Quarterback Carson Wentz doesn’t need to lead the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl next NFL season to make the Philadelphia Eagles wince. The front office will already have done that through the spring and summer while trying to fix a franchise that won just four games in 2020.
The Eagles would like to forget Wentz but can’t just yet because of the NFL record he set on his way out. And, suddenly, the Los Angeles Rams don’t feel quite as badly as they did a week ago.
Carson Wentz’s performance dropped off suddenly and sharply
The Philadelphia Eagles’ love affair with quarterback Carson Wentz, their first-round draft pick in 2016, one spot behind top overall pick Jared Goff, didn’t last long despite the initial optimism and enthusiasm.
The Eagles handed Wentz the starting job as a rookie by trading Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings, who needed an emergency replacement for Teddy Bridgewater. Wentz could seemingly do no wrong from 2017-19, throwing 81 touchdowns with just 21 interceptions. His completion rate (64.4%) and passer rating (98.3) put him in the conversation with other top NFL quarterbacks, and he would still be just 27 years old entering the 2020 season.
In April 2019, the Eagles rewarded Wentz, who had missed the postseason run to the Super Bowl victory after the 2017 regular season, with a four-year, $128 million contract. That first season went fine, but 2020 was a different story. He only broke 60% passing accuracy in games three times and threw 15 interceptions (and just 16 TDs). Heading toward a fourth straight loss, the Eagles benched Wentz during their Week 13 game.
Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are both on the move
With the 2021 NFL draft still two months away, it is tough to tell what direction teams will take. At least four quarterbacks coming into the league are rated as potential first-rounders, so the first two picks off the board could be signal-callers.
That didn’t pan out when it happened in 2015 (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota), and now the teams that did it the following year have conceded that they regret it. The Los Angeles Rams recently traded Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions, and the Philadelphia Eagles have dispatched Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Rams also packaged three draft picks in their deal but received Matthew Stafford in return. The Eagles had hoped that they could get two first-rounders for Wentz. Instead, they’re getting a third-round pick this year and a No. 2 in 2022 that could possibly turn into a first-rounder.
Those quarterback contracts were killers
The Philadelphia Eagles are rid of Carson Wentz, but there will be a constant reminder of him throughout the year. Wentz is owed $25.4 million this season and $22 million ($15 million guaranteed) in 2022. The Eagles will take a $33.8 million dead cap charge for trading him to the Indianapolis Colts. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported that sets an NFL record for dead money.
Wentz would have counted for nearly the same cap figure had he remained in Philadelphia. However, Jalen Hurts is only in his second year, so the Eagles will likely need a veteran to serve as a combination backup and mentor. Someone along the lines of Ryan Fitzpatrick will require at least a couple million more dollars that the Eagles won’t have available to address other needs.
According to Spotrac.com, the Eagles have almost $34.36 million in dead money overall and sit more than $50.4 million over the salary cap. Their division rivals are all in much better shape.
The previous NFL record for dead money didn’t last long. Graziano reported that “honor” belonged to the Los Angeles Rams at $22.2 million to cover what was left on Jared Goff’s deal. Rounding out the top five dead-cap hits in league history are Brandin Cooks, also of the Rams, at $21.8 million; Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers at $21.2 million; and Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions at $19.9 million.
At almost $34.6 million in the red, the Rams’ salary cap situation is only marginally better than what the Eagles are dealing with. It could be worse for either team – the Saints are $70 million in the hole – but the situation will hamstring them.
So, go ahead, NFL teams. We dare you to draft quarterbacks with the first two picks again this April.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.