Eagles have a backup quarterback problem. Justin Fields could be the solution

By | March 14, 2024

As the reality began to creep in late last week that the Chicago Bears would soon run out of obvious trade destinations for quarterback Justin Fields, a prominent NFL agent with experience facilitating trades for his clients summarized the situation.

“I would look for one [scheme] fit and backed up [quarterback] situation that is not fixed,” the officer said. “Finding a match is more important than just looking for a player to beat because the last thing you want is to put a player on a bad team. It can even make things worse. So sometimes it’s not the obvious teams that make the most sense. …Look at Geno [Smith] and the quarterbacks he played behind all those years. That turned out to be a positive thing when he got his next chance as a starter.”

In the case of Fields and his next destination, the math goes in that direction.

Gone are the days of grouping together franchises with needs at the top of the QB depth chart and no easy solution. Now the algorithm has moved into much trickier territory: looking for teams outside the NFC North that need a significant backup quarterback, a scheme that fits, some draft ammunition and preferably a front office willing to roll the dice on high upside chances. In this case, that’s quite a thread, especially since Fields only has one year of contract control due to a fifth-year rookie option that likely won’t be activated.

But in this particular scenario, there is a very sensible fit: the Philadelphia Eagles.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 18: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles and Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears embrace after the game at Soldier Field on December 18, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The Eagles’ Jalen Hurts shares a postgame moment with Justin Fields in 2022. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Right now, the Eagles are trying to find a solution to their backup quarterback void following the departure of Marcus Mariota to the Washington Commanders. Last year’s sixth-round pick Tanner McKee is on the roster, but he has no regular-season snaps. The Eagles have a starter who is prone to punishment in games in Jalen Hurts, and no experienced backup to hold down the fort if Hurts goes down during the season. For a team still built to be in the postseason mix and just one season removed from a Super Bowl appearance, that qualifies as a significant risk. And in the early stages of free agency, a host of backup quarterbacks have already been picked up by other franchises.

Now add Fields to that picture, with the Bears still looking for a trade partner and their potential compensation and leverage dwindling with every backup quarterback slot filled across the league. As we wrote in December, Fields’ true value, according to a whole group of general managers, would be in the mid-round, somewhere between the third and fourth rounds, possibly with some qualifications added to a deal. Thanks to their compensatory pick allocation, the Eagles have one third-round pick, as well as three fifth-rounders. The compensation is certainly there to get a deal done.

Considering Eagles general manager Howie Roseman’s tendency to be involved in just about everything during the offseason — not to mention his ability to turn a profit at a reasonable price — there is some traction to be had among the Bears and Eagles. Not only because Fields has starting experience that would be valuable in the event of an injury to Hurts, but also because he fits into Philadelphia’s run-heavy RPO packages, which could take advantage of Fields’ strongest asset as a scrambler. He could also provide the Eagles’ new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore with the opportunity to engineer some changes of pace, taking some of the wear and tear off Hurts.

For a one-year look, it makes sense. Even Fields’ salary is relatively cheap among quality backups, with just over $3.2 million in base money and a roster bonus that kicks in at the start of training camp. And all of this is built around the added dimension that Fields are still potentially a trading asset before the 2024 deadline. Roseman is no stranger to being an active buyer at the deadline, but one smart sale comes to mind: his September 2016 trade of Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings for a first-round pick. That deal came about after the Vikings lost starter Teddy Bridgewater to a preseason practice injury, opening up a job for the Eagles to deal Bradford, who at the time was a bridge starter for then-rookie Carson Wentz.

While it’s unlikely that Fields could ever receive such compensation in a similar scenario, there’s no denying his value if a competitive team were to lose a starter before the trade deadline. Possibly enough value for Roseman to deal with him. And even if that opportunity didn’t arise, the Eagles would simply carry Fields through the 2024 season knowing they had an experienced starter behind Hurts who also fits the strength of their offense.

And while that may not be the perfect scenario for Fields — who will undoubtedly want to remain a starter — it’s worth noting that he’ll have a season where Moore takes a closer look at him. The same Kellen Moore who could jump back to the top of the head coach search lists with one strong season in Philadelphia, and who could take over a franchise that needs a quarterback who knows its playbook. And Fields should be heading to free agency in a year, with the ability to choose what’s best for him on the open market. For Fields, the potential of knowing Moore’s playbook and Moore being a head coach candidate again in 2025 is upside chiseled out of a backup quarterback spot.

It’s certainly not the obvious choice that the starting jobs of the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers represented just a week ago. But the obvious path is gone for Fields and the Bears. This is when things get creative. And few teams and general managers embrace creativity and opportunity better than the Eagles and Roseman.

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