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March 14, 2017

Carson Wentz makes the Eagles, at long last, a desirable destination again

The common term for the momentum being gathered by the Philadelphia Eagles is the “Wentz Wagon,” and it involves a whole lot more than just the fans.

It is one thing for a team’s fan base to get all excited about a star player and jump on board what appears to be a wagon speeding toward a great future.

But the Wentz Wagon is, at its core, a bandwagon, and in this town, we have seen more than our share.

Let’s see, there have been the T.O. Wagon, the Chip Kelly Wagon, the Ilya Bryzgalov Wagon, and even the Andrew Bynum Wagon, which appeared to crash just outside the Constitution Center on the day he was signed by the Sixers.

But this wagon of hope is very different for one very big reason – the passengers.

Unlike previous wagons that were generally filled with fans and media members who were expecting or predicting huge successes, this wagon is also filled with players. The Wentz Wagon is hardly just Johnny from Conshohocken who has painted his face green.

Nope, this wagon is also carrying a crew of players who have already landed here, especially receivers, with a belief that Wentz has the potential to get them to the Super Bowl.

Indeed, as much as receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith decided to sign with the Eagles for the strength of the organization and a decent contract, they mostly signed because of Wentz. They mostly chose Philadelphia because of what that have seen of the Eagles quarterback as a rookie, and the respect Wentz has already gained around the NFL.

On Monday Smith said that he was excited to play with the Eagles in large part because of what he saw from Wentz in terms of the leadership Wentz showed as a rookie. Smith said he watched how the Eagles responded to Wentz, and he knew that was no small achievement for any rookie, let alone a rookie quarterback from a small school.

Smith should know a little bit about leadership and staying steady in a clutch situation. He earned his stripes during his years with the Baltimore Ravens, where he won a Super Bowl with quarterback Joe Flacco and then saw what can go wrong very quickly in his two years with the San Francisco 49ers, where everything came apart.

After that mess with the Niners, Smith was looking for a stable program with a stable and steady quarterback – and Wentz and the Eagles fit the bill.

The same can be said for Jeffery, and if things go well during the 2017 season there will be no question each will want to extend their time with the Eagles as other players look at Philadelphia as a place land.

If all goes well, that is if the Wentz Wagon rolls on as expected, it won’t be just receivers who want to climb on board. From either side of the ball, Philadelphia will be a place to land.

It wasn’t too long ago the Phillies and the Flyers held that sort of attraction to players. There was the legendary decision of Cliff Lee to snub the Yankees for a chance to join the Phillies rotation, and the Flyers had free agents lined up when they had their many chances to make long playoff runs into May and June.

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The biggest difference here is that no position – not even goaltender in hockey – is as important as a quarterback is to a football team. It is why the quarterback takes up such a large portion of a salary cap and why a “franchise” quarterback is a passport to playoff appearances.

Thus far, the story of this offseason has centered around the Eagles’ front office, led by Howie Roseman, going out and getting the sort of weapons needed to improve the team. But it is also a matter of getting the players that Wentz needs – and having those players more than anxious to get on this wagon of hope.

The Eagles and Roseman still have much work to do, and some of that work was put in place yesterday when it was announced that Nick Foles was coming back as a backup to Wentz, which led to Chase Daniel’s release.

The upgrades on the other side of the ball are still to come, and there is every chance the Eagles will likely sign a veteran cornerback, and then use the draft to nab one or two, along with a running back, and perhaps some help on the defensive line.

All of that is still to be addressed, but the initial message of this offseason is that the NFC East and the overall NFL is aware that the Eagles have a quarterback with the gravity to pull in star players.

The Wentz Wagon is rolling.