Jalen Hurts

Eagles Planning Quarterback Competition?

New Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni says that he will not automatically anoint Jalen Hurts as the team’s starting quarterback. Instead, as James Palmer of the NFL Network tweets, Sirianni plans to hold an open competition for the starting job.

At present, the only other QB on the roster is veteran Joe Flacco, whom Philadelphia signed to a one-year, $3.5MM deal last month. Flacco has enjoyed plenty of success in his lengthy career, highlighted by a Super Bowl MVP award, but he has dealt with injuries in recent seasons and has not been a full-time starter since the first half of the 2018 campaign. Hurts, meanwhile, is entering his second season in the league, and while there are still questions about his long-term viability, his brief audition in 2020 had its share of promising moments.

Barring a complete disaster, Sirianni’s job won’t be on the line in 2021, so he shouldn’t feel any pressure to lean on the more experienced hand over a high-upside talent like Hurts. And considering owner Jeffrey Lurie‘s recent comments that he wants his club to build around the second-year pro, it would be very surprising to see anyone other than Hurts under center on Week 1. Perhaps the rookie HC is simply honing his coach-speak skills.

Of course, Sirianni’s alleged plans for a QB competition immediately spurred speculation that the team could take a quarterback with its first-round choice in next week’s draft. But if the Eagles were going to do that, they probably wouldn’t have traded down from the No. 6 overall pick to No. 12. By the time they are on the clock with the No. 12 selection, all five top QB prospects could be gone.

A recent report suggested that Philadelphia could be eyeing a move back into the top-10, but that same report indicated that the team is also interested in another trade down. Further, if the Eagles were to move back up the board, it might not be for a QB at all, but for a cornerback or wide receiver.

At this point, unless Hurts should suffer an injury or spectacularly underperform during training camp, he still looks like the odds-on favorite to be the Eagles’ starting QB, Sirianni’s “open competition” remarks notwithstanding.

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Eagles Could Move Up In First Round?

After having made one blockbuster trade involving first-round picks, the Eagles might not be done. Albert Breer of SI.com writes that the Eagles could look to move back up in the first round.

The Eagles currently sit with the No. 12 pick in the draft, and Breer writes that the team could spend assets to move into the top-10 while still coming out ahead (when combined with their deal with the Dolphins). The writer speculates that the front office could target a cornerback in a hypothetical trade-up scenario, although Breer doesn’t discount the chances that the team would take a quarterback; this would be a significant pivot after the team selected Jalen Hurts in the second round of last year’s draft.

Alternatively, Breer hints that the Eagles are also sniffing around at trade scenarios that would see them move back even further in the first round. If the Eagles are indeed seeking a cornerback, this path would make some sense, as there’s a chance the team is perfectly fine with any of the top-three players at the position (Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain, Caleb Farley).

Either way, it sounds like the No. 12 pick could be on the block, and that particular selection has switched teams multiple times this offseason. That selection was originally owned by the 49ers, and it was sent to Miami (along with a 2021 third-rounder and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023) in a trade that brought the No. 3 pick to San Francisco. Then, Miami went and traded that No. 12 pick (plus a 2022 first-round pick) to the Eagles for No. 6 and No. 156.

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NFC East Notes: Rudolph, Eagles, Cowboys

Kyle Rudolph is expected to undergo foot surgery soon, and he may be in for extensive rehab. The new Giants tight end is believed to be dealing with a Lisfranc injury, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets. The troublesome foot malady can be difficult to shake, but Rudolph expects to be ready for Week 1. This injury is similar to what Evan Engram dealt with in 2019. Engram underwent surgery to address his Lisfranc issue in December 2019 and was ready for training camp last year. Rudolph’s timetable is considerably more condensed, which likely led to the delay in the veteran tight end signing his Giants contract. Engram and Rudolph would give the Giants one of the NFL’s top tight end tandems, but the former’s injury history and the latter’s current issue cloud that situation to some degree.

