ON A COUPLE of different occasions this offseason, Howie Roseman has said that a looming spike in demand for quarterbacks factored into the Eagles' conversations as they decided whether to pay the price the Browns were asking in exchange for the No. 2 pick, which the Eagles needed to draft the quarterback they desired.
The line of argument goes something like this: In addition to the usual uncertainty that a handful of teams face at quarterback, a slew of longtime fixtures at the position are in the stage of their careers where any season could be their last. Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Tony Romo are battling age and/or injury, while Eli Manning and Philip Rivers are entering their 35-year-old seasons and Ben Roethlisberger will play at 34. For 12 years, none of those teams has had a thought of looking for a franchise quarterback. With all of them potentially looking in the near future, it made sense for the Eagles to pull the trigger now, rather than try to compete in a saturated marketplace two or three years down the road.
Roseman never has said the future marketplace was a primary factor, but he cited it more than once, including Monday, in an interview with 97.5-FM, when he said that the Eagles "looked at the landscape of our division, this league, and said, how many teams are we going to be competing against for a quarterback if we don't get one this year, if we don't get one next year? I mean, you guys can do it, take the time to just look at it. Look at our division. Eli Manning is 35, Romo is 36. Kirk Cousins is on a one-year deal.
"Look at the final four teams last year. (Denver) went and drafted (Paxton) Lynch. Carson Palmer (will be) 37. Brady (will be) 39. We're just picking eight teams right there. When we looked at this, we said, holy cow, there might be 15 or 16 teams over the next two years that need a quarterback. As we look at it now, a lot will change, where are they getting them from? For us, it made too much sense for us to not do this."
The question I was curious about: Is he correct?
Not with regard to his conclusion, though I'm skeptical there, too. (Think about it: most drafts are lucky to have one or two guys who pan out . . . is it really any harder to be one of 15 teams vying for that commodity instead of one of 10?). I was more curious about the premise. Do the next three or four years really figure to be any different from any other time teams have attempted to find a franchise quarterback?
There really isn't an empirical way to answer the question, so I looked at a for-instance. Back in 2012, the Redskins were in a situation similar to the Eagles when they traded up to select Robert Griffin III at No. 2 overall. How did the quarterback marketplace project back then? Is there really going to be more demand for quarterbacks from 2016 on than the Redskins would have projected for 2012 on? Are there really more teams that will be looking for quarterbacks now than there were back then?
You be the judge.
First, here's a side-by-side list of the 32 projected starting quarterbacks at the time of the 2016 and 2012 drafts. They're ordered roughly by teams' stability at the position, but pay no attention to the individual rankings. I'm not interested if Andrew Luck offers more stability than Russell Wilson. I'm interested in the number of quarterbacks in each bucket: No Imminent Need, Potential Need, and Imminent Need.
I've tried hard to give the Roseman premise every benefit of the doubt. For instance, I think the Bengals were more likely to need to replace Andy Dalton in 2012 than the Chargers are likely to need to replace Rivers. But I'm erring on the side of Roseman in classifying Ben/Eli/Rivers as maybes.
As you go down the list, I think it becomes more clear that there might have been more imminent demand in 2012 than in 2016. After 2011, did Tim Tebow really have as good a chance of sticking with the Broncos as Cousins currently does with the Redskins? How about Teddy Bridgewater now vs. Jake Locker back then?
If that's confusing, I broke it down into expository form below. The side-by-side look is helpful, though, because it gives you a sense of how similar the numbers are in each bucket.
1. It's completely useless to look more than three draft classes down the road. One can make a strong argument that it's nearly useless to look more than two draft classes down the road. For instance, if you were projecting the 2016 quarterback class prior to the 2014 draft, you might have overlooked a guy who at the time was in his second year as a backup at North Dakota State. Regardless, we'll say three years.
