Trying to Find a Winner in the Nick Foles for Sam Bradford Trade
The trade winds in the NFL keep blowing. There’s been no stopping them over the last week, and two quarterbacks were swept up in the minutes before free agency officially opened today. The Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams have agreed to trade Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, per reports. There will also be some draft pick compensation, but the exact picks to be exchanged is still unknown.
Both teams needed to upgrade at quarterback this season, and settled on choosing the quarterback the other team wanted to upgrade from. There’s some logic involved for both sides of this trade, though, so let’s look at why this trade happened from each side.
For the Rams
Trading Bradford saves about $9 million of cap space in 2015. The trade will leave $3.595 million worth of dead money on St. Louis’ cap, but that is well below the $12.985 million Bradford was to count for this season. The cap relief is certainly nice, but the player they are getting in return is mostly a less-expensive option of what they had.
Most will remember Nick Foles from his stellar 2013, leading the Eagles to the playoffs after stepping in for an injured Michael Vick. Foles' numbers were terrific that year, using our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Foles was fourth among all quarterbacks in Passing NEP per play, behind only Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Josh McCown. McCown and Foles had similar stories that season, actually -- while both had outstanding per play metrics, they were aided by unsustainable touchdown-to-interception ratios. McCown threw an interception on just 0.4 percent of his throws, while Foles threw a pick on 0.6 percent of his attempts.
Foles wasn't as lucky this past season, and his advanced metrics also suffered. He threw an interception on 3.2 percent of his passes in 2014, and went from being worth 0.31 Passing NEP per drop back in 2013 down to .04 in 2014, which ranked 24th in the NFL. To make matters worse for Foles, Mark Sanchez was worth 0.15 Passing NEP per drop back, which ranked 12th among all quarterbacks. Foles and Sanchez saw a very similar amount of drop backs in 2014 as well, so volume wasn't exactly the issue -- Foles dropped back 321 times while Sanchez dropped back 332.
In Chip Kelly’s offense, Foles was always a less-than-ideal fit. He's likely now to be penciled in as the starter in St. Louis, ahead of Austin Davis, who ranked 36th of 43 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs last season with a -0.04 Passing NEP per drop back rate.
Foles is still 26 years old, and St. Louis does have a young group of receivers with potential. However, Foles is more likely to be closer to his 2014 production than 2013 moving forward. The plus side for St. Louis’ offense -- and this could be said for any move now -- is that at least Brian Schottenheimer will not be coordinating it.
For the Eagles
This is where the trade gets really interesting. The Bradford side of the deal has a few moving pieces -- there’s no guarantee Bradford will be staying in Philadelphia. He may be part of a future deal that allows the Eagles to move up in the draft in an attempt to select Marcus Mariota, who's been tied to the team and Chip Kelly for some time now. There's also no more guaranteed money on Bradford’s deal, which would allow the Eagles to release him if there's a lack of fit. But for the next paragraph, let’s assume Bradford is staying in Philadelphia because that's usually what tends to happen after a player is traded to a team — especially in the NFL.
In his five-year career, Bradford has played two full seasons. He missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL, his second in as many seasons. One of those seasons was his rookie year in 2010 when he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Many have noted Eagles offensive coordinator was also St. Louis’ offensive coordinator during that 2010 season.
A trophy is nice, but Bradford’s rookie season was not as great as the award would suggest. Bradford ranked 36th of 46 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs in Passing NEP per drop back. For some context, his Passing NEP per drop back of -0.05 was identical to Zach Mettenberger's in 2014. Not many were lining up to crown Mettenberger with any awards this year, right?
Bradford’s best season came in 2012, when he indeed played a full season. While he had a positive impact on a per play basis (.02 Passing NEP per drop back), he still ranked only 24th among all quarterbacks in that category -- because passing is more efficient than rushing, the average quarterback will see positive NEP totals. He brought equal value, both overall and a per play basis, as Andy Dalton that year.
Philadelphia isn’t getting a great quarterback, but they’re getting a different not-so-great quarterback. They’re also getting a not-so-great quarterback to put in a system that has made not great-quarterbacks look ok. They could also be getting a not-so-great quarterback that will potentially help them acquire the great quarterback their head coach wants though.
Separate rumors indicated a second-round pick would be going one way, and then the other. Technically both rumors may be correct. There was then a rumor that first-round selections could be swapped, but those rumors appear to be less correct. As of this writing, nothing has become official yet, but this may be the most important part of the deal. It has been reported that the Eagles will receive a conditional pick in 2016. As the other compensation, the conditions have not been announced.
If the Eagles get to move up in the draft at all for swapping players who more than likely won't make a huge impact, that could tip the scales to Philadelphia’s favor. Each move up in the draft potentially brings the Eagles a step closer to a trade for Mariota. If that’s the endgame, the Eagles may be on to something. If this is just a swap of quarterbacks, not much on the field has changed.