Soon, after clearing away some more bad contracts and opening up more cap space, the Eagles will begin the process of searching for a new backup quarterback.
When searching for that quarterback, and surveying the ones available, the Eagles should ask themselves one simple question about any backup they consider signing— can we lose with him?
Yes, the top quality the Eagles should be looking for in a backup quarterback is one they can lose with. A bad backup. One that if they have to play him will not be capable of leading the team to a win. A backup that if he has to start multiple games, the Eagles can be confident they will stack up multiple losses.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor or Jacoby Brissett? No thanks. They are all too good to bring in. They are simply too talented to be the backup for this team. They belong on contenders.
This Eagles team needs Clayton Thorson. Or see if now that he is retired from baseball perhaps Tim Tebow wants to give it another shot. Maybe even give Doug Pederson one more stint as the Eagles’ backup. He seems to be free right now.
Whatever the Eagles do, however, they can’t invest any real resources into the backup quarterback spot. It is a risk not worth taking for multiple reasons.
Let’s use Marcus Mariota, the latest quarterback tied to the Eagles, as the example of why signing a quality backup is a bad idea.
First, there is the reality of their cap situation.
On Monday a rumor emerged that the team could have interest in trading for Marcus Mariota, who has a salary fo $10.6 million in 2021. Chances are any deal for Mariota would include a pay decrease, but it likely won’t be by enough for him to make sense financially for the Eagles. In an offseason where they are going to be extremely cap strapped, investing anything over the minimum for a backup quarterback would be a bad use of resources. That alone should shrink the field to backups that won’t help this team if they have to play.
Second, there is the reality of where this team is at.
Sure, the 2021 Eagles have a chance to compete for a playoff spot in a bad NFC East. They also have a bright future overall despite what an ugly season is likely going to take place.
They are likely not, however, going to be a double-digit win team. The Eagles are in the first phase of a rebuild, one that is going to take at least one full offseason to complete. If the Eagles play their cards right they could enter next offseason with over $80 million in salary cap space and perhaps two first-round picks, depending on what their old starting quarterback does in Indianapolis.
What would expedite the rebuild is one of those picks once again being in the top 10.
Yes, making the playoffs in 2020 with Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni leading the way would be valuable, and perhaps worth losing that top-10 pick. If Hurts and Sirianni are the future, the duo having success in their first season together, and shocking mostly everyone, would be an extremely positive development.
What wouldn’t be a positive development is the backup quarterback coming in and leading a playoff push. Or a backup quarterback coming in and making what could be a bad offense look good and providing a spark the starter couldn’t.
Hurts likely won't have the same locker room issues Carson Wentz did, but why risk it? This team needs at least one season off from drama defining their quarterback room. The Eagles have learned over the three seasons it just isn’t worth it to have your starting quarterback looking over his shoulder at a high-priced backup, and that is especially true with this roster.
The bottom line is the Eagles are not going to be good enough in 2020 that it is worth potentially putting Hurts through that or bringing in a quality backup. Chances are the ship won’t be worth saving if the starter goes down. The 2021 Eagles are not going to be the 2017 Eagles. They will likely be much closer to the 2020 Eagles.
There are two possible positive outcomes for the Eagles this next season — either their starting quarterback looks like he is the answer or their draft pick is high enough they can add another elite-level talent to the roster to help their rebuild. Those are really the only two ways this seasons could end on a positive note, and neither of them requires a quality backup to make it happen.
The worst possible outcome is a quality backup wreaking the same havoc on the team they have dealt with the last few seasons — or coming in and turning a 5-win team into a 7-win one, ruining the draft pick in the process.
If the Eagles do move forward with Hurts as their starter, or if it is a rookie quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick, the 2021 season should be completely tied to them.
If Hurt or the rookie fails, the season should go down with them, with no quality backup quarterback around to save it.
You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at email@example.com!