What the Tebow-to-Eagles move could mean to the Bucs’ draft plans

timmySo news leaked earlier today that the Eagles will be signing Tim Tebow—who has been out of football for two seasons. Now, this could just be a low-risk stab by Kelly to see if Tebow has anything to offer, or even a publicity stunt to garner attention. But let’s engage in some logic-based conjecture for a moment.

Kelly is a coach steeped in spread-option football. As a pro coach he has adjusted to the league’s decided focus on vertical passing, but there have been indications that he believes that a true spread approach and a legit run/pass threat at QB could thrive in the NFL — despite a lack of precedent. Other spread-option coaches, including Urban Meyer, have long believed that a pro team that truly dedicated itself to the scheme could be very successful. I happen to agree with them. (Not so long ago Urban Meyer was told that his offense would never fly in the speed-rich SEC—so much for that).

Of course, such a move would require a big-time revamping of the Eagles roster. Oh, wait, that’s well underway. Nick Foles, a prototypical pocket guy and the sort of young passing talent most NFL teams covet, was recently jettisoned by the Eagles. Foles was ostensibly replaced by Sam Bradford, a move that makes sense on some levels, especially when you consider that Bradford ran a spread scheme very effectively at Oklahoma. Problem is, Bradford is a slim, injury-prone player who is best suited to be a protected pocket passer in the NFL. If Kelly hopes to use his QB as a legit run/pass threat—conjecture at this stage, admittedly—Bradford is not an ideal fit. A guy like Tebow, however, certainly is, if only as a backup. Hmmmmmm.

Now stick with me. Would Kelly want to have both a pure pocket passer and a run/pass QB as his starter and top backup? I highly doubt it. Teams generally commit to a single system in which a certain type of QB will thrive, and they need redundancy at the spot since starting QBs are so often injured were injured. So if Tebow is being added to pose a legit threat for a QB job (again, conjecture at this stage), which player out there would have similar skill set and experience? One leaps to mind: Marcus Mariota, a player Kelly openly covets and has implied he might be willing to trade up for.

And here’s where the plot really thickens. What do the Bucs need? A talented pocket-passer to challenge Glennon for the starting QB role. Most draft pundits are openly assuming that the Bucs will take FSU’s Jameis Winston with the top pick, a move I adamantly oppose. But what if Kelly were to dangle Bradford in front of the Bucs? Most draft experts have long assumed that the Eagles lack the firepower to move up to the top pick to take Mariota, but Bradford would change that dynamic. Bradford is a tremendously talented passer and a former no. 1 overall pick, and in my humble opinion a better QB than Winston in almost every regard (mobility, arm, release, accuracy, poise, etc.). And unlike Winston, Bradford is a super-solid character kid and locker-room asset. If Kelly does want Mariota and the Bucs do like Bradford, this could be a win-win scenario for both clubs.

Sound crazy? It shouldn’t. In fact, the Eagles have confirmed that a team recently offered them a first-round pick for Bradford. The identity of that team, by the way, was not disclosed. Another “hmmmmmmmm”. Could it have been the Bucs? Absolutely. The sticking point would be the negotiation process, with the Eagles insisting that Bradford is worth a high first-round pick and the Bucs countering with “Maybe, but certainly not the top pick in the draft; give us Bradford and an extra high pick or two and we’ll talk”. Could the Bucs and Eagles already have a draft-day deal in place in which Bradford goes to Tampa and Kelly gets his guy in Mariota? I haven’t seen anyone imply such a thing, but yes, they certainly could. Is it likely? I wouldn’t go that far. But Tebow going to Philly should have more folks wondering if such a move is in the works for the reasons explained above.

And so it’s said, this long-time Buc fan would applaud a trade for Bradford—and move away from Winston—until his hands bled.

 

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