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February 23, 2021

What they're saying: With Wentz gone, what's next for Eagles this offseason?

Will Jalen Hurts be the QB? Will they draft one? Sign one? Trade for one? Anything is possible...

Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the trade that sent Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a pair of draft picks, there remains a lot of work to be down for the Eagles, who are still very much in a big ol' mess with not just the rest of their roster, but also an unproven coaching staff, a meddlesome owner, a vilified general manager and a fan base that has more than seen enough. 

Some of that work has already begun, with the team officially releasing veteran wideout DeSean Jackson and news coming down that, after restructuring his contract earlier this offseason, the team plans on releasing fellow wideout Alshon Jeffery when the new league year opens next month.

The big story in Philly, however, remains the quarterback position. And for those who have had enough of the Carson Wentz saga and are ready to turn the page, wipe the slate clean or whatever cliche you prefer, there's a bit of good news. It seems that's what is beginning to happen. But that also comes with bad news, as the Eagles quarterback situation isn't all that better than it was a year ago. 

Sure, there's some promise and potential in the form of Jalen Hurts, but even the Eagles don't appear enamored with the second-round pick who took over for Wentz late last season. The former Heisman finalist showed flashes in his four starts as a rookie, but he lacked the type of consistency you'd want to see from a starter. Of course, the kid still has plenty of time to grow as an NFL quarterback. But there's a growing belief that Hurts might never get that chance in Philly, especially if the Eagles take a quarterback with sixth overall pick in April's draft. 

There have already been reports that the Eagles plan on bringing in competition for Hurts. Whether that's a veteran free agent or a draft pick remains to be seen, but we've already gone on record as to why focusing on a quarterback would be a short-sighted decision by the Eagles, a team that should really be taking the best available player on the board. That, however, doesn't mean the Eagles will listen. They could very well be looking for a quick-fix at the QB position and hope that the guy they take sixth will quickly make fans forget about the last QB they took in the first round. The problem is, that QB will be walking into an impossible situation, one in which he'll be taking over a broken locker room and will likely be without the kinds of weapons a young QB needs to be successful, especially after the expected offseason purge from the Eagles. 

All that being said, and with full knowledge that the Birds are hardly free of this mess, it feels good to be looking forward rather than backward. Of course, this wouldn't be a true What They're Saying if I didn't immediately contradict myself with the first story we link to. But after that, I promise it will be more about the future, even if it won't be more positive. But that just seems like where we are with this team right now... 

'Stunned disbelief'

Peter King | FMIA

I tried to warn you that we'd be starting with the Wentz trade, but this one from Peter King's Football Morning in America post is worth inclusion. For starters, King admits what many in Philadelphia already believe — that the Eagles were losers in this trade. In fact, they never had a chance at winning it, as it was a lose-lose proposition from the start, largely because of the situation they put themselves in. 

That's why it's so hard to read that there's a "stunned disbelief inside the team from Lurie on down."

They were the ones running the show. They were the ones with the power to prevent something like this from happening. Instead, they enabled Wentz at the expense of their head coach, allowing him to continue avoiding accountability and hard coaching, which ultimately harmed his development. They were the ones who brought in Hurts as a backup when they knew full well how Wentz responded to QB competition in the past. 

They were the ones that gave him the massive contract extension when they could've gone the same route as the Cowboys did with Dak Prescott. The fact that the didn't, suggests they fully believed Wentz was the answer, otherwise you don't hand out that contract. They were the ones that failed to put better weapons around Wentz. They were the ones who built a statue of Wentz's former backup outside the stadium. 

Sure, they weren't the ones who asked to be traded, but they could've prevented it from ever reaching that point in the first place. So if there's "stunned disbelief" over anything, it should be over the Eagles handling of this debacle — not to mention that the architect of it is sill employed and will be tasked with leading Philly's new rebuild. 

This is why you don’t hear the Eagles, through off-the-record or unsourced material, defending the picks acquired in trade with Indianapolis. That’s because the Eagles didn’t win here. They may have made the right move in jettisoning Wentz; they likely couldn’t have brought him back without moving Hurts, and if Wentz played poorly in 2021, he was likely unmovable because of the $47.5 million in guarantees in his contract. It’s no-win for the Eagles. If Wentz plays great in Indy, the Eagles mishandled him and will be set back years in franchise development. If Wentz flops in Indy, the Eagles mishandled him and will be set back years in franchise development.

