The Philadelphia Eagles are in a period of transition under new head coach Chip Kelly, and while quarterback Michael Vick's restructured deal will keep him in Philly for at least one more year the team may look to Vick's old college rival for their quarterback of the future.
According to Evan Silva of NBC Sports, Kelly mentioned while at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel was a player that has been on his radar for some time now.
The respect is apparently mutual, as Manuel relayed to Matt Rybaltowski of CBS Sports at last month's Senior Bowl that he and Kelly had a great meeting.
“It was awesome just to see him again,” Manuel said. “It wasn't like I had just met him. I've known him for five years and was really happy to see the success he had as a coach. I'm sure he'll do the same in the NFL.”
Manuel went on to be named Senior Bowl MVP, and after the game Manuel continued to lobby for the Eagles to select him when speaking with WPEN-FM according to Tim McManus of Philadelphia Magazine.
“I’m just hoping that he gives me the opportunity,” said Manuel. “I would love to come and play in his offense, I would love to play for him and I would love to be his guy. It’s kind of starting off his tenure in the NFL, and I would love to be his first quarterback. I think it would be a great relationship.”
So, is Manuel onto something? Could he be the Eagles' next franchise quarterback?
That's something of a loaded question.
On the surface, Manuel would appear to have all the requisite tools to succeed in Chip Kelly's up-tempo, spread-option offense.
At 6'5" and 240 pounds Manuel is a big, athletic quarterback who possesses the requisite mobility to thrive in Kelly's offense. That mobility is the reason why Vick is still in Philadelphia, and it's also the reason why the Nick Foles era in the City of Brotherly Love may be over before it ever got started.
Simply put, if Chip Kelly is going to run his offense from Oregon then he needs a quarterback who can run. Manuel can run.
Manuel also has extensive experience in the no-huddle offense, telling Rybaltowski that the Seminoles ran it about 70 percent of the time.
That's another plus, as a key part of Kelly's offense is a pace that's somewhere between breakneck and absolutely insane.
Finally, Manuel completed 68 percent of his passes for nearly 3,400 yards in 2012, so the youngster would certainly seem capable of hurting teams with his arm as well.
However, it's here that the waters start to muddy up.
As talented as Manuel can be at times, he was just as inconsistent in others, as NFL.com explains in their scouting report on him.
Gives opponents too many chances for turnovers by forcing throws into coverage trying to make a play. Area code accuracy – short throws are often low or wide, preventing receivers from making a play after the catch. Deep ball accuracy is uneven, as well. Gets happy feet under pressure, spins to the outside to avoid the rush. Inconsistent recognizing blitz.
The report then goes on to compare Manuel to Blaine Gabbert of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That's just mean.
Charlie Campbell of Walter Football's comparison isn't a whole lot better. Campbell calls Manuel a cross between Jason Campbell of the Chicago Bears and Terrelle Pryor of the Oakland Raiders, but even Campbell admits that Manuel could be an interesting fit in Philadelphia.
The Eagles are an interesting potential destination for Manuel. He has the mobility that Chip Kelly likes his quarterbacks to have and would allow Kelly to continue running a lot of his college offense. Of all the quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft class, Manuel may fit Kelly's offense the best. Manuel may be a priority for the Eagles on the second day.
The biggest issue facing the Eagles with Manuel, if they are interested in him, may not be the player himself.
It could be when to take him.
In a class where no quarterback has truly separated from the pack Manuel's draft grades are all over the place. He's been graded as anything from a late-first to fourth-round prospect, which could make when to target Manuel problematic.
Fourth overall is too early, but the third pick of round two may be too late.
At the end of the day, as I said, it's a difficult year for teams looking to draft a quarterback. There aren't any "home run" prospects. Not a sure thing in the bunch.
With that said that doesn't change the fact that the Eagles need to add a young quarterback whose skill set meshes with Kelly's offense. No offense to Dennis Dixon, but if he's the future under center for the Eagles then they're in trouble.
Of this year's crop Manuel would appear to be the passer that best fits that bill.
He may not be a sure thing, but at the right price he's a risk worth taking for Kelly and the Eagles.