The Carson Wentz and Eagles Fallout [FranchiseTagged.com preview]
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Review the Philadelphia salary cap for 2021, and you will see a snapshot of our own country’s economic challenges – a large deficit and aging infrastructure. What does that mean? It’s time to tear down and rebuild some of the core needs and what better time to start than with a new coaching staff.
Each year during free agency, we are given glimpses of the reality when the NFL elite players demand premium compensation. Unlike other sports where soft salary caps exist (or none at all), the NFL maintains some medley of talent and financial equity by enforcing team salary caps.
With these limits, some harsh truths arise. One of the most core realities is simple, aside from injured reserve, no team can afford to have significant portions of their salary cap wasted on the bench, or worse yet, sitting in street clothes while the team competes.
In 2020, the Eagles benched a struggling Carson Wentz. In 2021, Wentz will cost the Eagles about $35M in salary cap space. Where a 4-11-1 team may need to start incentivizing fans to attend games, there is no way they offer Wentz a front-row seat for the 2021 season. Jalen Hurts played relatively well as a rookie and stands to cost his team $1.4M in 2021. It was apparent in 2020 that the Eagles were moving on from Wentz, and the current economics insist they hold to the course.
The Philadelphia Eagles have the second-worst salary cap space issue in the NFL for 2021. According to some estimates, they are at a $42M deficit. What does that mean? Consider Wentz a cap casualty, and that is just the beginning of moves needed to bring them back into the financial good graces of the NFL.
No Deal Just Yet
Why hasn’t a deal been struck? Consider this, how many playoff games has Wentz won? Here’s a hint, it’s the same amount of Lombardi trophies of the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings squared. For those who are troubled by either NFL history or mathematics, that answer is zero. But wait, the Eagles won a Super Bowl in 2017. A Nick Foles-led Eagles won that trophy and won a playoff again the year after in 2018.
In fairness, Wentz was injured so those should not be held against him. But what hurts him is — as a starter — Wentz is 35-32-1. This is what keeps Wentz from being a quick trade. The Eagles need to clear his entire salary. While some teams would see Wentz as an upgrade, he isn’t the $35M value that he was after his team won a super bowl.
The sticking point is going to be how badly Wentz wants out of Philadelphia because his move will necessitate a contract restructure for his next team. It’s time for Wentz and his agent to wheel and deal as if they are working a used car lot.
The longer they wait, the fewer options will remain. In the off-week of the super bowl, we have already scratched the Rams and Lions off the list.
What’s Next for Wentz?
Where else can he go? It is sensible that he would not play for a division rival, but when has that ever stopped Philadelphia? Ask Sonny Jorgensen or Donovan McNabb. Both of these players transitioned from the green to the burgundy. While that is possible, most Washington fans are hopeful of either a Watson or even Heineke (yes that was only one game, but wow). A 35-32-1 quarterback seems to fit the 2018 Washington team more than the 2021 Rivera organization.
Outside their division, the Eagles could deal into the Texans, Bears, Panthers, or Saints. The last two options are only possible on paper, because the Saints have several options to replace Brees on their roster today, and the Panthers have Bridgewater — who should be given a little more time to evaluate his addition to the team.
It is clear Deshaun Watson is not pleased in Houston, could these teams swap signal-callers with some draft picks to sweeten the deal? Nothing is impossible, it’s doubtful that the Eagles could clear enough cap space to appease the skill level of Watson, and few players want to jump from one bad situation to another. Could the Bears be the place?
Nick Foles has to be cursing about the possibility of Wentz dislodging him for the second time in his career.
The reality is that Foles has not established himself as the “guy” in the breezy city, so it is a distinct possibility.
In looking at the other conference, there are a few options there, too. Indeed, it is clear the Jaguars could use many upgrades, but it’s hard to imagine their executives jumping from Minshew to Wentz, as the team has plenty of salary cap space to build other areas of need. Before we abandon Minshew, keep in mind that Troy Aikman once went 1-15 in his rookie campaign. It is ludicrous to compare these players right now, yet only time will tell where Minshew’s career will end.
Other AFC landing spots could be the New York Jets, which would be a short drive down the road and a slightly different shade of green. That option would require the Jets to move on from the Darnold — which is certainly possible — but this would be a contingent deal or a direct 1-for-1 trade.
Finally, the Broncos could be an AFC option, as Drew Lock has not established himself as of yet. The factor working against this landing spot is that the Broncos have not fared well in other recent QB acquisitions after Peyton Manning retired. Those bad experiences may motivate more development of Lock before revisiting the free agent island of misfit toys.
No matter what happens next, the Eagles will need to clear cap space. As their No. 1 cap cost, Wentz is clearly part of that consideration.
If it isn’t Wentz, it will be many others to clear this roster. The question is whether the Eagles are ready to start fresh with a clean slate, or whether they are going to try to do what Baltimore did with an expensive quarterback contract that they had after Flacco won his Super Bowl just before free agency.
Of the two options, a clean slate sounds like the most promising, but someone has to provide some value for Wentz for this to be possible. And if rumors are remotely true, that price tag will be lofty