits to develop but middling college production such as Minnesota's Mitch Leidner (6-4, 230 pounds) or an experienced mid-major quarterback such as Central Michigan's Cooper Rush (6-3, 230 pounds), or even check out Wentz's college level to find a player with a similar profile to Wentz such as Montana's Brady Gustafson (6-7, 235 pounds).