If New York is the ‘City that never sleeps’, then Philadelphia has insomnia. The Eagles are preparing for a rematch against the New Orleans Saints this weekend and as excitement builds around what could be one last miracle run for Nick Foles as an Eagle, there’s also a sense of apprehension. We’ve heard it all by this point. Some are trying to justify the idea of trading Carson Wentz, while others insist hanging onto Foles and trading him as opposed to letting him walk is the better option. The one thing that nobody is acknowledging, however, is that the fates of both could be decided by a third quarterback.
That man is Nate Sudfeld. Doug Pederson has consistently referenced the grooming of a project quarterback since his arrival in Philadelphia and with good reason. If the future of the franchise develops as expected, the need for a veteran backup dwindles overtime in an idealistic scenario. Within a three-year window, the idea would be that the veteran moves on and the former QB3 step up to that backup role. So far, that looks to be going swimmingly…kind of.
Sudfeld was poached from the Redskins practice squad at the start of last season and saw his first NFL experience in a week 17 loss to the Cowboys. The Eagles backups may not have been able to score against the Dallas starters, but Sudfeld looked surprisingly composed. Completing 19-23 passes, the young signal caller was able to sustain drives, for the most part, avoiding turnovers, and risky decisions.
“He was able to move the team.” Pederson said after that game. “Without watching the tape tomorrow and getting in here and checking it out, there were probably a couple decisions that we would like to fix or he would have back. But I thought, overall, he did a pretty good job with really just coming to us new at the end of camp there. Again, did some nice things outside of maybe one, two, or three decisions during the game.”
If we fast forward a little, Sudfeld was elevated to QB2 due to the ACL injury suffered by Carson Wentz. Throughout the postseason and the offseason that followed, Sudfeld took the primary backup role and at times, even took reps with the ones during training camp when Foles rested. The leap Sudfeld took from year one in Pederson’s system, to year two, was on full display during the preseason.
Completing 43/74 passes for 5 touchdowns and 3 picks, Sudfeld showed he was not afraid to take some big shots downfield. In fact, he was responsible for the stunning Shelton Gibson breakout fans had been pining to see all offseason long. Sudfeld’s arm-strength left fans purring, safe in the knowledge that the future of the QB position may be the most secure in the NFL.
In 2019, that could all change.
Sudfeld is scheduled to be a free agent and the Eagles have an abundance of big decisions to make. This may actually be the most pivotal offseason since the drafting of Carson Wentz. Names like Brandon Graham, Ronald Darby, Jay Ajayi, and Jordan Hicks are all set to hit the open market. This is of course without entertaining the idea that unless the Eagles pay Nick Foles a whopping $20M, the Super Bowl 52 MVP will too be testing free agency waters.
Sudfeld is in a conundrum it appears. Does he gamble on himself in what is a very shallow quarterback market (in both free agency and the draft), in an attempt to secure a long-term future as a backup as Chase Daniel did before him, or, does he stay with the Eagles knowing full well that there’s every chance he remains as the team’s third quarterback for at least one more year?
If Sudfeld decides that he’s going to entertain the idea of moving elsewhere and then the Eagles struggle to retain Foles…that entire security structure would collapse within seconds. Carson Wentz, a quarterback who has suffered a flurry of injuries in his young career, would have no veteran backup and no project-arm to develop under the coaching staff’s tutelage. If the Eagles opt to keep Sudfeld and pay a steeper price, this may send an unintended sign to Foles that they’re comfortable in letting him walk, having just paid a quarterback some money as an ‘insurance policy’.
It’s highly unlikely that both Foles and Sudfeld return and a lot of people are forgetting just how much his pending free agent status complicates things. It’s not as simple as losing Sudfeld and replacing him with another ‘camp arm’ as we’ve already seen how dangerously close the season can come to falling on the shoulders of a third-string slinger.
“In Nate’s case, I think the awareness, heightened awareness.” Pederson said after Foles took a punishing hit just a couple of weeks ago, sending Sudfeld under the spotlight in a crunch-time scenario against the Texans. One week later, Sudfeld tossed his first ever NFL touchdown against the Redskins. ” He’s one play away, as he was last week, and he understands that now, but he understood that three weeks ago when — or four weeks ago when Nick took over. He’s not accustomed to that, but he definitely understands he’s one play away from entering a game.”
Before the Eagles can even contemplate whatever wild scenarios have run through every radio station, outlet and fan’s mind over the last few weeks, they first have to decide what to do with Nate Sudfeld. If he stays, his presence could significantly impact the much bigger decision that both Nick Foles and Howie Roseman will have to make in the months to come.
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