The Washington Commanders have officially turned to Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback for 2022 — and, if head coach Ron Rivera gets his way, the starting quarterback for 2023, 2024, and maybe, just maybe, 2025.
Washington gave up two draft picks, swapped another (a second-round pick in April’s draft), and ate money to acquire Wentz, a former Pro Bowl selection and an established veteran quarterback. Ideally, the North Dakota State product will put an end to the Commanders’ Super Bowl drought and finally have a long-term home once again.
Should the Commanders have acquired Wentz, or would the franchise have been better off going in another direction? Now feels like the perfect time to examine Washington’s newest investment.
Pros: Wentz is an established veteran quarterback who looked sharp at times in 2021
The recent narratives surrounding Wentz would have one thinking that he played terribly in 2021, and the Indianapolis Colts were right to get rid of him when they did.
The truth isn’t that simple.
Wentz completed 62.4% of his passes last season for 3,563 yards, 27 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. The 29-year-old also rushed for 215 yards and a touchdown on 3.8 yards per carry. Most teams would do anything to have a quarterback capable of putting up those numbers across a 17-game season.
Before we get too deep into what went wrong, let’s note Wentz spent much of the 2021 season resembling a quarterback who’d found his mojo and was back to playing at a high level. Yes, there were bad plays…
…but, let’s not forget Wentz had the Colts in playoff contention entering the season’s final week in large part because of his strong play. The idea that Wentz was terrible throughout the entire 2021 season is a fallacy, one created by people bitter about either his unvaccinated status or his poor play at the end of the season.
Or both. This leads us to…
Cons: Wentz came at a high price, and he’s had high-profile exits from his last two teams
Lost in the Commanders’ decision to give up draft picks for Wentz was the fact Washington picked up the entire $28 million that Wentz is due next season. Typically, the team trading the player — in this case, the Colts — will at least eat some of the money.
Before the Colts gave up on Wentz, it was the Philadelphia Eagles who decided they’d had enough of the former Pro Bowler. One might think those ugly departures would raise significant red flags about the quarterback’s ability to lead a team and fit in with an organization.
For what it’s worth, Rivera has insisted he did his research and felt comfortable bringing Wentz into the mix. The Colts made that exact same argument last year, and remember, it was Frank Reich — who worked with Wentz on the Eagles from 2016-17 — manning the role of defending his starting quarterback and raising optimism about how the marriage would pan out.
We know how things turned out from there.
The Eagles and Colts each gave up on Wentz in part because of performance and in part because of fit. Clearly, the Commanders feel comfortable taking a risk and believing the third time will be the charm.
Should the Commanders have acquired Wentz?
The Wentz acquisition wouldn’t have made much sense if Washington planned on using 2022 as a rebuilding year. However, the team appears all-in on trying to win the NFC East, and the Commanders believe the North Dakota State product is the right man to help them accomplish that goal.
Theoretically, nothing is stopping Washington from ending the Wentz experiment after one year. The Commanders still own the 11th and 47th overall picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, and the team could opt to use one on a quarterback. Given Wentz’s presence, though, it would likely make more sense to use the second-round selection — or even trade up if the opportunity arises — for a signal-caller. Washington could also cut the veteran quarterback after next season without incurring any dead-cap penalties.
Considering the circumstances and the potential long-term outlook, there’s no reason to dislike this trade, especially given how the rest of the quarterback market has shaped out. The best-case scenario is he becomes the Commanders’ best quarterback since Joe Theismann and the Lombardi Trophy returns to Washington for the first time since the George H. W. Bush administration.
The worst-case scenario? Well, it’s already one the Eagles and Colts have experienced. At least the Commanders won’t have to deal with long-term ramifications if they cut Wentz next year.