With the March 1 deadline to apply the franchise tag fast approaching, on Wednesday, new head coach Doug Pederson and top personnel executive Howie Roseman unequivocally stated they want Sam Bradford on the team next year, and are negotiating a new contract with the quarterback's agent.

It's not a surprising admission, considering Bradford is the best of a poor crop of free-agent quarterbacks this offseason. In fact, Bradford is probably the best quarterback to hit the free-agent market in the past couple of years, telling you all you need to know about how hard it is to land a decent quarterback in the NFL.

Plus, Bradford played his best football as the season waned, completing more than 68 percent of his passes over his last seven games, along with 10 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 98.5 quarterback rating.

But speaking at the 2016 NFL Combine on Wednesday, Pederson made a telling comment about Bradford that speaks volumes about the current state of Eagles football.

"And why wouldn't he want to come back to Philadelphia?" Pederson rhetorically asked.

I know everyone would like to assume every player by default wants to play in Philadelphia, but there are several legitimate reasons that Bradford might be inclined to take a deal elsewhere, especially considering the team seems to want some type of hometown discount.

First of all, to whom is Bradford going to throw the ball? Last year, his receivers led the league in drops, and there doesn't seem to be a rush to improve a lackluster group led by the inconsistent Jordan Matthews. While Nelson Agholor might improve from his dismal rookie season, and Zach Ertz could finally emerge as the playmaker he's been touted as being, there's no reason to be overly optimistic about their sudden improvement next season.

On that same note, there's no reason for Bradford to have faith in the offensive line. Even if the Eagles use their top draft pick to bolster the line, Bradford would have to be content with the declining play of aging veteran Jason Peters, whom Pederson isn't planning on replacing. Sure, the Eagles signed right tackle Lane Johnson to an extension, but the team suffered from atrocious guard play during the season. If you were Bradford, would you have any faith lining up behind Allen Barbre or Matt Tobin (who allowed the most hits of any guard in the NFL)?

Now that Chip Kelly is on the other coast, maybe the team can sign free agent Evan Mathis.

Then there is the Eagles' decision to cut ties with former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Bradford had a long history with Shurmur, going back to his days in St. Louis, and really, really wanted him to stick around.

"The quarterback-head coach relationship is extremely important in any organization," Bradford told ESPN back in January. "Given the history I have with Pat -- we were together my rookie year and reunited this year -- I think it would mean a lot to me. I would love to play for him. … You want to play for a guy who's going to be there for you."

I'm not saying the Eagles' decision hire Frank Reich and send Shurmur packing wasn't correct. It just might not be the right decision to persuade Bradford to stay for less money.

And the money seems to be the key. Despite the Eagles' resigning a bunch of players, the fact the negotiations with Bradford are dragging on suggest it's about what Bradford is asking for, pure and simple. Is he worth $20 million? Probably not, but the Eagles might have to pay it if they want to pair the most stable quarterback available with a much improved defense under Jim Schwartz.

Fans and sports talk radio hosts are already incensed at simply the idea that Bradford could fetch a lucrative contract. If the team re-signs Bradford to anything close to $20 million, they will be livid and hold it against him every time he throws an incomplete pass or fails to convert a third down. Boy, that sounds like a situation Bradford would want to be in.

So while the Eagles might ultimately work out a deal with Bradford let's not assume that Bradford has some responsibility to the city of Philadelphia to cut down his asking price for the honor of returning.

While we wait to see what happens, here are some Bradford cartoons I drew last season:


Rob Tornoe is the sports cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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