The Current Quarterback Situation, From A to Z

The Current Quarterback Situation, From A to Z

When the Eagles finally signed Trent Edwards last Thursday after a month-long courtship, there was a sense the depth chart had crystallized at the quarterback position. Edwards would battle third-year signal caller Mike Kafka for the back-up job behind an injury-prone Michael Vick, while Vince Young is allowed to depart a free agent, his services no longer required.

Then on Friday, the Eagles interviewed Robert Griffin III at the NFL Scouting Combine, and the whole town went crazy. Could the team move up in April's draft to select a Heisman Trophy-winning QB? Are they serious about bringing another arm into the mix? Isn't Andy Reid already pot committed to Vick, especially now that the organization is feeling a renewed sense of urgency? So many questions.

Presumably, VY is still out of the equation -- perhaps he would be a better fit on the hardwood, surrounded by Chuck and MJ. As for everyone else, and their relationships with the Birds: all bets are off.

Simply interviewing an exceptional prospect does not necessarily mean the front office intends to take that player, obviously. However, whatever the Eagles' level of interest in RG3, the sheer knowledge of their meeting may have changed everything. After the jump, we review the depth chart as it stands currently, and the impact this shocking development holds for the future under center.

3. TRENT EDWARDS
Let's start with something that should have been evident right away. The addition of Trent Edwards did not automatically conclude the club's business with quarterbacks.

Chosen by the Bills out of Stanford in the third round of the '07 Draft, like many that came before him, Edwards could not single-handedly turn around that moribund franchise. He flashed some potential, but Buffalo's front office, in a seemingly constant state of flux, waived Edwards in the midst of his fourth season after he surrendered the starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Edwards spent the rest of the season with Jacksonville, then the following summer in Oakland's training camp. He didn't make the final roster, and spent a year out of football.

Key phrase here: spent a year out of football. There are a lot of things to like about a low-risk signing like Edwards. He's 28, has prototypical NFL size (6-4, 231), and went to a good school. He started 32 games for the Bills, amassing a 14-18 record, 60.9% completion percentage, and tossing 25 touchdowns to 27 interceptions -- not great, but respectable considering the situation.

Edwards strikes me as a player who suffered from inconsistent development in an ever-changing environment. In fact, the only thing that hasn't changed in Buffalo recently is the last time they made the playoffs. He isn't known for his arm strength, but Edwards is an intelligent guy, and given Reid's ability to turn a QB's fortunes, it makes for a nice off-season project for the Birds.

Again though, he just spent a year out of football. Cool, the team brought somebody in to compete, but let's not go guaranteeing Edwards a roster spot. The Eagles will have more options once free agency opens March 13. With his experience in the west coast offense, Jason Campbell could be a fit. Kyle Orton is a seasoned veteran. Hell, it will never happen, but Donovan McNabb would be a compelling choice to play behind Vick if you believe familiarity breeds success, and there's no rush to get something done there.

Of course, the draft isn't off the table, either.

So then why sign Edwards now? Well, it doesn't hurt to snag him early. They beat other potential suitors to the punch. Insurance in case they can't land the guy they want later. Then, finally, there is the simplest explanation, that being he is here to compete with Mike Kafka for a job... but which one?

2. MIKE KAFKA
It's far too early to say for certain, but Edwards's arrival might be an ominous sign for Kafka.

At first, the competition sounds innocent enough, a journeyman pushing the inexperienced prospect for his promotion, a battle which the incumbent is (hopefully) projected to win. Throw another candidate into the picture, one of the name free agents, or a relatively high draft pick, and suddenly you're not talking about Kafka playing for the back-up role. Instead, he's fighting for a roster spot.

If Edwards didn't preclude the Eagles from finding another QB, the RG3 interview may have only confirmed the suspicion they would like to. In his case, that's more an indictment of Vick than anybody else. After all, they aren't trading up in the first round of draft to add depth.

Speaking more broadly though, any other quarterback the team brings in going forward without subtracting another could signal the coaches have measured a ceiling for Kafka. A Campbell/Orton-type signing suggests they aren't quite comfortable with him at number two. Entering year three, maybe they never will. A selection made over the first couple days of the draft indicates they don't think Kafka will ever take over the reigns.

The latter doesn't have to reflect poorly on Kafka, either. Fourth-rounders often have their limits, and all the coaching up in the world can't make stars out of them all. Having seen him attempt 16 whole passes in meaningful football games, we really have no clue about his progress to this point.

Just saying, you can judge a lot by the movement of the front office. If they stop at adding Edwards, Mike Kafka may have some type of future in the NFL. If virtually anybody else you recognize is brought in, it's fair to speculate it might not work out for Kafka, at least not in Philadelphia.

1. MICHAEL VICK
Are the Eagles already feeling buyer's remorse over their deal with Vick?

We still don't expect management to make a sales pitch to Peyton Manning once the Colts finally release him from his contract, or search for any direct replacement for Vick in 2012 for that matter. His base salary of $12.5 million for this season is fully guaranteed, and for better or worse, Vick remains the best chance the club has of making a run this year.

Apparently, beyond 2012 is another story.

