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NFC East notebook: The implications of Carson Wentz’s departure from the Eagles

Here are the headlines from around the league this past week

Philadelphia Eagles v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Carson Wentz wanted out. On Thursday, he got his wish and probably landed in the best possible place.

ESPN reported that the Philadelphia Eagles traded Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2021 third-rounder and a conditional second-rounder in 2022. The conditional second-rounder in 2022 becomes a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75 percent of the snaps or 70 percent and the team makes the playoffs. Essentially, if Wentz is the Colts’ starter for at least 12 games, the 2022 second-round pick becomes a first-round pick.

In Indianapolis, Wentz reunited with head coach Frank Reich. Reich was the offensive coordinator of the Eagles in 2016 and 2017. He was therefore in Philly for Wentz’s best season in 2017, when the signal-caller posted a 78.5 QBR and was named to the Pro Bowl. There is a shared history and respect between the two that had long been dwindling with former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and is virtually nonexistent with new head coach Nick Sirianni.

Though the question of where Wentz would end up has been answered, there are many other questions. For the Colts, it remains to be seen which version of Wentz they will get. Consider the comparison between Wentz’s 2017-19 seasons in the league with last year:

2017-19 2020

98.3 QB Rating 72.8

64.4% Comp pct. 57.4

21 INT 15

25-15 Record 3-8-1

Debate has surfaced about whether the Colts paid too much for Wentz. It’s a difficult conclusion to draw because there are two very different versions of him.

The Eagles, for their part, have made their decision. But consider the following:

When the Eagles drafted Wentz in 2016, they spent five draft picks to do so because they believed he would be their franchise quarterback for years to come. Now, they have dug themselves in a huge financial hole. The Eagles had the second-to-worst cap space situation in the league at about $47.4 million over the projected cap, per Over the Cap, before Wentz was traded. They are going to have to make cuts this offseason.

It remains to be seen if Jalen Hurts will take over as the starter. More on that later.

Let’s check out the rest of the headlines from around the league this week.

Washington Football Team

Like its division counterpart, the quarterback situation for the Washington Football Team is largely unknown. While that remains the most pressing question for Washington this offseason, the Football Team is in need of a lot of improvement on offense.

Washington’s defense made a name for itself this past season. The unit finished the regular season ranked second overall in yards allowed per game with 304.6. The Football Team was also ranked second overall in passing yards allowed per game with 191.8 and fourth in total points allowed with 329.

The offense, meanwhile, was ranked 30th in the league in yards per game with 317.3. Washington finished in the bottom 10 in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game and points scored. Terry McLaurin has been the team’s top receiver the past two seasons but he is virtually the Football Team’s only consistent target. Cam Sims stepped up to make some big plays last season but Washington has to add an elite playmaker opposite McLaurin if it wants to be competitive outside of the division.

The Football Team made an aggressive offer to Amari Cooper last season, but fell short when the Pro Bowler decided to stay in Dallas. Regardless of the outcome, Washington proved that it is prepared to make a splash when the free agency market for wide receivers opens up. And it is a deep free agency class featuring Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay, to name a few.

The free agency market is something to keep an eye on for all teams around the division because if Washington could win the NFC East with one of the worst offense’s in the league, imagine the difference a couple of explosive wideouts could make.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have many dates circled in their calendar this offseason that are particularly relevant to Dak Prescott.

The first is Feb. 23rd which is the date that NFL teams can start applying the franchise tag to players. The next is March 9: the deadline for teams to franchise tag a player. Then there is July 15th, which is the expected deadline for a player to sign his franchise tag.

Mixed in amongst all of those dates is the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29th, in which the Cowboys have the No. 10 overall pick.

Because of this schedule, it is possible that the Cowboys will enter the draft still not knowing where things stand with Prescott. It is possible that the Cowboys will reach a deal with Prescott before the franchise tag application deadline, which would eliminate many complications. But considering how long it has already taken for both parties to reach an agreement, it remains unlikely that we will have an answer in time for the draft.

This begs the question: Should the Cowboys consider drafting a quarterback if Prescott is not signed by the start of the draft? This features several promising signal callers and it could be a missed opportunity for Dallas if they choose not to take advantage.

Philadelphia Eagles

OK, now we will circle back to the quarterback situation in Philadelphia.

Wentz is gone, but where do things stand for the Eagles under center? Is Jalen Hurts the answer or will Philly continue to shop around in free agency or the NFL Draft?

Hurts showed promise in his rookie campaign. He led the Eagles to a clutch 24-21 upset victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 14. Throughout his starts, the former Oklahoma Sooner demonstrated his athleticism not only as a passer, but a runner. He showed an ability to extend plays and serves as a challenge to opposing defenses because of his mobility in the pocket.

But Hurts is also 22 years old (he will be 23 by the start of next season). Since the Eagles drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it has been unclear how and when they plans to use Hurts. It’s fair to assume that the Eagles did not plan on Hurts being the starter so soon in his career because Wentz’s contract extended through the 2024 season.

Hurts finished his rookie campaign with six touchdowns to four interceptions while rushing for 354 yards and three scores. He showed enough to earn the starting role.

But Philly also holds the No. 6 overall pick in April’s draft, meaning quarterbacks like BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Ohio State’s Justin Fields could be up for grabs.

But the Eagles need to find a long-term solution for their quarterback situation. Maybe that means signing a veteran in free agency for Hurts to learn from and observe. Philly has many options to consider and must determine what the future of the organization looks like without Carson Wentz.