TRENT EDWARDS wasn't surprised to see the Eagles grab a quarterback in the third round of the NFL draft, even though the addition of Nick Foles makes it much harder to chart Edwards' path to a roster spot.
"I knew that kind of going in — anywhere I would have signed, you're going to have to compete," Edwards said recently, after a morning devoted to the Birds' offseason conditioning program, which included Edwards throwing to receivers under the watchful eyes of quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson. "It's not like you're going to sit there and they're going to hand you a lot of money and a job."
There are different levels of competition, however. With NFL rosters expanded to 90 this offseason, yes, the Eagles were going to add a fourth quarterback. It could have been a seventh-rounder or an undrafted free agent. By taking Foles 88th overall out of Arizona, Howie Roseman and Andy Reid pretty much ensured that Foles will be on the team this year, barring serious injury. We know Michael Vick is the starter, again barring serious injury. That leaves Edwards, the 28-year-old former Bills starter, fighting it out with Mike Kafka, a third-year player coaches seem to like a lot. After the draft, Reid praised Kafka's diligence, recounting how the QB often pokes his head into the coach's office after voluntary late-night film study.
It seems likely the Eagles want to push Kafka a little, to make sure he's worthy of being Vick's primary backup, for the first time since Kafka arrived in the fourth round from Northwestern in 2010. Kafka has thrown only 16 regular-season passes, all of them last year. But Edwards, who was out of the NFL last year after being cut by the Raiders late in training camp, might have to outplay Kafka up one side of Lehigh's South Mountain and down the other to wrest that job away.
So far, Edwards reports he is learning a lot about the West Coast offense from Vick and Kafka. He was among the first Eagles to reach out to Foles, whom Edwards knows through a friend whose sister plays volleyball at Arizona.
When the Eagles drafted Foles, "I texted him right away and said, 'Congratulations.' I've been there before," Edwards said. "I was the ninety-somethingth pick in the draft in 2007 [92nd, actually, from Stanford]. It's just exciting. It's an exciting time. I'm not that kind of person that's going to throw things against the wall and get upset about it."
In reviewing his NFL career, which includes 37 games and 33 starts, all but one of the starts for the Bills, Edwards mentioned the need to be "at the right place at the right time." Hard not to wonder whether this really is such a place for him. But Edwards had his reasons for signing with the Eagles this offseason, after turning down a chance to join the struggling Dolphins last season after Chad Henne went down, then later in the season losing out in a Texans tryout.
"I feel like here, there's a lot of stability. The coaches have been here for years, the quarterback has been successful," Edwards said. "That's what was most exciting for me, was the opportunity to work with these coaches. The players in this organization are as talented as it comes, and for me in my position, and where I'm at in my career, I wanted that chance to come out here and do that ... every quarterback that's played in this system has done well. It's geared toward making the quarterback perform at a high level."
Edwards made nine starts as a rookie for the Bills, then started all 14 games he played in 2008, completing 65.5 percent of his passes and compiling an 85.4 passer rating, despite 10 interceptions to go with his 11 touchdown passes. (Edwards also lost five fumbles for a 7-9 team that started out 5-1.)
In addition to right place, right time, "you have to have the right pieces in place," said Edwards, who added that "I'm not deflecting any of the blame on anybody else. I've played well at times, and at times played not so well."
By the time he was benched and then released early in the 2010 season, Edwards' nicknames on a Buffalo sports talk-radio station were "Trentative," and "Captain Checkdown." His reputation was for getting rid of the ball quickly, being accurate with shorter throws, and being reluctant to roll the dice on long strikes.
Bouncing through chaotic scenes in Jacksonville, then with the Raiders last summer made Edwards think a lot about what he wanted in his next bid for a job. He knows there is little chance he'll ever be a long-term starter here. But if he's ever going to be a long-term starter anywhere again, Edwards thinks he needs to put himself in a situation where he can learn and grow.
"If you look at it from an individual perspective, it's your resumé. You're building up connections ... whether one coach goes to another team and likes you and signs you — you're just looking for an opportunity," Edwards said. "Just being exposed to that, the coaches and this organization, I think will open some doors for me down the road."
Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg understands and agrees with that thinking, but that isn't where he wants Edwards' focus.
"We need to let this play out," Mornhinweg said recently. "I hate for a player to think too much into the future, because there's too many things that can happen right here. I'm talking not just for him, but for any player."
Mornhinweg, whose roots and connections in Northern California run deep, has been aware of Edwards ever since he went 26-0 as a starter his last two seasons at Los Gatos High, and signed with Stanford as maybe the top QB prospect in the country in 2001. Mornhinweg is reluctant to dissect the ups and downs of Edwards' pro career from afar, but he notes there was a coaching change in Buffalo, from Dick Jauron to Chan Gailey.
"Things happen," Mornhinweg said. "He brings a host of starts with him. He's really a sharp guy, a big guy [6-4, 230]. Good arm, typically accurate. I think there will be some things there that he can help us with."