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February 08, 2021

John McMullen: An impressive trade return for Carson Wentz shouldn't get the Eagles off the hook

Almost everyone in the NFL is shooting their shot when it comes to the quarterback market with the dreamers focusing on unrealistic targets like Russell Wilson.

The patient organizations hope Deshaun Watson turns from disgruntled to toxic forcing Houston into a move, and then there's the more pragmatic, who focus on the quarterbacks actually available right now.

Matthew Stafford headlined that list and the Los Angeles Rams were the winners, outlasting Carolina and a few other teams by offering up two future first-round picks, a 2021 third-rounder, and a QB new Detroit general manager Brad Holmes scouted, knows, and likes in Jared Goff.

From there No. 2 on the realist list is the Eagles' Carson Wentz and the betting line is he'll be gone this week, likely to Indianapolis or Chicago with perhaps the Las Vegas Raiders and known Wentz-lover Mike Mayock making the late Major League Baseball-trademarked mystery push.

When the autopsy on Wentz and the Eagles is finally written, it will note a failure on both the micro and macro levels.

By any measure the situation is a massive organizational misstep with a historic level of assets put into this investment, first to acquire Wentz in the 2016 NFL Draft and then in the form of a four-year $128 million extension that will leave Jeffrey Lurie on the hook for $33.8 in dead money, a new NFL precedent that will shatter the current dead-money record by $11.6M.

From there you can throw in the misevaluation, coaching deficiencies, and the player himself, who has always defaulted to his God-given ability rather than the constant push to get better, something perhaps best exemplified by Tom Brady, who earned his seventh championship at the age on 43 on Sunday night in Super Bowl LV.

No individual team in the 55-year history of the big game has more with Brady’s old team in New England, along with Pittsburgh, as the pace-setters with six apiece.

When it became clear that COVID-19 would force the NFL into its first virtual offseason in the spring of 2020, the quick assessment was that it would serve as a giant stress test for organizations around the league.

Hindsight says the Eagles were one of the most notable failures in that regard, so much so they moved on from their only Super Bowl-winning coach less than three calendar years after the lone Lombardi Trophy in franchise history. Furthermore, it's not if but when they will move on from Wentz some 20 months after deeming him the face of the franchise.

Turns out that being left to your own devices was the same kind of stress test for players as well.

Brady for instance turned 43 in August and already had more hardware than any other starting quarterback in league history but he was relocating to Tampa and a new team. Once the superstar signed with the Buccaneers he quickly moved to Central Florida trying to kickstart what turned out to be Tampa Bay's second Super Bowl run whether it was walking into a stranger’s house he thought was offensive coordinator Byton Leftwich’s because Brady was champing at the bit to get the playbook or stretching local quarantine laws to the limit trying to get better with his new teammates in public parks.

You can make all the moral judgments you want over that kind of behavior in a pandemic but the one thing every truly great athlete has in common is work ethic. They're never satisfied and always pushing to find the next advantage that might make them a little more prepared than their peers.

A first-time father, Wentz used his extra time in the offseason to bond with his wife and daughter, a far higher calling in life than playing quarterback in the NFL, but one his fan base or employer doesn’t have as much interest in and it certainly set the now sixth-year signal caller back.

Already very flawed fundamentally, Wentz regressed even further with no on-field offseason work to keep him at least on an even keel, particularly when it came to footwork and decision-making.

Still, the thought around the league moving forward from more than not is that Wentz can and will be fixed, maybe not to the 2017 version due to his knee and back injuries but the 2018 or 2019 version who was at the bare minimum, capable.

It's notable, however, that the organization that knows Wentz the best is willing to take unprecedented steps to cut him loose.

That’s not just a red flag that’s the first red flag off the assembly line at the red-flag factory.

Right now Howie Roseman is the lion trying to separate the weakest GM from the herd.

The definition there is Ryan Pace over Chris Ballard, the former who has to win in 2021 to keep his job with the Bears and the latter regarded as one of the best GMs in the NFL as the leader of the Colts and someone who is not going to be easily played.

The thought is the Eagles can get the 20th overall pick from Pace, maybe another mid-round pick, and a player for Wentz and a later-round pick going back, not exactly a haul but pretty amazing considering the depths Wentz sunk to in the 2020 season.

Never underestimate the hubris of those who believe they can fix players and Pace's QB resume already reads Mike Glennon, trading up from No. 3 to No. 2 to get Mitchell Trubisky in the Patrick Mahomes/Watson draft, and Nick Foles, so being susceptible to mistakes at the game's most important position is in his DNA.

The return being speculated upon for Wentz would be a nice rebound from rock bottom for Roseman and the Eagles organization if it comes to fruition but never forget how much had to go wrong for Philadelphia to be boxing out in the first place.

John McMullen is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media, the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey and also contributes Eagles and NFL coverage for You can reach him at

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