PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles weren't likely to find a better quarterback than Sam Bradford in free agency and the draft. Bradford wasn't likely to find a team willing to commit franchise-quarterback money to him.
Those two truths added up to the two-year, $36 million contract worked out by the two sides Tuesday. The deal was completed just before the deadline for using franchise or transition tags passed.
As many Eagles fans and media observers will eagerly tell you, Bradford did not earn the kind of fair-market, long-term deal that quarterbacks receive these days. Bradford went 7-7 as the Eagles' starter in 2015, throwing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
But Bradford was playing his first season in former coach Chip Kelly's unorthodox offense: up-tempo without the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage. He was playing after spending his second consecutive year rehabbing a torn left ACL and didn't seem to be completely comfortable on the field until late October.
Finally Bradford was playing with all new teammates, including a suspect offensive line and receivers who dropped an NFL-high 27 passes.
After 2015, Bradford would have been excused if he wanted to play somewhere else. He didn't pick the Eagles. He was traded to Philadelphia a year ago after five disappointing seasons in St. Louis. He was acquired by Kelly, who didn't even remain the coach through the end of the regular season.
After 2015, the Eagles would have been excused if they wanted to move on from Bradford. New coach Doug Pederson deserves the chance to find a young franchise-caliber quarterback to develop in his offense. Bradford had not given Pederson or Philadelphia executive Howie Roseman, who negotiated this contract from the Eagles' side, any reason to invest $100 million over five or six seasons in him.
But what were Bradford's real options for 2016? A reunion with Kelly in San Francisco probably wasn't that appealing after last season's experience. The Houston Texans need a quarterback but have indicated they are looking toward the draft. After that, you get to the Cleveland Browns, who do not seem like much of an option for any quarterback.
And what could the Eagles have done to replace Bradford? Go with Mark Sanchez in Pederson's first season? Not very inspiring. They could have signed a free agent like Chase Daniel, the 6-foot Kansas City backup with three career starts on his résumé. Or they could draft a quarterback who likely won't be ready to play for a year or two.
This deal presents a solution to the problem as viewed from both perspectives.
For the Eagles, they get Bradford for two more seasons. They can see him play in Pederson's offense with his now-familiar teammates. Two years removed from ACL surgery, Bradford should be able to pick up where he left off after a solid second half of 2015.
For Bradford, he gets to play with the same teammates after getting the whole offseason to work together. Pederson's offense will be relatively familiar, as Bradford's first offensive coordinator was fellow Andy Reid disciple Pat Shurmur.
If Bradford takes off under those circumstances, the Eagles will have every chance to sign him to a longer-term contract. Bradford will likely be willing. If he's playing his best football after six years of injuries and coaching instability, it would make sense to remain with the Eagles.
If Bradford doesn't play that well, or if he gets injured again, the Eagles can move on after 2017. If they draft a quarterback this year -- and you can safely bet that they will -- they will have two years' worth of training and evaluation on that QB. They will know whether he has a chance to be a keeper and can make decisions accordingly.
The Eagles and Bradford can't know what they'll be facing in two years. They can't really be sure how they feel about a very disjointed and unsettling 2015.
With this contract, they get two years to figure that out. Bradford gets paid fairly while the Eagles get the best quarterback option available to them right now. Meanwhile, both sides have strong incentives to be at their best: Bradford can earn a long-term contract by playing well and the Eagles can earn his loyalty by putting him in a situation where he can succeed.