The Eagles’ trade with the Saints gives them options, but also puts Jalen Hurts on notice

The Eagles’ trade with the Saints gives them options, but also puts Jalen Hurts on notice

Jalen Hurts will get another shot in Philly.
Image: Getty Images

It appears that Jalen Hurts is going to get one more run as the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback, following an up-and-down 2021 season that ended with an absolute dud of a performance in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was the type of performance that is capable of sending furious, rabid Eagles fans to sports talk radio on Monday morning to set car radios on fire throughout the entire Philadelphia metropolitan area with hot takes about how badly the Eagles need to rid themselves of Hurts.

Instead, the Eagles actually moved down in this draft and sent away one of their three first-round picks in a trade with the New Orleans Saints yesterday. The Eagles gave up the 16th and 19th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft as well as a sixth-round pick, and in return they got the Saints’ No. 18 pick as well as a third rounder and a seventh rounder this year, a first-round pick next season, and a second-round pick in 2024.

The Saints are in total rebuild mode with the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL, Sean Payton, stepping down, so it makes sense for them to not only move up, but also acquire another first-round pick this year. For the Eagles, they now have 10 picks in this draft, including two first rounders to improve their roster and two first-round picks next year that could be pretty high if one or both teams fall off next season.

A choice pick next year means the Eagles could select 2021 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. With so many draft picks this season, if their two first rounders next season aren’t as high as they would like, they can package those and more along with players to try and move up in 2023 and select a new franchise quarterback then.

That means Hurts has been called for his third audition to be an NFL starting quarterback. He’s down an offensive lineman in Brandon Brooks, but Jason Kelce is coming back. They have a young, promising wide receiver corps and a strong rushing attack, which he led, that saw five players rush the ball more than 60 times, and all of them averaged more than four yards per carry. And it was Hurts who led that ground game as the Eagles’ leader in both yards (784) and yards per carry (5.6).

However, Hurts threw for more than 250 yards only once during the regular season after Week 5. The Eagles rode a ball-control offense to the expanded NFL playoffs with an 8-7 record. Then they played the Buccaneers in a wild-card game and all their flaws were exposed in embarrassing fashion.

When a team relies as heavily on the run as the Eagles did last season, and don’t throw the ball downfield often, they’re usually trying to lean on a strong defense. The Eagles, however, had the seventh-worst defense in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, and it showed in Tampa. They gave up touchdowns on two of the Bucs’ first three possessions, and the offense provided zero relief. The Eagles lost 31-15, but those 15 points came during landfill hours in the fourth quarter, in which the Bucs started the final session up 31-0.

The Eagles’ offense generated four first downs in the first half. Hurts threw for 258 yards in that game, but 107 of them came after the 31-0 deficit. He ran for 39 yards and the team ran for 95 in total. Everyone looked inept on the field that day, especially Hurts. He looked like he was more than outmatched by the defending Super Bowl champions, he appeared in over his head. Watching that game, even the most diehard Eagles fans should have been able to tell after that second-quarter drive that started with an exciting Hurts run, and ended with a failed 4th and 10, that offense couldn’t compete.

With a weak quarterback class, and the best one, Malik Willis, likely to be selected before pick No. 16, the Eagles made the best move possible with this trade. They added a third-rounder this year, and set themselves up for a shot at a franchise quarterback in 2023.

As long as the Eagles don’t blow this year’s draft with 10 picks, they’re likely going to improve their roster. They should be able to improve their defense even further after adding pass rusher Haason Reddick in free agency. The NFC East hasn’t improved much so the Eagles have a chance to run the same steady offense that allowed them to squeak into the playoffs in 2021, but unless their defense turns into one of the league’s best, the result will be the same.

Hurts should be scrambling furiously for the entire 2022 trying to secure his future as a starter in the NFL. He needs to run for 1,000 yards and average more than eight yards per pass attempt and have at least one big highlight throw per game to DeVonta Smith or Dallas Goedert. He needs to be undisputedly dynamic for a team to be willing to take a chance on him in the future.

For the Eagles, outside of coach Nick Siranni, there’s not a ton of pressure on anyone else. The front office is turning over that 2017 Super Bowl roster pretty well and they have a ton of draft capital. All they have to do is ride out one more year of Hurts, and then they’re in a position to land a top quarterback, and take control of their division, and possibly the conference. Hurts, on the other hand, will know at the end of this season if his future is leading a team behind center, or wearing a headset with shoulder pads and a baseball cap.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.