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How McCown impacts Sudfeld's future with Eagles

Eliot Shorr-Parks
August 19, 2019 - 7:20 am

The Eagles have shown time-and-time again since bringing in Nate Sudfeld that they are very excited about his future. 

They added him to the 53-man roster in the middle of 2017 so he wouldn’t sign with the Indianapolis Colts. They didn’t sign a veteran that season when Wentz when down, making Sudfeld the top backup to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl. They then kept three quarterbacks in 2018 so they wouldn’t have to release him. This offseason they placed a second-round tender on Sudfeld, discouraging other teams from signing him and increasing his salary to $3 million. 

On Saturday, they have made their first move that hinted they might not be as confident in Sudfeld as they used to be — and it was a big enough move that it potentially put into question his future with the team. 

That might sound dramatic, but after bringing in quarterback Josh McCown, the Eagles have essentially pushed Sudfeld down the depth chart for good this season. Head coach Doug Pederson wouldn’t say on Sunday who the backup quarterback was, a decision by Pederson that could be viewed two ways. On one hand he keeps the door open for Sudfeld to be the backup. On the other, it shows that the addition of McCown does impact Sudfeld’s role, as he was the clear-cut backup prior to McCown coming in. 

In reality, however, what Pederson said at the podium on Sunday didn’t matter. 

Money dictates roster spots in the NFL and the Eagles didn’t give McCown $2 million in guarantees to come to Philadelphia to be the third-string quarterback. They didn’t chase him for weeks — prior to Sudfeld even being injured — to not have him be Wentz’s top backup. McCown didn’t come out of retirement to be the third-string quarterback, and his agent didn’t negotiate $3 million in possible incentives with the idea that McCown would be inactive with Sudfeld as the backup. 

The Eagles were looking around for veteran quarterbacks prior to Sudfeld being injured, but obviously Sudfeld’s injury increased their desire to bring one in. The Eagles are a win-now team and considering Wentz’s injury history the backup spot is one of the most important on the team. Any player can get injured at any point, and Sudfeld potentially being ready by Week 3 or 4 didn’t decreased the possibility that Wentz could get injured in Week 1. In what should be a very tight NFC, the Eagles couldn’t afford to go into the regular season with Cody Kessler or Clayton Thorson as their backups and expect to compete if Wentz were injured. 

Now, with McCown here, the Eagles will have a backup they feel confident in behind Wentz in Week 1 — and that is almost certainly where McCown will be the entire season, even when Sudfeld is healthy. 

The question is where does this leave Sudfeld’s future with the Eagles. 

There is an argument to be made for trading Sudfeld. He counts $3 million against the salary cap, a very expensive salary for a third-string quarterback. Trading Sudfeld would mean the Eagles didn’t have to cut Thorson and expose him to waivers. Also, Sudfeld is a free agent at the end of the season and there is a strong chance he’ll go elsewhere. He won’t be the starter in Philadelphia anytime soon. He will likely have to compete for the backup spot in 2020, with Thorson and potentially a veteran, if he is back. Sudfeld hasn’t spoken to the media yet, but you also have to wonder how he feels about the team bringing in McCown, and whether he is ready to move on from Philadelphia. 

If Sudfeld is going to leave, the Eagles could decide to trade him, landing an asset — even if it is a small one — instead of watching him sit on the bench all season inactive and then leave as a free agent. Considering Wentz’s injury history, however, the Eagles might decide having Sudfeld on the roster is more valuable than a late-round pick. Plus, if Sudfeld does leave in free agency next season, he would be included in the team’s compensatory pick formula, and might net them a pick that way. 

More than likely, Sudfeld’s future in Philadelphia will play out something like this. 

He’ll continue to rehab and wait to be cleared to return to action. He will be inactive each Sunday during that time. Then, assuming both Wentz and McCown are healthy, Sudfeld will continue to be inactive. If Wentz is injured, McCown will start and Sudfeld will be the backup, only getting on the field if McCown is injured or really struggles. 

When the season ends he will enter the free agency market, hoping to find a much better situation than the one he is in right now.  

Whatever happens, one thing is clear. 

The days of Sudfeld being the up-and-coming young quarterback on the Eagles are over — as are the days of him being one Carson Wentz hit away from playing. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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