In a minor NFL transaction to start the week, the Philadelphia Eagles granted backup quarterback Chase Daniel a release from his contract. Head coach Doug Pederson was on Andy Reid’s staff when Nick Foles was drafted and developed, and now Foles has returned to the team to support second-year starter Carson Wentz. Daniel received about $7-million last year and had been on the books for $5-million in 2017. Daniel attempted one pass for the Eagles, which was caught for 16 yards.
Every pass of Chase Daniel's Eagles career in one video. pic.twitter.com/bygf2MjFiO— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) March 14, 2017
Daniel was the backup for Drew Brees throughout his most successful seasons, including the 2009 Super Bowl-winning campaign and for Brees’ all-time great 2011 season. Had Brees been closer to the end of his career, it’s possible that Daniel never would have left. Instead he was allowed to go compete for a starting job with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
Daniel eventually made two spot starts in Smith’s absence, completing 43 of 68 passes (63.3-percent) for 409 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Those are conservative numbers with just 6 yards gained per attempt and an even score:turnover ratio. But that’s just a yard less per attempt that Smith gained as the starter, and in the same ballpark of passes completed (64.5-percent). In a larger role on a better offense, Daniel could very well be productive.
So what am I getting at? If the Saints are truly all-in on going for broke in 2017 or going out in a blaze of glory, Daniel is clearly preferable to current backup Luke McCown and disappointing draft pick Garrett Grayson. Daniel is five years younger than McCown, has experience in the Saints offense, and could potentially be a starter if Brees moves on after the 2017 season.
Don’t be surprised if finding a backup QB becomes a priority for the Saints.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) March 1, 2017
Few teams successfully transition from one long-time starting passer to the next. Daniel could give the Saints a bridge from the Brees era to whatever comes next, and eliminate the need to reach on a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. If rookie passers Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes are not available at the Saints’ picks, no other prospects are really worth investing in if this year is really about winning now. Maybe Nate Peterman or Brad Kaaya can be ready to back up Brees after a year of development from quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi, but then you’re looking at three valuable roster spots spent on a position with just one starter.
It’s better to sign Daniel on a relatively cheap contract and let him hold the clipboard while Brees goes out and does all he can to compete for another Super Bowl. He will be only 31-years old at the end of this season, while Brees (38) and McCown (36) are firmly nearing the end of their careers. If Brees does indeed leave New Orleans in 2018, Daniel could capably start next season and beyond while the Saints work on making sure they have their quarterback of the future ready for his own turn at the wheel.
This is a minor transaction as far as these things go. Chances are good that Brees will not only return for 2018, but probably play into his early 40’s like Tom Brady intends to do and as Peyton Manning and Brett Favre did before them. If so, this is all largely moot. But with Brees not under contract after the 2017 season, I’m not comfortable leaning too hard on a rookie from this draft class or a backup who is almost as old as the starter. The Saints shouldn’t take this lightly, either.