Currently, as the Eagles roster stands, Jalen Hurts is the starting quarterback.
The team’s preferred option, however, seems to still be on the Houston Texans roster. Make no mistake about it — the Eagles have interest in Deshaun Watson.
This isn’t just a case of national media members connecting the dots because of the team’s 2022 draft picks. There is a very real chance the Eagles make a trade for Watson, pressing fast-forward on their rebuild and going all-in on a quarterback after having just traded away the last one they handed the franchise to.
The question isn’t whether the Eagles try to make a move for Watson. It is whether the Eagles pull the trigger on a deal for Watson before the start or training camp next week, or do they go into camp with Hurts, giving him a chance to change their mind and win the job they realistically never thought he would have.
With the decision looming over the Eagles, here is a look at some of the pros-and-cons of potentially acquiring Watson:
Even in a league that is seeing more quarterback movement than ever before, the reality is that quarterbacks as talented and young as Deshaun Watson almost never become available.
Watson is just 25-years old, and through four years in the NFL, has a quarterback rating of 104.5. Only one quarterback in the NFL had a better passer rating than Watson’s 112.4 last season, when he threw 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions with a completion percentage of 70.2. Watson is also very capable of making plays with his legs, running in 17 touchdowns over the last four seasons while totaling 1,677 yards on 304 attempts. He has also had some playoff success, appearing in three games, winning one and taking a 21-0 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 in another.
There has been a ton of talk this offseason about NFL analyst Chris Simms deciding to leave Hurts completely off his list of the top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL. Watson came in No. 4 overall on that list, and when it comes to strictly on-the-field talent, not many would put Watson outside their top five on any list.
Financially, the money they would have to hand Watson is big, but if Watson stays on his current deal and plays at the same level he did last season it would be a bargain. The Eagles would not be on the hook for any of Watson’s signing bonus, meaning they would owe him just $10.54 million in 2021. The money owed to Watson jumps significantly in 2022, but at least for 2021, Watson would be on a very team-friendly deal.
If Watson comes here and is the same player he was in Houston, the Eagles would likely jump to favorites in the division and the outlook on the franchise (for those who feel negative about them) would completely change.
As stated above, quarterbacks like Watson don’t become available — so no matter how talented he is, the reality is that there is a reason Watson is available, and there is no getting around the fact that trading for him is a massive, massive risk.
The Eagles can do all the internal research they want into the sexual assault accusations against Watson this offseason, but even if he is cleared and isn’t suspended, they are going to remain an issue. There is going to be a portion of the fanbase who will never forgive Watson for what he is being accused of. There is a portion of the fanbase who will be upset owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to make Watson the franchise quarterback. Who knows how Watson will be received in the locker room. Even if Watson isn’t suspended, he will at the very least be on thin ice with the league, and any potential future accusations or infractions could lead to a long suspension.
The risks with Watson doesn’t stop there. Watson might only be 25-years old, but he has suffered two torn ACLs, one in college and one in the NFL. Watson has fully recovered from both, but the Eagles just got out from an injury-prone quarterback that has had leg injuries. Attaching the franchise to a quarterback with the injury history Watson has is a risk.
As mentioned above, the money in 2021 is team friendly, but it skyrockets in 2022 when he is owed $35 million. Then, in 2023, Watson is owed another $37 million, which becomes fully guaranteed on March 22, 2022. Considering the draft capital it will take to get Watson, there is almost no shot the Eagles move on from him after one year, meaning they would essentially be singing up for cap hits of $35 million in 2022 and $37 million in 2023. If Watson is as good as he can be, those cap hits won’t matter as much, but they are certainly way more than the rookie deal Hurts is currently on, and would impact how much money the Eagles have to spend elsewhere on the rest of the roster. After just resetting the salary cap by trading Carson Wentz, the Eagles would be jumping right back into having an extremely expensive quarterback.
Finally, the draft compensation — despite the allegations against him — will likely be significant. There will be enough teams interested to drive up the price. Teams like Denver, Washington and Carolina should be interested. Add in the Eagles and a four-team market for a quarterback like Watson is going to result in a trade that requires multiple first-round picks. The Eagles certainly have the ammunition to do it, but the three first-round picks in 2022 is a chance to add some much-needed young talent to the roster. If the Eagles take a chance on Hurts, and he proves to be good, getting three shots to add talent around him in 2022 could set them up for years to come. Investing all three picks on Watson is a major risk.
When you add up the cost to acquire him, the money he would be owed, the off-the-field concerns and the injury history, Watson would have to overcome a lot to end up being worth it for the Eagles. He is certainly talented enough to do so, but as the Eagles just found out at quarterback with Carson Wentz, talent isn’t always enough.
Is Watson more talented than Hurts? Probably.
Does Hurts come with fewer red flags and far fewer complicating factors? Absolutely.
You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org!