What Kenny Pickett trade means for Eagles, Steelers, and QB himself

When the Pittsburgh Steelers made the decision to sign Russell Wilson ahead of free agency, it opened the door to a quarterback competition during training camp.

It now seems that door has slammed shut.

Rather than Wilson battling with Kenny Pickett for the starting job, Pickett is now on his way across Pennsylvania. The Steelers have pulled off a trade involving the Philadelphia Eagles, sending the former first-round pick to the Eagles — along with pick No. 120 — for pick No. 98 in the upcoming draft, as well as two seventh-round selections in 2025.

So what does this trade mean for the Eagles, the Steelers, and the quarterbacks associated with the deal?

What does this move mean for the Steelers?

First things first.

Russell Wilson is now entrenched as the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As we covered shortly following the news that Wilson was headed to Pittsburgh, the move is perhaps the ultimate win-win for the Steelers. First off Wilson comes at almost no cost to the Steelers, given the off-set language in his contract with the Denver Broncos. Pittsburgh is on the hook for just a fraction of his 2024 salary, with the Broncos picking up the tab for the rest. So if Wilson, now the starter, does not pan out, it was an inexpensive investment for the Steelers.

However …

This is a team that advanced to the playoffs a year ago with the triumvirate of Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, and Mason Rudolph getting snaps for them. Rudolph, who began the year as their third-string quarterback, was the starter for Pittsburgh’s playoff game against the Buffalo Bills.

So a team with those three quarterbacks still advanced to the playoffs.

Wilson, even at this point in his career, is a strong contender to be an upgrade over those three QBs.

What does this move mean for the Eagles?

The quarterback factory lives on …

When the Philadelphia Eagles made the decision to draft Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it was viewed as a surprising move in some NFL circles. After all, the team had recently given Carson Wentz a new contract, and had won a Super Bowl with Wentz under center for most of the season, only to be replaced by Nick Foles down the stretch due to injury.

But when the Eagles made the pick, General Manager Howie Roseman justified it due to the importance of the position.

“We are quarterback developers,” said Roseman at the time. “We want to be a quarterback factory.”

The trade for Pickett is simply in line with what the Eagles have done at the position over the recent years. Since trading up in 2016 to draft Wentz, the team has continually added at the position. They drafted Clayton Thorson in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Hurts in the second round in 2020, and Tanner McKee in the sixth round a season ago.

Those are just the draft picks. They added Foles (2017), Joe Callahan and Christian Hackenberg (2018), Luis Perez and Josh McCown (2019), Joe Flacco, Reid Sinnett, and Nick Mullens (2021), Ian Book (2022), and Marcus Mariota (2023) via free agency, as well as some undrafted free agents such as Carson Strong over the same period.

Adding and attempting to develop quarterbacks has been a common practice for the Eagles during Roseman’s tenure, and trading for Pickett is the next spin of that particular roulette wheel.

And, with Mariota off to the Washington Commanders, the Eagles do have a need behind Hurts in their quarterback room.

What does this mean for Pickett … and the 2022 QB Class?

If you recall the buildup to the 2022 NFL Draft many analysts — myself included — believed that the NFL would do what they always do.

Reach for quarterbacks.

Looking back thanks to NFL Mock Draft Database, we can recall that both Pickett and Malik Willis were viewed as first-round picks, with Desmond Ridder a fringe first-round selection. But as the draft approached we began to believe that the league would do what it always does, and find a way to get three QBs into the first round.

Eventually it was only Pickett in the first round, and the rest had to wait.

For a while:

As you can see, out of the first six quarterbacks taken four (Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral, and Sam Howell) are with different teams by now, and the other two (Willis and Bailey Zappe are backups.

There were three more QBs drafted now mentioned in Dane Brugler’s post. The Steelers drafted Chris Oladokun in the sixth round, who was released during training camp and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a backup. The Miami Dolphins drafted Skylar Thompson, who did start a playoff game as a rookie and is a depth option behind Tua Tagovailoa.

The final quarterback drafted that year?

Well he just started a Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers. Brock Purdy was also the last player selected that year, did you know that? Fun little fact …

As for Pickett, this first means he is headed to the Eagles to be a backup behind Hurts. Which is apparently something — a trade at least — that he requested. While we may learn more about his motives in the coming days, the early reports out of Pittsburgh paint a rather perplexing picture:

Although what happened in Seattle during Week 17 a season ago is still a matter of speculation. Dejan Kovacevic of DK Pittsburgh Sports had a different view on Friday, ahead of the trade:

Questions were asked among all three quarterbacks before Pickett asked for a meeting with [Head Coach Mike] Tomlin for clarification. That took place without incident and it resulted in Tomlin, almost immediately, flatly declaring that Trubisky would suit up and Pickett wouldn’t.

So, why would Tomlin not even list Pickett as the emergency third quarterback, a move that would’ve impacted nothing else?

This is where it gets a bit muddier, in that Tomlin apparently just didn’t bother with it.

Then there is this, from Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network:

For Pickett, this move more than anything else might be a change at a fresh start.

Which he may have felt like he needed.

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