Eagles' quarterback situation still unclear

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Eagles' quarterback situation still unclear

PHOENIX -- Asked Tuesday morning how many college prospects he would consider with the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft, Chiefs coach Andy Reid estimated anywhere between eight and 10.

Reid said he recently hit the road to work out two pass rushers -- Oregon’s Dion Jordan and Brigham Young’s Ziggy Ansah -- and would be keeping tabs in coming weeks on all the top offensive linemen prospects.

The natural assumption is that Reid wouldn’t pull the trigger on Geno Smith, the former West Virginia quarterback who will probably be picked in the top 10 despite mixed reviews from scouts and talking heads. The Chiefs addressed their quarterback deficiency by trading for Alex Smith.

But Reid, ever the salesman and bargain shopper, made sure to keep the clouds of smoke billowing out the Arizona Biltmore chimney during the owners meetings.

“That doesn’t mean Geno is out of the water,” said Reid, surrounded by a herd of Philadelphia reporters and, surprisingly, no representatives from the Kansas City media. “I’m going to keep my eyes open on everybody. I think Geno is a good quarterback. I’m going to keep this workout thing going.”

Hours later in the Biltmore lobby, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman likewise fanned the flames about his nebulous quarterback situation. Roseman reiterated his intent to keep Nick Foles on the roster and let competition decide the fate of his second-year quarterback.

Roseman also didn’t squash the idea of adding another arm -- he already has five -- in next month’s draft. He recently traveled with owner Jeffrey Lurie and new coach Chip Kelly to Morgantown for a bird’s-eye view of Smith during a private workout. That same day, Arizona quarterback Matt Scott arrived at the NovaCare Complex, presumably to interview with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.

Therein lies the confusion.

If the Eagles have already committed roughly $7 million this year to Michael Vick, and if they’re not averse to landing another passer in the draft, wouldn’t it be more logical to deal Foles now, when quarterback-needy teams still have time -- and picks -- to deal?

What is the benefit in having Foles sit every Sunday if he’s really not part of Chip Kelly’s vision?

“It’s the most important position in football,” Roseman said. “If you’re telling me that the worst thing we can have on our football team is we have a bunch of good players at the quarterback position, where do I sign up?”

That sounds all well and good. But this comes from the man who heads the same front office that twice dealt odd-man out quarterbacks for hefty draft compensation: Donovan McNabb after the 2009 season and Kevin Kolb after 2010.

Roseman was also quickly ascending the Eagles front office ladder in 2003 when the Eagles pilfered a second-round pick from the Dolphins in exchange for third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley.

This is different, Roseman promised. So long as Foles is in the hunt for the starting job, the Eagles don’t see value in moving in.

“I can’t sit here and tell you for a fact I know exactly what Nick is going to be,” Roseman added. “Because he hasn’t been our full-time player.”

Roseman admitted that his story is hard to believe, given the team’s reputation for sending quarterbacks packing. But an old ally backed Roseman’s claim. Reid was asked if he made any serious overtures about trading for Foles before he explored the Smith deal.

“They weren’t in a position where they were gonna let him go,” Reid said. “That was really never part of the discussion. We kind of had our sights set on Alex, and that’s the route we went.”

Roseman repeated what Kelly said in February at the NFL Scouting Combine, that Kelly has honest plans to have Foles compete for the starting job and looks forward to working with the former Arizona quarterback who once carved up Kelly’s defense at Oregon in 2011.

“You heard it from Andy, we have not tried to trade Nick,” Roseman said. “And to be totally honest, I understand that people don’t believe that. I get that. Chip came in, he watched him and he told you the truth. He wants to work with him. We want to see him at minicamp. We drafted him.

“He didn’t get a chance to play with his full complement of skill guys. He didn’t get a chance to play with his full offensive line. I think the worst thing you can do is trade a young quarterback before you at least think you know what he is and then go see him have a tremendous amount of success somewhere else.”

Roseman painted an incomplete picture of Foles, a third-round pick who replaced a concussed Vick as the Eagles spiraled downward to their worst season ever in Reid’s 14 seasons as head coach.

He won just one of his six starts and missed the season finale with a broken hand but also averaged nearly 247 passing yards per game and completed 61 percent of his passes. Mobility -- or lack thereof -- would seemingly be his disadvantage as Kelly prefers that his quarterbacks have some running ability to freeze the extra defender who comes down into the box.