2. When the Eagles traded up in 2016, there were 11 other teams you would consider "set" at quarterback for the next three years (if we define "set" as "highly unlikely" to select a QB in the first round of any of the next three drafts): Packers (Aaron Rodgers), Colts (Luck), Seahawks (Wilson), Panthers (Cam Newton), Bucs (Jameis Winston), Titans (Marcus Mariota), Bengals (Dalton), Falcons (Matt Ryan), Ravens (Joe Flacco), Raiders (Derek Carr), Rams (Jared Goff).
3. When the Redskins traded up in 2012, there were 13 teams who were set at QB: Packers (Rodgers), Colts (Luck), Panthers (Newton), Saints (Brees), Giants (Eli), Chargers (Rivers), Falcons (Ryan), Cowboys (Romo), Ravens (Flacco), Steelers (Big Ben), Lions (Matthew Stafford), Patriots (Brady), Rams (Sam Bradford).
4. When the Eagles traded up in 2016, there were 11 teams who seemed likely to be in the market for a franchise quarterback in one of the next three offseasons: Broncos (Mark Sanchez), Browns (Robert Griffin), 49ers (Colin Kaepernick/Blaine Gabbert), Cardinals (Palmer), Saints (Brees), Cowboys (Romo), Patriots (Brady), Bills (Tyrod Taylor), Jets (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Christian Hackenberg), Bears (Jake Cutler), Lions (Stafford).
5. When the Redskins traded up in 2012, there were 11 other teams who seemed very likely to be in the market for a franchise QB in one of the next three offseasons: 49ers (Alex Smith), Bills (Fitzpatrick), Bucs (Josh Freeman), Jets (Sanchez), Browns (Colt McCoy), Seahawks (Tarvaris Jackson), Eagles (Michael Vick), Cardinals (John Skelton), Chiefs (Matt Cassel), Dolphins (Matt Moore/Chad Henne), Raiders (Palmer)
6. When the Eagles traded up in 2016, there were eight teams who you'd probably break down as follows: not looking QB in the next two first rounds, potentially in the third (Giants, Steelers, Chargers), and not enough information (Texans, Vikings, Redskins, Jaguars, Dolphins)
7. When the Redskins traded up in 2012, there were eight teams who could go either way, three leaning toward unlikely - Bengals (Dalton), Bears (Cutler), Texans (Matt Schaub) - and four leaning toward likely - Jaguars (Gabbert), Vikings (Christian Ponder/Donovan McNabb), Titans (Locker/Matt Hasselbeck), Broncos (Tebow).
In other words, the Redskins could have justified their trade up for Griffin the same way Roseman has. At the time, 15 other teams seemed like pretty good bets to be looking for quarterbacks within the next three years. In the end, 16 teams ended up making major moves for a quarterback in our given window. In fact, only 17 quarterbacks who started at least eight games in the 2012 season were starting for the same team in 2015. Fifteen teams changed quarterbacks after the 2012 draft, when the Redskins traded up for Griffin. Only 12 starters from 2011 were still with the same team in 2015.
That's virtually identical to the way anybody would've projected it this year. Frankly, there's probably a stronger argument for there being LESS imminent demand right now than when the Redskins traded up, because the five QBs we classified as maybes from Houston, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Washington and Miami are all young guys who will continue to get every benefit of the doubt from their organizations. (Case in point: Blake Bortles is way ahead of where Gabbert was, and Bridgewater is way ahead of where Ponder was, meaning the Jags and Vikings seemed more likely to be in the market for a QB in 2012 than they are right now, and you could argue the same for the Texans with Brock Osweiler vs. Schaub).
If you see a classification you vehemently disagree with that would strengthen Roseman's argument, do holler.
I'm just not seeing it. That doesn't mean the Eagles were wrong-headed to trade up. If they think Carson Wentz is a very good bet to carve his name into that first bucket of quarterbacks, then that is all the reason they needed to do the deal. I'm not sure why they feel compelled to further substantiate the move. Particularly since the substantiation doesn't appear to be valid.