Here is more from the NFC East:

  • GM Howie Roseman and Eagles scouts had differing opinions on which players to select with the team’s top two draft choices last year. The veteran GM and Eagles coaches’ preference for Jalen Reagor won out over the consensus scouts’ preference: Justin Jefferson. Roseman also veered from his scouts’ recommendation in Round 2, tabbing Jalen Hurts over safety Jeremy Chinn, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. The Eagles will bank on the latter move this season, having since traded Carson Wentz and seemingly signed Joe Flacco to back up Hurts. Chinn went to the Panthers at No. 64 — 11 picks after Hurts — and finished second in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Going to the Vikings one pick after Reagor, Jefferson finished second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.
  • Frank Reich‘s future took a major turn in 2018, when Josh McDaniels‘ backtracking on his Colts commitment ended up re-routing the Eagles OC to Indianapolis. This came shortly after Reich played a key role in the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship. Reich nearly saw his status change in 2017, however. A front office push for Reich’s firing existed, according to McLane, who adds Doug Pederson managed to save Reich’s job. In Wentz’s first season — a 7-9 Eagles campaign, which was also Reich’s first as Eagles OC — the team ranked 22nd in total offense. They rose to seventh in 2017, with Wentz finishing first in QBR. The Eagles, who promoted Mike Groh to replace Reich and then fired Groh after the 2019 season, have since hired Reich’s top Colts protégé (Nick Sirianni) as head coach.
  • Brandon Graham agreed to restructure his deal to provide the Eagles with additional cap space last month. Graham’s adjusted contract can be classified as a one-year extension, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweeting the new deal is worth nearly $20MM over two years. The Eagles converted Graham’s salaries into prorated bonuses, with the 11-year veteran set to earn barely $1MM in base salary in each of the next three seasons. The team tacked on three void years to the contract, per OverTheCap, which indicates each of Graham’s cap numbers over the life of this through-2023 contract are south of $10MM.
  • After hiring Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator, the Cowboys brought both Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee over from Atlanta. The latter’s deal will be worth the veteran minimum, according to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer (on Twitter). Kazee will count just $988K against the Cowboys’ cap. Attempting to return from an Achilles tear, Kazee will collect $250K guaranteed.

Jeffrey Lurie Wants Eagles To Prioritize Jalen Hurts As QB1

Rather than the Eagles using their No. 6 overall pick to bring in a potential future franchise quarterback, Jeffrey Lurie wants his team to operate with a Jalen Hurts-centric mindset this offseason.

The longtime Eagles owner would prefer the front office build around Hurts, per Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com, rather than bring in true competition for their 2020 second-round pick. The Eagles were expected to attempt to add competition for Hurts; the franchise’s focus may be shifting.

Following last month’s Carson Wentz trade, the Eagles were linked to potentially adding a first-round quarterback. Hurts started four games as a rookie, and while the ex-Alabama and Oklahoma standout provided a bit of a boost for a slumping offense late in the season, he completed 52% of his passes and struggled in his final two outings. Hurts does provide a rushing component that the Eagles did not have with Wentz, however.

Philadelphia’s quarterback situation has changed dramatically in recent weeks. The Eagles’ hiring process is believed to have taken on a Wentz-centric tone, with team brass then prioritizing a coach who could revive their since-traded passer’s career. After dealing the quarterback they once traded up for and then extended in 2019, the Eagles may well make a legitimate attempt to determine if Hurts is the answer.

Adding a quarterback at No. 6 would create true competition, but the Eagles may now be in the market for a later-round backup or veteran insurance behind Hurts. Philly could opt to add a wide receiver in Round 1 for the second straight year or auction off its pick to a QB-seeking team.

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Eagles To Consider Drafting QB In First Round

After the Eagles traded Carson Wentz earlier this week, we heard that the team was not expected to turn the reins over to Jalen Hurts without having him earn the job. Zach Berman of The Athletic confirms that Philadelphia is likely to sign a free agent passer, and Tim McManus of ESPN.com says he expects the team to seriously consider drafting a QB with the No. 6 overall pick.

According to McManus, there were mixed opinions of Hurts within the organization in the runup to last year’s draft. While owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman were among his advocates, the club did not necessarily select Hurts with the idea that he would become the team’s long-term answer at quarterback. Rather, the Eagles invest a great deal of draft and financial capital into the quarterback position as a matter of course, and Hurts simply represented a good value when Philly was on the clock in the second round of the 2020 draft.