Over the weekend, in talking to two people who know the inner workings of the Eagles, it’s clear that there is a stunned disbelief inside the team from Lurie on down. A year ago, Pederson and Wentz were the keystones for the future of the franchise. Today, it’s almost inconceivable Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts are the coach and quarterback, and the franchise is cap-strapped with so few young building-block players. It used to be that a coach with recent Super Bowl currency wouldn’t get erased after one bad year. It used to be that a struggling young quarterback would take his medicine and fight to get his position back, not semi-force a trade so soon after making his money.

Roseman is public enemy number one with an angry fan base right now. “Angry” is a mild term, most likely. Philadelphia is mad as hell at the Eagles, and at Roseman.  []

Showing their hand?

Albert Breer | MMQB

Yes, this excerpt is from an Albert Breer piece on the behind-the-scenes of the Wentz trade. As far as the Wentz angle is concerned, we broke all that down yesterday in a longer look at Breer's latest MMQB column. But this part wasn't included, and definitely fits the theme of this WTS, with a focus on the future. 

Specifically, we included this because of one line: "The Eagles now move forward with Hurts and the sixth pick, and I’m told they will consider taking a quarterback there." That's not the first we've heard about the Eagles looking to draft a quarterback in the first round. After Les Bowen alluded to that last week, we wrote why we thought that would be a bad idea for the Eagles. 

That being said, the Eagles are 100% correct to at least be looking at the position. And it might make even more sense to leak this info if they actually have no intention of drafting a quarterback but are actually looking to bluff other QB-needy teams into trading up ahead of them (allowing the player they really want to fall to them) or as a way to turn the sixth pick into multiple picks, which might not even mean trading back very far. If there's a QB available that another team really wants, that's a ton of leverage. 

We still don't think drafting a QB is the right move for the Birds, but they should absolutely do their due diligence, and if the guy they identify as their top choice is truly a can't-miss prospect and falls to them at six, it's hard to tell them not to take him. The only problem is, do you really trust the guy(s) in charge of making the pick?

As for the Eagles’ side of it, being here period, after the ability Wentz flashed his first two years, is not ideal. At all. In any way. And they had to get past that fact to get here—and be honest with themselves that it was probably best for everyone that they split up, and that Wentz’s best shot to resuscitate his career was not going to be in their locker room, with their organization or in the searing media spotlight of their city.

Once you do get past that? The Eagles now move forward with Hurts and the sixth pick, and I’m told they will consider taking a quarterback there. Roseman joined the Eagles in 2000, and that year Philly also had the sixth pick. They’ve had a top-10 pick without having to trade up for it just once since then—they picked fourth the year Andy Reid got fired and wound up with Lane Johnson. Suffice it to say, they don’t plan on picking this high again, so they plan on grinding hard on every option with the pick, QBs included.  []

It's hard to get this high

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

The problem for the Eagles, at least when it comes to the future of the quarterback position, is that they largely don't yet know what they have in Hurts. We've only seen him start four games, and the last one he didn't even finish. And he was playing behind a broken offensive line with practice squad wide receivers. And it was in an offense that wasn't fully tailored to get the best out of his strengths. It was part of the way there, but if the Eagles had a full offseason to build an offense suited to Hurts, it would've likely looked a bit different than the modified Wentz offense he was playing in to finish the 2020 season. 

And while it would smart for the Eagles to give Hurts a year to see what they have in him — after all, he was Heisman finalist last year at Oklahoma after completely transforming his game following losing his starting job at Alabama to Tua Tagovialoa — that's not without it's own concerns. 

For starters, there's no guarantee that the talent around him will be much better than it was last year. In fact, there's a very good chance that it's worse. So we might not know much more about Hurts a year from now than we do now. But even if that's not the case, the biggest argument in favor of drafting a QB is that there's no guarantee that the Eagles will pick this high again. And, as Reuben Frank outlined, this is where most of the top QBs are found... 

