Bradford wants out of Philly

The Eagles are shocked that after trading up for the second overall pick to take a quarterback, signing Chase Daniel to a reasonably large contract for his stature and failing to pay him, Sam Bradford would like to leave Philadelphia.

Sam Bradford
Bradford threw 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2015.

Chip Kelly brought Bradford to the City of Brotherly love and now that Kelly is in San Francisco, the Eagles want to head in a different direction. Bradford is injury prone and did not have a great season last year. Yet for some reason they resigned him. Now he is demanding a trade.

For Bradford, this makes sense. He has no desire to be a back up or have a time clock set on how much longer he could stay with the team. He clearly doesn’t like the idea of having his replacement waiting in the wings. It doesn’t reflect very well on his personality, but you have to understand him wanting to skip town.

Let’s break down the teams that could try to negotiate a trade for Bradford.

New York Jets
Probability: High
Bradford is probably a step backwards from having Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the latter having played in the system last year and knowing the team, but Bradford would fill a need. If the Jets are unsuccessful in signing Fitzpatrick, trading for Bradford might be the next best option. Bradford would have the chance to compete with Geno Smith for the starting role. Bradford’s short contract also allows the Jets to move on from him fairly quickly. The likelihood is Bradford is no one’s long term solution at quarterback.

Chip_Kelly
The Eagles fired Kelly back in December.

San Francisco 49ers
Probability: Medium
Well, as I mentioned before, Bradford does have some ties to new San Francisco head coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers currently have a couple of quarterbacks on their roster, but rumor has it that Colin Kaepernick wants a change in scenery and Blaine Gabbert likely isn’t the quarterback San Francisco wants to invest its future in. Bringing in Bradford would give someone for Gabbert to compete with and allow the 49ers to move on from Kaepernick. Again, it does not solve the long term quarterback issue, but it certainly makes the present a bit better.

Denver Broncos
Probability: High

John Elway already traded for one Eagles quarterback this offseason, why not another? This trade probably won’t happen if only because Denver does not have the money or doesn’t want another Philly castoff, but from the standpoint of filling a need, it makes a lot of sense. Bradford could fit well into a run-heavy scheme and he would not be required to put up huge numbers with the defense he would have in Denver. The Broncos are a team that has a championship-caliber roster, minus the quarterback. Bradford might be just good enough to keep Denver’s hopes of repeating alive.

Drew_Brees
Brees’ cap hit for 2016 is $30 million, which is the largest of any player.

New Orleans Saints
Probability: Low
This one might sound a little bizarre, but hear me out. The Saints have Drew Brees under contract through this season and then he becomes a free agent. His cap figure is currently the highest in the NFL, so New Orleans would probably like to find a cheaper option. Enter Bradford in 2017. He spends a year on the bench, learning the system and the personnel before taking over as the starter. The Saints do have last year’s third round pick Garrett Grayson on the roster still, but if New Orleans isn’t sold on him, Bradford would be a good option. He would need to take a pay cut this year to make it work, but long term, this might be a good solution for Bradford.

Buffalo Bills
Probability: Low
These two teams already have a good relationship after working out a major deal last year to swap Kiko Alonso and LeSean McCoy. Maybe they will pull off another deal. No one is sure if Tyrod Taylor is the long term answer at quarterback. He and E.J Manuel are set to be free agents after next season. That could open the door again for a situation similar to what could happen in New Orleans. Bradford would be able to learn the system and compete with Taylor for the starting job. If he doesn’t get it, then he could take over the following season.

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Quarterback Carousel Continues to Spin

What a whirl it has been already on the quarterback carousel in the NFL. We got a really early taste this year before the season even began when Geno Smith had his jaw broken by a teammate in the locker room. That thrust Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting role and the Jets have opened their season 2-0.

