PHILADELPHIA -- When Andy Reid became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, the team signed free-agent quarterback Doug Pederson and then took Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.
Seventeen years later, Pederson is the Eagles’ head coach. A protégé of Reid’s, Pederson and the team have used Reid’s strategy as a “model,” according to Howie Roseman, executive vice president of football operations.
That explains the Eagles’ investment in quarterbacks over the past two months.
In March, the Eagles signed soon-to-be free agent Sam Bradford to a two-year contract worth $35 million with $22 million of that guaranteed.
A couple of days later, Philadelphia signed free-agent quarterback Chase Daniel to a three-year contract worth $21 million, of which $12 million is guaranteed.
On Wednesday, the Eagles traded five draft picks to move up to the No. 2 spot in the 2016 NFL draft. They will use that pick on a quarterback. If the Los Angeles Rams take Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick, the Eagles will select North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.
The draft pick would receive a four-year contract worth about $26.1 million, based on last year’s No. 2 pick and the 8 percent rise in the NFL salary cap. Wentz, if he’s the pick, would receive a $17.1 million signing bonus.
The rookie’s salary-cap hit would be about $4.75 million for 2016. Bradford’s is $12.5 million. Daniel’s cap hit is $5 million.
So the Eagles will have roughly $22.25 million of the $155.27 million salary cap tied up in quarterbacks. That is 14.3 percent of their total salary cap.
That is not dramatically out of line with other NFL teams. The Eagles are in the same range as 10 or 11 other teams. The New Orleans Saints have a league-high $32.47 million of cap space allotted to quarterbacks, $30 million of that for Drew Brees. Atlanta has $26.7 million tied up in quarterbacks, $23.75 million of it for Matt Ryan.
The Eagles are second in the NFC East, but there is not a wide disparity. The New York Giants have $25.43 million ($24.2 million for Eli Manning) committed to quarterbacks. The Dallas Cowboys are at $22.05 million, with Tony Romo getting $20.8 million of that. Washington’s cap hit is $21.75 million for quarterbacks.
The cap situation will change dramatically in 2017. Bradford’s cap hit for 2017 will be $22.5 million. Daniel’s will go up to $8 million, while the young quarterback’s cap number would likely rise to about $5.8 million. That’s a total of $46.3 million for quarterbacks.
On Wednesday, Roseman said Bradford will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback in 2016. If he plays well enough, Roseman said, Bradford would remain the No. 1 quarterback. At that point, the Eagles could renegotiate his contract to lower the 2017 salary-cap hit.
The simpler solution, of course, would be for the young quarterback to assume the starting-quarterback job. Daniel could remain the backup with his $8 million cap hit. Bradford would be released, in which case he would still count for $5.5 million in dead money. That would save $17 million in 2017 salary-cap space.
The Eagles may be following Reid’s blueprint, but the costs are very different. McNabb’s rookie contract included a signing bonus of $11.3 million. Pederson’s three-year contract was worth $4.6 million.