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April 09, 2021

NFL trade rumors: There's too much smoke to ignore the Eagles' interest in Deshaun Watson anymore

If smoke always means fire, then someone should call the proper authorities to deal with the raging rumors linking the Eagles to embattled QB Deshaun Watson. For at least the fourth time in the last several weeks, Howie Roseman and the Birds have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Watson should the Texans decide to trade him. 

Before we can even talk about a trade, there is a monster caveat that needs to be discussed: the pending civil suits against Watson from nearly two dozen massage therapists who claim Watson made unwanted sexual advances toward them while they were treating him. Those matters would not only need to be settled, but any team acquiring Watson would need to make sure there's no legal fallout — a criminal case could also be in the works after a complaint was filed to the Houston Police Department — nor any fallout from the league, like the possibility of being placed on the commissioner's exempt list. 

And beyond that, there's the simple idea of making a person accused of being a serial predator the face of your franchise, and if things get settled out of court there will never be a solid answer as to what exactly Watson is and isn't guilty of. That's a dangerous grey area in which to operate, not unlike the one the Phillies found themselves in with Odubel Herrera. 

While that saga plays out in court, it appears the Eagles are one of the teams to watch when it comes to making a trade for Watson. Here's the latest from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk:

Yes, the Eagles. They have Jalen Hurts and Joe Flacco, but Deshaun Watson has proven that he’s a franchise quarterback, and one of the best players in the NFL. As one league source explains it, the Eagles are sufficiently determined to upgrade the team that they would pursue Watson, if the window opens for doing so.

Before the Eagles (who gave Mike Vick his second chance in 2009) can justify pursuing Watson, the legal issues would need to be resolved. The question becomes whether the Eagles would be comfortable making the trade even if Watson eventually is suspended for some, most, or all of the 2021 season, based on the allegations made against him, even if they are resolved. []

Obviously, the legal situation is the biggest hurdle for a trade, especially from the Eagles' perspective. If they decide it's worth it from a PR standpoint, then things get interesting, as the trade almost certainly makes sense from a football perspective. Adding Watson would be a major upgrade over Jalen Hurts and Joe Flacco, and given the quarterback's recent off-field troubles, the Eagles could potentially get him at a discount. Here's more from Florio:

A huge part of the equation becomes the trade compensation that the Texans will want for Watson. Whatever they could have gotten four weeks ago, they won’t get that now. The most fair trade for both teams (whoever the second team is) would consist of conditional picks hinging on when and whether he’s able to play in 2021.  []

Before any of the legal issues surfaced, Watson had already expressed a desire to leave Houston, one that the Texans balked at and said they wouldn't be moving on from the talented young quarterback, but as more and more accusers come forward, it's worth wondering if the organization is simply ready to move on from a guy who not only is accused of a terrible crime but also has no interest in being there. 

It was that desire to be traded that first put the Eagles on the radar when it came to Watson, with reports popping up as early as mid-March. 

First, there was this report from Jason La Canfora on March 17:

Do not discount the Philadelphia Eagles as a strong suitor for Deshaun Watson. Too many sources with ties to ownership have whispered that sentiment my way for me to ignore.

And the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. The more you wonder why you hadn't explored the avenue sooner. The more you ponder why more isn't being reported on this front. Because crazier things have happened in the league, by a long shot.  [CBS Sports]

That was followed up by this report a couple days later from Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who also mentioned Russell Wilson as a possibility for the Eagles:

A trade for any caliber of quarterback is possible, but nothing would move the needle like an exchange for Watson or the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. It would take significant cost. Seattle reportedly turned down three first-round picks, a third rounder, and two players for the 31-year-old Wilson.

Watson is five years younger and would presumably cost more. He reportedly wants out, and has a no-trade clause, but Houston has said it has no intentions of trading the quarterback.

“Howie will give up everything he has for Watson,” an NFL source familiar with the Eagles’ thinking said.  []

That very same day, March 19, there was also a report from Houston Chronicle writer Aaron Wilson in which he mentions five potential suitors for Watson: the Eagles, Panthers, Jets, Dolphins, 49ers and Broncos.

The Panthers just traded for Sam Darnold. The Jets are almost certainly going to draft Zach Wilson with the second pick in the draft. The 49ers just moved up to the third spot, likely with intentions of taking a quarterback of their own. That's several teams named by Wilson who would appear to be out of the running just a few weeks later. Of course, if a player of Watson's caliber becomes available, all bets are off. 

And just two days ago, Wilson updated his report to say that the Eagles and Dolphins are the two teams who "continue to monitor" the Watson situation, adding that the Texans have not had any trade discussions but have listened to offers. 

At first, this writer was inclined to largely ignore the Watson-to-the-Eagles rumors. Philly is the team that is thrown into almost any trade rumor, in part as leverage but also because Roseman is just crazy enough to possibly try to pull off a move like this, so it really wasn't that surprising to see them linked to a top quarterback in the wake of trading away their own QB in Carson Wentz. 

It was a fun topic to discuss, especially with the Eagles being a team in a rebuild and not necessarily the type of landing spot you'd expect for an established quarterback looking to win some games. Sure, adding Watson would greatly accelerate that process, but it would also come a cost detrimental to the rebuild, as the Eagles currently need all the draft picks they can get their hands on. Part of that is because they have so many holes to fill, but the other part is Roseman's recent struggles making the proper picks. Quite simply, the more chances you have, the more likely you are to hit. And adding Watson would relieve the Eagles of several of those chances. 

Beyond that, there's the cap question and whether or not Watson would be any happier here than he was in Texas, especially given what happened to Wentz in his final two seasons in Philly.

It still seems like the Eagles (or any team for that matter) are a long shot to land Watson at this point, at least until his legal troubles reach a resolution. And maybe not even then depending on how this plays out. But we now have multiple local (from both cities, mind you) and national writers (from totally different outlets) linking the Birds to Watson. 

The Eagles are clearly interested in upgrading their roster at the quarterback position, even with Hurts in the picture, they were already rumored to be interested getting one in the draft before trading back. They've been linked to Russell Wilson. And now, for what feels like the millionth time this month, they've been linked to Watson.

Whether or not something happens remains to be seen, but it's getting harder and harder to look past these rumors. There's just too much smoke for there not to be a fire, right? 

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