Kenny Pickett trade: Why Eagles gave up more for former Steelers QB instead of trading for Justin Fields

Eagles Opt for Kenny Pickett Over Justin Fields: Unpacking the Trade Decision

The Philadelphia Eagles stand out for their strategic focus on the backup quarterback role. This approach paid off spectacularly when their second-string quarterback led them to their first Super Bowl victory. The importance of a reliable backup was evident even before Nick Foles’ standout performance in the 2017 season. Over the past 25 years, the Eagles have seen backup quarterbacks like Koy Detmer, A.J. Feeley, and Jeff Garcia step up during crucial times to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The significance of the backup quarterback role to the Eagles was highlighted by their recent acquisition of Kenny Pickett from the Pittsburgh Steelers. This move raised eyebrows, especially since Justin Fields was traded to the Steelers the following day for a lesser draft compensation. The decision to go for Pickett instead of waiting for Fields sparked discussions. However, the Eagles had compelling reasons to choose Pickett over Fields.

One major factor was the duration of team control. By acquiring Pickett, the Eagles secured a backup quarterback for two seasons, as opposed to just one with Fields, considering the looming decision on Fields’ fifth-year option. This was particularly relevant given Jalen Hurts’ new five-year extension and his significant cap hit in 2025. The trade for Pickett, involving a 2024 third-round pick and two 2025 seventh-round picks, was seen as a strategic move for longer team control at a lower cost.

The Eagles have historically preferred having a backup quarterback under team control for multiple seasons, as demonstrated by their trade for Gardner Minshew in 2021. Pickett’s current contract, with cap numbers of $1.98 million in 2024 and $2.62 million in 2025, fits well within the Eagles’ budgetary constraints and their roster-building strategy.

General Manager Howie Roseman had been monitoring Pickett for years, appreciating his skills and potential fit within the Eagles’ system. This long-term interest, coupled with the opportunity for Pickett to develop under Hurts, made him an attractive option for the Eagles.

On the other hand, trading for Fields would not have offered him a clear path to a starting role, given Hurts’ position as the franchise quarterback. Fields found a more favorable situation in Pittsburgh, where he has a genuine chance to compete for the starting job against Russell Wilson. This scenario allows Fields the possibility of securing a long-term role, an opportunity that Philadelphia could not provide.

In conclusion, the Eagles’ decision to trade for Pickett instead of Fields was driven by strategic considerations regarding team control, cost, and the developmental environment for the backup quarterback. This move reflects the Eagles’ thoughtful approach to roster management and their commitment to maintaining a strong quarterback lineup.