In his four-game audition last year, Hurts certainly did enough to suggest that he can, in fact, be a franchise quarterback, but there were some concerns as well. For instance, his 52% completion percentage was lowest among all QBs that attempted at least 100 passes, and he ranked 27th among 41 quarterbacks with at least 150 passing plays in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, according to TruMedia. Obviously, the limited sample size makes it impossible to draw any definitive conclusions about Hurts’ future, but by the same token, the Eagles — who usually aren’t picking as high as they are this year — would be remiss if they did not take a hard look at the top collegiate passers in the 2021 draft.

Trevor Lawrence will be selected by the Jaguars with the No. 1 overall pick, but after that, it’s impossible to predict how the quarterback dominos will fall. The Eagles might have a shot at one of BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, but all three players could be off the board by the time the sixth pick rolls around. As such, Philadelphia might need to orchestrate a trade-up if they want one of those passers, and given that the club is already in salary cap hell, draft assets are especially valuable this year.

On the other hand, it’s not every day that you get a chance to select a premier collegiate quarterback, so if Roseman & Co. feel strongly enough about a player like Wilson, Fields, or Lance, they might have to bite the bullet. The Eagles’ salary cap picture should look much rosier in 2022, and at that point, they could have two promising young QBs playing under rookie contracts, which would be an enviable scenario.

As for the free agent quarterbacks that could be brought in, Berman names Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor, and Andy Dalton as potential targets. There are no concrete reports linking those players to Philadelphia at this point, but even if the Eagles draft a quarterback, they still might offer the clearest path to playing time for a passer in that free agent tier.

If the Eagles do not elect to draft a QB with the No. 6 selection, Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP sees the team picking an offensive or defensive lineman (Twitter link).

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Carson Wentz Fallout: Hurts, Patriots, Pederson

The Carson Wentz era in Philadelphia came to an end today, as the former second-overall pick was dealt to the Colts. However, just because Wentz was sent packing, that doesn’t necessarily mean Jalen Hurts will slide into the starting spot. Sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen that the Eagles intend to bring in “competition” at quarterback, and the “starting job is not expected to automatically go to Hurts.”

The Eagles made a significant commitment to Hurts when they selected him in the second round of last year’s draft, and the former Alabama/Oklahoma standout showed flashes of potential during the 2020 season. Hurts ultimately started four of his 15 appearances this past season, completing 52 percent of his passes for 1,061 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions. He added another 354 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 63 carries.

It’s pretty clear that Hurts is the heir apparent at the quarterback spot, so this report is probably mostly lip service … teams don’t want their young players to rest on their laurels. Rather, the team is likely looking toward a veteran free agent who will provide some extra motivation to the young signal caller.

Let’s check out some more Wentz-centric notes:

  • The Colts ended up sending Philly a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick. According to Zak Keefer of The Athletic, Indy’s offer “hadn’t changed all that much across 10 days of negotiations.” The Colts front office ultimately believed the compensation was “fair,” and they never intended to “meet the Eagles’ initial demands of multiple first-round picks.” Per Keefer, the Colts understood that Wentz wasn’t their only option to replace Philip Rivers, and the front office was weighing other options while negotiating with Philadelphia.
  • We learned earlier today that the Bears had inquired on Wentz but never made a definitive offer. The same goes for the Patriots. According to Jeff Howe of the The Athletic, New England called the Eagles about the quarterback but lost interest when they heard the asking price. As the reporter notes, the Patriots are unlikely to “overpay for a veteran if it’s not a perfect fit,” especially at this point in the offseason.
  • How did it get to this point between Wentz and the Eagles? ESPN’s Tim McManus writes that the drafting of Hurts may have marked the “beginning of the end,” but there were plenty of additional factors that came into play during the 2020 season. As the Eagles losses and injuries continued to mount, (former) head coach Doug Pederson stripped Wentz of “much of his control over the offense.” As a result, Wentz vicariously lost faith in his head coach and the system.
  • Wentz didn’t just lose faith in Pederson. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Wentz “lost faith in [general manager Howie Roseman‘s] decision making. Wentz held a similar sentiment toward owner Jeffrey Lurie, who supported his GM and the front office’s decision to select Hurts in the second round.

