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February 13, 2021

What they're saying: Why Eagles haven't traded Wentz (yet) and how packaging him with Ertz can help

Eagles NFL
Wentz-Ertz_100420_usat Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is congratulated by quarterback Carson Wentz after scoring a two-point conversion against the San Francisco 49ers.

It's now been over a week since reports first started to emerge that a trade involving Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was imminent, as in, it was going to happen in the next couple of days. And it wasn't just one a report. It was several, causing so much momentum to build that it was impossible to see any other outcome than Wentz being dealt, if not before the Super Bowl was played last Sunday night then certainly within a day or two after.

Clearly, that didn't happen. And as the week wore on, it was beginning to look less and less likely that a trade was about to go down at any moment and more and more like Howie Roseman played us in the media for fools, drumming up a market for the Eagles quarterback that simply wasn't there. And if you're confused as to why Roseman is the man pulling the strings behind the curtain, then ask yourself one simple question: Who would've been first to benefit from all the reports coming out in the last week-plus? 

It's the Eagles. Every last one of them. From the reports that Philly had received an offer including multiple first-round picks to the idea that a trade was imminent, all of that was to try to start a bidding war between, as far as we can tell, the only two teams that are currently in discussions with the Eagles: the Bears and the Colts. 

Now, after he was unable to get a deal done in the short timeframe he leaked to the media, Roseman is left holding the bag as the market for Wentz cools down and a more realistic picture of the market begins to take shape. 

A week ago, we figured we'd be talking about what the Eagles got back for Wentz and whether Jalen Hurts or someone else would be the Week 1 starter. Now, we're left wondering not only when Wentz will get dealt, but also whether or not the compensation will make giving up on the former No. 2 overall pick worth it. 

Either way, Wentz Watch has entered its second week and...

caddyshack-waiting_GIFCaddyshack/for PhillyVoice

So let's take a minute to reset and take a look at what they're saying about Wentz, his trade market and what in the hell the Eagles are doing.

What's the holdup?

Les Bowen | The Philadelphia Daily News

Over at Inquirer.com, Les Bowen, one of the reporters whose sources said a trade was "close" this time last week, tried to get to the bottom of why a deal has not been reached yet. He still believes that "Wentz almost certainly is still getting traded," but the timeline may not be as tight as first expected.

[Note: We're not blaming Les for reporting that a deal was close. He wasn't the only one, and it's still looking like a deal could go down any day now, so saying a deal was close doesn't necessarily make him wrong. It all depends on what your definition of close is. Anyway...]

The Eagles really don't have to trade Wentz until March 19, when he's owed a $10 million roster bonus that would take his dead cap hit from $33.8 million to $43.8 million, but they have every incentive to get it done sooner rather than later, as they risk suitors dropping out and whatever small amount of leverage they might have had. They also might be viewing Wentz as a more valuable commodity than other around the league view him, especially if they're hoping to get a "Matthew Stafford package" back in return. 

So, back to why this hasn’t happened yet. Sources say Roseman looked at the Goff-Matthew Stafford trade and thought the third-round pick the Lions got this year, plus two future firsts and quarterback Jared Goff, would be a pretty good template for a Wentz trade. But teams know what Stafford is, after 165 games and 282 touchdown passes. They might not agree on exactly where he ranks, but he’s in the top dozen or so starters, every year. Wentz has been that, too, but in far fewer career games, and this year he was barely among the top three dozen NFL QBs.

Roseman’s problem might be that teams see Wentz as much more resembling Goff -- who was drafted first overall in 2016, just before the Eagles took Wentz -- than Stafford.

Nobody knows exactly what teams have offered for Wentz. NFL sources believe the only confirmed bidders are Chicago and Indianapolis, and Wentz is not the only QB property on the market. Houston doesn’t want to trade Deshaun Watson but probably will have to accede to Watson’s request. Now Russell Wilson seems to be pushing a trade from Seattle. The Jets and former Eagles exec Joe Douglas are dangling Sam Darnold. Marcus Mariota is in the mix after a year as a Raiders backup. [...]

