2021 NFL free agency: Four quarterbacks Eagles could sign to compete with Jalen Hurts in 2021

The page has been turned on the Carson Wentz era for the Philadelphia Eagles, as the franchise has appeared to hand the keys to Jalen Hurts as its starting quarterback for the 2021 season. While Hurts, a 2020 second-round pick, should get every opportunity to earn the starting job in a rebuilding year, there are many options the Eagles can turn to at the quarterback position over the next several months. 

Before the Eagles decide if they want a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick, there are plenty of signal-callers to consider in free agency. Whether Philadelphia wants to give Hurts the starting quarterback job or not, the franchise has to upgrade at quarterback this offseason. The Eagles are eating a dead cap hit of $33.8 million with the Wentz trade, but the team has no other quarterbacks currently under contract outside of Hurts. 

Fortunately for the Eagles, there are plenty of quarterbacks available in free agency who can be signed to a short-team deal and provide competition for Hurts this offseason. At worst, the Eagles will have a solid No. 2 quarterback on the 2021 roster. 

Here are four free agent quarterbacks for the Eagles to consider signing in free agency, providing adequate competition for Hurts entering 2021: 

Adding Brissett to the Eagles’ quarterback room makes plenty of sense, given his history with new head coach Nick Sirianni. Brissett spent the past four seasons with the Colts and the past three with Sirianni as his offensive coordinator. Eagles passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo was Indianapolis’ pass-game specialist last season when Brissett was the backup quarterback behind Philip Rivers — so there’s plenty of familiarity with the Eagles’ new offensive system. 

Brissett has started 32 games in his NFL career (five seasons), completing 59.6% of his passes for 6,459 yards with 31 touchdowns to 13 interceptions for an 84.1 passer rating (12-20 record). If Hurts struggles in 2021 or misses time due to injury, Brissett is more than capable of filling in during a rebuilding season. 

The Eagles aren’t asking Brissett to be the franchise quarterback, just a capable backup who is capable of running the offense if he enters the game. See Nick Foles in 2017. 

Taylor is another quarterback that has plenty of familiarity with the Eagles’ coaching staff. Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen coached Taylor last season with the Los Angeles Chargers (also serving as offensive coordinator), as Taylor was the starting quarterback before a chest injury opened the door for rookie Justin Herbert to take over the job in Week 2. Herbert had rave reviews for Steichen during his one season as his coach, but there just isn’t a big enough sample size for Taylor to determine if he would have succeeded in his offense. Still, Taylor spent two seasons with Steichen, who was the quarterbacks coach in 2019 before being promoted to offensive coordinator. 

Taylor was also teammates with Eagles offensive quality control coach Alex Tanney in 2015 with the Buffalo Bills, the year he made the Pro Bowl. In 72 career games — 47 as a starter — Taylor completed 61.41% of his passes for 9,770 yards with 54 touchdowns to just 18 interceptions and an 89.5 passer rating (24-21-1 record). Only 1.4% of Taylor’s passes have been intercepted, which is the same amount of Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes

Bringing Taylor in would be legitimate competition for Hurts, who also is a more-than-capable No. 2 quarterback and veteran leader on what will be a young Eagles roster. There’s no downside to bringing Taylor onboard for a year or two. 

Fitzpatrick may be heading to free agency with an eye toward a starting job again, but there are some connections toward the veteran quarterback and one member of the Eagles’ coaching staff. Patullo was an offensive quality control coach with the Buffalo Bills for three seasons (2010-2012) when Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback. 

Patullo later was with Fitzpatrick with the New York Jets in 2015 and 2016 for two seasons, serving as the team’s quarterbacks coach. Fitzpatrick threw a Jets franchise-record 31 touchdowns and a career-high 3,905 passing yards as New York finished 10-6 in 2015, so the veteran signal-caller has experienced plenty of success with Patullo. In the five seasons Patullo was involved with Fitzpatrick, he threw for 16,847 yards with 114 touchdowns and 86 interceptions in 75 games (72 starts). Fitzpatrick completed 59.6% for his passes and had an 80.9 passer rating. 

There are better opportunities to be had in free agency (in terms of starting jobs), but Fitzpatrick’s success with Patullo may be enough to convince him to sign with the Eagles. Fitzpatrick will challenge Hurts for the starting job throughout the year, a competition Hurts will embrace and will get the best out of the second-year quarterback. If the Eagles want a legitimate quarterback competition to get Hurts ready for his first season as the starter, Fitzpatrick is the guy. 

This is the wild card in the equation, as Newton has no ties toward anyone with knowledge of quarterbacks on the Eagles’ coaching staff. If Newton wishes to revive his career and compete for a starting job again, Philadelphia could be an attractive destination. 

Newton could hone his quarterback skills under the tutelage of Sirianni, Steichen, Patullo, and Brian Johnson (quarterbacks coach). One of the greatest running quarterbacks ever, Newton could serve as a veteran mentor to Hurts while providing competition for the young signal-caller throughout the season. The Eagles can also work on getting Newton back to performing at a starting-quarterback level for a potential next destination — or Newton may even get his shot if Hurts doesn’t pan out. 

Newton has every desire to compete for a starting job again, which is why the Eagles may shy away from him. He stated this week “there aren’t 32 guys better than me,” implying he may not be interested in being a No. 2 quarterback at all. Will other teams think the same way?

Of the 35 quarterbacks that qualified for passing statistics, Newton finished 18th in completion percentage, 34th in touchdown percentage (2.2), 27th in interception percentage (2.7), 21st in yards per attempt (7.2), 34th in pass yards per game (177.1), and 28th in passer rating (82.9). Those aren’t exactly starting-quarterback numbers in the NFL, so maybe it’s best for Newton to figure out his game before searching to become the unquestioned starting quarterback again. 

Philadelphia may be the franchise to help Newton get back on track. 

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