Horse Maneuver: Eagles Deal Sends Wentz To Colts
Updated: Feb 19
Just five years after the Eagles moved up twice in the first round of the NFL Draft to select Carson Wentz, just three years after they rode the coattails of Wentz's MVP-caliber regular season to a Super Bowl win, and just two years after they signed Wentz to a landmark contract extension, the marriage between them is over.
The Eagles on Thursday agreed to trade the disgruntled fifth-year quarterback to the Indianapolis Colts, the team that sources told Inside The Birds weeks ago would be the likeliest landing spot for Wentz, for draft compensation. ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen first reported, citing sources, that Wentz will be dealt for a 2021 third-round pick and conditional 2022 second-round pick that could become a first-rounder. The future second would become a first if Wentz plays at least 75 percent of snaps in 2021 or 70 percent of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs, per Schefter. The trade can't be technically consummated until the start of the new league year on March 17. In trading Wentz, the Eagles will absorb the most massive cap hit in NFL history – $33.8 million – and are left with a question mark at the game's most important position while the team is transitioning to new head coach Nick Sirianni.
Sources told ITB that the Eagles were originally looking for two first-round picks in return for Wentz, whom they picked No. 2 overall in 2016, but the Colts capitalized on two Eagles vulnerabilities: the strained relationship between Wentz and the organization, and a bare market for a quarterback who was benched after 12 games of his worst statistical season. ITB's Adam Caplan was told by sources that the Bears, once involved in discussions with the Eagles, eventually lost interest, and the Carolina Panthers were never involved.
Wentz hasn't spoken to the media since his benching following a Dec. 6 loss to the Packers in Week 13, which dropped the Eagles to 3-8-1. He gets a fresh start with the Colts, whose head coach, Frank Reich, was Wentz's offensive coordinator in Philadelphia from 2016-2017. The Eagles will likely move ahead with quarterback Jalen Hurts, a second-round pick last year who started four games and went 1-3 but upset the heavily favored New Orleans Saints in his starting debut. Hurts is the team's only quarterback under contract for 2021. The Eagles have the sixth overall pick in the first round of April's NFL Draft but are also light on cash for 2021 and need to make several moves to be compliant with the cap, which has yet to be announced. Wentz will count nearly $34 million against the Eagles' overall cap in 2021 despite playing for the AFC South's Colts. In 2020, Wentz posted career lows in completion percentage (57.4), passer rating (72.8), passing yards per game (218.3) while being sacked an NFL-most 50 times in 12 games. The year before, Wentz snapped from a midseason rut to propel the Eagles to an NFC East title by going 4-0 down the stretch, helping the team earn its second division title with him under center and third straight trip to the postseason.
Throughout his turbulent last season, Wentz developed a strained relationship with Pederson and the organization, sources have told ITB. During his career, Wentz has been criticized by anonymous teammates through the media. An NFL.com report in November from Mike Silver suggested that Wentz's poor performance was due to "some sloppy practice habits," a criticism that drew Wentz's response in a press conference. Sources have cited Silver's report and the team's decision to spend a second-round pick on Hurts after Wentz had started all 16 games in 2019 to explain why Wentz hasn't felt fully supported by the entire organization. But sources, both inside and outside the organization, also hold Wentz accountable for the poor play and mechanics breakdowns that contributed to the worst statistical season of his career. Wentz is widely known to be difficult to coach, stubborn about his weaknesses. His mechanics weren't perfect coming out of North Dakota State and have fluctuated throughout his career, but he's been able to compensate at times with plus athleticism, above-average arm strength, and football intelligence. Sources have said Wentz hasn't been coached hard enough by Pederson and his staff over the past few years. Wentz finishes his Eagles career fourth on the franchise's all-time list for passing yards (16,811), behind Donovan McNabb (32,873), Ron Jaworski (26,963), and Randall Cunningham (22,877). He's also fourth in touchdown passes, completions and attempts, third in completion percentage, and second – behind Foles – in passer rating. Wentz holds team records for passing yards in a season (4,039 in 2019) and touchdown passes in a season (33, in 2017). Wentz also holds single-season records for attempts, completions, completion percentage, and passer rating.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the "Inside the Birds" podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
For more coverage of the Wentz trade, check out the Inside The Birds TV livestream featuring Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher: