Had Nate Sudfeld not fractured his non-throwing wrist last summer, there’s a very good chance it would have been him attempting to lead the Eagles to an improbable playoff win against the Seahawks instead of 40-year-old Josh McCown after Carson Wentz suffered a concussion.
But Sudfeld’s injury in August forced the Eagles to go out and lure McCown out of retirement. And once they did, even when Sudfeld was healthy, McCown wasn’t going to be the Eagles’ third-string quarterback.
It was literally a bad break for Sudfeld.
The 26-year-old quarterback didn’t technically hit free agency this year but he got close. Sudfeld at least got to test the waters of free agency during the legal tampering period before agreeing to a one-year, $2 million contract the day before the start of the new league year.
When asked if the Eagles offered him any assurances about being the No. 2 quarterback, Sudfeld did not answer directly. But it seems like there’s a really good chance he’ll finally be Wentz’s No. 2 in 2020.
“I don’t want to get into specifics but I’m very excited about the opportunity to come back and feel really good about coming back to Philadelphia,” Sudfeld said on a conference call this week. “Really excited to get back to work.”
Will the Eagles bring in another veteran quarterback or draft a rookie to compete with him? It’s unclear.
I think the NFL is obviously a meritocracy,” Sudfeld said. “As people have said before, it’s really ‘What have you done for me lately?’ What are you doing at each step? You have to keep proving yourself and you have to keep proving.
“I definitely have a ton of confidence if I’m ever in a situation where I’m head-on-head competing with somebody. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I haven’t ever really had that opportunity so I’m looking forward to that if that comes.
The debate about whether or not Wentz is an injury-prone player has become trite at this point and it’s really not worth getting caught up in. But the fact remains that the final snaps in each of the Eagles’ last three seasons have been taken by his backup.
Because of that, maybe it would have made sense for the Eagles to go out and grab a backup quarterback with some significant experience, sort of like what they did when they were forced to last year, signing McCown.
Sudfeld might be great. But we just don’t know.
Even he admits that.
“The crazy thing about quarterback, especially, is you never really know about a guy until they’re thrown in there,” Sudfeld said. “The only way to get experience is to get experience.”
The Redskins drafted Sudfeld in the sixth-round out of Indiana back in 2016, but he left after one year to join Doug Pederson and the Eagles. At every turn, the Eagles have shown faith in him. They brought him in from Washington, they promoted him to the active roster that season to avoid losing him, they left him as the backup to Nick Foles in 2017 and 2018 after Wentz went down. And now they’ve brought him back as a free agent.
And there’s a lot to like about Sudfeld. He’s 6-6 with a big arm and the ability to move in and out of the pocket. He’s shown his skills in practices and in the preseason.
But in four NFL seasons, he’s thrown a total of 25 passes in the regular season.
General manager Howie Roseman said that with the unique challenges of this offseason — we still don’t know if there will be spring practices — it was important to bring back a guy who knows the offense. Roseman said they really like him as a player too.
With the NFL’s open negotiation period last week, Sudfeld got a chance to gauge interest from other teams and learn what they value in his game. It was a good experience, he said. But, ultimately, he felt like there was more left to do in Philly, at least for 2020.
“Obviously, I want to be a starter someday,” Sudfeld said. “I want to play in this league. But I understand that it’s a process to get there and you have to get on the field.”
In a few months, he might be one injury away.
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