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May 13, 2020

What they're saying: Carson Wentz vs. Dak Prescott, and the Eagles' dangerous cap situation

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Wentz-Dak_051320_usat USA Today Sports/File

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will forever be linked. But who's better?

While we haven't quite reached the part of the NFL offseason so devoid of news that we have to make up fake controversies — don't worry, we'll get there soon enough — so if you find yourself already fed up with manufactured debates and endless hot takes, we apologize in advance. 

But, as the headlines suggests, we'll be covering more than just the seemingly endless debate over whether Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is better than Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, something that seems to be popping up again now that Prescott is looking for a new deal that will exceed the one Wentz signed a year ago — not to mention the overall dearth of sports at the moment. This season, unless a new deal is worked out in the interim, Prescott will play under the franchise tag and make just over $31 million.

We've put together an Eagles offseason edition of What They're Saying that focuses almost entirely on the Dak vs. Wentz debate. However, before we get into that, let's take a look at something that doesn't have anything to do with how either perform on the field but could impact the supporting casts around them in the not-so-distant future.

Cap concerns

Bill Barnwell | ESPN

Yesterday, our own Kyle Neubeck took a look at a recent NBA report suggesting the NBA's loss of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic could cause the salary cap to be cut by tens of million of dollars next season, putting teams like the Sixers in a precarious position if they're unable to figure out a way around it. 

While the NFL, at least for now, appears to be the league least impacted by the coronavirus, that could change if fans are kept out of games or if the season is forced to be shortened. And for a team like the Eagles that have a ton of money already committed to next season, a drastic drop in the salary cap could spell big trouble in Philly. 

Over at ESPN, Bill Barnwell looked at some winners and losers of the NFL offseason, and while the Eagles weren't outright listed as a loser, they might as well have been... 

Losers: Teams with lots of guaranteed money tied up in 2021

While we're again months and months away from having any idea about what the cap will look like next year, there are teams that have to be sweating the possibility of a reduced cap. Take the Eagles, who already have $263.3 million on the books for 2021, much of it tied up in players who are core pieces of the roster. Getting down to $210 million would require a couple of restructures and cuts of veterans like DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Marquise Goodwin. Moving to $175 million would require another $35 million in savings.

The Eagles would find a reduced cap most difficult, but teams like the Saints, Falcons and Steelers would also be in compromised positions. Again, the league and players could come to terms on a deal that could restore some of the missing revenue, and the NFL would get a bump from a possible 17-game season in 2021, but the alternative looms as a dangerous scenario for several of the league's highest-spending teams.  [espn.com]

Choose your weapon

Joe Giglio | NJ.com

And now, we get into our Carson vs. Dak debate. 

Earlier on Wednesday, Jimmy Kempski revealed his own All-NFC East team for the offensive side of the ball, and he went with the Eagles quarterback over the Cowboys passer. Here's what he had to say: 

Dak Prescott has slightly better stats and he's more durable, but if we're looking at their actual talents, and if we're taking into consideration what each player has been able to do with their respective supporting casts, Wentz is is the quarterback who gives you a better chance at winning a Super Bowl.  [MORE]

But not everyone agrees — and that includes local writers as well. Over at NJ.com, WIP host Joe Giglio offered up his own rankings of the NFC East quarterbacks, and he has the Eagles' rival ranked ahead of Wentz. 

1. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: Durable. Tough. Winner. Prescott has been everything the Cowboys likely dreamed of when taking a chance on the ex-Mississippi State star in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Public contract negotiations have overshadowed just how good (4,902 yards, 99.7 passer rating, 8.2 yards per attempt) Prescott was last season.

2. Carson Wentz, Eagles: For as talented as Wentz is and for as many splash plays he can make, durability concerns hover over his career. Plus, we’re talking about a quarterback that’s closer to middle-of-the-pack rather than elite since his 2017 knee injury. At one point, Wentz looked poised to race past Prescott to the top of the division hierarchy. Those days are gone, and now it’s Wentz that has the catching up to do.  [nj.com]

Fighting words

K.D. Drummond | Cowboys Wire

If you follow Cowboys writer K.D. Drummond on Twitter, you likely already know his stance on Wentz vs. Prescott, but at least he seems to recognize that fans are entitled to pick whichever quarterback they want. And he's typically not in the business of unfairly ripping Wentz just because he plays for a rival team. 

But when this very debate came up on a recent edition of ESPN's Get Up, things got a little heated between Wentz advocate Dan Orlovsky and the pro-Prescott Domonique Foxworth. Host Mike Greenberg asked the two to name their Top 5 quarterbacks in the NFL, and Orlovksy had Wentz ranked fifth, something Foxworth took exception to.

There’s nothing wrong with liking Wentz, but Orlovsky – who appears to be an Eagles fan, always insists on doing a compare/contrast with Prescott. So after naming Wentz in his top five and leaving out Prescott – who dominates Wentz statistically and hasn’t missed any games in his career – Foxworth had enough.

He relayed all of the ways Prescott was better, and it was glorious.

Does any of the debate truly matter? Not really.  [cowboyswire.usatoday.com]

Orlovsky taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves is great, but unfortunately that video cut off before we can hear him offer a rebuttal. Funny how that happens on a Cowboys blog. But if you're interested in hearing his response, we've got it for you. Just skip ahead to the 1:15 mark...

Closing the book?