Carson Wentz Not Interested In QB2 Role

As expected, the future of Carson Wentz in Philadelphia is fast becoming a hot topic in the NFL news cycle. This morning, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com published a report saying that Wentz is not interested in being a backup quarterback and will ask to be traded if Jalen Hurts continues as the team’s starter.

Obviously, no player wants to be a backup, especially a player like Wentz who is not too far removed from being a legitimate MVP candidate and whose massive contract has quickly turned into an albatross. But if his goal is to get a fresh start somewhere else, then leaking his unhappiness might not be the best way to go about it, as it could hurt the Eagles’ leverage with other clubs and add another layer of complexity to trade talks.

According to Schefter, Wentz is unhappy with how his benching has unfolded. It seems his primary point of contention is that head coach Doug Pederson has not said whether the switch to Hurts is permanent, though sources tell ESPN and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) that the rookie passer will remain the starter for the rest of the regular season (and presumably into the playoffs if Philadelphia should qualify). Schefter’s report also lends credence to prior rumblings that Wentz’s confidence was shaken when Hurts was selected in the second round of this year’s draft.

Just last week, we heard that the Eagles are committed to Wentz as their long-term solution under center, though many believe that was simply to help themselves in their seemingly inevitable trade negotiations. As we detailed in that story, the club will need to make a decision on Wentz’s future by the second day of the 2021 league year, which will be sometime in the middle of March. On the third day of the league year, Wentz’s 2022 base salary of $22MM becomes fully-guaranteed, and he will receive a $10MM roster bonus for 2021.

In addition to the Colts, Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP sees the Patriots, Broncos, and 49ers as potential trade partners.

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Eagles To Stick With Jalen Hurts As Starter

The Eagles are sticking with Jalen Hurts as their starting quarterback, head coach Doug Pederson announced. Hurts — starting in place of Carson Wentz — impressed on Sunday as he led the Eagles to a 24-21 win over the Saints.

[RELATED: Eagles To Keep Carson Wentz?]

Thanks in part to Hurts, the Eagles snapped a four-game skid and kept their playoff hopes alive. Now, the Birds are a mere 1.5 games back of the Washington Football Team for the NFC East lead.

Hurts completed 17-of-30 passes against the Saints. More importantly, he dazzled on the ground. His 18 carries for 106 yards put him in rarified air — he’s just the fifth Eagles quarterback to rush for 100 yards in the Super Bowl era, joining the likes of Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, and Randall Cunningham.

Meanwhile, the Eagles will need to decide on Wentz’s fate by the second day of the 2021 league year in March. On Day 3, Wentz’s 2022 base salary of $22MM gets locked in and he’ll receive a $10MM roster bonus for 2021. Cutting Wentz would result in a massive dead cap hit of nearly $60MM, but a trade would be much more palatable for their finances.

If the Eagles aren’t able to squeeze into the playoffs, they’ll have many more decisions to make, including the fate of Pederson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles To Start Jalen Hurts, Bench Carson Wentz

Well it’s official, Carson Wentz is being sent to the bench. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has made his decision and he’ll be starting Jalen Hurts under center for their Week 14 game against the Saints, sources told Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

It’s not a surprising move considering Hurts replaced Wentz during Sunday’s loss to the Packers and moved the ball much better, but it sure is a monumental one. Whether this is the end of Wentz’s run in Philly remains to be seen, as his contract now looms over the franchise. The second overall pick of the 2020 draft is due over $50MM in guaranteed money over the next two seasons after this one.

It’s very hard to envision him not being on the roster in 2021, unless the Eagles are willing to absorb a massive dead cap hit. They could look to trade him, although needless to say it won’t be easy to iron out a deal.It’s fair to say Philadelphia brass brought this quarterback controversy upon themselves by drafting Hurts in the second-round back in April. Whether that pick shattered Wentz’s confidence or whatever else, his play had regressed to atrocious levels. He leads the league in interceptions, and nobody else is even a close second.

