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February 15, 2021

Howie Roseman appears to be at a crossroads in the Carson Wentz trade negotiations

Eagles NFL
680922_Eagles_Lions_Carson_Wentz_Kate_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

The Eagles still have plenty of time to trade Carson Wentz. They're also running out of time. 

It's true. The Eagles aren't yet pushing against any sort of deadline when it comes to trading Wentz. But that time is coming soon, as is an all-important decision for not just general manager Howie Roseman, but for the entire future of the franchise as well.

In just over a month — March 19, to be exact — Wentz will be owed a $10 million roster bonus if he's still on the Eagles, a bonus Roseman and Co. are likely looking to avoid paying the former second-overall pick. After all, they're already on the hook for over $33 million against the cap whether or not the sixth-year quarterback is on the roster at all, so paying him that added bonus only to later trade him would be yet another black eye in what has been arguably the biggest organizational failure in team history, Leonard Tose gambling the team away not withstanding. 

In other words, the Eagles have just over a month to trade Wentz — or risk being stuck bringing back a QB they've been actively shopping and who appears to have very little interest in returning. However, you likely already knew that. And if you and I know that, you can be certain that the rest of the teams around the league know that as well.

Just over a week ago, it was looking like a trade was imminent, and that Roseman and the Eagles were on the cusp of sending the 28-year-old quarterback out of town. Now, they feel about as far away from a potential deal as they've been all offseason. 

As the days passed since those first reports sent fans into a frenzy, and no trade materialized, it became fairly clear that all the talk about a Wentz deal being close was simply hype being manufactured by Roseman and the Eagles in an effort to increase the market for a guy coming off not just the worst year of his career, but an historical regression that is, at the least, a massive cause for concern moving forward. 

It's likely a large reason why the Eagles haven't yet found a partner willing to pay the price they're currently asking, which according to reports is at least a first-round pick. On Monday, NBC Sports' Peter King wrote that the "Eagles want more for Carson Wentz than a mid-first-round pick, and that’s creating a stall."

The problem for Roseman is that right now, he has almost no leverage.

Not only are there a limited number of teams in the market for Wentz — right now the Colts and Bears appear to be the only two serious suitors, although more could emerge — but there are also several quarterbacks currently available, including Deshaun Watson, who would be markedly more desirable than Wentz should the Texans decide to trade him. 

There are plenty of others: Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Sam Darnold, and a slew of quarterbacks in the draft. Even Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are potentially on the move. Additionally, two other teams that would've been potential options for QB changes (the Rams and Lions) already swapped quarterbacks, taking two teams out of the running for Wentz, while also taking two QBs off the market and perhaps blinding Roseman to how much Wentz is actually worth.

In that deal, Roseman likely pictures Wentz's value closer to that of Matthew Stafford, who returned several picks including multiple first-round picks, while it's actually (and unfortunately) closer to that of Jared Goff. 

Now, the Eagles GM has a decision to make. Does he hold out for a better offer that may never materialize and risk being pushed all the way to that March 19 deadline, when a team could really take advantage of his desperation, OR does he pull the plug sooner rather than later, taking a lesser package simply to move on and get a fresh start? 

The worst thing that could happen to Roseman right now would be either the Colts or Bears dropping out of the running and going with a different starting quarterback, whether that's one of the names listed above or otherwise. Not only would that leave Roseman with the roster-bonus deadline working against him, but it would also mean no bidding war and would make negotiations infinitely more difficult. 

Even with both those teams currently involved, Les Bowen reported over the weekend that Roseman has yet to receive an offer that included a first-round pick. And that's problem for several reasons, the biggest of which being that even if one of those teams offered a first this year, they would be in the back half of the first round with the Colts slated to pick 21st and the Bears at 20th. If King's report about the Eagles wanting something "better than a mid-first-round pick" is true, than Roseman has a long way to go before getting what he wants out of either of these two teams. 

The latest reports have the Colts offering the Eagles two second-round picks for Wentz, who posted the worst passer rating of any starting quarterback last season before he was benched for Jalen Hurts after 12 games. 

That seems more than fair given what Wentz was this past season, but the Eagles aren't just trading the 2020 version of Wentz, they also believe they're trading the version they saw the three years prior, and are trying to convince other teams that that's the QB they're actually going to get — you know, assuming they can fix him. The problem there, however, is that simply signaling to other teams that you're not only willing to trade Wentz but also absorb the biggest dead money hit in NFL history (by a long shot) to do so, you're openly admitting that you don't think you can fix the quarterback while simultaneously trying to convince other teams that they can. See the issue? 

But maybe that's not the biggest reason the Eagles are over-pricing Wentz. See, Roseman knows how much this team has invested in the quarterback, and how much they're still going to be paying him against the cap. He also knows that this trade is a chance for him to make up for one of the biggest mistakes of his tenure, and that not getting a respectable return — especially if Wentz succeeds elsewhere — could finally be the thing that gets him on Jeffrey Lurie's bad side.

That might be the biggest reason Wentz hasn't been traded yet. (But that's an entirely different issue for an entirely different column.)

So, what is Howie going to do? Is he going to hold out and hope that other teams rise up to meet his demands? Or is he going to cave? Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer "still thinks a trade happens soon," and thinks that Roseman's high asking price out of the gate, which was enough to cause some teams to drop out completely, was more of a bluff than anything else, with the Eagles GM willing to settle for a first-plus, not necessarily two firsts-plus.

Unfortunately, no deal has materialized yet that includes a first-round pick, according to reports. If one had, Wentz would likely be packing up his New Jersey home and preparing to move. But Breer doesn't believe that the Eagles are ever going to get that offer. 

Instead, this dance will go on until Roseman either realizes he needs to lower his asking price or he has no other choice. 

March 19 is only 32 days away. 

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