Long-term deal for Bradford would ultimately be mistake

As the NFL free agency period becomes closer and closer to opening, one of the hottest topics of conversation surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles is whether or not the team will come to an agreement with starting quarterback Sam Bradford on a new contract. 

But is a long-term deal for Bradford really the best move for the Eagles? 

Bradford may represent the Eagles' best chance to win in the short-term, however I believe that bringing him back would ultimately be a mistake. 

The Eagles need a fresh start at the quarterback position. No, that doesn't mean the team should pursue a trade for Colin Kaepernick. No, Robert Griffin isn't the answer either. It's time for the Birds to go back to the draft to find their passer. 

Since the end of the 2009 season, the Eagles have been searching for an answer to replace Donovan McNabb as the franchise quarterback. The Birds have trotted out four different Opening Day starting quarterbacks since 2010, including three in the last three years. 

During that time, the team has made a considerable effort to revitalize the careers of former first-round picks that had failed in other cities. 

Michael Vick was the first, and most successful, of this trend. Vick quickly took the starting from Kevin Kolb and led the Eagles to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance in 2010, but quickly reverted to his old Atlanta form in the following years, failing to lead Philadelphia to a winning record in 2011 or 2012. 

Vince Young was the franchise's second crack at a reclamation project, brought on board to serve as Vick's backup in 2011. When Young briefly took over as the team's starter while Vick was injured, there was some talk that he could ultimately supplant Vick, though poor play prevented those ideas from coming to fruition. 

After being run out of New York, Mark Sanchez was signed to be Nick Foles' backup in 2014. The former top draft pick took over midway through the season after Foles went down with a broken collarbone, and while he was able to help guide the Eagles to a handful of victories, he ultimately regressed into the turnover machine he was with the Jets, costing the Birds in several key spots at the end of the season.

Sanchez would also make appearances in three games during the 2015 run once Bradford's injuries provided him another opportunity. Like Young before him, there were a handful of reports that suggested Sanchez had an opportunity to win the job if he performed well while Bradford was out, but the veteran was unable to seize the opportunity. 

And then there's Bradford, who looked largely unimpressive during the first half of the season, while putting up some better efforts on the tail end of the year. Sam's supporters will point to the second half of the season as good enough reason to bring him back. Although, I would point out that several of his touchdowns came in garbage time of either blowout losses or during the meaningless regular season finale against the Giants with nothing on the line.

When I look at Bradford's body of work, I see a guy that has a career-losing record, only played a full 16-game schedule once, has never made the playoffs, never had a winning season, never eclipsed 4,000 passing yards, and only hit the 20-touchdown mark once in six years. Does that sound like a franchise quarterback? Ultimately, the Eagles failed to make the playoffs under Bradford in an incredibly weak division. 

The common theme here is that the "reclamation quarterback" doesn't work. The Vicks and Bradfords of the world just aren't close to good enough to take a team to a championship level. And what's worse is that they're not even bad enough to put a franchise in position to take a top quarterback. Guys like this keep a franchise in purgatory.

The simple truth is that if a team has a franchise quarterback on their hands, they don't let them go. This is a league where every team is desperate for an answer at the position, and if a club is willing to bid good-bye to a guy that they once invested a first-round pick in, there's probably a good reason for that.

Sure, there are rare cases in which a Drew Brees leaves San Diego and does great things for the Saints. Or when Peyton Manning is let go by Indianapolis and continues his great career with the Broncos. But such cases are the exceptions, not the rule. For every case like Brees or Manning, there about 100 cases of Daunte Culpepper, Matt Cassel, A.J. Feeley, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Nick Foles, etc. 

Through six years of trying to revitalize the careers of former top picks, the Eagles have only two playoff appearances, one of which was engineered by a Nick Foles-led team, and no playoff victories to show for it. 

It's time for the Eagles to stop trying to resuscitate the careers of failures from other teams, and it's time for the club to draft a franchise quarterback and develop them the right way, as they did with McNabb back in 1999.

Denny Basens is a contributing writer for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DennyBasens.