The case for the Eagles to keep Mark Sanchez

Every player is available for the right price, but quarterbacks are at a premium, even backups like Mark Sanchez.

The St. Louis Rams need a starting quarterback after they officially learned on Sunday that Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending knee injury. Sanchez, in light of his strong preseason with the Eagles and his previous working relationship with Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, has been mentioned as a possible target.

If St. Louis comes calling, the Eagles should ask for at least a conditional third-round draft pick. They have all the leverage. Even then, Chip Kelly should be reluctant to part with Sanchez, considering the possibility that Nick Foles gets injured or struggles and the coach's likely reluctance to put Matt Barkley in the No. 2 role.

The argument for dealing Sanchez has some validity. The Eagles, who under previous management pulled off lopsided trades involving backup quarterbacks, would receive compensation for a player who may not even play this season and will become a free agent next offseason.

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  • But would it be worth the risk? Foles can't be deemed injury prone, but Kelly also can't pencil in his quarterback for 16 starts the way some other coaches can. Foles has already been injured twice in his first two NFL seasons.

    He broke a bone in his hand in the penultimate game of his rookie season and would have likely missed more than just the season finale. And he sat out a game last season after he suffered a concussion in the third quarter the previous week.

    Twelve of 32 teams had starting quarterbacks miss at least one game to injury last season. The Eagles, for example, have had their starter play all 16 games only once in the last 10 seasons. Many playoff-bound teams have had their seasons derailed by not having competent backups.

    "I'm also a big guy that you better have two quarterbacks in this league," Kelly said last week when asked about receiving offers for Sanchez. "So unless something blows you out of the water, we're really confident with Mark coming and starting the game for the Eagles."

    Sanchez has looked rejuvenated after an unceremonious end with the New York Jets. While his numbers were near the bottom of the league in his first two seasons, he helped commandeer the Jets to two AFC championship games. He delivered clutch performances in big spots.

    By his fourth season, he had regressed and had become even more turnover-prone. Schottenheimer's leaving and being replaced by Tony Sparano didn't help his development. By the time he tore the labrum in his shoulder in last season's third preseason game, his days in New York were all but over.

    Sanchez struggled initially in Kelly's offense during spring workouts. But he carried a strong training camp into the preseason. His numbers have been impressive - 25 of 31 for 281 yards and two touchdowns - but what has most impressed has been the efficiency of the offense with him at the controls. His arm looks fully recovered.

    "I feel very, very confident in our quarterback situation, probably better than a lot of teams in this league," Kelly said last week. "Mark . . . is playing at a really high level right now."

    It is only the preseason and most of his snaps have come against second-unit defenses, but Sanchez also drove the Eagles to touchdowns on both of his series against Steelers starters last week. Kelly had spoken of competition between Sanchez and Barkley in May, but there was never one, even when Sanchez looked shaky in the spring.

    If Kelly felt confident enough about Barkley as the backup, especially after expending a fourth-round pick on the Southern Cal product, he would have never signed Sanchez and he would have given Barkley more than just a handful of second-team snaps.

    The drop from Sanchez to Barkley seems significant and enough to frighten Kelly from parting with the former even if the Rams met his demands. Sanchez certainly has familiarity with Schottenheimer's system, but is a reunion something either party would want? The Rams had the opportunity to sign him as a free agent and instead acquired Shaun Hill.

    Sanchez, according to a USA Today report, has no interest in the Rams, despite the opportunity to start. Even if he doesn't play another snap this year - Kelly's resting him in Thursday's preseason finale vs. his former team - he already has improved his stock.

    Based on how he has played and the Kelly association, Sanchez would get a legitimate opportunity to start somewhere else next season. He loves this system, though, and would likely prefer to stay. His reported disinterest in the Rams could also suggest that he believes, given the opportunity, he could beat out Foles.

    He may never get that chance. But Kelly's public demands for Sanchez - "It better be a pretty good deal," he said - imply that he knows the 50-50 odds that Foles will play an entire season. In addition to the 12 quarterbacks who missed time to injury, seven were benched last season, including Michael Vick for Foles.

    Nothing can be ruled out.

     


    jmclane@phillynews.com

    @Jeff_McLane

     

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