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November 25, 2020

Eagles mailbag: How realistic is a trade of Carson Wentz this offseason?

Eagles NFL
112520CarsonWentzJeffreyLurie Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and owner Jeffrey Lurie.

In our Eagles chat on Tuesday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Nikko: Hey Jimmy. How realistic would a Carson Wentz trade be this off-season? Is the risk of him being a 10-year All-Pro with the Colts worth the marginal salary cap and compensation they would receive?

It's not realistic. 

If you trade Wentz, it's $33,820,608 in dead money, and that's sort of where the discussion ends. Back in February, in researching a deep dive piece on Alshon Jeffery, I asked Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap to give me the biggest dead money hits in NFL history. His list is below (I added in Brandin Cooks and Nick Foles, who have since also had sizeable dead money hits):

  1. Brandin Cooks: $21.8M
  2. Antonio Brown: $21.12M
  3. Peyton Manning: $19.3M (they received a big credit for that though)
  4. Nick Foles $18.7M
  5. Ryan Tannehill: $18.4M
  6. Jamarcus Russell: $17.9M
  7. Nnamdi Asomugha: $17.2M
  8. Blake Bortles: $16.5M

If the Eagles were willing to trade Wentz and take on $33.8 million in dead money, it would be the biggest dead money hit in NFL history by a country mile, clearing the previous dead money hit leader (Cooks) by $12 million.

Using $176,000,000 as a temporary 2021 salary cap number (ultimately, it'll likely be a little higher), Wentz's dead money hit would take up 19.2 percent of the Eagles' cap. So there's that.

Now add in the dead money for the near-certain releases of Alshon Jeffery ($10,509,500) and DeSean Jackson ($5,802,000), and we're up $50,132,108, or 28.5 percent of a possible $176,000,000 salary cap. 

In pie chart form:

112520EaglesCap2021DeadMoney

And oh by the way, the Eagles are one of the most cap-strapped teams in the NFL as it is, as they are currently projected to be $69,333,761 over the cap in 2021, according to OverTheCap.

There's no denying that Wentz has been bad this season. I mean, he's been worse than bad. He has arguably been the worst starter, statistically, in the NFL. 

On the other hand, he's not that far removed from dragging a practice squad offense to the playoffs, and there's also the reality that the Eagles very likely would not have a Super Bowl trophy displayed proudly at the NovaCare Complex if not for Wentz leading the team to an 11-2 record and the 1 seed in the NFC in 2017.

The compensation it would take from some other team to make me willing to take on almost $34 million in dead money would have to be huge (multiple first round picks?), and clearly, nobody is giving that up for player whose current team would be willing have one-fifth of their cap spend play for another team. 

If the Eagles really, really wanted Wentz off of the roster, like the Steelers really wanted Antonio Brown of off their roster, then sure, maybe you take less to get him out, but obviously, that is not the case here.

Question from Stupid PV refresh signed me out: Yeah, Joe Ostman got murdered on that Nick Chubb run. But did you see the hold on T.J. Edwards? That run should have come back.

I was curious enough to go back and see what you're referring to, and yep, this is a pretty obvious hold that should have been called.

112420EdwardsHold

If I might add, on the very next play, Baker Mayfield fumbled, the Eagles recovered, and the officials somehow ruled that his "forward progress" had stopped, which was just an egregiously ridiculous call. 

But that awful call is really telling in another way. It was an outcome-affecting call, and from what I've seen, nobody cares. That's when you know that fans have gone from angry to apathetic.

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Question from Norm Snead: It is time to put Avonte Maddox at slot corner, correct?

Next year? Yes. Now? No. If you put Maddox in the slot, then you're playing Nickell Robey-Coleman or Jalen Mills outside, and that's not going to go well either. If at some point the Eagles are mathematically eliminated, then I could see them maybe seeing what Michael Jacquet can do, but until then, Maddox isn't going anywhere, I don't think.

Question from TheGhostofNormVanBrocklin: Where would you rank this team in terms of worst / most disappointing Eagles teams of all-time? I'm 45 and been an active Eagles fan for 41 seasons and I gotta say they would be somewhere in the top 5 for me.

Are we talking combination of awfulness throughout, plus falling short of expectations? If so, I can only think of two within your timeframe (which is close to mine):

2005, the year after the Super Bowl: Terrell Owens started bitching about his contract, he fought Hugh Douglas in the locker room, a rift formed between Donovan McNabb and Owens, Owens was kicked off the team, and a hapless Mike McMahon finished out the season as the QB. They started out decent enough at 3-1, but then dropped a bunch of games, falling to 4-6, and finishing 6-10. I thought they'd eventually get over the hump and win a Super Bowl, but they immediately went in the opposite direction.

2011, Dream Team: After a long, awful lockout following a breakout season from Mike Vick, the Eagles went on a rapid-fire free agent splurge, acquiring a slew of talented players that didn't really fit together and had no time to gel in a shortened offseason. They started 1-4, then 4-8, before winning four meaningless games to close the season.

If we're talking pure awfulness, there are other contenders, like seasons at the end of the Ray Rhodes and Rich Kotite eras, plus you can probably take your pick from a bunch of seasons in the 80's.

If we're talking "what could have been," the 1991 team had one of the best defenses in NFL history, but a Bryce Paup hit on Randall Cunningham sort of wrecked that season before it ever really got underway.

