Good morning, Eagles fans. Happy schedule release day! With the NFL draft behind us and the 17-game slate nearly released, we’ll have a much better sense of how this year should go for the Eagles. Just because the Birds will play a last-place schedule and have the Jets in Week 17 doesn’t mean those weaker opponents won’t come in a tough part of the schedule. Vice-versa, those home games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be less daunting if they come at the end of a grueling road trip for one of those teams.

Be sure to keep an eye out tonight for the beat-writing crew’s game-by-game predictions. In the meantime, we’ll unpack the Deshaun Watson trade rumors.

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EJ Smith (earlybirds@inquirer.com)

Wrangling Watson

Settle in, Eagles fans. It might be a long year.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman came out of this year’s draft with arguably the best stash of future draft picks in the league. Once Carson Wentz’s historic dead cap hit clears after this season, they’ll also have a decent amount of cap flexibility with which to work. If you remember the days of the Sixers’ “Process,” that comes with a couple of side effects. Chief among them: Being linked to every high-priced free agent and trade target who comes up.

Enter Watson. NBC Sports columnist Peter King wrote that the Eagles are the most likely landing spot for Watson, although it’s worth noting he said it was more of a gut feeling than something based on extensive reporting.

Also important to note: Twenty-two women have accused the 25-year-old of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. Watson maintains his innocence, but the sheer number of allegations is daunting. Until those allegations are seen through, it’s hard to imagine any team making a move for Watson, but King predicted this move wouldn’t come until this time next year anyway.

Here’s the excerpt from King’s Monday morning column:

“I think predicting the future of Deshaun Watson is fraught with, well, it’s impossible. I just think by a year from today he’ll have a new home. This is a gut feeling. It’s impossible to predict the future with so many legal issues involved. And depending on the outcome of the cases, several teams might not want to even think about Watson, and rightfully so. If he’s free to play football unencumbered by legal issues in 2022, here are my odds on Watson’s next football team, with a tie at the top:

“3-1: Philadelphia. A likely need, plus Eagles are in perfect position to deal with three first-round picks (if Carson Wentz plays three-quarters of the Indy season).

“3-1: Carolina. Owner David Tepper would find the resources to do a deal.

“5-1. Washington. The major need is there. Is the will to make a deal there?

“6-1: Denver. In a high-stakes QB division, Broncos are a distant fourth at the position.

“8-1: Houston. Can’t see him staying.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, but the Eagles’ perceived interest in Watson makes plenty of sense. The lawsuit is a major concern, but if Watson is in fact innocent or the case is settled and he’s able to play again, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

He’s made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons and is coming off a year in which he threw 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. If Houston fared better than its 4-12 record, Watson would have likely been in the MVP conversation.

The Eagles’ faith in Jalen Hurts led to their passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the first round of the recent draft, but Watson is a different case entirely. For a self-proclaimed “quarterback-driven” franchise such as the Eagles, it makes sense that they’d do their due diligence on a player such as Watson. I don’t doubt Roseman has done just that, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out he’d love to see Watson in midnight green.

The Eagles are an easy link in Watson’s trade market because of their lack of a long-term answer at quarterback combined with the stash of two 2022 first-rounders that could become three depending on Wentz’s playing time with the Colts. But there are still hurdles to clear.

Would Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who has valued the Eagles’ image as the “gold standard” of the league, consider adding a player fresh off serious sexual assault allegations? It will likely depend on how the lawsuit concludes.

Another hurdle is Watson’s desire, or lack thereof, to play for the Eagles. He signed a four-year contract extension worth $156 million with a no-trade clause last offseason and will have the final say on where he goes.

Watson could view the Eagles as an upgrade from the Texans, who are devoid of future assets and reaffirmed the ire of their franchise quarterback when they reportedly hired a GM and coach without his input after promising to involve him. He could also view them as more of the same, an aging roster without the people or resources in place to build a contender around him.

And even if all this aligns, would the Eagles really be in a position to give up significant draft capital to add a quarterback making more than $30 million in each of the next three seasons? If Hurts can become even a league-average starter, they might be better off using their newfound draft picks to build around him on his rookie contract rather than go for broke with Watson.

There’s plenty of time to find the answers.

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

How many prime-time games will the Eagles get next year? Over Under set at 3! — from Jeff (@eagsfan) on Twitter

Good question, Jeff. The Eagles had five prime-time games last season, but that was with Wentz considered one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and the team generally perceived as a Super Bowl contender. Three is a good over/under and it might be a push, but I’ll take the over. The Eagles have had at least four prime-time games in the regular season every year since 2006.

I think the number will be three or four. Hurts might not be a superstar in the league, but he’s a household name because of his time at Alabama and Oklahoma. The Eagles are still one of the more recognizable franchises because of their recent success, and there’s a chance they’ll get into a prime-time slot just because they’re playing the Chiefs and the Bucs, who will probably play plenty of night games this year.