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Sam Bradford talks will determine Eagles' plans

PHILADELPHIA – The offseason picture is a little bit clearer for the Philadelphia Eagles as they return from the NFL scouting combine.

They are negotiating with quarterback Sam Bradford, according to a report by Fox Sports. That’s not surprising, considering executive vice president Howie Roseman said last week that the team wanted to work out a deal with Bradford.

That deal may seem more urgent after the Eagles’ brain trust got a firsthand look at the quarterbacks available in the draft. And it certainly seems more workable now that the Eagles know exactly how much salary cap space they have to work with.

The league announced a 2016 salary cap of roughly $155 million. That leaves the Eagles with $27.8 million of cap space. The official franchise and transition tag numbers also were released. For quarterbacks, the franchise tag is $19.95 million.

Tagging Bradford would eat up most of the Eagles’ cap space, leaving them with just a few million dollars to spend in free agency (they will have to set aside a few million dollars for their draft picks). Because of that, there is real incentive for the Eagles to get a long-term deal done with Bradford. The contract could be structured to spread the salary cap hit out over four or five years. That would give the Eagles more flexibility under this year’s salary cap.

The timing makes sense, too. The Eagles are the only team that can talk to Bradford until next week, when the so-called “legal tampering” window opens. On March 9, Bradford is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

There is a chance that another team, or teams, will bowl over Bradford with a big offer. But the Eagles can avoid taking that risk by working out a deal over the next week.

When free agency begins, the Eagles should know where they stand with Bradford. If he’s under contract, the team can consider taking a quarterback on the second or third day of the draft. They can use their first-round pick – No. 13 overall – on the best player available. That would allow them to add an offensive lineman, a defensive back or a wide receiver, filling another hole and helping give Bradford some support.

If Bradford doesn’t sign, the Eagles could consider other quarterbacks in free agency. They could make a big splash by going after Robert Griffin III or set their sights on Kansas City backup Chase Daniel. In that case, the Eagles would be more likely to take a quarterback in the first round of the draft. They would need to spend as much time as possible sorting through the available QBs.

So what happens with Bradford over the next week will affect the Eagles’ strategy for the entire offseason. At least now they know what the salary cap is, and how much room they have to maneuver.