When it was first revealed the Eagles had interviewed Griffin, we took it with a grain of salt, chalking it up to management doing their due diligence. RG3 is the consensus second-highest rated QB in the draft behind Andrew Luck, and with the Rams interested in moving out of the second overall pick, there is a better than 50% shot somebody would want to trade into their spot. The Browns at four and Redskins at six are in prime position to leap up a few spots. The Birds select 15th.

Is it possible for them to get as high as two? Yeah, it's possible. It's also very, very expensive. Initial estimates have the Eagles giving up this year's first, second, and third rounders, as well as a first in 2013. Whoa.

Yet even given the outrageous cost, the front office has themselves in a position to at least hold the conversation. As of right now,
they already own an additional second-round pick this year, as well as a second fourth, and could receive more decent choices if they part with Asante Samuel and/or DeSean Jackson in a trade. The firepower is there, with the only hang-up being whether St. Louis would want to move all the way back to 15 if one of the other teams has a similar offer on the table.

Meanwhile, Vick isn't getting any younger. He'll be 32 once the season starts, he hasn't been able to stay healthy, and last season, he did not show signs of growing into the quarterback who could dissect defenses with his mind as easily as he can with his left arm and his legs. What's more, the vast majority of the guaranteed money on the "six-year, $100 million contract" he signed in August will have been paid, so the Eagles could be free as soon as next season if they feel inclined.

But RG3 to Philly? It's fun to think about, however, open to scrutiny. Can they claim they are going for broke this season, then trade half their draft and mortgage the future for a quarterback who won't play this year? Well, when you scan their roster, their only glaring hole is at linebacker, and they would still have free agency and a pick or two to address that need. Does having a young QB to develop buy Andy Reid even more time if they falter again in 2013? Not sure about that one, but he's not the only man in the world who can groom a star passer.

Then there is always the hint Mike Vick is gonna turn things around. Even after a poor season, the Eagles were 7-4 last season in games he started and finished -- 7-3 if you remove the game against the Cardinals where he dealt with broken ribs. His health will always be of some concern, but behind an improving offensive line, if he can make his reads just a little bit faster, throw a few more balls away, and get down or out of bounds before taking so many big hits, who knows, maybe he could survive for a full year, and play at a Pro-Bowl level once more.

Yet after much deliberation, we must concede there is a legitimate interest for the Eagles' part, even if it's bolstered by secondary reasoning. Maybe they don't wish to tip their hand on another free agent or rookie QB, or they are just trying to drive up the cost for the Redskins, engaged in a cunning plot to bury Washington at the bottom of the division by having them send a never-ending array of high draft picks away for single players at a time. But ultimately, how could they not be interested in Griffin?

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Tuesday night he'd still like another veteran bat in addition to Howie Kendrick, though he understands the front office is conscious of not blocking young prospects.

The Phillies need offense and the clearest area to upgrade is an outfield corner. But don't expect to see the Phils go after Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders or anyone of that ilk, because those players will require multi-year guarantees and everyday playing time. If you sign one of them, you're basically telling two of Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr that they won't be needed much the next three years. 

That would be unwise. The whole point of rebuilding is filling a roster with young, inexpensive talent and then eventually supplementing that core with established players who fit. Look at what the Cubs did. Look at what the Astros are doing now, adding older players like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Nori Aoki and Josh Reddick to fill in the holes around Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

For that reason, a player like Seth Smith would be a worthwhile addition for the Phillies.

Smith, 34, makes $7 million in 2017, the final year of his contract with the Mariners. When Mackanin discusses "professional hitters," Smith is the type. He has one of the better batting eyes in baseball, chasing about eight percent fewer pitches outside the strike zone the last three years than the league average.

He's a career .261/.344/.447 hitter who averages 29 doubles, 16 homers, 56 walks and 102 strikeouts per 162 games.

The left-handed Smith can play both outfield corners, and he's always been very effective against right-handed pitching. He has a .272 career batting average with an .827 OPS against righties compared to .202 with a .594 OPS vs. lefties. 

Smith is a fit for the Phillies for several reasons. They need more offense from the corner outfield. Logically, that outfielder should be a left-handed hitter because the Phillies' projected middle of the order has four right-handed bats in Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp and Kendrick.

Furthermore, Smith, unlike Saunders, for example, does not require everyday playing time. Smith shouldn't start against lefties. That would provide opportunities to Altherr and Quinn in 2017, while protecting against ineffectiveness from Altherr and another injury to Quinn.

And lastly, Smith is not going to cost anything meaningful via trade. He's a 34-year-old platoon player in the final year of his deal. The Phillies could likely land him for an insignificant prospect, perhaps a pitcher who had a high strikeout rate last season in the low levels of the minor leagues. 

For Seattle, it would be more of a salary dump. The Mariners' 2016 payroll is already $20 million more than it was last year, and per reports, they seem willing to spend to improve their starting rotation.

Smith is not a game-changer, that's not the argument here. He's not J.D. Martinez, a much bigger name and better player. Martinez would also fit the Phillies as a one-year option, and they'd likely be interested in keeping him around longer if they could acquire him. But any trade with the Tigers for Martinez wouldn't be nearly as painless for the Phils as acquiring Smith. 

So perhaps more than other available outfielders, Smith would be an offensive upgrade and a player who fits the Phillies' goal of improving without stunting a top prospect's growth.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.