SEATTLE – Jacob Eason returned home once to revive his football career, deciding to transfer to Washington after leaving Georgia in 2018.
Three years later Eason, a native of Lake Stevens, Washington, returns home once more hoping to revive his football career. Only this time, the decision was made for him as the Seahawks on Wednesday claimed him off waivers from the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts waived Eason the day before after activating rookie Sam Ehlinger off injured reserve to serve as a third quarterback behind Carson Wentz and Brett Hundley.
The Colts had hoped Eason would clear waivers and return to their practice squad.
Instead, the Seahawks swooped him up and will let him compete with Jake Luton as a backup for the moment to Geno Smith for as long as Russell Wilson is out, while also taking a look to see if he can be a viable candidate as a long-term, developmental QB.
Seattle had an opening on its 53-man roster, so the Seahawks do not have to make a corresponding move to fit him in. Teams can make waiver claims in what is the current draft order, so that means nine teams passed on Eason before Seattle got him at No. 10.
Eason becomes the second QB on the 53-man roster this week along with Smith with Wilson on IR and Luton and Danny Etling on the practice squad. Luton was elevated to be the backup last week to Smith and can be elevated one more time before he would have to go on the 53 to play.
Wilson has to sit out two more games by rule, with some speculation he is hoping to return for a Nov. 14 game at Green Bay but that a Nov. 21 home game against Arizona may be a more realistic target date.
Seattle has rarely kept three QBs on its 53-man roster but did so for three weeks earlier this year with Luton and Smith behind Wilson.
Eason has a few weeks to try to compel the Seahawks to keep him on the 53 once Wilson returns – and essentially appears to be battling Luton to stay on as a long-term developmental QB – while also hoping for a fresh start.
He’ll see a familiar face in the QB room as Eason and Luton – who played at Marysville Pilchuck – have a long history of competition, playing on the same flag football team growing up and later against each other in high school and college.
After some talk he could be a high first-round pick entering the 2019 college season, Eason fell to the fourth round of the 2020 draft at No. 122 overall amid rumors that teams had questions about his work ethic and ability to quickly pick up offensive systems.
He did not play in 2020 while backing up veteran Philip Rivers.
Indy traded for Wentz in 2021, again relegating Eason to competing for a backup role.
But when Wentz battled a foot injury in training camp, Eason started two preseason games and played substantially in another, hoping to solidify the backup job, completing 41 of 62 passes for 389 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
But the Colts also signed veteran Hundley to compete to be a backup once Wentz was injured and also had taken former Texas standout Ehlinger in the sixth round of the 2021 draft.
Ehlinger also played substantially in the preseason before a knee injury landed him on IR.
That gave Eason the backup role entering the season when the Colts decided to release Hundley and were able to re-sign him to the practice squad.
Eason saw what is his only regular-season NFL action in the second game of the season against the Rams, going 2 for 5 for 25 yards with one interception in five snaps in a 27-24 loss. The Colts then signed Hundley to the 53-man roster again last week, and with Ehlinger now healthy the Colts had to make a decision and sided with Ehlinger over Eason as a third QB on the 53.
In comments to Indianapolis media Wednesday Colts coach Frank Reich cited Ehlinger’s experience – he started 43 games in four years at Texas – as a reason for picking him over Eason, saying he “felt like Sam earned a shot.”
“Sam has played more football (than Eason” Reich said. “(Ehlinger) had a long and established college career. He’s the guy who can move around a little bit more in the mold of Brett. He’s very poised. He’s played in a lot of big games and had a very productive college career, even more tape to look at and see.”
Reich, though, said the Colts hoped to keep Eason on the practice squad.
“Had a long talk with Jacob yesterday,” Reich said. “Hard decision. … Obviously, I tried to encourage him that we wanted him back and hoped he would be back.”
By claiming Eason, the Seahawks take on the rest of his current contract, a four-year deal worth up to $4.027 million overall.
Eason emerged as one of the top recruits in the nation during his high school career at Lake Stevens, and committed to Georgia in 2014 before his junior year.
Eason started 12 games as a true freshman at Georgia in 2016 throwing for 16 TDs against eight interceptions as the Bulldogs went 8-5 and advanced to the Liberty Bowl. He was the starter entering the 2017 season but injured his knee in the first game. Freshman Jake Fromm then took over and led the Bulldogs to the 2018 national title game.
Eason decided to transfer and came back home, and after sitting out in 2018 won the starting job in 2019 in a tight battle over Jake Haener.
He completed 260 of 405 passes for 3,132 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions but the Huskies finished just 4-5 in Pac-12 games and 8-5 overall. Eason decided to declare for the draft, and despite what some viewed as a disappointing year at UW he was still regarded as almost certain to go by the second round.
Instead, his fall to the fourth round became one of the stories of the draft.
“It was tough as a competitor,” said Eason after the draft. “I had heard anything from late first to early second, then it got down to the early second and it got down to the third round. It was disheartening not seeing any quarterbacks being picked. But hey, I’m super fortunate to be picked up by a great organization in a great situation in Indianapolis.”
That great situation lasted barely a year-and-a-half and now Eason finds himself again heading back home hoping to redirect his football career.