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February 22, 2019

Mailbag: Are the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes doomed after Carson Wentz gets paid?

Eagles NFL
022219CarsonWentz Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Carson Wentz

In our Eagles chat this week, 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, we did a mailbag yesterday. We'll do another one today.

Question from JrzyDvlDownSouth: Jimmy can you do an article on how many teams have won the Super Bowl with the quarterback on their second or third contract? Wondering what the odds are once the team commits big money to the quarterback.

Having a good quarterback who is still on his rookie contract is a really nice advantage, since there is more money available to build a strong roster around him. However, that window is small, and typically, first-contract quarterbacks haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what they can eventually become with more experience. The idea that it's increasingly difficult to win a Super Bowl with a quarterback after he has gotten a lucrative new deal is one of those new, trendy talking points, but it isn't based on historical precedent.

When Sam Bradford was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010, he was the last rookie quarterback under the old CBA to get an enormous mega-deal (because of course he was). So that's probably the most relevant cut-off point when looking at something like this, but just for fun, we'll go back to the Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl (after the 2004 season, which was 15 Super Bowls ago) and look at the quarterbacks who won it all, and whether or not they were playing on their rookie contract:

 Year Super Bowl winning QBWas he playing on rookie contract? 
 2004Tom Brady No 
 2005Ben Roethlisberger Yes 
 2006Peyton Manning No 
 2007Eli Manning No 
 2008Ben Roethlisberger No 
 2009Drew Brees No 
 2010Aaron Rodgers No 
 2011Eli Manning No 
 2012Joe Flacco Yes 
 2013Russell Wilson Yes 
 2014Tom Brady No 
 2015Peyton Manning No 
 2016Tom Brady No 
 2017Nick Foles No* 
 2018Tom Brady No 

*Carson Wentz, the regular starter, was of course playing on his rookie contract.

Even the Super Bowl-losing quarterbacks rarely played on their rookie deals:

 YearSuper Bowl losing quarterback Was he playing on rookie contract 
2004 Donovan McNabb No 
2005 Matt Hasselbeck No 
2006 Rex Grossman Yes 
2007 Tom Brady No 
2008 Kurt Warner No 
2009 Peyton Manning No 
2010 Ben Roethlisberger No 
2011 Tom Brady No 
2012 Colin Kaepernick Yes 
2013 Peyton Manning No 
2014 Russell Wilson Yes 
2015 Cam Newton No 
2016 Matt Ryan No 
2017 Tom Brady No 
2018 Jared Goff Yes 


Only 7 of 30 quarterbacks starting in the last 15 Super Bowls were playing on their rookie contracts. 

Managing the cap will become more challenging once Carson Wentz gets paid. However, if Wentz can stay healthy and play to his capabilities, which in my opinion, are that of a top-five quarterback, then the Eagles should be Super Bowl contenders for the foreseeable future, even after he occupies a big chunk of the salary cap.

Question from MFlick: Is there a worse take than keeping Foles as a $25 million backup?

I have gotten emails from fans suggesting that the Eagles keep both quarterbacks, and I get it, seeing as the Eagles did win a Super Bowl because they had Foles as a backup. However, it's just not realistic with the Eagles' salary cap situation being what it is. Under other circumstances, I might consider it.

Currently, the Eagles are around $2 million under the salary cap, per OverTheCap.com, with Nick Foles not counting for a penny of that. Should the Eagles franchise tag him at around $25 million, they'll need to free up $23 million. #Math.

Yes, they'll have to do that anyway if the idea is to tag-and-trade him, which will be difficult as is, but after a trade is made, that $25 million will come right back off of their cap, obviously. That money can be used for extending Wentz, signing free agents to fill holes, signing draft picks, etc. If you keep him, you're now forced to free up even more money to do those things. Keeping Foles on the franchise tag would essentially be the Eagles' entire offseason. It would hamstring them from being able to add other players worth adding, while also forcing them to release players they might otherwise keep.

Question from BirdsAreTheWord: Any chance the Eagles go after a top-tier DE in free agency as people have stated they will?

I never understood that rumor. There won’t be any “top-tier” defensive ends left once the Cowboys, Texans, Seahawks, and Chiefs either re-sign or franchise tag DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, and Dee Ford, respectively.

Question from Chris: Should the Eagles go after Preston Smith?

I wouldn’t. If they were to go after Smith, I’d just be inclined to pay a little more to keep Brandon Graham. Smith has been a 3-4 OLB his whole career in Washington, so having him play 4-3 DE is something of a projection, and I wouldn’t want to spend big money on a projection.

Question from Jerry: How is it that the Eagles have relatively few marquee players on their roster, yet are still up against the cap, while the Rams managed to sign just about everybody in free agency last year and still have $24 million in cap space?

The insane assertion that the Eagles have “few marquee players” aside, are we forgetting that the Eagles won the Super Bowl a little more the 12 months ago, and were one of the final eight teams standing in 2018, despite an extraordinary number of injuries?

But getting back to the lack of marquee players, do Carson Wentz, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Jason Kelce, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Malcolm Jenkins really do nothing for you?

This is still a really, really good roster.

Question from Big D Nick: What is the likelihood the Eagles take a running back round one? They are in dire need of one. Maybe someone like Josh Jacobs?

Jacobs would be the only guy I’d consider taking at 25, and I think he’ll be gone by the time the Eagles are on the clock.

Also...

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