There's a decent chance Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles will be replaced as the No. 2 quarterback by Nate Sudfeld, a 25-year-old with exactly zero professional starts to his name. But the Philadelphia Eagles won't go down this road without a safeguard.
Foles is likely headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars when free agency opens March 13. He has earned the right to lead a team after two remarkable seasons with the Eagles, one of which ended with him hoisting the city's first Lombardi Trophy. His departure leaves a sizable void in the spot behind Carson Wentz.
Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie believes strongly in having two starting-caliber quarterbacks on the roster. He actually avoids using the word "backup," preferring the term "second quarterback" to set the tone for how the organization thinks about the position. Though some questioned the decision at the time, he didn't blink in giving Foles a two-year, $11 million contract to be the team's No. 2 signal-caller in 2017, and had no problem sweetening that deal this past offseason to keep Foles happy post-Super Bowl.
A tenet of the organizational philosophy is to invest and reinvest in the QB position. Given the fruits that philosophy has already produced, there's no reason to think that will change going forward.
The roster dynamics are shifting, however, which will likely affect the approach in turn. It's easier to pay a backup really good money when your starter is on his rookie contract. That remains the case with Wentz, who carries a reasonable salary-cap number of around $8 million this season, but he is eligible for a new deal and will get serious dollars before long. That needs to be accounted for.
And so does the development of the team's No. 3 quarterback, Sudfeld, the past two seasons. If the internal buzz on him is to be believed, he's a starter in training.
"Nate has done a great job. Nate has really put himself in a position to compete for [the backup role]," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said at the scouting combine last week. "We don't just go around and give out jobs. But at the same time, we want him to compete for that spot. We feel like he's earned the opportunity to do that."
Sudfeld is a restricted free agent. The Eagles are expected to place as high as a second-round tender on him to ensure he remains in the fold.
The issue is that Sudfeld, a 2016 sixth-round pick by the Washington Redskins out of Indiana, has thrown only 25 passes at the NFL level. As high as the Eagles might be on him, he lacks experience and is therefore an unknown in a certain respect. Because of this, Philly will favor adding a veteran to the mix.
If the Eagles are serious about giving Sudfeld a chance to win the job -- and the belief here is they are -- that would seemingly have an impact on whom they bring in. It's difficult to envision Teddy Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill (if he shakes loose from the Dolphins) serving as potential third-stringers, right? The same might be said for Case Keenum or Tyrod Taylor assuming their market holds up. Can the Eagles catch someone such as Blake Bortles on the rebound? Otherwise, the QBs who fit the bill -- ones who bring experience and could be pegged for the No. 2 or No. 3 spot -- are along the lines of Matt Cassel, Josh McCown, and perhaps Ryan Fitzpatrick -- depending on his demands/mindset.
Philadelphia can offer quarterbacks something they can't find everywhere: good coaching, and the chance to compete for a championship. That could be enticing both for older players with their legacy in mind and midcareer players looking to turn things around. And, as Lurie has shown, the compensation will be on point.
A confident soul could bet on himself with the prospect of being in the same situation as Foles was the past two seasons -- a chin strap away from taking the reins of a highly talented team. But it looks like such a player will have to be comfortable with the idea that he'll need to beat out Sudfeld first.