Bottom line, league sources doubt Roseman has been offered a first-round pick of any sort for Wentz, this year or in the future. The haul from a Wentz trade is the only mitigation Roseman can get from the disaster of having to deal away a healthy 28-year-old QB he handpicked as the future of the franchise, saw play for three years, then rewarded with a $128 million contract extension. If Roseman walks away with a midround pick this year and a conditional second or something down the road, he has seriously marred his legacy and probably has deepened the hole the 4-11-1 Eagles have to climb out of, in terms of acquiring talent.  [inquirer.com]

A package deal?

Tim McManus | ESPN

As Les pointed out, it appears there are only two "active" suitors for Wentz at the moment, although that could certainly change at a moment's notice (for better or worse). The Eagles can't afford to lose one of those suitors, so there's an added sense of urgency for them to move on from Wentz as soon as possible. The holdup, however, seems to stem from the Eagles looking for more in return than teams are currently offering. 

So how could the Eagles improve that return? As ESPN's Tim McManus points out, they could do that (and clear up some added cap space) by packaging Zach Ertz alongside Wentz.

One solution to finding proper value could be including the Eagles' veteran tight end, who is one of Wentz's best friends, in the deal. Contract talks between Ertz and the Eagles came to an impasse last offseason, and it's pretty clear at this point a split is inevitable.

Ertz, 30, was limited to 11 games because of injury in 2020 and had a down season overall, but has otherwise been a force in the league. He led the Eagles in both catches and receiving yards in each of the previous four seasons and posted more catches through the first seven seasons of his career (525) than any other tight end in NFL history.

Reich would no doubt welcome a reunion with Ertz, one of the heroes from the Eagles' Super Bowl LII win against the New England Patriots. The Colts have the salary-cap room to absorb Ertz's 2021 base salary of $8.25 million.

The Eagles would rightly expect to get a pretty handsome package back for Wentz and Ertz while freeing up some cash moving forward.

Maybe it proves a bit too complicated an endeavor to include both players in a package, but it's at least worth discussing, and might get us closer to ending Wentz Watch 2021.  [espn.com]

UPDATE: It turns out McManus isn't the only one who could see Ertz getting packaged with Wentz. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, who reported on Saturday that the Eagles are expected to begin shopping the tight end (or could potentially release him), also sees that as a possibility for Philly...

It would suck to see Ertz, a guy who got emotional recently talking about his desire to spend the rest of his career in Philly, be shipped out, especially in this way, as a salary dump to increase the return for the malcontent QB the team overspent on. Not exactly the end Ertz would've hoped for in Philly, but at least he'd be landing in a pretty good situation in Indy. 

A fair price?

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

Over at The Athletic, Sheil Kapadia still firmly believes that the Eagles will deal Wentz — and he believes that Roseman will get Colts GM Chris Ballard to increase his offer to include a first-round pick. It's not a great deal for the Eagles, as they only gain one pick, but it would help them start fresh at QB, and maybe that's what is most important here. 

2. The Eagles trade Carson Wentz to the Colts

It feels like a Wentz deal could happen at any moment, but Eagles GM Howie Roseman is doing everything in his power to try to maximize compensation. It’s possible that he eventually finds a Stafford-like deal, but it’s also possible that all the leveraging leads to something considerably less than that.

If you’re the Colts, you know you need to find a starter from somewhere this offseason. You convince yourself that Wentz’s 2020 season was an outlier related to bad coaching, offensive line injuries and front-office mishaps. In 2018 and 2019, Wentz ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, in QBR. You tell yourself that Frank Reich can at least get that level of play out of him. And maybe Wentz can still recapture his 2017 magic, given that he’s only 28 years old. If you believe that Wentz is a top-15 guy, his contract (two years, $47.4 million) is perfectly reasonable.

Having said that, GM Chris Ballard is unlikely to get fleeced, regardless of how badly Reich wants Wentz. If you’re Ballard and Roseman is asking you to sweeten the deal, you point out that the Eagles think so little of Wentz and their ability to fix him that they’re willing to take on the biggest dead cap hit in NFL history just to move on.

