Let the Eagles' Sam Bradford era begin

"And with the second pick of the NFL draft, the Eagles officially entered the Sam Bradford era."


 

THAT'S NOT exactly what commissioner Roger Goodell said at 8:20 p.m. last night, but it's what Eagles fans should have heard.

Perhaps now you can buy a "Bradford" jersey at the mall.

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All of the rumor and speculation surrounding Marcus Mariota ended when the Titans held fast and chose the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Eagles emperor Chip Kelly said the Birds spoke with both the Buccaneers and the Titans, who held the top two picks, on Wednesday and last night, but their asking prices were too high for the Eagles to even compile an offer.

Kelly refuted all reports that the Eagles offered any package of players and picks whatsoever. He likened the conversations to house-shopping in a neighborhood you cannot afford.

"They tell you the price, and you turn around and drive away," Kelly said. "We didn't walk in the front door. We didn't take a look around."

Which is probably better. The Birds need their picks, and Bradford might finally be phenomenal; first-round receiver Nelson Agholor said Bradford is, "Amazing."

This will, however, be a season of audition for Bradford, Jeremy Maclin style.

Bradford is in the final season of his contract. The Eagles can only hope he rebounds from his second knee surgery as well as Maclin did.

And they can only hope their new Jeremy Maclin approaches what Maclin did as a young player. Various reports had the Eagles packaging the franchise for a shot at Mariota, but in the end the Eagles stayed at No. 20 and took Agholor, a 6-foot, 198-pounder who runs precise routes, who has superb footwork and technique and who can return kicks.

It is the Bradford era in the short-term, but it might be more accurate to anoint this as the era of Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. A year ago the Eagles used a second-round pick on Matthews, who was excellent as a slot receiver, and a third-round pick on Huff, whose rookie season was derailed by injury.

The Eagles haven't sunk resources like this into the position since they took Mike Quick, Glen Young and Kenny Jackson in the first three rounds from 1982-84. The last time they came close was 2008 and 2009, when they took DeSean Jackson in the second round then Maclin in the first.

This new trio could grow nicely together.

"You hope," Kelly said.

For now, the young receivers' growth hinges on Bradford's efficiency and recovery.

Since the Eagles traded Nick Foles for Bradford in March, Bradford has been at the NovaCare Complex rehabbing constantly, save for one weekend, Kelly said. Bradford has been cleared to "run around," said Kelly, but league rules have kept him from running around in front of the coach and his staff; that starts Monday.

From there, said Kelly, they can gauge Bradford's status and predict his timetable.

Maclin was right on time.

Maclin, you might remember, in 2014 produced his best season with the Eagles. It was a season that cemented him as one of the franchise's five best receivers in history, considering his appearance all over the record books despite playing just five healthy seasons. Of course, Maclin had enjoyed fine seasons before 2014, thanks in part to the high level of talent that surrounded him.

Bradford had never enjoyed that sort of talent level among his teammates on the offensive line and in the receiving corps. That's part of the reason why a career season for him would be one that finished with a passer rating above 85. His best so far - in a full season - has been about 82, and 82 is just about where Nick Foles stood in 2014 when a broken collarbone ended his season at the midpoint.

Bradford might not be as well-protected or as well-fortified with teammates as Foles was. Kelly allowed Maclin to leave via free agency after a season in which he recorded the third-most receiving yards and the fourth-most receptions in team history. Kelly has yet to name a replacement for Maclin.

Kelly traded franchise running back LeSean McCoy and replaced him with fragile Cowboys free-agent DeMarco Murray, a two-time Pro Bowl player who is a one-time full-season player.

Kelly cut starting right guard Todd Herremans and appears indifferent to the return of Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis. So, the team Bradford leads might be inferior to the first two Kelly clubs.

But lead them, he will.

Yes, Kelly re-signed backup Mark Sanchez to a 2-year extension, but you don't start a $4.5 million quarterback over a $13 million quarterback unless the $13 million quarterback is using a walker.

As Daily News columnist Sam Donnellon reported last month, while the team's website was eager to hawk Bradford's jersey, local stores were leery of ordering and selling an item that might never be relevant.

Feel free to wrap 'em up for birthdays and Christmas.

Well, maybe hold off on Christmas.

By that time, the Kelly/Bradford union might have dissolved.

Bradford exited Oklahoma after his junior season, which was cut short by two shoulder injuries that led to in-season surgery. But his 2008 Heisman Trophy run and his surgically precise predraft workouts prompted the Rams to take him first overall in '10, anyway.

Bradford has done little to justify that pick.

So far.

 


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