The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the most dynamic receiver tandems in the NFL. A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are equal parts dangerous and deadly, with their ability to shed defenders and make contested catches, and both players are locked up for the foreseeable future.
Brown worked out a four-year, $100 million deal before coming to Philly in a draft-day trade last season. Smith inked a four-year rookie deal in 2021, which includes a fifth-year option. The Eagles are about to let either one of their top playmakers leave the nest. Meanwhile, the third spot on the depth chart has turned into an area of great debate ever since Super Bowl LVII ended.
Quez Watkins was supposed to be their speedy slot receiver — a guy under contract until 2024 — and has shown flashes of greatness at times, although concentration drops seemed to plague him in 2022. The 24-year-old revealed he had been playing through a Grade 2 left shoulder sprain for half the year, an injury that slowed him down and “deteriorated his confidence.”
“For me, I didn’t play my brand of football all year,” Watkins told reporters. “Mental, honestly, that’s all it is. You just gotta play through all circumstances on and off the field. I should have just played ball instead of worrying about it.”
Nick Sirianni Addresses Possible ‘Upgrade’ at WR
Watkins remains on the roster and appears locked into another key role next season. Head coach Nick Sirianni expressed the utmost confidence in the speed demon from Southern Miss during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Eagles had a lot of mouths to feed at wide receiver, plus they ran the ball a lot. Watkins’ diet suffered as a result.
“Yeah, I think when you look at that, it’s easy to say, well, Quez Watkins didn’t have the same year he had last year,” Sirianni told reporters on February 28. “Well, he didn’t have the opportunities he had last year, and it actually wasn’t even close. And so, when you ran the ball the way we did this year, when you threw it …
“I think if Dallas Goedert doesn’t get hurt and miss those four games he probably has 1,000 yards. So, you have three 1,000-yard receivers potentially — you have one that had 1,500 yards [A.J. Brown], one that had, 1,300 did DeVonta [Smith] have? Close? 1,300 yards, like somebody’s production is going to slip a little bit.”
Watkins went from recording 43 receptions for 647 yards in 2021 down to 33 catches for 354 yards in the same number of games in 2022. Sirianni also mentioned backup slot receiver Zach Pascal and lumped him into the same argument.
His faith never wavered on either player. When asked if the team might pursue an upgrade at slot receiver, Sirianni said: “But we do have faith in Zach and we do have faith in Quez that they’ll make plays when their number is called. It’s just that it’s called a little less.”
Trade Rumors Floating Around Slot Receiver
The Eagles certainly could be in the market for a slot receiver at the 2023 NFL draft in Kansas City on April 27. The position likely won’t be a top priority, but don’t be surprised if the team targets a burner in the middle rounds.
The Athletic’s Bo Wulf mentioned the possibility of them shopping Watkins around in a potential trade scenario. He wrote: “Watkins still offers top-end speed, so if there’s a team desperate for some, Howie Roseman would certainly be open to a deal.”