When the Eagles signed Christian Hackenberg, it caused some raised eyebrows across the Delaware Valley. After all, the Eagles were already carrying four quarterbacks on their preseason roster. Of those four, one happens to be the franchise QB, one is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, and another is a guy that some coaches believe could get a chance to start in the NFL one day. So why add a guy who hasn’t attempted a regular season pass to a quarterback position that is basically set in stone?
The immediate assumption was that there was another move in the works. Perhaps the Eagles had found a trade partner for Nick Foles, or maybe Nate Sudfeld was headed somewhere where he would get an opportunity to win the backup job. So far, no additional move has been announced, and with questions still surrounding Carson Wentz’s health, it seems unlikely that the Eagles would want to take a position of strength and turn it into an uncertainty on the eve of kicking off their title defense.
But if Foles and Sudfeld are staying put, then why Hackenberg? ESPN’s Adam Caplan has some insight.
On #Eagles signing Hackenberg (now giving them 5 QBs):
– Foles carries a $20m salary for 2019.
– Sudfeld will be a RFA in 2019.
Eagles did their home work on Hackenberg (this wasn't just a decision they made after his workout today; decision has been in development).
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) August 12, 2018
While the Eagles are set at QB in 2018, the situation gets murky in 2019. $20 million is an awful lot of money to be paying your backup quarterback. And Sudfeld could get an offer to battle for a backup job that would be untenable for the Eagles to match. Suddenly the Eagles could find themselves with an incredibly expensive backup or with Carson Wentz and…who?
It’s not out of the question that the Eagles make a move before the season starts, but as we mentioned earlier, it seems unlikely. What’s more likely is that the Eagles are simply doing their due diligence in preparation for the situation they could find themselves in come next year.
Hackenberg has been the butt of a lot of jokes in his young NFL career, but the reality is he’s had limited opportunities and wasn’t in the best of positions to thrive. Jon Gruden, who briefly coached Hackenberg this spring, believes the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement has further stifled Hackenberg’s chance at development. The kid is only 23-years old.
While people laughed, scoffed, or shrugged at the Hackenberg signing, it was actually a very smart move. The Eagles are simply getting a risk-free look at a 23-year old, third-year player who was drafted in the second round as they attempt to get out ahead of a potential future problem.
Barring an unexpected change, Christian Hackenberg will not be on the 2018 Eagles roster. If he performs well over the next few weeks, maybe he is brought back next summer to compete for an open second or third-string job. If not, the Eagles send him on his way with nothing lost.
I don’t know about you, but this is exactly the kind of planning, risk/reward, and asset management I want from the front office of my favorite team.