January 05, 2021
We're only two days into the 2021 NFL offseason, but it's already been a busy one for Eagles fans.
First, they watched the Birds' season come to an end in unspectacular fashion in primetime — and saw their team, and specifically head coach Doug Pederson get crushed nationally for his decision to bench Jalen Hurts in favor of Nate Sudfeld. That frustration apparently wasn't limited to Giants fans and players (and a percentage of Birds fans). According to one report, the Eagles players on the sidelines were equally as frustrated that the team seemed to concede their season finale despite it being a close game.
There have also been the rumors, specifically the ones surrounding quarterback Carson Wentz. We already know that Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman will be back, while Jim Schwartz will reportedly take a year off in 2021. But what about the guy getting paid to be the team's franchise quarterback? Well, that depends who you ask.
On Monday, during a 30-minute year-end session with the media, Howie Roseman was asked several questions about Wentz's future in Philly and after avoiding an answer the first time, the Eagles GM admitted that trading Wentz isn't something they are discussing.
"That is not anything we are talking about right now," said Roseman, who also oddly compared the prospect of losing Wentz to losing a finger on your hand. "We are talking about a guy that's immensely talented, has a great work ethic and doing whatever we can to put him in the best possible situation to be successful."
The key words there are "right now." When you couple that with Roseman's previous answer about things being "too raw" this close to the end of the season, it punctuates the fluidity of this situation. Roseman adding the "right now" to the end of that sentence basically means the team could start trade discussions today, one day later, and he would have the ability to claim he was still telling the truth in that moment.
On Sunday, prior to the Eagles' season-ending loss to Washington, ESPN dropped its second Wentz-wants-out report in as many weeks, this one adding the caveat that the relationship between the 28-year-old quarterback and his coach has become "fractured beyond repair," something the team has since denied. But it appears there's at least a strain in the relationship, one that has Wentz pondering his future in Philly.
That's where we'll start today's edition of What They're Saying...
Let's dive in with the latest report on Wentz, and the source is important on this one, as it comes from AP football reporter Rob Maaddi. Why does that matter? Well, for starters, Wentz wrote the foreword on Maaddi's book, "Birds of Pray" and has been a guest on his "Faith on the Field" radio show in the past, so it's safe to assume there's a relationship between the two. Furthermore, Maaddi was one of the people critical on Twitter of the recent ESPN reports from Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, suggesting among other things that the source of their report was someone other than Wentz.
Add those things together and it's safe to assume that Wentz was at least briefed about this story before it was posted, if he's not the source himself. Here's what Maaddi wrote...
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday says Carson Wentz needs time away to think about his future with the Philadelphia Eagles and is hopeful it won’t end in a divorce. ...
Wentz also hasn’t discussed his future with team officials yet, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because it’s a private matter. The person said those conversations will take place when the time is right.
Wentz’s relationship with the organization is strained, according to another person close to the situation. It’ll take both sides coming together to make it work. [apnews.com]
What's interesting about that AP report is that it doesn't directly contradict the reporting from Mortensen and Schefter. If Wentz indeed was the source, that's at least the second time he's passed up a chance to dispute those reports. The first came on Monday, when the Eagles quarterback declined to speak to the media.
Maybe it's not entirely fair to Wentz to interpret his decision not to speak as tacit approval of the report Sunday by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen quoting anonymous sources as saying that Wentz plans to ask for a trade and “clearly wants out of Philadelphia.”
But the fact that nobody in Wentz’s camp – not his agent, not him – has as much as issued a statement or posted anything on social media denying the report is notable.
And Monday – when several other Eagles met with the media on Zoom calls - was seen as an opportunity for Wentz to clear the air if he felt the report was unfair or mischaracterized his true feelings.
Nothing but silence. [nbcsports.com]
Normally, I wouldn't blame him, as there would be little for him to gain in that situation. But given the reports floating out there saying that he planned on requesting a trade this offseason and that his relation with Pederson was unfixable, his silence spoke volumes. Wentz could've flat out denied them and ended a lot of speculation. Rather than forcefully denying them, he chose not to discuss those reports, and if we believe he's Maaddi's source, he opted to do his talking through the media rather than to the media.
This one is a couple of days old — it's from before the Eagles lost to Washington on Sunday — but it was too good not to include in here. And, since it's a couple days old, and I know that Mike is cool with it, I'm going to include a little more than I normally would from another outlet.
Mike went scorched earth on Wentz on Sunday following the Mort report that the QB wants out of Philly. After the team invested massive draft capital in him — and handed him a massive contract extension during the 2019 season — Wentz is basically screwing the team over because he had a bad year and lost his starting job to a rookie.
