Eagles Bring Back Wiz, Officially Sign Kessler
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The organization with perhaps the deepest roster in football officially buttoned-up the last remaining issues for the coaching staff on Monday.
The Eagles signed quarterback Cody Kessler, the veteran option to compete with Nate Sudfeld for the backup job to Carson Wentz, and brought back Stefen Wisniewski to serve as the interior game-day backup on the offensive line.
The Eagles had declined to pick up a Wisniewski's $3.7 million option back in March and despite extensive starting experience with Oakland, Jacksonville and Philadelphia, where he was the starting left guard in Super Bowl LII, the veteran remained unsigned and decided to circle back to Philadelphia.
In the short term, Wisniewski will likely serve at right guard in offseason work as Pro Bowl selection Brandon Brooks continues his rehab from the torn Achilles' suffered in the divisional round of the playoffs against New Orleans.
Come September Wiz will project to fit in as the game-day interior backup who can seamlessly move from center to either guard spot in case of injury, an important luxury for offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who isn't fond of moving parts on what needs to be a cohesive unit.
Before Wisniewski re-signed there was no obvious choice for the interior backup spot and the Eagles brought in a host of undrafted free agents with some position versatility like Ryan Bates, Sua Opeta and Nate Herbig for the 90-man offseason roster.
It was likely no coincidence that the Eagles pulled the trigger on Wisniewski after getting a look at their younger players at rookie camp over the weekend.
Kessler, a 26-year-old Southern Cal product, has played in 16 games and started 12 in stints with Cleveland and Jacksonville since being drafted in 2016 by the Browns, ironically with part of the haul Cleveland received in the Carson Wentz deal.
The efficacy hasn't necessarily been there as Kessler won just two of his 12 starts but they were generally with bad teams and his numbers, a completion percentage of 64 percent with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
Earlier this offseason the Eagles expressed confidence in Sudfeld taking the next step in his career and becoming the backup after Nick Foles left in free agency for a big money deal in Jacksonville. The caveat, however, was that Philadelphia didn't want to hand a job to anyone.
"We're happy with Nate (Sudfeld), and we are excited for him," Pederson said at the NFL Owners Meeting. "This is a big opportunity for Nate coming up this spring. An opportunity to really show us again what he's capable of doing and can he handle the number two spot. I've always been, this has always been my career, you always want guys to compete for spots and not hand anything out. I think that's something that we will continue to explore, but we are really comfortable with Nate."
That exploration finally landed on Kessler, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound west-coast style signal caller who was a three-year starter with the Trojans throwing for 88 touchdowns vs. just 19 interceptions at USC.
That was good enough to turn Kessler into the 93rd overall pick by Cleveland in 2016 when current Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry was in personnel with the Browns. Kessler started eight games with Cleveland ss a rookie and had four more starts with the Jaguars in 2018. He was 0-8 with a dismal Browns team and a more manageable 2-2 as the starter in Jacksonville.
The odds are against Kessler and he would likely have to beat out Sudfeld for the backup job behind Wentz to make the 53-man roster. Rookie fifth-round pick Clayton Thorson has the inside track on the No. 3 job as the developmental prospect.
Sudfeld, 25, is entering his fourth professional season as a former sixth-round pick by Washington in the same 2016 draft as Wentz and Keesler and has been the Eagles third-string QB behind Carson and Foles, first signing a practice-squad deal at the start of 2017 campaign, before being elevated to the Eagles' active roster in November when Indianapolis tried to sign him to its 53-man roster.
In limited playing time with Doug Pederson's offense, Sudfeld has completed 20-of-25 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and now takes over as No. 2 now that Foles is in Jacksonville.
The Eagles waived former AAF signal caller, Luis Perez, and rookie undrafted running back Nico Evans to make room for Wisniewski and Kessler on the offseason roster.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen