January 20, 2021
If you thought those Carson Wentz trade rumors were starting to die down, think again.
Sure, there have been reports in the last week that the Eagles are telling coaching candidates they'd prefer trying to fix the 28-year-old quarterback to trading him. But there have also been reports of Wentz's insubordinate behavior and the overall dysfunction within the organization.
Now, there also appears to be an ideal trade partner.
On Wednesday, perhaps in an attempt to fly under the radar given the timing, Colts (and longtime Chargers) quarterback Philip Rivers announced his retirement from football. There had already been talk about a possible reunion between Wentz and his former offensive coordinator in Philly, Frank Reich, who is now the head coach in Indianapolis, as Rivers was only a one-year deal anyway. But the latest news officially leaves a glaring hole atop their offensive depth chart, one they could address in the draft, free agency (again) or, if they're so inclined, the trade market.
And if it's Option 3, there might not be a better match than Wentz, who was at his best with Reich running the offense in Philly. In the years since Reich left, which also happen to coincide with Wentz's season-ending and perhaps career-altering knee injury, there's been a sharp decline from the former No. 2 overall pick, none more obvious than in this past season, one in which the Eagles went 4-11-1 and were forced to bench Wentz after it became clear he wasn't going to suddenly snap out of the funk that had him playing like the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.
That's saying something — Dwayne Haskins was a starting NFL quarterback this season. And he had a better passer rating than Wentz.
So why would the Colts want a quarterback who not only comes with that stigma but also would bring a contract that would have the team committed to paying him close to $50 million over the next two season? There could be only one reason: Reich believes he can turn back the clock on Wentz and get him back to being a Top 10 quarterback in the NFL. But that seems like a stretch at this point, given everything we've learned about Wentz over the years, dating back to Joe Santoliquito's story from two years ago right up through Jeff McLane's big story from this past weekend. And given Reich's history within the Eagles organization, he'd know better than most just what kind of baggage Wentz would bring along with him.
Publicly, the Eagles have had nothing but positive things to say about Wentz, how he handled the benching, and what they think of him moving forward. That's great, and could be a sign that they intend to keep him. However, it could mean just the opposite. After all, their comments about Wentz would need to be positive whatever the plan was, especially as they're trying to lure a new coach to replace Doug Pederson.
"The way I look at it is we have an asset and we have a talent," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said last week when asked if Wentz would be back on the roster in 2021. "He's a great guy and he wants nothing but to win big and win Lombardi Trophies for Philadelphia. This guy is tireless. He has his heart in the right place and he's really dedicated off-season, on-season – he's just what you want."
Perhaps Lurie tipped his hand a bit there, when he referred to Wentz — and later to both he and 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts — as an "asset," which is the kind of language you use when talking about moving a player, not keeping him as your franchise quarterback.
"On the quarterback situation, we've got two really interesting assets," Lurie added later when asked why this job would be appealing to a coaching candidate. "They are both young. They are both hungry. They are terrific people, very different and terrific people. A coach is going to have options. A coach is going to have an ability to fix what he feels is necessary in our offense and have a potential star in Carson [Wentz] and a potential star in Jalen [Hurts].
"That gives us an asset, also, so that if we end up deciding on one some day, the other is a really good asset."
Perhaps what's unsaid there — the part about what happens to other after the team ends up "deciding on one" — is more important than what's actually said.
Many believe that Wentz, who (at least at one time) reportedly wanted out of Philly, is more likely to stay with the Eagles now that Pederson is gone. But that's not necessarily true, and the language used above is all the proof you need.
So, what if the Eagles decide to move on from Wentz? We've already discussed at length the sizable cap hit they'd still face, but moving on now, via trade, would prevent any further longterm cap damage and would allow them to be out from under his contract after the 2021 season.
Would the Colts be the team to take on that hit? They're one of the teams that certainly can, writes Mike Kaye of NJ.com, who outlined three reasons a deal with the Colts would make sense. Aside from Reich's connection to Wentz and the fact that their roster appears ready to win now, their salary cap would also allow for them to take on what's left of the quarterback's hefty contract, a contract that becomes more reasonable for any team trying to acquire him via trade. Here's more from Mike:
The Colts are projected to have around $58 million in cap space this offseason, according to Over the Cap. The Eagles have taken the initial brunt of Wentz’s contract extension already, so the QB’s deal is appealing from a trade partner’s perspective.
According to OTC, the team trading for Wentz would essentially acquire a four-year deal worth $98.4 million. That total averages $24.6 million per season, which is middling franchise QB money. If Wentz is really anxious to join the Colts, he could also rework his deal to make those numbers even more appealing.
With few needs elsewhere, going all-in on Wentz -- especially if Reich is comfortable with a reunion -- makes a ton of sense. Wentz is still in his prime years, and Reich has a history of getting the most out of him. [nj.com]
While Wentz and Reich have had success together, there's also the question of whether or not Reich is interested in reuniting with the quarterback who helped him earn a Super Bowl ring (there's no questioning that Wentz's play during the 2017 regular season contributed to their title run).
Philip Rivers’ retirement further leaves QB vacancy w/ Colts. On paper, would seem most likely trade partner for Carson Wentz w/ Frank Reich. But obstacles there, including, what I was told:— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) January 20, 2021
“I’m not sure Frank would take him,” a source familiar with Reich’s thinking said. https://t.co/f08SNJTDkq
It's unknown whether or not recent reports on the quarterback's lack of accountability and refusal to take coaching would affect Reich's desire to make an offer given that he's already worked with Wentz firsthand. But it's worth keeping an eye on, especially since reports suggest that Wentz would be more than open to a reunion with Reich in Indy, he'd prefer it.
The @NFLGameDay Notebook with @MikeGarafolo & @TomPelissero: #Colts QB Philip Rivers will either retire or return to Indy; If Carson Wentz is on the block, the #Colts are a preferred spot; #Bengals will try to keep Lamar Jackson in check again; Derrick Henry may get a shot at 2K. pic.twitter.com/ZTLCojaJwM— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 3, 2021
Much of this likely depends on who the Eagles hire as their next head coach, whether or not that person believes he can actually fix Wentz (not to mention his feelings on Hurts), and what Howie Roseman feels like he can get in return for the one-time MVP candidate.
So, will Wentz wind up playing for the Colts next season? Well, like most things in this life, that depends on who you ask. One offshore sports book, BetOnline.ag, has Wentz with the second best odds of being Indy's starter in 2021 at +350, behind only current Colts backup and pending free agent Jacoby Brissett (+300). Another book, SportsBetting.ag, also has Brissett as the +300 favorite, but they have Wentz all the way down at +2000, tied for 10th with — you really can't make this shit up — Nick Foles, the QB who took over for Wentz in Philly and finished off their improbable Super Bowl run.
Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout (who used to work for the Eagles among others) and NFL Network analyst posted a poll on Twitter asking who will be the Colts' next quarterback. And one name was glaringly missing: Carson Wentz.
Colts have several ways to go with QB situation. Which one do you like best?— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 20, 2021
Jeremiah was then flooded with responses asking where Wentz was, one of which he answered.
I think he stays in Philly. New HC. New start.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 20, 2021
Others, however, seem to think that a trade could be more realistic. And perhaps part of a fresh start in Philly includes a fresh start at the QB position. Here's more from NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank...
The other part of the equation is compensation. It's hard to get a sense of Wentz's trade value considering how bad he was this past season. But if the Eagles organizationally decide they have to get rid of Wentz even after jettisoning Pederson, the compensation may not be as important as simply starting over without him.
Lurie spoke of Wentz as a "talent and an asset" during his presser on Jan. 11 after firing Pederson, so shipping Wentz is clearly on his mind to some extent. [nbcsports.com]
Of course, Lurie also referred to Hurts the same way, so perhaps he's the one who's future with the team is more in doubt.
No matter what way the Eagles go, however, they're going to be in trouble.
There are essentially two ways to win in the NFL. The first is having a franchise quarterback that makes everyone else around them better. It appears, at least at this point, that neither Wentz nor Hurts is that guy. The second way is having a young quarterback on a relatively cheap rookie contract and then building a star-studded roster around him that actually makes the quarterback better. The Eagles do have that in Jalen Hurts, but the problem is that they also have Wentz's contract on the books, which would prevent them from building properly around Hurts even if they did trade Wentz. And by the time they can get that Wentz contract off the books, Hurts' rookie deal will be close to expiring.
When we talk about a team being in quarterback hell, this is what we mean. And there's no easy way out of it — at least not immediately — even if the Eagles and Colts work out a trade for Carson Wentz.
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