By making it known that he wants a trade, Wentz is screwing the Eagles by driving down his trade value (not that he had a lot), creating a public spectacle and, if they can’t trade him, making himself an ongoing story while throwing a stink bomb into next season’s QB room – not to mention what he’s doing to the salary cap.
Make no mistake, Wentz is in this situation because he has sucked – badly.
Not because of anything the Eagles have done. [nj.com]
All Wentz is doing is simultaneously demanding a trade while making it harder for the Eagles to trade him, and it's already going to be pretty hard given his contract and 2020 performance. He's also showing how he handles adversity, and it should be a red flag for any team thinking of acquiring him.
The trade wish also comes after five years of head coach Doug Pederson protecting and coddling Wentz publicly and privately from teammates, media and himself.
Remember when Wentz tried to deny a report that he had been a diva? How’s that report looking now?
After a benching -- that actually happened much later than it should have -- Wentz is reportedly done with the Eagles’ brass. While debates over fairness and mental toughness rage on Philly radio and social media, Wentz is signaling that criticism and accountability are deterrents for him.
One of the highest-paid athletes in a city that prides itself on its toughness wants to run away from adversity. [nj.com]
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Wentz isn't making it any easier for the team to trade him with all these leaks. But maybe there's something poetic there, after Wentz was on the receiving end of "anonymous" reports on several occasions over the last couple of years.
Wentz had no business being on the field for the final month of the season. And, instead of taking his benching as a reset or a challenge, he apparently views it as a slight. That’s not what the Eagles want in a leader, that’s not what the organization or fans should want in a quarterback -- the face of the franchise.
There is no reason for the Eagles to keep him.
Wentz is showing he’s all about himself, emotionally immature and mentally weak. He’s another high-paid athlete who has been given everything since childhood and the first time he’s had to work for something – and face competition – he has chosen to run away instead. [nj.com]
OK, now let's get back to the mechanics of trying to make a Wentz deal work.
That Mort report included a little nugget about Wentz being willing to help "facilitate" a trade if the Eagles are having trouble moving his contract. Over at Bleeding Green, Ben Solak offered up an in-depth look at how exactly that may look, including Mike Tannenbaum's wild idea for Wentz to just give the Eagles $20 million back. Unfortunately, Solak came away with the conclusion that there's not much Wentz can actually to do help facilitate a trade...
So what can Wentz do?
Nothing significant, I’m afraid.
Wentz clearly wants to be a starter somewhere else and has his eyes set on Indianapolis. He might need to become comfortable with other landing spots, or the idea of competing for a job, to open up the suitors for Philadelphia. All it takes is a Philip Rivers return for the Indy job to close.
Other than that, the situation might call for him pushing back his roster bonus — a small move with little impact — or surrendering some base salary — a potentially huge move with earth-shaking impact. That he’s game is good news; but the coaching and personnel decisions of the next few months could either sweeten or sour him on Philadelphia, affecting his willingness to help the Eagles create a deal.
And with Wentz on board, this deal is a bear; without him, it’s even trickier. In the NFL, these things often get done — but nobody may end up happy with the hoops they have to jump through to build Wentz’s life raft out of Philadelphia. [bleedinggreennation.com]
So how will this all play out? ESPN's Tim McManus took a stab in his Eagles offseason preview, and believes that this appears headed to a divorce, even if there's some postering from both sides in the next few weeks.
The Eagles will try to calm the waters in the coming weeks -- general manager Howie Roseman and Pederson started that process Monday by pumping Wentz up and assuring all is well between team and QB -- if for no other reason than to try to build up trade leverage. Parting with Wentz after giving him a four-year, $128 million extension in the summer of 2019 will be a record-setting financial headache. Philly would incur a dead-cap hit of nearly $35 million by trading him as it stands. The largest dead-cap hit in league history was Brandin Cooks’ $21.8 million with the Los Angeles Rams.
That's a mighty hard pill to swallow. But Wentz's trust in the organization was breached after it assured him the Hurts pick in the second round last April was nothing to worry about, only for the situation to devolve into a full-fledged QB controversy (in part as a result of Wentz's poor play). Any plan the Eagles devise to get Wentz back to his old self and into the QB1 chair once more will be viewed skeptically. Parting ways now will give Wentz the fresh start he seeks while providing the Eagles financial relief in the long run.
He should attract some suitors -- a reunion with coach Frank Reich in Indianapolis is possible and the New England Patriots are surely doing their homework -- but a deal needs to fall into place quickly: The Eagles have to execute a trade prior to the third day of the 2021 league year (begins March 17) before his $22 million base salary for 2022 becomes fully guaranteed and his 2021 roster bonus of $10 million is paid out. [espn.com]
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