Isolated Incidents ... Or Troubling Trend?
Most fans are built to move on and feel optimistic about the future, no matter how bleak the current situation. Ya gotta believe, right? It's the nature of being a diehard, and it's every fan's god-given right. It's why the phrase "there's always next year" is so popular in sports, especially here in Philadelphia. Even before the Eagles agreed to deal Wentz to the Colts on Thursday, we'd already seen the sprouting of Jalen Hurts avatars on social media and Twitter handles such as "Hurts SZN" and "@DonSirianniTime." There's no reward in looking back, especially when the past isn't exactly eye candy. But before we buckle up and go full steam ahead into a new Eagles era it's important to pause one last time to process the past 40 or so days and observe the bigger picture, because it could be telltale about the future. Two franchise pillars – a Super Bowl-champion head coach and Pro Bowl quarterback who nearly won an MVP – each decided they'd be better without the Eagles. Think about that. Those are significant pieces of any NFL franchise and both seemed perfectly content to be elsewhere or unemployed. Doug Pederson was technically fired, but he was given every opportunity to reshape his vision and presentation for a better tomorrow before that final meeting with Jeff Lurie. He chose instead to maintain faith in his own process, knowing there was a high probability Lurie would give him the pink slip if he didn't change his mind. Pederson didn't ask to be fired, but he sure didn't overextend himself to prevent it from happening. Likewise, Wentz lost enough faith in the organization's process to essentially force the team to deal him. These are either separate, unfortunate, once-in-a-generation instances that occurred simultaneously or the sign of a troubling pattern that speaks to the organization's direction. You have to wonder how other players in the locker room, especially the young, will perceive this unprecedented offseason, and if Eagles brass is embarrassed by the spectacle. Lurie and Howie Roseman are fortunate that Pederson and Wentz aren't the types to air dirty laundry in public. Not everyone takes the high road. You also have to wonder how Lurie and Roseman permitted the fissure between Pederson and Wentz to become so inflamed that the coach and quarterback stopped talking to each other for weeks, as Adam Caplan has noted on Inside The Birds. For weeks? What kind of team leadership allows this to happen without stepping in and trying to have both sides resolve their problems? Time will tell whether the house clean that resulted in a new coaching staff and quarterback truly wiped away the dirt that's been building up.
Don't mistake a dry trade market for Wentz as evidence the Colts were alone in thinking Wentz could still be an upper-tier quarterback. The Colts were the most obvious landing spot because they're so far under the cap they could take on two Wentz contracts. Not every quarterback-needy team had the cap flexibility to bring in Wentz without making several moves to clear space. View it this way: If Wentz had been released, he would've enjoyed a much longer line of suitors. Also, these two things can be true: Roseman can be held responsible for the divide that resulted between Wentz and the franchise, and he can be credited for getting decent value in return for a disgruntled quarterback who had just one suitor.
Now that Wentz has been moved, the next domino to fall is veteran tight end Zach Ertz. Barring a miracle, Ertz will be off the team given the Eagles' cap problems and Ertz's contract. The team can save around $5 million by parting ways with their second-round pick from 2013 and move onto Dallas Goedert as their No. 1 option at the position. Teams know that Roseman will be looking to unload Ertz and that Ertz is coming off his worst season, which could complicate Roseman's attempt to trade him. If teams believe Roseman will end up releasing Ertz, they won't feel compelled to offer much in trade compensation.
Fans are getting excited about Hurts becoming the next quarterback, but keep in mind new coach Nick Sirianni wasn't here when the team drafted Hurts. Sirianni's and his staff's evaluation of Hurts becomes a critical factor in how the team will proceed forward. Hurts is likely to be the starter because the Eagles currently have no other quarterbacks under contract in 2021 and because the run on first-round quarterbacks could be over before the Eagles pick at sixth overall. Take note of how the team rounds out the quarterback room this offseason. Trading for Marcus Mariota or signing free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick, both of whom would cost a decent chunk of money for a team that doesn't have much to spend, could illustrate the coaching staff's true feelings about Hurts and indicate whether the second-year pro will enter the season with a short leash.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the "Inside the Birds" podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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