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NFL week in review: Carson Wentz trade

A few thoughts on last week’s big trade

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Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Another quarterback domino has fallen with the Philadelphia Eagles sending Carson Wentz last to the Indianapolis Colts for a pair of draft selections - a 2021 third-rounder and a conditional 2022 second-rounder.

The second-round pick becomes a first-rounder if Wentz plays more than 75 percent of the Colts 2021 snaps, or if he plays 70 percent of the snaps and leads the Colts to the playoffs. These stipulations are to protect the Colts from Wentz’s proclivity to get injured. The Colts also acquired Wentz at a cheap price after an abysmal 2020 season.

Philadelphia was attempting to leverage Wentz similarly to the Detroit Lions’ Matt Stafford, but there were issues. For starters, Wentz has an unsavory contract. He’s also been ineffective, seemed to fold under the pressure of competition, and was reportedly not talking to his former head coach with the Eagles for weeks.

There’s baggage with Wentz. He was an MVP candidate before getting hurt in 2017 when he threw 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. Nick Foles and the Eagles rode home-field advantage right to their only Super Bowl championship. The team then built a statue of Foles and head coach Doug Pederson outside the stadium - that may not have helped.

What also didn’t help was Eagles’ general manager Howie Roseman selecting quarterback Jalen Hurts with the 53rd overall pick (second round) in the 2020 NFL draft, after Wentz led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2019 with little help around him and threw 27 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. Wentz’s play deteriorated in 2020 and it was looking like Wentz needed a change of scenery, but Philadelphia did not get what they envisioned for their once-star quarterback.

Philadelphia traded twice to get from pick 13 to pick 2 in the 2016 NFL Draft. The trades included four draft picks, including a future first-rounder, and veteran players Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell. Then the Eagles signed him to a four-year $128 million extension in June of 2019. Now, to get rid of Wentz and his contract, the Eagles have to absorb a $33.8 million dead cap for 2021 alone - this is the largest dead cap hit in NFL history.

As an NFC East follower, I always thought Wentz was going to be a nuisance for years. This trade is not great for Philadelphia, which wanted a King’s Ransom for Wentz, which they’d understandably never receive. No one was giving the Eagles a Stafford type of deal. It was obvious Wentz wasn’t working with the Eagles, so escaping from his contract that extends through 2024 is a positive Howie Roseman can steal from an undesirable situation.

Colts perspective

General manager Chris Ballard has finally committed to a possible quarterback of the future, and it’s a familiar face to head coach Frank Reich. Wentz and Reich were together in Philadelphia in 2016 and 2017 where they developed a very close relationship. Wentz was without Reich for three years and here’s the difference in stats, according to

Wentz Under Reich (2016-17)

-61.5 completion percentage (28th)

-49 touchdowns (11th)

-2.01 interception percentage (17th)

-88.8 quarterback rating (24th)

-6.76 yards per attempt (32nd)

-18 wins (10th)

Wentz Without Reich (2018-20)

-63.5 completion percentage (32nd)

-64 touchdowns (18th)

-2.01 interception percentage (20th)

-89.5 quarterback rating (30th)

-6.74 yards per attempt (34th)

-17 wins (20th)

We should factor in the neophyte 16-14 touchdown to interception ratio for Wentz in 2016 as well - being a rookie isn’t easy.

Indianapolis received a 28-year-old signal-caller who has MVP type of experience with the head coach. They didn’t surrender an up-front first-round pick, and they bought low on a familiar asset. Now it’s time for Reich to reclaim the Wentz from 2017; from that standpoint, this is great for the Colts. However, they also have to pay Wentz, a player that significantly struggled and regressed in 2020, an average of $24.5 million over the next four seasons; or at least it seems that way. According to Sportrac, this is what the Colts have to pay Wentz:

2021: $25.4 million cap hit ($15.4M salary, $10M Roster bonus — All guaranteed)

2022: $22 million cap hit ($22M salary, $1K roster bonus — $15M in guaranteed salary)

2023: $25 million cap hit ($20M salary plus $5M roster bonus — $0 guaranteed)

2024: $26 million cap hit ($21M salary plus $5M roster bonus — $0 guaranteed)

It seems like a huge commitment, but that guaranteed money stops after 2022. In the worst-case scenario for the Colts, they can release Wentz after 2022 and they would have only paid him $23.7 million over the two years, with no future cap hits. It’s relatively low risk for the Colts. They can also bench him towards the end of the 2021 season if he’s struggling, which would prevent the Colts from sending Philadelphia a first-round pick.

Reich got an aged Phillip Rivers to throw for over 4,000 yards and a touchdown to interception ratio of 24-11. The last time Wentz was with Reich, he was on pace for a possible MVP trophy until Wentz tore his ACL in a Week 13 win vs. the Rams. It’s an upside move for the Colts, with not a lot of capital at stake. The risk is just fixing Wentz; if there’s anyone who can do that - it’s Frank Reich.

Winner - Carson Wentz

Both Wentz and Jalen Hurts (for now) are winners in this deal. Wentz gets to join a foundational offensive line, albeit they need a left tackle, along with a running back like Jonathan Taylor. Reich won’t force Wentz to drop back 40+ times every game, like former head coach Doug Pederson. Wentz can become comfortable in the offense, and his mobility can give teams fits with Taylor’s excellent one-cut ability.

As for Hurts, the Eagles are a mess, but he’s the lone quarterback that the general manager just spent a top 60 selection on. His offensive line isn’t great, his coach is inexperienced, and his team is old. It’s not a great situation for Hurts, but as long as Philadelphia doesn’t draft a quarterback high this time, this is now officially his team.

Other news

The Packers released veteran tackle Ricky Wagner and veteran linebacker Christian Kirksey. Green Bay saves about $10 million in cap space after the move. The Falcons released veteran safety Ricardo Allen and defensive end Allen Bailey. Atlanta saves about $10.75 million in cap space. Philadelphia also released veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

The Panthers released safety Tre Boston and Kawaan Short this past week as well. Both players have a connection to Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman. Short is a different type of player from Dalvin Tomlinson, but his name would be one to watch if Tomlinson isn’t retained. As for Boston, the Giants are pretty set at safety. Every offseason veteran players are released to create cap space, but this year may be on the extreme side given the decreased 2021 cap. This past week, the minimum salary cap was raised from $175 million to $180 million as talks continue, so that is a positive step in the right direction.

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