Sam Bradford got the kind of endorsement from Chip Kelly on Monday that Nick Foles never got during his red-hot 2013 run to the playoffs.
Kelly had just finished extolling the benefits of having a quarterback who is experienced in his team's offense when he was asked if that applied to his outlook on Bradford, brought in from the Rams for Foles and a second-round draft pick last March.
"We've always wanted Sam here. We wouldn't have traded for him if we thought he was going to be here for (only) a year," Kelly said.
It has been reported that the Eagles tried to work out a longterm extension for Bradford before the season but were unsuccessful. He is in the final season of the rookie deal he signed with the Rams in 2010, a contract that will pay him about $13 million this year. He will be a free agent next spring if the Eagles don't sign or franchise him. (Of course, it's always possible to franchise and then sign longterm, after you've made it clear that you aren't going to let a player go into free agency.) Franchising Bradford, if it comes to that, seems likely to cost the team more than $20 million off its 2016 salary cap.
Kelly's words Monday weren't stunning, given that Bradford has played well the second half of the season and is emerging as a team leader. (And given the lack of easily attainable better alternatives.) But it was a significant declaration for a coach who usually avoids discussing the future.
Bradford, 5-1 in the last six games he has started and finished, looked out of sync and overwhelmed early in the season; he'd missed the second half of 2013 and all of 2014 with back-to-back ACL tears. But Bradford's knees have held up very well; his only two missed games, both blowout Eagles losses, came after he suffered a concussion and a left AC sprain. And he seems much more comfortable in the pocket now.
Bradford, 28, is 251 for 397 (63.2 percent) for 2,664 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His interception Sunday - on a ball taken away from Brent Celek as Celek was coming down with it - was his first in four games.
"I just think Sam as a whole has progressed as the season's gone along," Kelly said when asked about Bradford's improved footwork. "It takes a long while to play quarterback in this league; there's so many things you have to get. When we got Sam, we knew ... that it was going to take time. You look at any quarterback playing at a really high level right now and they've been playing in the same system for years, not for months, and that's what Sam's case is -- he's just been playing in our system for months.
"I just see improvement from Sam on a weekly basis that gets you excited about him. I thought he threw the ball extremely well yesterday. We could have helped him a little bit better -- I thought we had too many drops that would have extended a lot of things for us. I think Sam has improved in all aspects."