In another demonstration of the NFL’s inevitable bungling of at least one rookie quarterback per class, the Washington Football Team has decided to bench second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
The preemptive benching of Haskins has led to speculation regarding Washington’s long-term commitment to Haskins, who was drafted under contentious circumstances between the coaching staff and front office and has yet to be given a fair shake to hold down a starting job. The wonder is warranted: with Washington clearly in a need of a multi-year rebuild under new head coach Ron Rivera. What could they get back for him?
There isn’t a complete history of quarterback trades on rookie deals, and as you can imagine, when a quarterback is traded on his rookie deal, it’s not because he’s been a great quarterback. The most recent example is Arizona draft pick Josh Rosen, taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and a year later, was traded to the Miami Dolphins for the 62nd overall pick. Before him was Jimmy Garoppolo, who wasn’t bad but rather untested: he had started fewer than eight quarters before the Niners acquired him for another second-round pick.
Haskins is certainly not a Garoppolo case but has an argument for a more attractive Rosen. Haskins has 11 career starts, and his career win percentage, completion percentage, yards/attempt, and TD:INT ratio are all better than Rosen’s. When Rosen was traded, the general awfulness of his Arizona offense and the rotating coordinators he had were used to excuse his poor performance; a similar argument can be made for Haskins, who has seen three offensive coordinators in just 20 games of NFL play, watched his franchise left tackle flee the team, and the only good wide receiver on Washington’s roster was his third target in college.
Identifying Haskins as a Rosen-like trade piece isn’t great news when you consider what has happened with Rosen since. He took three starts for the Dolphins, never ousted Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter, and was cut and signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad. Of course, the Dolphins of 2019 had the same problems that Rosen endured in 2018: few weapons, a porous offensive line, and a new offensive coordinator. A team that acquires Haskins will look to do what Washington never did: develop him.
Of course, no team at this stage of the season would acquire Haskins to start him, so Haskins’ development would occur on the bench. Only teams with an entrenched, veteran starter would be interested in Haskins, mostly for the sake of bringing him along to potentially start in 2021 or later. In this way, Haskins would be a Garoppolo-like acquisition—not when the Niners added him, but when the Patriots acquired him to sit behind Brady as a starter-in-waiting. Players like Jordan Love (26th overall pick), Lamar Jackson (32 overall), and Mason Rudolph (76th overall pick) all fit this mold as well.
Unlike a draft pick, who has no NFL data on his resume yet, we do have 13 games of generally bad play from Haskins. That’s why the Dolphins weren’t able to get anything more than a late-second for Rosen, and we should expect the same for Washington and Haskins.
Would the Football Team do a deal at that price? While no market has yet been defined, as Washington just decided to bench Haskins, I’d imagine that the new coaching staff and restructured front office would be willing to bring just about anything significant back for Haskins, who they clearly believe is not worthy of development this season. If a team came with the Rosen offer, it makes sense that Washington would listen—especially if they want to package picks into a potential trade up in the first round this year.
So let’s call the major piece of a Haskins trade package a second-round pick. Which teams would be willing to make that move?
The Steelers had the right idea when they drafted Rudolph in the third round in 2018: it’s clearly time to start thinking about the future at quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger. They even had the right idea when they benched Rudolph for Duck Hodges, their interesting UDFA, to see if he was a better quarterback of the future candidate. The bad news: neither worked. Both Rudolph and Hodges struggled last season when starting for the injured Roethlisberger.
Even for his struggles, Haskins has been a better passer than both Rudolph and Hodges, and unlike both, has not had an opportunity in a Pittsburgh offense that had the weaponry and offensive line to go 8-6 with Hodges and Rudolph as starters. Lest we forget, Rivera himself compared Haskins’ size, pocket strength, and play under pressure to Roethlisberger, who Haskins would be behind.
With Josh Dobbs on their roster as the third quarterback, the Steelers could comfortably cut Dobbs—a player they’ve already traded away for a Day 3 pick once before—to make room for Haskins while still keeping Rudolph around as a short-term backup and Hodges on the practice squad for further development.
Looking at anything long-term for the Lions is difficult because, well, nobody expects the Lions’ coaching staff or front office to be there long-term. The truth of the Lions roster is that it’s ripe for a total rebuild. Matt Stafford starts being cuttable after 2021, and with Chase Daniel on the roster and David Blough on the practice squad, there are really no interesting developmental quarterbacks to fill out behind him.
With retooling needed on the defensive line, in the secondary, and potentially at wide receiver, the Lions don’t want to make a huge play for a new quarterback anytime soon—but Stafford isn’t getting any younger, and they may not be ready to compete for the next couple of years. They need to look at younger options at quarterback.
This could be a great spot for Haskins’ development, then, as he could sit behind Stafford for multiple seasons. The issue here is the coaching staff turnover could lead to more instability in Haskins’ coaches and mentors, but if the Lions get their offensive designers right, it could finally be the group with which Haskins sticks.
The average age of a Falcons rostered quarterback is 37, and the team is 0-4. So that’s suboptimal.
The Falcons are in a similar boat to the Lions, in terms of an expected change to the offensive coaching staff. Unlike the Lions, however, they clearly have an elite wide receiver duo, have invested in the offensive line with highly-drafted young players, and with Ryan at the helm, have demonstrated a successful passing attack. In other words, just a coaching staff change might be enough for the Falcons to go from really bad to really good.
Again, this is a situation where Haskins could sit for multiple years and only step in if things reach a true tipping point on offense. The issue here for the Falcons is that they can’t really be frivolous with draft picks: with one of the worst cap situations in the league, young and cheap starting talent is critical to keeping the roster afloat when they start bleeding talent in the next couple of years.
Is Haskins worth it? Depends on how many years you think Ryan has left.