Drew_BreesWeek 2 dealt some serious blows to the stability of the quarterback position across the league. Drew Brees played all of Sunday’s game against the Bucs but he may miss next week with a bruised rotator cuff. That would place journeyman Luke McCown into game action for the first time since November of 2011. That isn’t exactly reassuring for the Saints but Verizon has to be thrilled. Believe it or not this actually affects Mark Ingram more than anyone else. The former Heisman winner has never had the chance to be a feature back in an offense but if Brees cannot play or is limited, the focus quickly shift to him to deliver. And he will need to deliver fast because the Saints are 0-2. Panic Level: Moderate

Jay_CutlerIn the Windy City, the Bears are already in free fall and Jimmy Clausen is set to retake the starting role, if only temporarily. Jay Cutler has a hamstring injury that Chicago has said will keep him out at least two weeks. Clausen filled in for Cutler last year after the latter got benched. He was passable, tossing two touchdowns but also throwing a pick. The more concerning thing is that he actually sustained an injury in that game last year, forcing Cutler back into the lineup. If Clausen were to go down, Chicago would really be in trouble then. The last quarterback on the roster is youngster David Fales from San Jose State. If he has to start for the Bears, this team will be in full scale crisis mode. Panic Level: Low (they can’t be much worse).

Tony_RomoDallas ended up taking the brunt of the pain from the losses this week. Tony Romo fractured his left collarbone, which will keep him out for the next eight weeks. The Cowboys have already begun handling his loss. They placed Romo on the short-term IR and traded for veteran Matt Cassell as a reserve option if now-starter Branden Weeden struggles or suffers an injury himself. Neither quarterback is much good but they are both serviceable, which is the best Dallas could hope for as they try to ride out the storm. Despite losing Romo, the Cowboys could still hold the division lead when he comes back based on how poorly the rest of the division has played. However, with Dez Bryant also out for probably a similar time frame, things in Big D are shaky. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the panic that should be surrounding this team. Panic Level: High

Johnny Manziel

I am starting to wonder if the Browns are afraid of success. After nearly reaching .500 last season, Cleveland made a number of questionable veteran acquisitions, including Josh McCown. They needed a quarterback for sure but not many pegged McCown as their savior. McCown entered the season as the starter but a nasty hit in the season opener left him with a concussion. In stepped the polarizing Johnny Manziel. He was far from perfect or even polished but he was productive. Posting to three touchdowns to just one interception in roughly seven quarters of relief work isn’t bad. The four fumbles are definitely concerning but Manziel has regularly kept plays alive and made something out of nothing. He isn’t throwing for a ton of yards but his is picking up a lot of yards when he does throw. He has been electric and exciting, something Cleveland has not had in a while, but the Browns maintain that once McCown is healthy, he will get his job back. I know I initially advocated against it, but after two weeks, I would like to see some more Johnny Football. They won too in Week 2, which is definitely a positive. A game against the Raiders could be winnable as well and would be a really good test for the young Manziel. Cleveland fans should actually start to panic if their original starter is in fact healthy, oddly enough. Panic Level: Moderate

What if Brees had landed in Miami?

If you follow football, you’ve heard of Nick Saban. You’ve probably also heard of Drew Brees. These two have been wildly successful at what they do. Saban has coached Alabama to three National Titles in four years and Brees has both a Super Bowl trophy and the record for most consecutive games with a passing touchdown. These two have been very successful in their own right, but they could have been very successful together.

Nick Saban2006. Way back before either of them had had any of their major triumphs, Nick Saban was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and Drew Brees was a young quarterback on the San Diego Chargers. Neither one had anything to do with each other. Saban was fresh from his days of coaching LSU and made the move to Miami. Brees was dealing with a career-threatening shoulder injury that had caused the Chargers to let him walk into free agency. The two nearly crossed paths, and we are going to discuss what might have happened if they had.

The Dolphins were searching for a starting quarterback during the 2006 offseason. Gus Ferrotte had been the Dolphins starter under center the year before but was not convincing by any means. Brees was a free agent and the Dolphins were in contract talks with him. Miami ended up ending negotiations when they traded for Dante Culpepper and Brees signed with New Orleans. But what if the Dolphins had signed Brees?

Brees had turned the Saints from a doormat to a playoff team in just one year. The Dolphins were already a pretty solid team and the addition of Brees would have put them over the top. Brees’ receivers would have been Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, and Randy McMichael, with Ronnie Brown in the backfield as well. Before you know it, the Phins would have had an offense that scared people. Brees would have had Andre Whitworth to protect his backside when Miami used their second round pick on him instead of trading it to the Vikings for Culpepper.