Michael Gatti | NBC Sports Philadelphia

We know that analysts are generally split about the two quarterbacks, depending on what they value most at the position. But what about the oddsmakers?

Well, when it comes to MVP odds for the two players, there's a clear preference. 

Taking a look at the sportsbooks and it’s pretty clear whom the oddsmakers think is the better of the two quarterbacks entering the 2020 campaign. Take a look at MVP odds: 

 WENTZ 
PRESCOTT
17-1FanDuel12-1
25-1BetMGM20-1
28-1FOXBet14-1
28-1DraftKings12-1
30-1Bet Rivers12-1
35-1Caesars9-1


There’s some factors that go into these numbers being so one-sided. Dak has two-time rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup lined up on the outside. Both Cooper and Gallup each racked up over 1,000 receiving yards a season ago. Then, add first-round pick CeeDee Lamb to the mix and that’s a pretty potent offense.  [nbcsports.com]

Take your pick

Christian D'Andrea | SB Nation

Another interesting way at looking at this debate is by trying to decide which QB you'd draft first. Obviously, Wentz went first back in 2016, but what if we took the quarterbacks away from each team, put them all in a draft pool and held a totally realistic QB-only draft involving all the starters from around the NFL?

Well that's exactly what they did over at SB Nation. And Prescott went several picks ahead of Wentz, who went one spot behind Tom Brady and two spots behind Joe Burrow, despite the former being closer to getting his AARP card than being drafted and the latter having thrown a grand total of zero NFL passes. 

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Dak Prescott (26 years old)

STILL the best quarterback of the class of 2016. The Cowboys asked him to throw more than ever in 2019, and he responded with a career-high 4,902 passing yards (more than 1,000 more than his previous best) and a 30:11 TD:INT ratio. The Chargers, forever on-field drama magnets, get a player who led 14 game-winning drives in his first three seasons.

10. Cleveland Browns: Carson Wentz (27 years old)

Here’s where things get difficult. There’s a host of good, not yet great, young-ish quarterbacks and heady veterans who make up the next tier.

I opted for Wentz — the quarterback the Browns traded back from possibly drafting in 2017. He arrives carrying the hope Cleveland’s massive upgrade at wideout (and to a lesser extent, tight end) will unlock the player who threw 54 touchdown passes against just 14 interceptions in 2017 and 2018. This could be my dumbest selection of the day, seeing as the Eagles may have drafted his replacement last week and have appeared very stupid doing so.  [sbnation.com]

Dak the blueprint for Hurts pick? 

Mike Sielski | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Finally, we bring it all full circle with the latest column from Mike Sielski, who doesn't so much compare Dak and Wentz, but rather talks about how the former's rookie year may have informed the Eagles decision to shock the football world and draft a quarterback in the second round. 

Here's Mike on why the Birds went after Hurts so early...

The parochial answer – parochial, because there can be a tendency here to view everything the Eagles do through an Eagles-only prism – is that the Hurts pick isn’t a waste because Wentz, like just about every starting quarterback the Eagles have had over the last decade-plus, gets hurt a lot, and they’ll need to be prepared if he gets hurt again. After all, they were so well-prepared in 2017, with Nick Foles, that they won a Super Bowl without Wentz, and just as they paid a premium price to sign Foles and dump Chase Daniel then, they were willing to spend a high draft pick on a cost-effective backup now. To which the natural response is, If you want to allocate valuable resources toward the slim chance that you can make a miracle championship run with a backup quarterback, you do so at your own peril. And 'round and 'round we go ...  [inquirer.com]

Naturally, this makes even more sense with the NFL expanding both the regular season schedule and the playoffs after this season. Obviously, the Eagles know the importance of having a solid backup (see: Foles, Nick), but instead of bringing in a veteran to provide a safety net behind Wentz, they opted for a rookie (who may or may not be ready to be the No. 2 when the season starts). 

And the Cowboys may have provided the blueprint...

Entering the 2016 season, Tony Romo was still the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. Sure, Dallas had gone 4-12 in 2015, but a broken left collarbone – as random an injury as, say, a concussion from a cheap shot during a playoff game – had caused Romo to miss eight games, and a shoulder injury had caused him to miss another four. Over their 12 games without Romo, the Cowboys had gone 1-11, using a trio of backups, each of whom had been in the NFL for several years: Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore, and Brandon Weeden.

Still, though Romo was 35, the Cowboys had won three of the four games he had started, so they had reason to think they could be a playoff team again with him. More, because they had the No. 4 pick in the 2016 draft, they had a chance to add a player who could help them right away, which they did. They drafted running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Then they made another pick, in the fourth round of that draft, that was arguably just as important as Elliott, if not more so. They selected Dak Prescott, and when Romo fractured a vertebra in his back during the preseason, Prescott became Dallas’ starter. Instead of having their season sunk again because Romo was hurt, the Cowboys went 13-3 and won the NFC East as Prescott completed nearly 68% of his passes and threw for 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns.  [inquirer.com]

Obviously, the Cowboys were in a bit of a different situation — their starter was 35 (not 27) and they used a fourth-round pick (not a second) — and the Eagles are hoping they don't need to use Hurts at quarterback in his rookie year (unless it's for some sort of trickery). 

Unfortunately, the Eagles paid a lot more for Hurts and will only get to see if he can replicate Prescott's early success if their franchise quarterback suffers a serious injury.


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