Back in January, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote a story in which he looked at where various teams were in their rebuilds and roster overhauls and said he believed the Eagles were stuck in QB purgatory with Jalen Hurts.
It’s easy to see how he got there.
Trading for Russell Wilson was always a pipe dream, and Deshaun Watson never wanted to come to Philadelphia (reportedly because he didn’t want to take Hurts’ job). Trading for Matt Ryan, Jimmy G, Kirk Cousins or anyone else never made much sense, as none are really upgrades over Hurts’ potential upside, and the lack of true blue-chip QB prospects in the ‘22 Draft means it’s unlikely GM Howie Roseman will use one of his three first round picks to move up and get one of them.
So the Eagles will head into the 2022 season with Hurts as their QB and, if you believe what Roseman and head coach Nick Sirianni have to say, they truly believe he can be their franchise quarterback.
Of course, any head coach is going to publicly support his quarterback, and I have no doubt that Hurts will maximize every ounce of his athletic ability, but the ceiling on that ability may be lower than we’re hoping. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear the team is not set on him beyond 2022, even with no clear options other than Hurts on the horizon as of now.
So yes, at quarterback, the Eagles are in purgatory, and that’s OK. Finding a franchise QB is hard and every Eagles fan is hoping Hurts makes a gigantic leap forward in his passing ability and becomes the team’s long term solution. That would be the best case scenario for all moving forward, and there is a real chance that could happen.
But the Eagles are not just in QB purgatory. The entire off-season thus far has been a contradiction in moves and roster allocation, and it appears as if the front office doesn’t have a good sense as to what its next steps should be.
At wide receiver, the Eagles reportedly pursued Calvin Ridley with the Atlanta Falcons, presumably for a first round pick, before Ridley was suspended for the ‘22 season for gambling on football. But whether it’s because other potential wideout options didn’t want to play with Hurts or in a run-heavy offense, the Eagles’ lone signing has been Zach Pascal, a slot receiver who is likely more of a No. 4 receiver than anything else. Roseman explained why the Eagles haven’t been more aggressive in getting another receiver to go with DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Dallas Goedert this winter, and why they may not spend one of their first round picks on one next month.
“And so we believe, in those three guys specifically the first two guys, they’re going to require, as their skill sets continue to get better and better, and as they get more comfortable in the offense, they are going to require more targets. So I think we have to look at, we’re kind of saying, can we also satisfy players who are going to gobble up a lot of targets while we’re trying to satisfy these young players that we think have a chance to be exceptional players.”
In other words, the Eagles plan to throw the ball more and get their top guys more targets, so there isn’t room to get aggressive with wide receivers in free agency, trades or the draft. But there are contradictions to this philosophy. Last week it was reported Roseman had re-signed defensive end Derek Barnett to a two-year contract and today, the details were made public.
CORRECTION: It’s $5.5M not $4.5M (there was a discrepancy between how the numbers were filed on two separate systems)— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) March 29, 2022
Carry on … https://t.co/rdov1FXrCF
Once you get past all the contract gimmicks, the commitment to the “It’s always him” guy is about $5.5 million for this season. It’s not awful, but is there really no one else that money could have gone to? In addition, the Birds are also giving $14 million to an aging and declining Fletcher Cox. These signings run contrary to comments made by Roseman this week regarding all the first round draft picks they currently possess.
“You’re talking about adding three players in the top 20 as opposed to maybe one player in the first 32 or in the first 40,” Roseman said. “I think it goes back to we’d hate to draft three guys and go redshirt, redshirt, redshirt — you’re blocked here, here and here...”
In one breath, Roseman doesn’t want his incoming draft picks to be blocked, yet in the next, he signs Cox to a big deal that will take snaps away from second-year tackle/edge rusher Milton Williams, and Barnett, who will undoubtedly take snaps away from any edge rusher Roseman may draft this year, too.
Roseman has acknowledged that he has a hard time letting go of franchise icons like Cox, even if that means, in this case, taking snaps away from Williams and any potential defensive tackle they may select in the first two days of the draft. The Barnett signing is particularly mystifying. Yes he’s still just 25 (he turns 26 in June), but has been injury prone and unproductive when healthy. These deals don’t make sense if Roseman truly is building for the future, with snaps for incoming rookies in mind.
The mixed messaging all comes down to this: the entire 2022 Eagles are in purgatory.
The NFC is mediocre enough that a team like the Eagles can make the playoffs next season. Even with a slightly tougher schedule, Hurts is good enough, and the rest of the division/conference is weak enough, to allow the Birds to sneak in as a wild card in the new expanded postseason.
But given their inability to upgrade at QB and WR and their willingness to bring back unproductive veteran players, it’s hard to call them Super Bowl contenders, and yet, they’ve potentially created a situation in which they will deprive young, developing players of playing time in favor of established veterans who don’t provide much on-field productivity.
To be fair, the off-season is not over. Free agents remain available, and the Eagles did make a couple very nice additions in edge rusher Haason Reddick and linebacker Kyzir White. More trades could happen as the draft approaches, and the Eagles will almost certainly make some moves in the first round to move up or trade back and potentially pick up another first rounder next year for a bite at QB in the 2023 Draft.
That said, right now, the Eagles appear to be stuck in quicksand, unable or unwilling to build on their surprise playoff appearance last year, while still being good enough to avoid being a bottom-10 team.
There are worse things than being in purgatory, that’s for sure. You just hope it’s not for long.