With Nick Foles set to leave, Nate Sudfeld looks like the Eagles' man at backup quarterback

With Nick Foles set to leave, Nate Sudfeld looks like the Eagles' man at backup quarterback

INDIANAPOLIS — A couple years ago, all I knew about Nate Sudfeld was he kinda looked like Nick Foles. Both tall, lanky, white guys with dirty blonde hair. 

I also knew that some their teammates gave them crap for it, which made for a pretty funny story that I wrote back in 2017. 

But now, “Nick’s little brother” might have to take over for Foles. The Eagles decided and announced on Wednesday at the combine that they will let Foles walk in free agency, leaving vacant the very important role of backup quarterback. 

And it seems like it’s Sudfeld’s job to lose. 

“Nate’s done a great job,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Nate’s really put himself in a position to compete for it. We don’t just go around and give out jobs, but at the same time, we want him to compete for that spot. We feel like he’s earned the opportunity to do that. I’m comfortable with him, what he’s done. He’s been with us now for a few years and understands our system. It’s a matter of him just embracing that and moving forward with it.”

If you’ve really been paying attention, you’ll know that Sudfeld is a restricted free agent. The Eagles have a few options here, but I think they’ll probably use a second-round tender on him. That means about a $3 million salary in 2019 (projected by OverTheCap) instead of an original-round tender price of just over $2 million. But it also means that if another team wants to sign Sudfeld and the Eagles don’t match, they’d get back a second-round pick instead of a sixth-rounder (Sudfeld was drafted in the sixth round). The Eagles used a second-round tender on Trey Burton a few years ago. It basically tells other teams to stay away. 

It’s pretty clear that the Eagles think pretty highly of Sudfeld. When asked about his skillset on Wednesday, Pederson praised Sudfeld’s size, arm, accuracy, mobility, pocket presence, awareness and comfortability in the Eagles’ offense. 

And then Howie Roseman said they have a lot of confidence in Sudfeld and they’re excited about him. 

But you don’t need to hear from the Eagles to know what they think of the 25-year-old quarterback. Actions speak much louder than words:

• The Eagles had a formal interview with Sudfeld at the 2016 combine. They ended up drafting Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall and Sudfeld was drafted by Washington in the sixth round. But when the combine was over, the Eagles reached out to Sudfeld to wish him luck. 

• Then the Eagles wooed him away from Washington before the 2017 season, convincing him to sign to their practice squad instead of staying with the Redskins. 

• When the Colts tried to poach Sudfeld from the Eagles’ practice squad in 2017, the Eagles quickly made a spot on their own 53-man roster to keep him. Until that point, Pederson had only kept two QBs on their roster. 

• When Wentz tore his ACL and LCL in December of 2017, the Eagles had more than a month before their first playoff game and didn’t bring in a veteran quarterback. 

• When Wentz suffered the stress fracture in his back in 2018, the Eagles again didn’t bring in a veteran backup. They were happy letting Sudfeld be the No. 2 behind Nick Foles. 

Remember, the Eagles’ backup quarterback position has been very important the last couple of seasons as Wentz has suffered two serious injuries. But based on their recent history, the Eagles seem to think Sudfeld is up for the challenge. 

So it seems like the Eagles would prefer Sudfeld win the job, but Pederson said they’re not going to just hand it over to him. So who will the Eagles bring in? A veteran or a prospect? 

“You can kind of go either way, you can go with the younger guy, you can kinda bring in a veteran free agent,” Pederson said. “But at the same time, I want Nate to compete for it and see where it’s at.”

I think it’s somewhat likely the Eagles either draft a quarterback in a late round or pick one up as an undrafted free agent. If that happens, it’s also pretty likely Sudfeld will have an important role next season as the Eagles’ backup quarterback. They’ve been grooming him for this. 

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Eagle Eye podcast: The biggest news from the combine

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Eagle Eye podcast: The biggest news from the combine

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank is joined by Dave Zangaro from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis to go over the biggest storylines of the day. 

Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson spoke to reporters on Tuesday about a wide range of topics. 

Will Jason Peters return? Have the Eagles changed their free agent philosophy? And what will the coaching staff really look like in 2020? 

• One more year of Jason Peters? 
• Eagles might change free agency approach
• More details about the coaching structure
• The rise of Press Taylor 
• What will Rich Scangarello do?  
• Breaking down Duce Staley’s role in the organization 

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Eagles leave open possibility that Jason Peters returns in 2020

Eagles leave open possibility that Jason Peters returns in 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — Jason Peters is 38 years old, will become a free agent in less than a month and the Eagles already drafted his replacement in the first round a little less than a year ago.

This seems pretty simple, right?

Yet, as Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson spoke to reporters on Tuesday at the NFL’s Scouting Combine, neither man was ready to say the team is moving on.

“I think as it pertains to all of our free agents, it’s important that we keep an open mind with everyone and try to figure out as we get more information,” Roseman said.

“A big part of this week is accumulating information. That’s what we do here. Obviously, when you’re talking about Jason Peters, you’re talking about a Hall of Fame player, a Hall of Fame person, someone that’s very special to us and played at a really high level last year. We’ll go through all those decisions this week.”

Pederson gave less of a politician answer.

“Heck yeah,” Pederson said when asked if he wants Peters back next season.

So that leads us to this: Is there really a chance the Eagles would re-sign a 38-year-old left tackle instead of playing a first-round pick they traded up to get less than a year ago?

It seems crazy.

Coming into Tuesday, I thought there was a chance Roseman would get to the podium and use the forum as a chance to make a statement about Peters. I thought, maybe, he would get up there and tell us all that the Eagles were planning to let Peters hit the free agent market, thank him for his time and give a vote of confidence to Andre Dillard as the left tackle of the future.

That didn’t happen.

In fact, Roseman and Pederson actually invited more speculation and I walked away thinking there’s actually a chance they try to bring back Peters for next season, even though it sounds pretty crazy.

Maybe they just haven’t talked to Peters yet. That’s possible. In a case like this, if the Eagles want to move on, they wouldn’t want to do anything to disrespect a guy who has been here a decade and will likely end up in Canton. Even Roseman admitted that it’s important to treat guys of this magnitude a little differently.

“There’s no question,” Roseman said. “When you talk about guys who are historic players in the National Football League, guys who are going into the Hall of Fame, guys who are going into the Eagles Hall of Fame, those guys are special people and special players and you don’t have a lot of those during the course of your career.

“So you try to make decisions first that are best for the football team and at the same time have respect and appreciation for what guys have done and what guys have done going forward and have been a part of your organization for a long time.”

Peters played the 2019 season on a renegotiated one-year deal that he signed in March. And while Peters didn’t play at an All Pro level last year, he was still pretty good.

But throughout last season, it seemed like the Eagles were going to let Peters play and groom Dillard. And, sure, Dillard struggled at right tackle in his one start at the position, but acquitted himself quite well at left tackle when Peters missed a three-game stretch.

On Tuesday, I asked Pederson about the possibility that bringing back Peters could stunt Dillard’s long-term development. I mean, what would it say about a first-round rookie if the Eagles didn’t start him in Year 2 and instead re-signed a 38-year old to play in front of him?

“Andre is the guy we selected,” Pederson said. “He was our top pick a year ago. We feel like he has a bright future. Again, this is where that fine line comes in. We have to have some difficult conversations, not only for us internally but with the players.”

Pederson said his feelings about wanting Peters back are similar to the way he felt about Darren Sproles. Well, the Eagles brought Sproles back in 2018 and 2019 and he got hurt both seasons. It seems like a cautionary tale.

And unlike Sproles, who was a rotational player, if Peters returns, he’ll be the starting left tackle.

“It is that simple when it comes down to it,” Pederson said. “It’s either JP or it’s Andre and those are decisions we have to make.”

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