Question from The Tonner: Hi Jimmy Kempski, The Tonner is a big fan of your work. The Tonner is tired of hearing excuses from players and coaches after games. Are local postgame shows required to cover these press conferences? Is the Tonner alone in his lack of enjoyment of the same canned answers over and over? The Tonner would rather hear Seth Joyner or whoever just tee off on the team as opposed to listening to Doug pee on the Tonner's head and tell him it's just the rain.

Lol.

Question from Donnie is gone-zo: The Eagles established the run right away on Sunday. Don't you think the offense the Browns ran, with play action roll out plays might help Wentz better than whatever slop they are currently running? Get back to basics cutting the field and reads down and letting Wentz throw on the move, where he seems to do well?

To the Tonner's point above, how many times do we have to hear Doug say that they're going to get Wentz on the move more, without actually seeing it? 

I will say that on the Eagles' second drive, after they stopped the Browns on the goal line stand, they did run some stuff effectively off their early success with the run. They just overdid it, and forgot that they should still continue to mix in the run game. After a sneak to get some breathing room, they did the following:

  1. Wentz hit Reagor on an out for 16.
  2. Then he hit Goedert down the field for 32 off of play action. 
  3. Then they went play action action again, and Wentz dumped it down to Sanders for 3. 
  4. And then they went play action again, and Wentz threw the pick-six.

There's really been no balance to the offense at all this season.

Question from And you thought Agholor didn’t catch the ball: Why the heck do our punt returners consistently let the ball hit the turf? I noticed this problem in the first three games or so. Then for a couple games it looks like they fixed it. But these last two games have been egregious. I have to blame the coaching. What do you say?

The special teams units, most notably the return teams, have been dreadful this season. And you're right. Reagor had the punt sail over his head against the Giants, and the punt that went unfielded by Greg Ward late in the third quarter really cost them in Cleveland.

The Browns were punting from the Eagles' 48, so Ward is set up on the 10. He doesn't have to worry about the ball going over his head, because if it does, he's not fielding it anyway. All he has to really worry about is running sideline to sideline, as it's very likely to be a directional punt in that situation.

Sure enough, the Browns' punter angles it to the right, and while it only had a hangtime of about 4 seconds (I timed it at 3.98 seconds), Ward still has plenty of time to recognize the direction of the punt, sprint over, get in position, and make the catch. As you'll see here, he does none of those things. The ball lands at the 11, and rolls down to the 2.

112520BrownsPunt2

As you'll probably recall, Wentz was sacked in the end zone for a safety on the ensuing possession.

Dave Fipp's explanation of that punt was as follows:

"I think there are a lot of factors to that. I think if you look closely at it, it's going to be a high-risk catch. I don't think the guy had a lot of hang time on the ball, so it was a little bit low trajectory. I think it was like 3.8 seconds, which some of those punts are like 4.5 I think, it didn't go very far, it went 35 yards. I think it bounced at like the 13-yard line. It was obviously really wide out there. We had a corner out there wide on top of the gunner, the gunners out there, so his first job I mean is to try to make sure those guys get away from the football. I thought he did a really good job of that. I thought it would have been a high-risk catch trying to go in there and catch it. Obviously, the footing’s slick. You want to make sure in the rain that you have a little bit extra time to make sure you secure the ball. 

"Goal number one for us on that play is to give the ball back to the offense. You obviously don't want the ball to roll like that, especially in hindsight, of course. I thought maybe we could have done a better job of maybe getting on top of the ball and squaring it up. It did take a high bounce right there and maybe we could have caught the ball after the bounce, and I don't think we would have gotten any return yardage. We would've had to protect the ball from the gunner, who would have been right on top of us but maybe we could have eliminated the roll there and gotten the ball back to the offense on the eight-yard line, something like that. 

"I would say, it's easy to say that today. There's some risk in doing that. Obviously that position back there you're managing a lot of risk, that's a tough position to be in. There's a lot of responsibility on a guy's shoulders. I think, overall, Greg's done a good job. I mean he's minimized the real negative plays against our team, obviously. I think with experience being back there more I'm sure there's things that he would do differently today than he's done in the past, just like all of us. And then I would say just being critical of myself at the end of the day I got to do a better job of coaching them up and preparing them for all those situations and I can do a better job of that, also."

Honestly, I think that's a reasonable answer from Fipp. Unfortunately, I just think that the Eagles don't have a legitimate punt returner, and like some other spots on the roster, it feels like a position they don't prioritize at all.

Question from The Kenny: When was the last time the Eagles had a no doubt about it win? A game where they dominated beginning to end and the end result was never in doubt.

Jets game last year.

Question from Certified: I was contemplating how much worse the season would be (hard to believe) if it weren’t for the temporary roster rules, like the increased flexibility of short-term IR, expanded practice squad, etc. I think the flexibility is helping the teams and players, particularly back of roster guys. Do you see any of these temporary roster rules staying? Which ones could/should stay, in your opinion?

I agree that they have all been good changes, and I'll bet they're here to stay. 

Question from davejo: Hey Jimmy, what in your view does 'blowing it all up' mean? How far does Jeffrey Lurie go?

I don't know what Lurie will do, but in my vernacular, "blowing it all up" means a new GM, new head coach (and coaching staff), and in the Eagles' case, a major roster deconstruction to get out of cap hell, followed by a rebuild. I'm still sort of figuring out how far I would go with if it were all up to me, but I do plan on showing the merits of a complete rebuild vs. other paths the team can take later this week.

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