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How will Eagles deal with Bradford in the long run?

The Eagles begin training camp a week from Sunday, so here's a question: How do you solve a problem like Sam Bradford?

Sam Bradford throws passes during practice under the watchful eye of quarterback coach Ryan Day.
Sam Bradford throws passes during practice under the watchful eye of quarterback coach Ryan Day.Read more(Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles begin training camp a week from Sunday, so here's a question: How do you solve a problem like Sam Bradford?

By acquiring Bradford from the St. Louis Rams in March - even though he'd torn his left ACL twice in 10 months and hasn't suited up in a regular-season NFL game since October 2013 - the Eagles would seem to have put themselves in a position only Joseph Heller could appreciate. Bradford will earn $13 million this season, the last in the six-year, $78 million contract he signed after the Rams made him the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, and as an NFL Network report earlier this week reaffirmed, he has no interest in signing an extension with the Eagles anytime soon.

After signing that monstrous rookie deal, Bradford can afford to bet on himself to stay healthy and put up big numbers in Chip Kelly's offense. Given how Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez performed the last two seasons, relative to each one's pre-Kelly resumé, the latter bet isn't a bad one. The former, of course, is another story altogether.

Hence, the Eagles' conundrum. If Bradford reinjures his knee or can't stay on the field for any health-related reason, it would be the worst-case scenario for both player and team. But even if Bradford has a terrific season, Kelly and the Eagles will still have courted instability at football's most important position, because then they'll have to decide whether to keep Bradford and, if so, how much they'd be willing to pay (or overpay) him to stay. In turn, Bradford could sign elsewhere for more money, and the Eagles would have to start searching for a prospective franchise quarterback all over again.

Put simply, there's a potential stare-down looming between Bradford and the Eagles. Let's examine how each side will approach it, and how the Eagles might resolve it.

The player's side

Come the 2016 offseason, Bradford will be one of five first-tier starting quarterbacks who could be free agents. The others will be Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and (ta-dah!) Nick Foles - none of whom, for various reasons, will be a realistic or appropriate option for the Eagles.

Based on the average per year (APY) of the contracts that several quarterbacks comparable to Bradford have signed in recent years, according to the salary database, the ceiling for him in a multiyear extension would be $19 million a year. The Miami Dolphins signed Ryan Tannehill for an APY of $19.25 million, and the San Francisco 49ers signed Colin Kaepernick for a $19 million APY.

The floor for a Bradford extension would be somewhere between $15 million and $18 million, using the APYs of the following QB contracts:

Carson Palmer: $16.5 million

Alex Smith: $17 million

Matthew Stafford: $17.6 million

Tony Romo: $18 million

Jay Cutler: $18.1 million

None of those quarterbacks has won a championship, and each has had minimal playoff success, if any at all. It's a short leap for Bradford to think, If I have a stellar season this year, I'll be right where those guys are. Plus, I'm still young. I'm 27. I'll be in my prime for another five or six years. That Bradford's agent is Tom Condon of Creative Artists Agency is significant, too, for Condon was involved in a previous negotiation that he could use as precedent to inform his and Bradford's demands in this one.

In the final game of the 2005 season, Drew Brees - then the San Diego Chargers' starting quarterback, also a Condon client - suffered career-threatening damage to his right shoulder: a dislocation, a torn labrum, and a torn rotator cuff. After nearly signing with the Miami Dolphins, Brees joined the New Orleans Saints for six years and $60 million, a deal that would have allowed the Saints to release him after one season at a cost of $22 million.

All these years later, Brees is a surefire Hall of Fame inductee. Back then, though, he wasn't. Don't think for a second that Condon wouldn't consider making a parallel argument on Bradford's behalf.

The team's side

Assuming Bradford proves a fit for Kelly's system and quells the concerns about his health, the Eagles could indeed outbid everyone else in signing Bradford to a long-term extension. Failing that, they could franchise-tag him, guaranteeing they would retain him for one more season. This year, the franchise-tag figure for quarterbacks was $18.544 million.

But there's another option that might be more appealing: The Eagles could apply a transition tag to Bradford, meaning he could seek a contract with any of the league's other 31 teams, but the Eagles would have the right to match the offer. It would be a bit cheaper to keep Bradford - the 2015 transition-tag number for quarterbacks is $16.155 million - and it would give the Eagles a two-year window to evaluate him.

After those two years, the Eagles ought to know whether Bradford is worth a longer commitment, perhaps a contract similar in structure to the four-year agreement that Smith signed with the Kansas City Chiefs last August.

The agent who negotiated that deal for Smith?

Tom Condon.