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If Nick Foles isn't the answer, who is for the Eagles at quarterback?

Remember the good old days, when the Eagles had three starting-caliber quarterbacks - "a beautiful situation," Andy Reid once called it - on their roster?

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has shown little to suggest he should get the job. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has shown little to suggest he should get the job. (Matt Rourke/AP)Read more

Remember the good old days, when the Eagles had three starting-caliber quarterbacks - "a beautiful situation," Andy Reid once called it - on their roster?

The fact that none of them - Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb - won a Super Bowl is beside the point. In three short years, the Eagles have gone from quarterback-rich to as poor as the majority of teams in the NFL.

They still have options on their roster with Vick and Nick Foles, but neither appears very attractive at the moment. Foles has what should be five games to prove that he can be the starter next season.

Quite frankly, the rookie has shown little to suggest he should get the job. But any evaluation of the third-round draft pick must come with the caveats that he is playing behind a terrible offensive line, with second-string skill-position players, on a team with no playoff hopes, and under a lame-duck coaching staff.

Whether Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Reid's replacement project Foles to be a franchise quarterback or not, the rookie will be back next season. He'll return in one of two roles: He could be back as the cemented starter, or he could return to compete for the No. 1 spot against a rookie, a free agent, a trade acquisition, or Vick.

Here's a look at the alternatives:

College blue-chippers

Some had projected Matt Barkley as a top-10 pick had he come out last draft, but he returned for his senior season at Southern California and took a slight step back in the eyes of some scouts. He'll probably end up being the first quarterback taken, but Barkley isn't seen as a slam dunk anymore. He's got decent size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds), but an average arm.

Geno Smith could go ahead of Barkley, but there is a chorus of critics who believe the quarterback is a product of West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen's high-octane passing attack. His numbers are gaudy (70.2 completion percentage, 37 touchdowns, and only five interceptions), but Smith (6-3, 220) struggled against Texas Tech's and Kansas State's above-average defenses. Scouts like his pocket awareness, though.

Tyler Wilson's production slipped this season, but some attributed the regression to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's departure. He also suffered a concussion in September. Wilson (6-3, 220) has an NFL-ready arm, according to many scouts.

Up-and-comers?

Tyler Bray has yet to declare himself eligible for the draft, but the 6-6, 215-pound Tennessee junior could be a climber.

Ryan Nassib (6-3, 227) has had a strong senior year at Syracuse. Working with former Saints offensive coordinator Doug Marrone has helped the Malvern Prep product.

E.J. Manuel of Florida State has prototypical size (6-4, 240) and arm strength, but he delivered a dud last week against Florida (three interceptions and one fumble).

Aaron Murray is a generously listed 6-1, 212 pounds. What the Georgia quarterback lacks in size, he makes up with a cannon arm and poise.

Second tier

Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio); Landry Jones, Oklahoma; Mike Glennon, N.C. State; Matt Scott, Arizona.

Possible trades

With a franchise running back and a strong defense, Alex Smith can win you games. The Eagles, as currently constructed, have only one of those two ingredients. With the ascension of Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, the 49ers may be looking to unload what's left on the three-year, $24 million extension Smith signed in March. Smith could be a one-year stopgap if the Eagles think Foles needs time. Of course, if Foles isn't ready by Year 2 there may be no point in waiting.

The Seahawks signed Matt Flynn to a three-year, $26 million contract last offseason, but the former Packers backup quarterback lost the starting job to Russell Wilson before the season opener. The Eagles could probably get Flynn without giving up much, and bring him in to push Foles.

The Eagles could take a flier on one of the young backups around the league that hasn't had a chance to start but still has some buzz. The Patriots' Ryan Mallett is one possibility. Pat Devlin of the Dolphins and formerly of Downingtown is another. This is not the preferred method for trying to find a franchise quarterback.

Free agents

The open market doesn't typically have elite quarterbacks hanging around. Baltimore's Joe Flacco will be unrestricted, but if the Ravens can't work out a deal he'll get the franchise tag. The remaining free agents are headed by a several never-have-beens: Matt Moore, Jason Campbell, Tarvaris Jackson, and Drew Stanton.

Michael Vick

As crazy as it sounds, retaining Vick may be the Eagles' best chance next season if they want to contend for the playoffs. It's highly unlikely to happen. The Eagles probably won't be willing to pay him, at $16 million, and Vick may not be inclined to take a pay cut. But he's 33, coming off a concussion, and likely won't have many suitors.

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