Kelly has repeatedly said that his playbook will be built around the best quarterback instead of vice versa, but it’s telling that the two quarterbacks who have joined the roster since Kelly’s hiring -- Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinnie -- are dual-threat quarterbacks with plus mobility.

Reid, who also looked for mobility in his quarterbacks to run his West Coast offense, said Foles “is mobile enough” to keep defenses honest and noted the 14-yard touchdown run against Tampa Bay, a game the Eagles thrillingly won, 23-21, on Foles’ 1-yard touchdown to Jeremy Maclin at the buzzer.

“Most of the quarterbacks in our offense have been mobile guys,” he said. “If you take the history of the West Coast offense most of the kids have run when needed, and you saw Nick do that against Tampa, when they played all the two-man they were playing. He took off and scored and had a couple of good plays. You just have to be able to do enough of it. He’s always been able to go when he needed to. I think that’s a plus.”

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, LB: Mychal Kendricks on the trade block?

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, LB: Mychal Kendricks on the trade block?

In 2015, trade rumors were swirling around Mychal Kendricks. He was entering the final year of his rookie contract, and the Eagles had just made sizeable investments in a bunch other linebackers. Then, out of nowhere, Kendricks signed a four-year extension during training camp worth $29 million, with $16 million guaranteed plus incentives.

Fast forward to 2017, and you should expect those rumors to return, only for vastly different reasons.

At the time of the extension, Kenricks was one of the Eagles' top playmakers, not to mention one of only three linebackers in the NFL to rack up at least 8.0 sacks, three interceptions and five forced fumbles and a two-year span. Since then, big plays have been few and far between, performance has been inconsistent altogether and now he's barely even on the field. According to Football Outsiders, Kendricks lined up for only 26.8 percent of the defensive snaps in '17.

The combination of his up-and-down performance and reduced playing time no longer justify Kendricks' rising salary. Also, surprise, the five-year veteran isn't very thrilled about being the third and least utilized of the linebackers in the base defense, nor should he. For the sake of comparison, both Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks were on the field at least 95 percent of the time.

Moving on from Kendricks isn't entirely financially motivated, either. Because the Eagles still owe $4.8 in prorated signing bonus over the next three years, the club can only save $1.8 million of his hit against the salary cap for '17. Until they pay a veteran replacement, much of that money — if not all, and then some — is being put right back into the position.

Still, there is likely a team out there that's willing to take a chance on Kendrcks in exchange for a mid-to-late-round draft pick. His $4.85 million base salary this season is very reasonable if he can return to his 2013-14 level of production, which in the right scheme, if he's allowed to blitz and freelance more, could potentially happen.

As long as he's with the Eagles, he's not going to get off the bench unless Bradham or Hicks get hurt. Even then, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz doesn't like to blitz, perhaps Kendricks' greatest strength. This simply may not be the right fit regardless, which isn't really anybody's fault. That tends to happen when regimes change.

The best case scenario for both sides at this point would be the Eagles take what they can get for Kendricks and give him a chance to play. In fact, it might be an upset if something doesn't go down this offseason.

LINEBACKERS UNDER CONTRACT

Mychal Kendricks
Age: 27*
Cap Number: $6,600,000

Even in 2015, widely considered a down year for Kendricks, he managed 3.0 sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble in 13 games. Last season, he finished with zero sacks, zero interceptions and zero forced fumbles. The only time Kendricks got his hands on a football was a lone pass breakup. Part of the issue seems to be player regression, which is going to drive his trade value down. Regardless, there's really no reason for the Eagles to keep him around at that price. It's awfully expensive for depth, especially considering he hasn't looked very good. Some new scenery might be what the doctor ordered for Kendricks at this point, because it hasn't been working out in Philadelphia for awhile.

Nigel Bradham
Age: 28*
Cap Number: $4,750,000

Bradham turned out to be an absolute steal for the Eagles in free agency, although that wasn't much of a surprise. His best season had been under Schwartz with the Bills in 2014, so there was a feeling he might find similar success back in the same scheme. Sure enough, Bradham led the Eagles with 102 tackles while recording 2.0 sacks, five pass breakups, an interception and two forced fumbles. There's still some lingering legal troubles out there, which might be the only reason he wouldn't get his two-year deal extended this offseason. If the Eagles feel comfortable that those charges will go away or with minimal repercussions, nor will this be a recurring theme for Bradham, it might be wise to work out something long-term now, before he hits the market again. They might even be able to lower his number for '17.

