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Mistake-prone Eagles wide receiver signs with Steelers

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Quez Watkins, whose once-promising Eagles career collapsed in a flurry of costly fumbles and drops, has signed with the Steelers, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Monday morning.

Watkins, still only 25, was the Eagles’ 6th-round pick in 2020 and after playing sparingly as a rookie he blossomed in 2021 with 43 catches for 647 yards and 15.0 yards per catch.  That was the most yards by an Eagles wide receiver drafted in the sixth round or later since Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael had 1,028 in 1971. 

Watkins quickly became one of the NFL’s top big-play receivers. He had six catches of at least 40 yards from late in his rookie year through the middle of the 2022 season. 

But he grew unreliable midway through the 2022 season. There was a costly fumble after a 50-yard catch vs. Washington that probably cost the Eagles a win and an 11-0 start. There were two drops in Dallas that turned into interceptions. And there was the critical drop of a potential huge play in the Super Bowl.

Despite all of it, the Eagles brought Watkins back in 2023, but he caught just seven passes for 49 yards before padding his stats with 8-for-93 in the season-finale blowout loss to the Giants. His longest catch in 2023 went for 19 yards.

But Watkins still has elite traits and may benefit from a change of scenery across the state. The Steelers lost Diontae Johnson, who signed with the Panthers, and aside from George Pickens, who had 1,140 yards in his second season, they don’t have much else at wide receiver.

Watkins has 98 career receptions for 1,249 yards and six touchdowns with a 12.7 average.

It's likely the only receivers the Eagles will bring back from last year's team are A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, along with rarely used Britain Covey, the punt returner. 

Watkins, Julio Jones and Olamide Zaccheaus all took turns as the third receiver, but the Eagles haven't shown any interest in bringing any of them back.

Watkins is the eighth free agent from the 2023 Eagles to join another team, following D’Andre Swift and Kevin Byard (Bears), Marcus Mariota (Commanders), Nicholas Morrow (Bills), Sua Opeta (Buccaneers), Jack Driscoll (Dolphins), Jack Stoll (Giants).

Still unsigned from last year’s team are Shaun Bradley, Zack Cunningham, Justin Evans, Jones, Shaq Leonard, Avonte Maddox, Rashaad Penny and Bradley Roby, Boston Scott and Zaccheaus.

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