Drew_BreesInstead of faltering down the stretch, the Dolphins make a huge push toward the postseason in 2006, making it as a wildcard. As a result, Saban never jumps ship for Alabama and stays in South Beach. The Dolphins would be preparing for a stellar season in 2007.

Meanwhile, down in the Bayou, the Saints never end up with a quarterback, which means they select Vince Young in the 2006 draft. Young has a nice year for New Orleans as a rookie but fails to get much else going. After another year or two of poor play from the Saints, the team packs up and heads to Los Angeles. 

2007 comes and goes and the Patriots dominate the league going 16-0 again. Rather than suffer through a 1-15 season with Cleo Lemon at the helm, Brees guides the Phins to yet another wildcard berth. The defense is rock solid behind the play of Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Channing Crowder and Joey Porter. After the emergence of bench player Wes Welker with the gun slingin’ Brees at quarterback, Miami has no need for Tedd Ginn Jr. and opts to bolster their offensive line instead drafting Ben Grubbs.

In a storybook tale, Brees matches up with his former team, the Chargers and delivers a shocking win. Miami followed that up with an upset of the Peyton Manning led Colts, leading to a matchup with the rival Patriots. Miami is simply outmatched in that game, and falls in the AFC championship. The Dolphins get some satisfaction though as New England still loses in the Super Bowl as Tom Brady can’t seem to find enough offense with Welker on the field.

Instead, Welker and Brees are tearing apart the league, and in 2008 when Brady goes down for the season with a major knee injury, the Dolphins have their chance. The Dolphins rule the AFC and roll to a number one seed. Instead of Chad Pennington throwing four interceptions to end the Dolphins’ hopes in the wildcard round, Brees catches fire and the Dolphins look destined for glory.

Miami beats up the outmatched Steelers in the AFC title game and heads on to the Super Bowl played in nearby Tampa Bay. The Dolphins win a shootout with the Cardinals and Brees wins his first Super Bowl a year earlier than he would have in New Orleans.

The Dolphins go on to compete with the Patriots as the top team in the AFC, and the Brees vs. Brady matchup becomes a biannual classic. Saban goes down as a great NFL coach, instead of a quitter. Alabama never turns into a football factory and the Saints live out their days competing with the Raiders to avoid being the worst team in California.

There are some other interesting nuggets that would happen in this scenario. Brees would still go on to break the single season passing record, eclipsing Dan Marino, this time in a Dolphins uniform. However, unlike Marino, Brees would have a ring, which would probably hold weight for the conversation of greatest quarterback to don a Miami uniform.

Just think, all of this could have happened, if only the Dolphins had decided to sign Drew Brees in the summer of 2006. 

The Tale of Two Scandals

Tom_BradyThe sports world is outraged at the moment. It could be directed at a number of different people. It could be Patriots fans enraged at the two locker room assistants for deflating footballs for the AFC Championship game. It could be those same fans again furious at Roger Goodell for suspending quarterback Tom Brady for four games when the evidence does not definitively point to Brady’s involvement. It might be on the other side of that as an NFL fan because while the evidence isn’t damning, it has some logical implications, Brady probably cheated and the league is not punishing him enough. Still others are shocked that Brady received a four-game ban when Ray Rice was only dealt half of that after beating his wife.

This whole Deflategate scandal has blown even more than before, if that is possible. The Patriots are looking at losing two draft picks, one of them being a first rounder, in the next two seasons and missing their future Hall of Fame quarterback for the first quarter of the season. All of that is on top of an NFL-record fine of $1 million. Brady is set to appeal the suspension, which he will likely win, and have it reduced if not altogether wiped out. New England owner, Robert Kraft, is demanding an explanation from the league as to where the precedent for these sanctions lie. The whole fiasco seems very 2012, when the NFL had to deal with a different violation of public policy. The fallout that ensued has been all the same.

Gregg_WilliamsBack in 2009, Gregg Williams joined the New Orleans Saints as their defensive coordinator. Shortly after his arrival, Williams arranged a bounty system that rewarded players for big hits and injuries caused. This was clearly against league rules but did not really give the Saints a competitive advantage over their opponents. It did however, put both player safety and NFL integrity on the line. Coincidentally, New Orleans made a Super Bowl run, just as New England did, and walked away with a Lombardi Trophy. The whole bounty system was uncovered almost two full years later and the implications began to rain down on the Saints organization.