Jordan Hicks
Age: 25*
Cap Number: $796,183

Hicks answered any doubts about whether he could play in Schwartz's scheme, or hold up to the rigors of being a middle linebacker in the NFL in general. Many felt the second-year player was snubbed by Pro Bowl voters, as he finished with 85 tackles, 11 pass breakups and five interceptions — granted, two of those picks were in Week 17. Regardless of individual accolades, the Eagles have a linebacker in Hicks who can literally play in any scheme. Perhaps best of all, he's no eligible for a contract extension until 2018, so he's cost-controlled for another year. Then again, if Hicks keeps this up, he could be looking at something in the neighborhood of $10 million annually. Of course, that would be a small price to pay for his leadership, versatility and playmaking ability.

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Age: 23*
Cap Number: $540,000

A sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots, Grugier-Hill didn't make the 53-man roster our of training camp, and the Eagles pounced. He wound up playing exclusively on special teams, but proved to be a worthwhile investment there, making eight tackles in 12 games. Now Grugier-Hill will have a full season to pick up Schwartz's system and could compete for more work as a reserve, or even for a spot in the rotation.

Joe Walker
Age: 25*
Cap Number: $480,034

Walker was slated to be Hicks' backup at middle linebacker until suffering a torn ACL in training camp. Fortunately, the starter played all 16 games, anyway, but it's a lost year for a seventh-round rookie who would've been battling just to make the roster many other places. Seeing as the Eagles are likely to upgrade the position this offseason, he may find himself in that situation this camp around.

Don Cherry
Age: 23*

A late addition to the roster during camp last summer, the Villanova product eventually wound up landing on the practice squad, too, signing a futures contract at season end. Cherry initially caught on with the Bears as an undrafted rookie before landing on his feet with the Eagles, but the fact that he didn't make it to cut-down day with his first employer suggests his prospects aren't very good.

EXPIRING CONTRACTS

Stephen Tulloch
Age: 32*
2016 Cap Number: $2,500,000

The injury to Walked necessitated the Eagles go out and find a backup for Hicks, who has a long and distinguished injury history. On the bright side, Tulloch wasn't required to play too much. He has plenty of experience in wide-nine defenses and with Schwartz specifically, but all that experience also means he's at the tale-end of his career. That much seemed clear when he played extensively against the Lions in Week 5. Simply put, the Eagles need to find some young reserves to groom behind Hicks and Bradham, not go dumpster diving for the Tullochs of the world. It was a fine career, but there's a reason he was still available in August. Retirement seems like the next step here.

Najee Goode
Age: 28*
2016 Cap Number: $675,000

Goode signed a one-year deal with the Eagles, and while he wasn't needed to fill in much on defense, which he's done a fine job of in the past, he too was excellent on special teams. The five-year veteran had 10 tackles in 16 games while playing pretty much exclusively in the third phase. It will be interesting to see whether Goode draws more interest in free agency in '17. Goode can clearly help on special teams, and when he is pressed into the game on defense, he can definitely hold his own. It certainly wouldn't be a bad thing if the Eagles could bring him back given their depth issues at linebacker, especially if Kendricks is dealt. A one- or two-year deal right around $1 million annually seems fair and isn't going to break the bank.

Ben Simmons healing on schedule; Joel Embiid out tonight; Jahlil Okafor downgraded

Ben Simmons healing on schedule; Joel Embiid out tonight; Jahlil Okafor downgraded

Ben Simmons had a planned foot scan Monday in New York and is progressing as expected.

Simmons suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot nearly four months ago, Sept. 30, and there is still no timetable for his NBA debut.

Okafor downgraded
Jahlil Okafor was limited at shootaround Tuesday and has been downgraded to questionable for tonight's game against the Clippers. He had been listed as probable on Monday.

Okafor is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up.

"It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going, it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period, it got kind of sore on me again," Okafor said Monday.

Embiid out
Joel Embiid, dealing with a left knee contusion suffered in last Friday's win over Portland, is officially out tonight. He is also expected to miss Wednesday's game at Milwaukee before returning Friday vs. the Rockets.