After five roller-coaster seasons, the Carson Wentz era in Philadelphia came to an end on Thursday when the Eagles agreed to trade him to the Indianapolis Colts for a pair of draft picks.
It was a wild ride for Wentz in the City of Brotherly Love, which started with the Eagles trading up to select Wentz second overall in 2016, was highlighted by an MVP-type 2017 season that ended in a brutal knee injury for No. 11 but a Super Bowl for his team, included a massive contract extension, and was capped by an ugly final season in Philly that ended in a bizarre divorce.
The deal raises questions for the teams involved, and beyond, and we’ve broken down three of the biggest inquiries below.
Can the Colts revive Carson Wentz’s career?
This is the biggest question to come out of Thursday’s deal: Will the Colts’ coaching staff be able to help their new starting quarterback rebound from what was the worst season of his professional career?
Considering the Colts are a solid starting quarterback away from AFC contention, the team clearly believes the answer to that all-important question is “yes.”
Wentz has shown the potential to be an elite-level quarterback in the past, finishing third in MVP voting back in 2017 when he led the Eagles to an 11-2 record before a torn ACL ended his season. Even in 2018 and 2019, Wentz was able to put together decent campaigns despite dealing with inadequate roster construction and an injury-depleted offence around him in Philadelphia.
But in 2020, Wentz took a big step backward and was arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. The 28-year-old led the league in both interceptions (15) and sacks (50) despite not playing in the final four games of the season. Wentz’s decision-making was poor and his throwing mechanics were all over the place, causing his accuracy to plummet and resulting in a career-low completion percentage of less than 58.
(II) Wentz by QB Tendencies
Wentz invited pressure by holding longer than average in 2020, leading to inefficient play.
Wentz struggled most notably on extended dropbacks (4+ seconds), with a league-leading 40 sacks and losing -89.6 Total EPA (27 more than any other QB). pic.twitter.com/JtrTBTIi6k
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) February 18, 2021
It was a stark decline for a player who had shown the Eagles enough over his first four seasons to earn a contract that solidified him as their franchise quarterback.
But there are reasons to believe Wentz’s career can be turned around in Indianapolis.
Firstly, the Colts have a better offence personnel-wise than the Eagles. Indy boasts one of the league’s best offensive lines and has a group of young up-and-coming playmakers — both at receiver and running back — who should take much of the pressure off Wentz.
More importantly, however, Wentz is reuniting with Frank Reich, the Colts head coach who was the Eagles offensive co-ordinator in 2017 when Wentz enjoyed his most successful season in the NFL. Reich has found success with multiple quarterbacks in Indianapolis since leaving the Eagles, including Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers, and he has long been mentioned as the perfect coach under whom Wentz could rediscover his best form.
By trading away two draft picks – one of which could become a first-rounder in 2022 – and inheriting the four years and nearly $100 million of Wentz’s contract, the Colts have made a big bet that Reich will be able to help Wentz bounce back from a woeful final year in Philadelphia.
If he can’t, there will be many more questions asked of Colts general manager Chris Ballard and Indy’s front office.
Where do the Eagles go from here?
Let’s start with the trade return for Wentz, which is a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 second-rounder that can become a first if the quarterback plays 75 per cent of snaps for the Colts next season.
It’s a solid return for a quarterback who, as previously mentioned, struggled quite a bit last season. While it was reported the Eagles wanted a “Matthew Stafford-type” return for the 2016 second-overall pick, that was never going to happen. Given Wentz played worse last season than the other quarterback in the Rams-Lions trade, Jared Goff, and Philadelphia was able to get the return of a potential first-round pick rather than trade away a first-rounder to part ways with Wentz, this is a win.
A solid return for Wentz, however, does not absolve GM Howie Roseman and the Eagles front office of what has been a disastrous development for the franchise.
Any way you slice it, the breakup between Wentz and the Eagles looks bad on Roseman and the front office. Either Wentz was never the right guy to lead the franchise in the future, in which case giving the quarterback a massive extension in 2019 was a huge mistake, or the relationship between the two sides deteriorated enough over the past 12 months that anything but an ugly parting of ways was the only possible outcome. Both are worst-case scenarios and, if we’re being honest, both are probably true.
The Eagles invested draft picks, large amounts of money and multiple seasons of team building into Wentz only to take on the biggest dead cap charge in NFL history to trade him away – a damning organizational failure and mistake that could define the franchise for years to come.
So where do the Eagles go from here? Trading Wentz likely means the team will enter a period of rebuilding with questions at quarterback, an aging roster and not much wiggle-room in terms of the salary cap.
The most important question that needs to be addressed is who takes over at quarterback with Wentz out of the picture, and the most obvious answer is Jalen Hurts. The Eagles surprisingly selected Hurts in the second round last April and benched Wentz in December in favour of the rookie pivot. Given the position the team has put Hurts in to this point, it only makes sense to give the 22-year-old a chance to prove whether he is the quarterback of the future.
A wild-card here, however, is the fact the Eagles hold the No. 6 pick in the 2021 draft and selecting a quarterback at that spot is reportedly in play, as is adding a veteran in free agency to compete with Hurts.
Regardless of which direction the Eagles go, the new hole at starting quarterback will be a fascinating story to watch unfold in the off-season.
Quarterback Carousel: Which signal-caller is next to move?
This is the biggest storyline of the 2021 NFL off-season: franchise quarterbacks being traded.
So far we’ve seen three quarterbacks, all very high draft picks, traded by the teams that selected and invested in them for multiple seasons. With Stafford, Goff and Wentz all headed to new squads, which is the next quarterback domino to fall?
Deshaun Watson has made it known that he wants out of Houston in the wake of a disastrous few months for the Texans; the New York Jets hold the second-overall pick in the upcoming draft and appear likely to take a quarterback so they’ll have to find Sam Darnold a new home; and unlikely rumours have been swirling around Seahawks star Russell Wilson in the last few weeks.
And those are just some of the signal-callers who have been involved in rumours since the 2020 regular season came to an end. If the past few weeks are any indication, we could see more quarterbacks on the move this off-season than we’ve ever seen before. Buckle up.