As the Eagles enter the offseason, there will be plenty of noise surrounding their decision at the quarterback position. Jalen Hurts made major strides as the full-time starter in 2021 and at 23 years old, could blossom even further. Normally, a young signal-caller coming off his first postseason appearance is viewed as a future cornerstone of the franchise.
However, Hurts’ biggest flaws were once again on full display in the playoff loss to the Buccaneers. While the Eagles’ decision shouldn’t be based solely on one game, their current cache of three first-round picks coupled with the potential availability of some elite-level arms presents a very rare chance to land a star at the game’s most important position. With that, here is the case in favor of trading for Russell Wilson.
Rumors of Wilson’s demise are greatly exaggerated. He had his worst season in four years and still finished 5th in the NFL in passer rating. The 33-year old closed the year throwing 15 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions in his final 7 games. The Seahawks went 6-8 in his starts, but that was while playing in a division that produced three playoff teams.
This season, Wilson missed the first three games of his career due to a broken finger. Prior to his injury in the fifth game, he had compiled a passer rating of 129.9 on the year and had yet to throw an interception. Following surgery, Wilson rushed back to try to keep the Seahawks’ season alive and struggled mightily in a couple of national TV games. The narrative that he was on a sharp decline and not worth trading for was formed, and for some reason, the rest of his season — which proved the contrary — was largely ignored.
He is still an elite quarterback who can carry a team to the playoffs routinely, regardless of his supporting cast or age. We’re talking at least five more seasons of top-shelf play.
Wilson has a no-trade clause so if he’s unwilling to waive it to come to the Eagles, any potential deal is dead on arrival. The hope is he’s tired of playing behind patchwork offensive lines, sees some young weapons he can work with and views the NFC East as an easier path to the postseason. There’s a report that he’d only waive the no-trade to go to the Saints, Broncos or Giants. New Orleans is in cap hell. In Denver, he’d have to compete with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert just to win his own division. And while Philly doesn’t offer every opportunity that living in New York does, Wilson would have to prioritize off-field aspirations over football if he chose to play for an organization that’s tied for the fewest wins in the league over the last five years.
The next question: Are the Eagles close enough to contention that making a move for Wilson is worth it? In short, yes. Acquiring a quarterback of his caliber can cover up for so many other roster deficiencies. While their current blue-chip players are nearing the end of their careers, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson are still playing at an elite level. Having Wilson in place would help bridge the gap from that group of stars to the next. He could even help make Philly a free-agent destination for other established veterans looking to join a winner.
The draft pick compensation
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah proposed sending all three first-round picks this year along with the Eagles’ second-round selection in 2023 for Wilson. That seems like an exceedingly steep price, but I think a manageable offer is two of this year’s firsts along with next year’s first-rounder.
The Eagles are dealing from a surplus of draft capital. Last April, they walked away with DeVonta Smith 10th overall, an outcome the front office and fans alike would’ve been happy with had they just stood pat with the 6th pick. They didn’t give up any assets and came away with a player they coveted, plus an additional first-rounder. When viewed through that lens, it’s essentially a free pick just for working the phones. Plus, they have the Carson Wentz selection from the Colts. Sure, they gave up an asset there, but considering how quickly it’s depreciating, that almost feels like a freebie first-rounder too!
In my trade scenario, the Eagles would retain more than an entire year’s worth of draft picks in 2022: A selection in every round but the seventh, plus two additional picks in the fifth. Yes, they’d be down a first-rounder in 2023, but this wouldn’t empty the coffers like the trade up to take Wentz in 2016 did. They could still use all eight remaining 2022 picks to give the defense a much-needed overhaul.
Additionally, Hurts probably still carries the value of a second-round pick after being taken 53rd overall in 2020. He proved more than competent while still possessing some major upside. There will be plenty of QB-needy teams and I think flipping him would not be an issue to help recoup some lost draft capital.
Plus, Howie Roseman’s recent first-round picks outside of Smith are routinely panned and the league-wide percentages indicate he’s only likely to hit on two of his next four first-rounders anyway. Moving three of them for an established Hall of Fame talent takes away the risk.
Wilson has two years remaining on his deal, counting $37 million against Seattle’s cap this year and $40 million in 2023. Since the Seahawks are the ones responsible for all his signing bonus money, trading Wilson would leave a $26 million dead cap hit but save them $11 million overall. The acquiring team would be on the hook for $24 million this year and $27 million in 2023. That’s certainly far from cap-crippling and less than the Eagles had earmarked for the position before they traded Wentz and his hefty deal.
Just two years of Wilson probably isn’t worth three first-round picks, but I would assume if Wilson is willing to come to Philly and the Eagles are giving up major assets, the two sides would hammer out an extension. Tacking on three years and another $100 million seems like it could be a starting point. You can spread the bonus money over the five years to make it more palatable throughout. Five years total in the $150 million range works out to $30 million per season against the cap. And that’s before Roseman does his regular cap gymnastics to tack on some dummy years to the back end of the deal to spread the hit even further.
The other options
In an ideal world, you’d give Hurts another season to see if he can take even greater strides and still have your three first-round picks to deal for an established star next offseason. The problem is those picks (barring some more heavy maneuvering from Roseman) and those same star quarterbacks won’t be available in a year’s time.
DeShaun Watson brings other baggage but if his legal troubles are settled and he can be had for a similar price (or perhaps slightly higher), the Eagles would likely jump at that chance. A 26-year old quarterback with three Pro Bowls under his belt being made available is the rarest of commodities. Yet some reports have indicated Watson is unwilling to accept a trade to the Eagles. If that doesn’t change (again, that’s also the biggest hurdle with Wilson too) Watson’s not an option.
Some have bandied about names like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo. I don’t think whatever added ability you get, if any, outweighs the assets you’d be giving up in terms of picks and/or money. Simply put, if you aren’t getting an elite quarterback, it’s not worth it. I look at the upgrade the Vikings thought they were making from Case Keenum to Kirk Cousins following their appearance in the 2017 NFC Championship Game. They’ve been to the playoffs once in the four years since due in large part to the cap space Cousins occupies.
As for this year’s draft class of quarterbacks, that’s a non-starter. If the Eagles weren’t willing to take quality prospects like Justin Fields or Mac Jones after Hurts’ four-game stint as a starter in 2020, surely, they aren’t racing to the podium to take someone from this unimpressive group. And even if they viewed one of them as a potential franchise changer, they’d likely end up having to trade up using multiple first-rounders anyway. Next year’s crop could feature some top-level talent in Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young, but the Eagles will need to be near the top of the draft to have any prayer of moving up to select either one.
The Eagles organization is hell-bent on having a top-10 offense fueled by a passing game with an elite quarterback at the helm. Plus, they’re still kicking themselves for not drafting Wilson in the first place. They waited too long to pull the trigger and watched him go 13 picks before their third-round selection in 2012. Roseman ended up using that pick on the only quarterback to ever bring a Lombardi trophy to Philadelphia, Nick Foles. Landing Wilson is their best shot to get their hands on another.
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