Maybe the Bears or a mystery team goes big after Wentz and meets Roseman’s demands, but ultimately I think the Colts end up with him. Indianapolis gives up its first- and third-round picks (Nos. 21 and 85), but the Colts get back the Eagles’ second-round selection (No. 37) and Wentz.  [theathletic.com]

Wentz not helping himself

Jack McCaffery | Delco Times

We've talked a lot so far about the Eagles' lack of leverage. Well, as Jack McCaffery of the Delco Times writes, that's Wentz's fault. Remember last month when there were reports that Wentz would help facilitate a trade? What happened to that?

Wentz is about to be traded. The Eagles will receive something in return. But they will not bring back what they should have because Wentz's sheltering-in-place has compromised their leverage. They may not even land a first-round draft choice for a quarterback on which they once spent two, and much more, to select.

The mystery: What did the Eagles, their coaches, their fan base or their owner ever do to be so disrespected?

Wentz arrived in Philadelphia to unconditional support. His replica-jersey sales were high. His criticism was low, in the papers, in the talk shows. He was never booed, not even like Donovan McNabb was booed, which was 10 percent of how often Ron Jaworski was booed. All the Eagles organization ever did was have the audacity to win a Super Bowl with Nick Foles while Wentz was injured. For that, there was some natural Wentz-v.-Foles conversation. That's it. The organization even made its ruling on that, firmly and quickly, sealing it with nine figures, three commas and a dollar sign.

The Eagles' thanks? Wentz moping at a time when he knew it would suppress his trade value.

Team player.  [delcotimes.com]

How long can it go?

Paul Domowitch | Philadelphia Daily News

In his weekly Q&A with Joe Banner, Paul Domowitch of the Daily News asked the former Eagles president about the timeline for a potential trade. And while the merits of "sooner rather than later" are clear, Banner does make a compelling point about potentially more teams becoming interested once their own QB situations are figured out. Of course, that would be playing with fire for the Eagles, because if they suddenly find themselves unable to deal Wentz, things are about to get really awkward down at the NovaCare Complex...

Domo: Is there any urgency to get a trade done sooner rather than later? Or can the Eagles wait a few weeks and see if the market for Wentz changes?

JB: This is the huge challenge that Howie and the organization have. On the one hand, as you wait, it continues to look more and more like you didn’t get a great offer. Which makes bidding teams think they can get him cheap. That’s the bad thing.

The flip side is that there are other teams out there that have indicated they have quarterbacks that they’re willing to move on from. Like a Derek Carr (Raiders). Like a (Jimmy) Garoppolo (49ers). Like a Cam Newton (Patriots). So those teams aren’t going to be in the market for a quarterback until they know whether they’re going to keep their guy or whether they’re going to move their guy.

My attitude right now if I was Howie would be that if I got an offer that I considered solid at this point – not great, but solid -- I think it would be worth taking versus the risk of waiting. But if I was sitting there feeling, “Boy, these are really crappy offers and I don’t see how they can get much worse,” then I would take the risk of waiting at least another couple of weeks to see what happens with some of these other teams.  [inquirer.com]

Be careful what you wish for

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

And finally, there's Reuben Frank, who offers a warning to the Eagles as they enter the world of QB uncertainty. Once they move on from Wentz, they better have a succession plan in place, especially since it still seems too early to tell whether or not Jalen Hurts can be that guy. 

Franchise QBs don't just drop out of trees, and the Eagles haven't had a ton of success outside of a few key runs with certain quarterbacks. In other words, the revolving door strategy doesn't work.

If you don’t find the right guy?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Eagles went 19 years – from 1981 through 1999 – with a grand total of two playoff wins, both in wild-card games and both leading up to blowout losses to the Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

From 1961 through 1977, they never even reached the postseason and had two winning seasons.

And even in the stretch immediately after McNabb’s heyday – eight consecutive seasons from 2009 through 2016 – this franchise didn’t win a playoff game.

That’s what happens if you can’t find a quarterback.  [nbcsports.com]


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