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Eagles trade for Deshaun Watson? How could they afford it?

An Eagles trade for Deshaun Watson, or with any team for that matter, would only happen if the firestorm surrounding the numerous allegations had been “put behind him”. What does that actually mean? More than likely it would be that there was not enough evidence to criminally charge him with anything and the dozens of civil lawsuits and complaints were settled. There could very well be other outcomes, but in terms of him being back on the field and for a market interested in his talents to re-establish, this would seem to be the most plausible. 

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The timeline on this is completely unknown, but it sure doesn’t look like it will happen prior to the start of the 2021 season. Any criminal investigation would take priority and the length to completion would hold up any true exploration of settling the civil suits.

Let’s put aside the different scenarios and just assume that he has been cleared to play in the league and that teams are once again open to trading for the star quarterback, prior to or even during the start of the 2021 season.

The Eagles would definitely be one of the favorites to pull off such a trade. Washington, Los Vegas, and Miami would also be strongly in the mix. The shortened timeline is important because the market could change drastically heading into 2022. Teams like the Giants, Steelers, and Broncos could emerge on the scene has major suitors, depending upon the play of Daniel Jones, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Lock.

Let’s zoom in and only focus on what it would be for the Eagles to pull off a trade in the immediate future.

Compensation for an Eagles trade for Deshaun Watson:

The Eagles would seem the favorites because they’re able to combine a need at quarterback, although I’m not so quick to write off Jalen Hurts, with more than enough draft capital to get the deal done.

The Texans were looking for three first round picks in return for Watson, but they also have a need at quarterback themselves. Unlike the scenario the Packers are in currently, the Texans do not currently have a Jordan Love prospect on their roster currently. They did take Davis Mills in the second round of the draft, but that’s an insurance with Tyrod Taylor and likely will not be the heir apparent in Houston. Jalen Hurts as a part of this deal would seem like a must on both sides. Philadelphia would be looking to eliminate any quarterback controversy from their ranks and Houston would love a young, athletic quarterback who has great leadership qualities and a second-round rookie contract. 

With Hurts in the deal and a different market facing Houston since earlier this offseason, it’s conceivable that the price for Watson has come down a bit. They may be looking to eagerly part ways with their controversial quarterback, even though he would have been “cleared”. It’s hard to estimate what the newly re-established market value would be for Watson, but it’s likely that the price has lessened and maybe only two first round picks and Hurts would get the deal done. For the Eagles, they have the draft capital to pull off this trade rather easily whether or not Watson’s value returns to the pre-allegation level.

Philadelphia owns two or possibly three first round picks in the 2022 draft. They have their own, the pick from the Dolphins for trading from 6th to 12th in this year’s draft, plus a contingent pick from the Colts in the Carson Wentz trade. If Wentz plays 75% of the snaps in 2021, or 70% and the Colts make the playoffs, then Eagles get their first-round selection and if not then they get the second-round pick. The Eagles are playing in what should be a significantly tougher division than it turned out to be in 2020. Even with Watson, the Eagles pick might still be rather high and the uncertainty of Tua Tagovailoa could also make that Dolphins pick enticing. 

The Eagles could get Watson and still possibly have a first-round pick in 2022. The Texans would be able to secure two first round picks next year, instead of two picks spread out over two years like most other teams could offer. This combined with a talented young quarterback on a cheap rookie contract, makes this trade a homerun for Houston. 

Cap space impacts of an Eagles trade for Deshaun Watson

As per Spotrac, the Eagles have a projected cap space of just over $3 million this season and almost $13 million in 2022. Watson’s cap number is almost $16 million this season and over $40 million in 2022.

How do they make it work in 2021?

Well, they’re not getting any real cap relief by including Hurts in the deal. There are two pieces that they’ll likely to move in the coming weeks, regardless of a Watson trade or not. Zach Ertz and Derek Barnett are likely to be cut or traded to open up cap space. If traded, Ertz would save the Eagles $8.5 million against the cap and Barnett would save over $10 million. This would be vital to getting a Watson deal done. My guess is that a Zach Ertz trade would form on its own, but the Texans may have to take on the contract of Derek Barnett in 2021. Trading Watson would save them $10 million against the cap so the two would offset for them. 

How about in 2022?

The Eagles would likely need to re-work Watson’s and Fletcher Cox’s contracts in order to get a more favorable cap space environment. The only real target for a cap casualty cut would Javon Hargrave, who would save the team $13 million. Darius Slay, Brandon Brooks, and Fletcher Cox would each save the team $14.5 million, $13.5 million, and $17.5 million respectively if cut after June 1st. I don’t imagine either three would be cut, but their deals could be re-worked.

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