But your best chance at nailing a franchise QB is in the first round. High in the first round.

There’ve been 58 Pro Bowl QBs drafted since 2000. Nearly half (28) were taken in the first 12 picks. Three were taken later in the 1st round, six in the 2nd round, four in the 3rd round, four in the 4th round and then 13 in various spots in the 5th round and beyond or undrafted.

The 2nd-round is the second-most likely place to find an elite QB, and the first 12 picks is nearly five times more likely.  []

Picking this high in the draft isn't something a team like the Eagles have done often. For reference, the Eagles didn't pick in top 10 between 2000, when they took Corey Simon, and 2013, when they took Lane Johnson. What it really comes down to, however, is this...

More than one way to get a QB

Zach Berman | The Athletic

But a draft isn't the only way the Eagles can bring in a new quarterback. They could also target one in free agency (or even a trade if they want). While that could simply mean adding an inexpensive veteran to back up Hurts, it could also mean going after a starter looking for another chance. Here's more from Zach Berman of The Athletic... 

Before the Eagles even have the chance to draft a quarterback, they’ll likely sign a veteran in free agency. Considering they are strapped for cap space (more on this below), it will be hard for them to spend big. However, it would be a surprise if they didn’t pursue a veteran who could compete with (and mentor) Hurts — or do the same with a rookie. Jacoby Brissett is entering free agency and spent the last three seasons in Indianapolis with Sirianni. Tyrod Taylor is also set to hit the open market after working with offensive coordinator Shane Steichen the past two seasons. Ryan Fitzpatrick will hit the market with 146 career starts. Andy Dalton and Cam Newton aren’t far behind. They each fit the profile of veterans with starting experience but without sure paths to a starting job. Unless a team is offering an unchallenged place atop the depth chart, there might be few opportunities in March that would offer a better chance to play than Philadelphia. Considering the Eagles are rebuilding, the best bet is that the 2021 starter is a developing player. When Doug Pederson became Eagles coach in 2017 and Andy Reid became Eagles coach in 1999, they both signed their backup quarterback from their previous job with the promise of a better opportunity. They also both drafted quarterbacks No. 2 overall.

Door No. 3 for the Eagles would be trading for a potential starting option. Sam Darnold will likely be dealt by the Jets if they take a quarterback at No. 2. Marcus Mariota is available via trade. The Eagles are more inclined to keep picks than surrender them for veterans, but necessity seldom makes a bargain. And the Eagles need to figure out what they’re doing at quarterback after trading Wentz.  []

Trimming the fat (contracts)

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

Of course, the quarterback position is hardly the only area the Eagles need to address this offseason. They'll do some of that in the draft. But they'll also need to add through free agency, which could be tricky considering the Eagles are still over $40 million over the salary cap, a number they'll need to get below before the new league year opens in less than a month. 

One of the ways they'll do that will be a roster purge, as they'll say farewell to several veterans in an effort to clear some cap space. They've already done it with DeSean Jackson, and they've already restructured the contracts of Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson, meaning both those players are all but certain to be released before their roster bonuses are due on March 18. Zach Ertz is also another likely candidate to be moved this offseason, even though he's expressed his desire to finish his career in Philadelphia. 

But that still won't be enough savings for the Eagles. Here's more from BGN's Brandon Lee Gowton on how the Birds can get under the expected $180 million cap...

Let’s say the Eagles cut Jackson, Jeffery, Ertz, and Goodwin before March 17. Doing so would clear $29.7 million, which means the Eagles would still be $13.2 million OVER the cap.

It’s apparent, then, that the Eagles are going to have restructure some contracts just to get under the cap.

It should be noted that restructures only serve to free up space in the short-term at the expense of decreasing future flexibility. The Eagles should ideally be looking to restructure contracts of players who will be around more than just this year.

Brandon Graham seems like one of the least painful restructures the Eagles could make. The Eagles can clear about $8.9 million by reworking his contract, according to Over The Cap.

Fletcher Cox ($11.2 million), Lane Johnson ($6.9 million), Slay ($7.6 million), Javon Hargrave ($8.8 million) Brandon Brooks ($7.1 million), and Isaac Seumalo ($2.3 million) are the other main considerations.  []

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