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April 11, 2021

Report: NFL insiders believe Eagles are looking to draft a QB as insurance or competition for Jalen Hurts

Eagles NFL
Jalen-Hurts-Eagles_092020_KF Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

When the Eagles decided to move on from Carson Wentz earlier this offseason, many believed that had more to do with their feelings about the former No. 2 overall pick than it did about the guy who replaced him under center to finish the season — the same guy they drafted with the 53rd overall pick in 2020 despite having just resigned Wentz to a monster contract. In other words, the trade was more about moving on from Wentz than it was about giving Jalen Hurts his shot.

But when they decided to trade back from sixth to 12th overall, many believed that was a clearer sign that the team had enough faith in Hurts to at least give him one season as the team's starter. After all, at six there was still a chance a top QB could fall to the Eagles — or with double-digit draft picks this year and likely multiple first-rounders in 2022, the team would have the ammunition to go up and get their guy if they truly wanted, not unlike what they did with Wentz back in 2016. 

But with the move back, it appeared the team was committing to Hurts in the short-term, especially after singing Joe Flacco — he's coming off a bad 2020 campaign and really isn't a threat to Hurts at this point in his career — rather than a better backup option who would offer more competition than mentorship for the second-year QB. 

And finally, there was the biggest sign of all that this was Hurts' team: when he literally changed his number from 2 to 1. (No, that doesn't really mean anything in practice but the symbolism there is just too much to ignore.)

But according to the latest report from ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Eagles might not be done moving in the draft — and they might not be done adding quarterbacks either. Here's more from Fowler's appearance on SportsCenter on Sunday morning... 

"One GM told me that he expects the Eagles to at least field some calls, maybe move up or down. That's just the way that GM Howie Roseman rolls; he likes to move when he can. Now, they need cornerback help as well. You look at the quarterbacks. If Trey Lance slides, if Justin Fields slides and the Eagles have a high grade on them, they could make that move. They've already moved back once, maybe they move up if they want to get the right guy.

"People I've talked to think the Eagles could go quarterback somewhere in this draft just to either get insurance for Jalen Hurts or competition for Jalen Hurts. However, the Eagles typically like to go big bodies in the first round with offensive lineman, maybe they play it safe there."  [via]

So, what did Fowler really say there?

For starters, he expects Roseman to field some calls about trading, either up or down, in the first round of the draft. That's not all that surprising, and "fielding calls" is a pretty passive phrase, hardly rising to the level of the Eagles actively looking to bring in competition for Hurts. But then he immediately mentions quarterbacks expected to go in the top half of the first round like Lance and Fields, suggesting that the Eagles could move up a few spots if one of those guys falls. And drafting either of them — or any other quarterback in the first round — would mean an instant QB competition in Philadelphia. After all, while Hurts may have more experience than either player, the Eagles would be trading up to get them, spending additional draft capital to do so, and that would likely give them the edge over Hurts in a battle simple because of what the team would be investing to trade up. 

Just a few days ago, our own Jimmy Kempski took a look at all the Eagles' options when it comes to trading up, trading back or staying put at No. 12, and came away with the belief that sticking with the 12th pick would likely be their best option. BUT, if one of the top QBs were to slide, perhaps because a QB-needy team simply becomes too infatuated with someone like Kyle Pitts or Ja'Marr Chase, then the Eagles could potentially seize that opportunity. 

There was a since-deleted report the Eagles really wanted BYU QB Zach Wilson, but with the Jets' trading away Sam Darnold, that's basically guaranteed to be out of the question as they're expected to take Wilson with the second pick. However, one of these other guys — like Lance, Fields or even Mac Jones — could tempt the Eagles just enough. Because, let's be honest, between that report about Wilson, the team's continually reported interest in Deshaun Watson, and even reports they could make a play for Russell Wilson, it stands to reason that the Eagles aren't 100% sold on Hurts. At least not yet. 

(It also makes sense why that Zach Wilson report suddenly disappeared. Once the Eagles realized they had no chance of landing him, the last thing they needed was for that to get out and cause Hurts to feel slighted, in case they don't take another QB and decide to roll with Hurts as the starter in 2021).

All of that brings us to the second part of the Fowler's report, which further solidifies the fact that the Eagles aren't fully comfortable with Hurts as the starter. In addition to the stuff on Lance and Fields, the ESPN insider also mentioned that the Eagles could be looking to add a QB "somewhere in this draft." The reasoning? To bring in competition or insurance for Hurts, neither of which sounds like something you'd do if you felt you had your franchise quarterback. 

Could that mean drafting a potential project in the later rounds? Sure. Could it mean a guy they think has been flying under the radar? Absolutely. But the one thing it definitely means is that they plan on using one of their picks — all of which they'll need to use to fill any number of holes up and down the roster — on a quarterback one year after drafting one in the second round when they could have better used that pick at almost any other position. But when Hurts fell to them, Roseman and Co. felt compelled to take him rather than allowing him to fall further. Could they find themselves in a similar position this year? It's beginning to look that way.

Obviously after just four starts in the NFL, it's far too early to give up on Hurts, especially after he showed some flashes in his rookie season while playing on an absolutely dumpster fire of an offense. His weapons were greatly limited, his offensive line was in shambles, and he was getting his first taste of NFL football. Could it have been better? Sure. Could it have been much worse? Given the circumstances, you bet. 

The Eagles have said this offseason that they're going to have competition at every position. That presumably includes at quarterback. But there was also a report that owner Jeffrey Lurie wants to build around Hurts, which would mean a competition is unnecessary. The one thing we do know is that right now, Hurts and Flacco are the only two quarterbacks on Philly's roster, which means they'll need to add at least one (and probably more) before camp arrives. 

Will that be a first-round pick? Another, even lesser free agent? Or perhaps a late-round project they can work in the background while letting Hurts get a full NFL season under his belt? Three weeks from now, we'll know a lot more... 

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