Sam Bradford says the right things and smiles the right smiles at the right moments, but it's hard to believe that he's not wondering what he has gotten himself into.
He took all that criticism back in April when, after the Eagles made two trades to move up to draft Carson Wentz, he requested that they in turn trade him. He was branded a selfish coward, fearful of competing against the new hotshot QB. But the Eagles' attempt to walk the line between wholesale rebuilding and all-out pursuit of a playoff berth this season was bound to lead to the mess that's before them now, and it's looking more and more as if Bradford's instincts to find a better situation for him and his career were correct. He's stuck here until what's likely to be a strange and inauspicious Eagles season is finished, and even that best-case scenario for him - What if Sam stays healthy, plays well, and gets the Birds to the postseason? - feels more and more like a pipe dream.
Tuesday was merely the latest example. The Eagles made what was quickly termed a low-risk, high-reward trade, getting wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham from the Tennessee Titans for offensive lineman Dennis Kelly. A second-round pick in last year's draft, he had 32 catches and averaged more than 17 yards a reception last season. Those are impressive statistics, and considering the underwhelming performance by the Eagles' receivers through training camp so far, Green-Beckham already might be the most talented of the group.
"Obviously, anytime they want to bring in someone who they feel is going to help our team, I'm all for it, regardless of what position it's at," Bradford said. "The fact that they were aggressive and went out and made a move and they're bringing in someone who they feel like is going to help us, it's awesome."
Of course, Bradford praised the trade just minutes after admitting that he knew "nothing" about Green-Beckham as a player or a person, and, well, there's a lot to know. In college, Green-Beckham faced several minor drug charges and was involved in an incident in which, according to a police report, he kicked down the door to his girlfriend's home and threw another victim down some stairs. Combine that background with Green-Beckham's inconsistency on the field - "It's been bad day, good day," Titans coach Mike Mularkey told the Tennessean - and you begin to understand why the Titans were happy to settle for a backup tackle in exchange for a player with Green-Beckham's potential.
In a vacuum, the trade makes sense from the Eagles' standpoint. But the team's vice president of football operations, Howie Roseman, didn't make it in a vacuum. It's part of a pattern that has defined the franchise's offseason: the acquisition of players of questionable character. Wendell Smallwood, Alex McCalister, Jalen Mills, Nigel Bradham, Green-Beckham: Each of them has been either arrested or suspended at least once since college. And why are all of them here? It's the same reason Bradford, four months ago, asked to play somewhere else.
"Because of where we are from a pick standpoint," Roseman said, "we have to take some chances to increase the talent level."
That is, because the Eagles gave up three net draft picks - including their first-rounder next year - to get Wentz, they don't have as many chances to replenish their roster. If the Eagles had done what it at first appeared they would do - give Bradford a bona fide shot at becoming their long-term answer at quarterback - they would have retained those picks and given themselves a better opportunity to add players who could help them this year and next year. They would have done all they could to improve a team that went 7-9 under Chip Kelly and that, according to owner Jeffrey Lurie, should have made the playoffs. That would have been a reasonable course of action.
The other one would have been this: a commitment to a complete rebuilding job. If the Eagles were convinced that Wentz was too good a prospect to pass up, that they needed to do anything and everything possible to get their hands on him, then they should have followed through on that plan. Start fresh. Make your strategy and purpose clear. Trade Bradford, just as he requested. Bring in Chase Daniel as a placeholder. Don't consign Wentz to being the No. 3 quarterback - to giving him fewer reps in practice than he otherwise might get (and that's before he fractures his rib). Make his development into a franchise quarterback your top priority for the 2016 season.
Instead, the Eagles are scrambling to maintain the appearance of competitiveness this season, and their decision-making reflects nothing but muddled thinking.
They have a hoard of money and salary-cap space devoted to three quarterbacks, an alarming lack of depth at several positions, a rookie head coach in Doug Pederson who appears to have been hired mainly because of his agreeability, and a succession of players presenting some pretty substantial risks to the cohesion and culture of the locker room.
This situation is tenuous at best, an impending disaster at worst. Say what you want about Sam Bradford, but at least he tried to get out when he could.