Why Deshaun Watson wouldn't have worked as Eagles' QB; it's more than sexual assault suits

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

PHILADELPHIA − Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you don't make.

It hardly matters anymore whether it was quarterback Deshaun Watson who refused to come to the Eagles, or if the Eagles weren't that interested in trading for him. What is known is that the Cleveland Browns traded for him, sending the Houston Texans three first-round picks. Then they signed Watson to an unprecedented fully guaranteed, five-year $230 million contract.

All for a guy who could be pulled off the field at any time this week for the entire season. At the very least, Watson is facing a six-game suspension after more than two dozen women filed lawsuits against him, claiming sexual misconduct during massages. All but one of the suits have been settled.

ROSTER MANEUVERSPredicting Eagles' 53-man roster: Will only 2 QBs stay? And a fight breaks out in practice

WESTBROOK THE AUTHOREagles running back, author tells Delaware kids about overcoming odds to be an NFL legend

The NFL is appealing that ruling, hoping for a full-year ban.

If the NFL wins − and a ruling is possible this week − that would make two straight seasons in which Watson won't take a single snap in a regular-season game. Watson didn't play last season for Houston after demanding a trade last summer.

But beyond Watson's right arm possibly rusting over, the Eagles will see for themselves how fortunate they are not to have Watson as their QB when they take part in two days of practice sessions with the Browns beginning Thursday in Cleveland. The two teams will then play Sunday in the second preseason game.

It's more than the distraction, too.

There's no denying Watson's talent, but what good is that talent if Watson has to miss at least six games this season? Or maybe the entire season?

Sure, the Browns will have him for four more years after that. But that would most likely make 2022 a lost cause. And it doesn't give the Browns much room to improve because Brown's salary cap hits will count for $55 million in each of those four seasons.

That is about one-fourth of the Browns' entire salary cap.

Contrast that with what the Eagles are able to do with Jalen Hurts, who's still on his rookie contract.

Let's start with the caveat that Hurts does not compare statistically with Watson so far in their careers.

Watson has a career completion percentage of 67.8 and a passer rating of 104.5. Both of those numbers, projected over a 15-year career, are Hall of Fame worthy, and no doubt why the Browns felt Watson was worth the contract − and the risk.

You'll be hard pressed to find a better season by any quarterback in NFL history than the one Watson had in 2020. He completed 70.2% of his passes, threw for an NFL-leading 4,823 yards and had a rating of 112.4.

Hurts, in 19 career starts, has a completion percentage of 59% and a rating of 84.7.

On the surface, it's not even close, right?

Then again, Watson is 28-25 as a starter and has never won a playoff game. That's not much better than Hurts, who is 9-10 as a starter and also hasn't won a playoff game.

Oh, and that great 2020 season by Watson? The Texans went 4-12.

The next argument would be that the Texans in 2020 had a terrible team around Watson. That's certainly plausible. The Browns certainly have better talent, with ex-Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward.

Good luck keeping that group together beyond this year.

Garrett's salary cap hit is $29 million in 2023, Cooper's is $24 million, Chubb's is $15 million and Ward's is $12 million. Add in Watson's $55 million, and it doesn't take a mathematician to know that something has to give. So by the time Watson is eligible to play for an entire season, he'll have a worse team around him than he does now.

Hurts, on his rookie contract, counts $1.6 million against the salary cap this year and $1.9 million against the cap in 2023. That enabled the Eagles to trade for wide receiver A.J. Brown and sign him to a four-year extension worth as much as $100 million. They also had money to improve the defense by signing free agents in pass rusher Haason Reddick, linebacker Kyzir White and cornerback James Bradberry.

And the draft isn't helping out the Browns, either.

The Eagles had two first-round picks in 2022, which they used on defensive tackle Jordan Davis and to trade for Brown. The Eagles also have two first-round picks in 2023.

The Browns traded their first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024 as part of the package sent to the Texans for Watson. In the most recent draft, the Browns didn't make their first pick until the third round.

The Eagles, meanwhile, will have both money and early-round draft choices to continue improving. Sure, there's a risk on the Eagles' part. If Hurts doesn't improve from his 61.3% completion percentage from last season, they'll be using those resources to find a new quarterback next season.

But the Eagles' logic is that Hurts, who's a better runner than Watson, will improve with better players around him. In addition to Brown, there's also DeVonta Smith in his second full season and tight end Dallas Goedert, not to mention a potentially dominant offensive line.

We saw some of that Friday night in the preseason opener against the Jets. Hurts completed all six of his passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. He escaped pressure on the first play by rolling to his right and hitting Quez Watkins for a 28-yard strike.

Hurts capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Goedert, who had plenty of room because Brown cleared out his defender to the other side.

"He made plays in the pocket when he needed to make plays in the pocket, and when he needed to escape, he escaped," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said about Hurts.

And we saw it in practice Tuesday when Hurts escaped the pocket, rolled to his left and − yes, it's true − threw a bullet to Smith on the sideline. That was a major weakness of Hurts' in the past.

But there's one more aspect to consider.

Would revered center Jason Kelce have returned for a 12th season if Watson was the quarterback, knowing that Watson would have to miss at least six games? What about defensive end Brandon Graham, who overcame a torn Achilles to return for a 13th season?

The Eagles also wouldn't have been able to trade for Brown, meaning that Watson would have been throwing to Smith and Goedert. It's not hard for defenses to game plan against two good receivers. That's why the Eagles turned into a run-based offense last season.

They needed more. So far, the Eagles are liking the results.

"He's getting through everything faster," Smith said. "I didn’t expect nothing less. I expected him to go out there and make the right reads. And he did that. And everybody made the plays when their number was called."

Oh, and Hurts will be available for the entire season.

Eagles trade Arcega-Whiteside

The Eagles moved on from a failed second-round pick when they traded J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to the Seattle Seahawks for defensive back Ugo Amadi. Arcega-Whiteside, drafted in 2019, had 16 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown in three seasons. He was picked seven spots before Seattle drafted D.K. Metcalf, who has 216 career catches for 3,170 yards and 29 TDs.

The Eagles tried converting Arcega-Whiteside to tight end, but even that wasn't going well. Arcega-Whiteside added 20 pounds, but was clearly behind Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll and sixth-round pick Grant Calcaterra. Amadi was also drafted in 2019, by the Seahawks in the fourth round. He has played in 47 career games, with 12 starts. He has one interception.

Camp observations

∎ Hurts had a good day throwing the ball. In red-zone situations, he fired two TD passes to Zach Pascal. In addition to the strike to Smith while rolling to his left, Hurts connected on a deep sideline pass to A.J. Brown who got behind DBs Josh Jobe and K'Von Wallace.

∎ Jobe, a cornerback, is an undrafted free agent from Alabama who ended up getting some first-team reps after James Bradberry left practice with an undisclosed injury (Bradberry later returned to the sideline). Jobe appears to be ahead of several of the other cornerbacks vying for a roster spot.

∎ Wallace, meanwhile, the Eagles' fourth-round pick in 2020, is fighting for a roster spot. Marcus Epps sat out practice with a back injury, so Wallace and Josiah Scott got first-team reps, but couldn't take advantage. Undrafted free agent Reed Blankenship got some second-team reps. In a telling sign, veteran Jaquiski Tartt spent the day with the third team. Amadi is also in the mix at safety.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Eagles better off without Deshaun Watson, beyond sexual assault suits