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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