Williams was suspended indefinitely. Head Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis received long suspensions, one year and eight games respectively. The Saints also forfeited a second round draft pick and paid a $500,000 fine. Several Saints players found themselves punished as well, including Jonathan Vilma, who received a full season suspension. Like Brady, Vilma denied being an active part of the program. The difference was that it was clear he was aware of it. Vilma appealed the suspension and actually went as far as attacking Goodell by filing a defamation of character suit against the commissioner. The NFL was in utter chaos as the scandal continued to unfold. It got even uglier from there as arbitrators and suspension appeals dragged on.

The Saints were obviously frustrated with the league’s decisions to suspend coaches and management as well as stripping them of a draft pick. However, the Saints moved on and dealt with the consequences. Eventually, Peyton returned and New Orleans simply put the scandal behind them. It doesn’t seem like the Patriots are willing to do that. Despite there being a lot of the “who said what” kind of stuff going on, the league upheld its decisions on the loss of draft pick and fine. However, Goodell reduced some of the suspensions and eventually they were all voided. The precedent is there for Brady to have his suspension at the very least reduced if not completely dismissed.

The NFL certainly made a statement with these punishments that it will not tolerate violation of the rules when it compromises the integrity of the game. It was a bit of a recovery move by Goodell, after botching so many other recent scandals. The important thing is that the Patriots might have had a competitive advantage, but its effect on the game was about as important to the win as a cash incentive to hit opposing players harder. The Patriots might have broken the rules and deserve to be punished for it. However, it does not tarnish their title. If it does, then the Saints title is tainted as well. The two scandals had the same impact on the outcome of games and, overall, had similar penalties.

I will not remember this as something New England did to beat Indianapolis. I will remember this as a minor scandal that both the league and the team drastically blew out of proportion with the harsh penalty and the unprofessional reaction of both Brady’s agent and Kraft. The Pats certainly deserve the penalty, but not to be remembered as a tainted champion.

Monday Night Preview: Week 15

Tonight’s Monday Night Football matchup features two teams who had higher expectations heading into this season. The 5-8 Saints take on the 5-8 Bears in Chicago. This game won’t do much for the Bears as they have already been eliminated from the playoffs but the Bears’ coaching staff could be coaching for their collective jobs. New Orleans, as poor as its record stands, is currently in first place in the NFC South and would jump a full game ahead of the division rival Falcons with a win tonight. This game should have a lot of tensions as these two struggling teams battle with completely different forms of motivation.

For the Bears, it will be a game of trying to figure out what is wrong with its abysmal defense. The unit has been given up an NFL-worst 29.1 points per game this season and ranks fourth to last in total defense. This secondary was gashed by injuries early in the season and since then has been torched by opposing quarterbacks. Against an electric Saints passing attack, look for Bears’ defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to bring the house early to throw Drew Brees off and get his defense off the field. Also expect the Bears to limit Jimmy Graham’s success with double coverage his way all night. When Graham is taken out of the game, the Saints tend to struggle. On offense, Head Coach Mark Trestman will likely look to find a balanced attack against a terrible Saints defense. Look for Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery involved a lot in the attack plan, especially with Brandon Marshall injured.

Meanwhile, New Orleans has to find some sort of plan to fix its defense. The unit is allowed the most yards per game in the league this year and sit only two spots ahead of the Bears for the higher amount of points allowed per game. There is also some talk that Saint’s safety Kenny Vaccaro could be benched for his recent poor play. The coaching staff is clearly looking to mix it up in an attempt to give this defense a spark. Offensively, the Saint’s will probably air it out early and often against the slumping Bears defensive back but expect Brees to look away from Kyle Fuller. The Chicago rookie has been a ball magnet and can cause trouble. Look for Mark Ingram to play a role but mainly later in the game when the defense is tired.

Prediction: The Saints come out firing early on but the Bears play with a lot of tenacity causing Brees to make some mistakes and keep the game close. Watch for Jay Cutler to play with a chip on his shoulder after the “buyer’s remorse” comments made this week by the coaching staff. This is likely going to be a shootout and it should be close, but the Saints need the win more and will come away with a 38-30 win in the Windy City.