Wentz’s climb to the top of the draft was as improbable as the Eagles’. He started just 23 games in his college career at North Dakota State, a powerhouse at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision level. But the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Wentz impressed teams with his physical tools and his arm strength.
The Eagles were impressed enough to engineer a series of trades to get Wentz. They have Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel under contract, but the team has not won a playoff game since quarterback Donovan McNabb’s departure seven years ago.
With McNabb, the No. 2 pick in the 1999 draft, the Eagles won 10 playoff games from 2000 to 2008. They went to five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl. After trying to fill the QB job with Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Bradford, the Eagles decided a top draft choice gave them the best chance.
New coach Doug Pederson, who was the Eagles’ starting quarterback in McNabb’s rookie season, sought to build the team as his mentor, Andy Reid, had. Selecting a quarterback with the No. 2 pick in his first draft was a key part of Pederson’s plan.
The Eagles traded cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins in order to move from No. 13 to No. 8 in the first round of the draft. They also traded running back DeMarco Murray to the Tennessee Titans to move up to the No. 2 pick in the fourth round.
Those two picks, the No. 8 overall pick and the fourth-round pick, were part of the package the Eagles sent to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the No. 2 pick. In making the trade, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said the Eagles had to be comfortable with Wentz or Cal‘s Jared Goff.
The plan worked, but not without some complications. The Eagles made the trade with Cleveland last week, during a three-day voluntary minicamp. On Monday, word got out that Bradford had requested a trade and would not participate in any more voluntary offseason activities.
Pederson told NBC 10 in Philadelphia on Thursday that Bradford is “our guy.”
“I’ve said all along Sam’s our guy, he’s my guy and he’s a part of the Philadelphia Eagles, and it’s just unfortunate where we are right now,” Pederson said in his first public comments on the matter.
“But the thing is once he’s here, he’s our guy. Because it’s a voluntary offseason program, there’s not a whole lot we can do. But at the same time, we just know we want him to be a part of the Philadelphia Eagles this year.”
Pederson also said he hasn’t spoken with Bradford since he left the offseason program.
Bradford, 28, was due to become a free agent in March. Before he reached the market, he agreed to a two-year, $35 million contract with the Eagles. At that point, the Eagles still held the No. 13 overall pick in the first round.
The Eagles acquired Bradford in 2015 in a trade with the Rams. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Bradford’s best season was his rookie year. After that, changes in the offensive coaching staff and injuries affected his career. Bradford missed half of the 2014 season after tearing his left ACL, then missed all of the 2015 season after tearing his left ACL again.
Last year, Bradford played 14 games for the Eagles. He missed two games with a shoulder injury and a concussion. By the end of the season, the Eagles had fired coach Chip Kelly, who made the trade for Bradford. Kelly was replaced with Pederson, who had been Reid’s offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Although the Eagles re-signed Bradford and added Daniel in free agency, Pederson has said all offseason that he would like to develop a rookie quarterback.
The Eagles zeroed in on Wentz, who won an FCS national championship as a junior in the 2014 season. Last season, Wentz broke his wrist. He returned in time to play in the Bison’s national championship victory.