Here is the first in a series of looks at the Eagles roster:
On the roster: No position will receive more debate in the coming weeks than quarterback, where the Eagles continue to evaluate Michael Vick and Nick Foles. New coach Chip Kelly insists he can adapt his offense to the quarterback and does not necessarily need a running threat. Vick’s athleticism would help him if Kelly brought his Oregon offense to the Eagles, but Vick's turnover habit and his injury history will be an issue. (Kelly values taking care of the ball and staying in the game.) Kelly coached against Foles in college and has a better idea than most about Foles’ ability and whether he’s been limited in his career by a struggling team compared to his own shortcomings.
Vick would not be on the roster unless he’s the starter, and he likely won’t be on the roster regardless unless he takes a pay cut. Foles would be a candidate as a backup quarterback if the Eagles drafted a quarterback, got one via trade or in a free agency. He might even have some value – although maybe not a third-round draft choice – if they want to trade him. But Foles’ salary and his experience could serve the Eagles well as a backup quarterback.
The other quarterback on the Eagles roster is Trent Edwards. Edwards would likely only be a candidate as a third quarterback, especially if the Eagles draft a quarterback. He has starting experience, an inexpensive salary and is a smart and useful quarterback in the meeting room. But if the Eagles want a third quarterback with more experience for Kelly or one who is a more mobile threat, Edwards could easily be elsewhere next season.
Not on the roster: This is the category to pay attention to for quarterback because the Eagles might need to look elsewhere for next season’s starter. (In fact, on the day of Kelly’s opening news conference, The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane opined that Kelly’s quarterback might not be on the roster.) Without knowing the system that Kelly will run, it’s hard to speculate about a clear front-runner.
In the draft, there might not be a quarterback worth taking at No. 4. Geno Smith might impress in the next month and move into consideration, but it seems more likely the Eagles will take a quarterback late in the first round with a trade or early in the second round, where they pick. (49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the No. 4 pick in the second round two seasons ago.) One name to watch will be Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. The story you’ll hear is how Kelly recruited him out of high school, but Manuel has much more going for him than a recruiting battle five years ago. He’s a big, fast, high-percentage passer with significant experience, starting the last two seasons at Florida State. After a strong Senior Bowl, his stock is ascending.
The Eagles could also be in the running for 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith, who has experience in the type of offense that Kelly used in college. Smith is also accurate, intelligent and has valuable experience. The question is how much of his success during the last two seasons was the byproduct of the 49ers’ coaching or actual development by Smith. There will be a robust market for him, and he’ll only be 29 next season.
The free-agent market is not attractive this season, although the Eagles could find a potential backup or project quarterback in that group. Ravens practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon has started in the NFL and played under Kelly at Oregon, and he would be a worthwhile quarterback to bring into camp.
TOMORROW: Running backs.