It’s anyone’s guess what Hurts will look like in an offense with a shaky offensive line and inconsistent pass-catchers, but he can’t be any worse than Wentz statistically at this point. It’s possible Pederson is making this move now in an attempt to save his own job, as we heard a couple of days ago that the coach who won the Super Bowl just a few years ago is on the hot seat.

It’s a remarkable fall from grace for Wentz, as at this point last year he was being widely praised for helping the Eagles storm back and win the NFC East. It wasn’t too long ago that Wentz was considered an MVP candidate before going down with a torn ACL and LCL. But things change fast in the NFL, and unfortunately injuries robbed Wentz of the chance to have any memorable postseason moments with the team the past few seasons. There’s a lot still left to be written, but it looks like this could be the beginning of the end for Wentz in Philadelphia.

Hurts, the 53rd pick of April’s draft, accomplished a ton in college at both Alabama and Oklahoma. As ridiculous as it sounds, the 3-8-1 Eagles are still alive in the pitiful NFC East. It’ll be interesting to see if Hurts sparks something in this locker room, or if their struggles continue just as much as before.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Sherman, Wentz, Rivers

Richard Sherman made a triumphant return to the 49ers last week, picking off Jared Goff to help upset the Rams in a must-win game. The star cornerback wasn’t basking in the glow of that victory this week though, as he bluntly talked about his future with Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports. In the interview, Sherman said he doesn’t expect to be back in San Francisco next season. “We’ve had brief conversations,” Sherman said about a new contract. “I think that there’s obviously a want from both sides to come back and make this work. Unfortunately, I don’t know that the circumstances will allow it.” Expounding further, Sherman made it clear that the 49ers are going to have to extend a lot of their core guys soon, and there simply might not be enough money left over for him.

There are a ton of guys that need to be paid and are coming up,” he said. “Fred Warner is coming up. There are, like, 40 free agents who need to be re-signed. At the end of the day, they have to do what’s best for the majority, for the team. And I got to understand that. And so the numbers are adding up to that I won’t be here, unless something miraculous happens, which would be really cool.” Sherman, who serves as his own agent, doesn’t seem to harbor any hard feelings about this potential reality. It’s a mature and nuanced take for a star player to have. The former Seahawks All-Pro has remained very productive since joining the 49ers in 2018, but he’s missed almost all of this season with a calf injury. He’ll be a free agent in March.

  • The big story of Week 13 so far has been the benching of Carson Wentz. Doug Pederson finally pulled the plug and inserted Jalen Hurts in the second half of Philly’s loss to Green Bay, and the rookie immediately provided a spark. He threw for a touchdown on a fourth and 19, and moved the offense much better than Wentz did even though he did have a game-sealing interception at the end. But speaking after the finish, Pederson wasn’t ready to announce his plans for Week 14. In his post-game press conference, the Super Bowl winning coach declined to name a starter and insisted his mind wasn’t made up yet. That being said, it would be pretty shocking if it wasn’t Hurts. When a coach declines to say his usual starter will be out there the next week, he almost always ends up getting replaced during the week. With more than $50MM in guaranteed money still coming his way over the next couple years, it’s anyone’s guess what the Eagles will do with Wentz, who leads the league in interceptions with 15.
  • Philip Rivers led the Colts to their eighth win of the season Sunday, beating the Texans and moving back into a tie for first place in the AFC South. But although he’ll continue to play, Rivers is apparently dealing with a very significant injury. The veteran passer is dealing with a “plantar plate rupture” in his foot, which can essentially be described as a really bad case of turf toe, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports (Twitter video link). Rapoport adds that it’s bad enough that Rivers will need surgery after the season to fix it. It sounds like the kind of injury that could sideline some players, but not the Iron Man Rivers. Incredibly, the signal-caller has never missed a start since taking over the Chargers’ job all the way back in 2006. Considering he once played a playoff game on a torn ACL, this isn’t too surprising. It didn’t seem to effect him all that much on Sunday, as he carved up Houston for 285 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers.
  • In case you missed it, Titans first-round tackle Isaiah Wilson’s disaster of a rookie season got even worse this weekend when the team suspended him for violating team rules.