The Eagles are not trading for Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson.
Let’s get the formalities out of the way right now. The rumor, relayed by CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, has morphed into a full-blown discussion point by an Eagles fanbase who knows their team is going to be sitting out free agency this off-season and is desperate for their team to make one of their traditional splashes.
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.
And yes, La Canfora is correct that the Eagles’ quiet first two days of free agency is different than what we’ve seen from this team in recent seasons. I’m sure it’s frustrating for Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie to sit on the sidelines while most of the rest of the NFL is enjoying the free agent period. And make no mistake, putting Watson in Midnight Green would be a most welcome off-season move, a true adrenaline shot into the arms of the fanbase. He is one of the best young passers in the NFL and possesses a skill set that turns virtually any good team into a Super Bowl contender. But there are a number of reasons why this won’t, and shouldn’t, happen.
- The price could be prohibitive. What would it take to land Watson? In four seasons with the Texans, he has a 104.5 rating and has averaged 3,634 yards passing per season with 26 TDs and 9 INTs. He’s made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons and, even in a 4-12 season in 2020, put up a career high 112.4 rating, threw for an NFL best 4,823 yards, along with 33 TDs, 7 INTs, and a 70.2% completion percentage, all career-bests. He led the NFL in yards per attempt (8.9), too.
In other words, Watson is going to cost any team that drafts him some major capital. At least two first round picks would go in any deal to Houston, potentially three. The Eagles would also likely have to include Jalen Hurts or some other young player in a deal.
Yes, the Eagles have a lot of draft capital with which to work, four of the first 85 picks in the draft, as well as another potential first-rounder next year if Carson Wentz’ time in Indianapolis is successful. They have 11 picks in this draft, including Nos. 6, 37, 70, and 85. But...
- Why give those picks away to jump start the Texans rebuild when the Eagles have a rebuild of their own underway? Of course, the argument will be made that the Eagles are inept when it comes to the draft, and that certainly is a viable argument, and if you’re an NFL team that is close to being a playoff contender, the cost for Watson is worth it. He’s a QB upon whom a team can build around for the next 5-7 years. But the Eagles have too many holes to consider throwing away that much draft capital on one player, even if that player is as talented as Watson.
The Eagles are now under the salary cap but not by much, and there are only so many contracts you can restructure and only so much money you can punt down the road in order to give you some maneuverability. They’ve left themselves no wiggle room for the 2021 roster, which means they’ll have to draft wisely this year and select some players who they expect to contribute in a meaningful way in their rookie seasons. It also means they won’t be able to afford Watson unless they trade away some other big money contracts.
This year, Watson’s cap hit is a very reasonable $15.9 million, so it’s conceivable Roseman could move enough money around to squeeze him in this year but...
- What do they do to fill holes at certain positions in which there is almost nothing on the shelves? The wide receiver and safety rooms are in serious need of reinforcements and the offensive line has fallen upon hard times, too. Watson’s cap number jumps to $40.4 million in 2022 and $42.4 million in ‘23, and while Wentz’ contract will be off the books, the shortage of quality players at other positions should persuade the Eagles to once again take advantage of a QB’s rookie contract.
The Eagles were able to add valuable pieces around Carson Wentz in 2017 because Wentz was still in the second year of his rookie deal. It’s a huge advantage that smart teams take advantage of and the Eagles, after this year, will have another opportunity to do just that.
- The Eagles also still have Jalen Hurts. Just one year ago, Roseman spent a second round pick on his next QB Factory widget, a controversial pick that helped run Wentz out of town. No one knows what Hurts is going to be as an NFL quarterback and it’s almost certain he won’t be as good as Watson is right now, but does that mean the Eagles should give up on a player they invested a second round pick in just 12 months ago?
Hurts was decent in his four games as an Eagles starter, but there are clearly many holes still in his game. He is a big enough question mark that the Birds could select another QB in this year’s draft with the No. 6 overall pick. If Roseman goes that route, he’ll save money on his quarterback room while the team digs out of salary cap hell, and he’ll also get to see if the quarterback he drafted so highly just one year ago really was worth that selection.
At the end of the day, the Eagles are a team in need of a full roster overhaul. They are not one great QB away from returning to the playoffs and, as Watson showed last year in Houston, even a great season from Deshaun can’t save a bad team from a 4-12 record.
The Eagles have a lot of work to do to rebuild the roster, get younger, and get their cap situation right. It’s simply the wrong time for them to trade for a player like Deshaun Watson.