by Paul Wanecski
The offseason has been a flurry of frantic activity and not just at One Bills Drive. The Oregon Ducks Philadelphia Eagles have been without a doubt the most active team figuring in all player releases, restructures, signings and trades. Buffalo, in the last 10 months, has been included in two transactions; ironically both were for running backs. With the foundation being laid and the Eagles making it known that backup QB Matt Barkley is available, do the Bills see themselves as an option to land Barkley with another trade?
Seen as possibly the best QB prospect in the 2012 draft, Barkley decided to play for USC his senior season instead of declaring for the NFL draft early. He went on to throw for 3273 yards, 36 TDs and 15 INTs. His season in 2011 was significantly stronger, as he turned in 3528 yards, 39 TDs and 7 INTs with a 69% completion percentage. He also runs like former defensive lineman Sam Adams. Barkley owns a stat line his senior season for 25 rushes for -72 yards. Yes, you read the correct. He, on average, lost 2.9 yards per carry. Multiple reasons for his lack of production his final year can be provided. He lost LT Matt Khalil to the draft. The USC defense was exceptionally poor that season which forced the offense into difficult positions. He was also getting hammered in the pocket with a youth movement along the offensive line. Clearly, hindsight says Barkley should have “got while the getting’ was good”.
To his credit, he has done everything right while in the NFL. He has been quiet in the media, which is uncommon for former highly touted players. Known as a QB that is strictly a West Coast style player, the system Chip Kelly wants to run fits everything that Barkley doesn’t do well. Most will try and discredit his arm strength, which is of course debatable. Does he have a rocket? No, but he has enough arm strength to survive in the NFL. What he hasn’t displayed is amazing accuracy, which would go to contradict his 69% completion percentage in 2011. He is a bit of a gun-slinger, forcing passes into coverage and having an immense amount of faith in his receivers. For someone who is billed as a “game manager”, he doesn’t quite fit that category with his decision making in the pocket. For a QB who is not mobile, he has displayed a solid feel for the pocket, with precise footwork and clean throwing mechanics. It is no mystery while so many saw such great potential, however, he will not succeed with the Eagles. Should he be given a shot at a starting role, think more Drew Stanton than Carson Palmer. While he has the tools to be effective, he would have to have made significant strides in his decision making in the pocket to be a contender.
Reviewing Barkley’s career, some interesting circumstances actually involve Chip Kelly even though Barkley came from USC. For two seasons, 2010-2011, Kelly started Quarterback Darron Thomas. His production was solid. Thomas, after his freshman year in 2009, responded to his first year as the fulltime starter, turning in 2881 passing yards with 30 TDs and 9 INTs, totaling a 61.5% completion percentage. That season he also rushed for 486 yards with 5TDs, good enough for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. The next season, Thomas went on to throw for 2761 yards, 33 TDs and 7 INTs, all with a 62.2% completion percentage. Thomas actually feared that Barkley would be the best QB in the NFL draft for the 2012 season, so when Barkley decided to stay for his senior year, Thomas took the opportunity to declare his eligibility for the draft and forgo his senior season. Thomas went to go undrafted while Barkley’s draft stock disintegrated the next year, when he was drafted by the Eagles with the 98th overall pick. We are not saying that Kelly might be getting even with Barkley for his role in the loss of Thomas (who is under contract with the CFL currently), but the paths do cross.
While the Eagles will be looking to trade Barkley, he would not command much of a price. If the Eagles could secure a 6th round selection, they should take it and be happy. The Bills have brought in Tyrod Taylor to compete for a roster spot and Taylor is a threat on the ground and in the pocket. Greg Roman has worked with pocket quarterbacks in the past, but unless an injury knocks 2 of the QBs on the current Bills roster out for the remainder of the season, don’t expect this to happen even though the Eagles and Bills have danced the trade-tango recently. Of course, the trade of Barkley could usher in the era of Tim Tebow with the Eagles which would really just be another to add to the list of head-scratching roster moves. Barkley will not have the type of attention that Kurt Cousins with Washington had two seasons ago. Washington at this point would be happy in a trade for a bag of fully inflated footballs from the Patriots, but then again, who wouldn’t be excited to see the Pats with footballs at regulation size and weight.