This is the first in a series of posts that take a look at each position and how the Eagles might choose to address it in free agency, starting March 13th. Enjoy!
It’s safe to say that the Eagles won’t be looking for a starting quarterback in free agency this year. They are tied to Michael Vick for at least one more season by virtue of the massive contract extension he signed during the preseason last summer. Earlier this winter, the Eagles also signed Trent Edwards to a one year deal. Edwards was a 3rd round pick out of Stanford in the 2007 draft, and spent 3 years as the starter for the Buffalo Bills. He was cut after week 2 of the 2010 season and picked up by Jacksonville, where he spent the remainder of the year backing up David Garrard. He was signed by the Raiders during the 2011 offseason, but was cut at the end of training camp, and he spent the rest of the year out of football. Mike Kafka also remains on the roster. You might remember him from movies such as the critically-acclaimed “4th quarter of the Atlanta Falcons game in Week 2” and the disappointing sequel “4th quarter of the New York Giants game in Week 3”.
While a lot of people are seeing the Edwards signing as a signal that the Eagles won’t be looking for a quarterback this offseason, I disagree. Edwards is on a non-guaranteed contract for a low salary. The Eagles have always liked him since he played in a pro-style, West Coast offense at Stanford, and they see potential in him. Complain all you want about his clock management and devaluation of the linebacker position, but Andy Reid has proved to be both a successful judge of talent and an excellent teacher when it comes to the quarterback position. This Edwards signing could mean that he’s here to be the primary backup (and inevitable starter, at least for a few games) for Michael Vick, but it could also mean that the organization was not thrilled with the play of Mike Kafka in his limited time last year, and could be bringing in Edwards to compete with him for the 3rd quarterback job. If that is the case, the Eagles will be looking to bring in a backup quarterback from outside of the organization. Here are some of the options in free agency this year:
1)Kyle Orton(KC): Orton was cut by the Broncos midseason after losing his starting job to the freight train of hype that was Tim Tebow. He started down the stretch for the division rival Chiefs, and ended up beating the Packers and the Broncos. With Matt Cassel coming back from his season-ending injury, Orton’s days in Kansas City seem to be numbered. However, I don’t think he’d be a good fit in Philly: he’s a game manager, and relies mainly on checkdowns and a strong running game. The Eagles’ offense has been much more about the big play and going for the deep ball in recent years. Orton’s main strength is his ability in play-action, which the Eagles would love. That being said, I think he wants a chance to start somewhere, and he could easily get it as a veteran mentor for whatever team drafts Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, or somewhere else. Also, don’t be surprised if he stays in Kansas City and competes with Matt Cassel for the starting job. While it’s appealing to have consistency from the backup quarterback, I would rather have some of the later names on this list than Orton for the salary he’d likely command.
2)Jason Campbell (OAK): Campbell was playing well for the 4-2 Oakland Raiders before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. 3 days and one disastrous trade later, Carson Palmer was an Oakland Raider, and Jason Campbell was out of a job. Assuming he’s fully healthy, Campbell would be my choice for the Eagles’ backup quarterback. He’s consistent (if not spectacular), he knows the NFC East from his time with the Redskins, and he’s played in West Coast offenses before. I think Campbell will look for a chance to compete for a starting job somewhere (Seattle? Miami?), so don’t expect to see him in midnight green.
3)Shaun Hill (DET): Hill was a starter in San Francisco for part of Mike Singletary’s tenure before moving to Detroit. After Matthew Stafford was injured early in 2010, Hill filled in admirably until he too was felled by injury. He spent all of last year on the bench as Stafford had a breakout season for the Lions. I’d really like to see Hill in Philadelphia next year. He’s tough and has proven himself capable of stepping into the lineup and starting for an extended period of time, which is always a risk you run when Michael Vick is employed as your starting quarterback. However, I expect him to stay in Detroit to back up Stafford again next year.
4)Rex Grossman (WAS): Well, you know what you’re getting with Rex. More specifically, you know that you’ll never know what to expect from Rex. “Good Rex” or “Bad Rex” could show up on any given day, but the upside of “Good Rex” is pretty good for a backup quarterback. If “Bad Rex” shows up, well, it was the backup quarterback. What else did you expect? Seriously, though, he knows the NFC East from his year as a Redskin, he beat the Super Bowl champion Giants twice last year, and he’s much better than people give him credit for as a QB. He’s a bit stretched as a long-term starter, since his decision making can be suspect, but he’s not a bad option at all as backup quarterback. I’d be happy to have him backing up Michael Vick next year, contrary to public opinion.
5)Josh Johnson (TB): There isn’t a lot of hype surrounding Josh Johnson: he’s spent the last few years backing up Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay with little fanfare. However, I’d like to see what the Eagles could do with him as a backup under the tutelage of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. He’d be similar to Young-a mobile QB to back up Vick because their playing styles are similar. Hopefully Johnson would play better than Young did, though. He could probably be signed for a low salary, and if the Eagles can’t get Campbell, Grossman, or Hill, I’d like to see Johnson as an Eagle next year.
6)Vince Young (PHI): No. Just no. We all know the Vince Young saga by now: “Dream Team”, followed by a win in relief of Vick against the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football, followed by a run of losses, abject failure, underthrown deep balls, and brain-dead decision making, culminating in a dismal performance against Seattle on Thursday Night Football in which he threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the game and all but ended the Eagles’ season when he lofted a pass across the field into the flat in the red zone that was intercepted by David Hawthorne and returned for a touchdown to ice the game for the Seahawks. Please, please, please don’t bring him back. I think the Eagles would honestly be better served with Edwards and Kafka as the backup quarterbacks than they would be with Young, given that he will probably get a higher salary than most backup quarterbacks.
Other potential Eagles’ QB targets:
Dennis Dixon (PIT) : Similar to Johnson, raw, inaccurate, but has upside. Mobile, has starting experience.
Chad Henne (MIA): Coming off shoulder surgery, upside, good pedigree (Michigan, 2nd round pick) but looks to be headed to NYJ to push Sanchez and reunite with his former head coach Tony Sparano, who is the Jets’ new offensive coordinator. Struggled with accuracy and decision making at times in Miami, looked good other times.
Donovan McNabb (MIN): Accurate last year, but looked out of shape and washed up. Too much fanfare for what would be an admittedly good story, but not enough production to justify the media circus.
Josh McCown (CHI): Looked good in 2 late-season starts for the Bears. Could be a fluke, but played hard, small with limited arm strength but plays tough, mobile, has moxie. Probably staying in Chicago.
There’s no shortage of options for the Eagles at backup QB this offseason if they want to upgrade from the Trent Edwards/Mike Kafka combination they currently have waiting in the wings behind Michael Vick. Tomorrow I’ll check back in with potential targets for the Eagles at running back.