PHOENIX — The first two times he met with reporters since last season ended, Howie Roseman spoke only in general terms when asked about the possibility of extending Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz’s contract this offseason.
“All of the young players you have under contract, you want to keep in mind the possibility of extending them,” Roseman said in late February at the NFL combine.
But the Eagles executive’s messaging was more specific and more forceful this past week at the owners’ meetings.
“Obviously, having Carson here long-term is our goal, and we’ll work toward that,” Roseman said Monday at the Biltmore Resort. And later, he added: “It goes without saying that we have a quarterback we’re committed to, that we want to sign to an extension.”
To an extent, yes, it does go without saying. The Eagles wouldn’t have committed to Wentz over Nick Foles if their desire was to not eventually extend his contract.
He was eligible for one the day after the season ended. But he has a year left on his rookie deal — two if his fifth-year option is exercised by Dec. 31 — and the Eagles might have preferred to wait a year considering Wentz’s recent health.
And then who knows what the future would hold if he were to suffer another significant injury?
But the Eagles have made their intentions clear. They are prepared to offer Wentz an extension this offseason that would alter the state of their franchise for possibly the next decade. They might have already cast a line. Roseman’s language suggested the Eagles believe they can get something done.
An extension would likely make Wentz the highest-paid player in the NFL, with a yearly salary of around $35 million and a total guarantee of more than $100 million. But Roseman still has fiscal obligations, and extending Wentz’s contract this offseason as opposed to next — when the Rams are expected to extend Jared Goff and the Chiefs’ Pat Mahomes becomes eligible — could save the Eagles millions.
Roseman has enough salary-cap space (approximately $24 million for this year) to take a large enough first-year hit that would soften the expenditures in the remaining years. And he seemingly has enough evidence, on the field and off, that the 26-year-old Wentz is worth the investment.
“Once you see the kind of impact that he can have on the field, the kind of player he is, the work ethic that he has, you start planning how you’re going to build a team around a highly paid player at that position,” Roseman said. “That’s something that we’ve been talking about, really, for the last two years. Obviously, we’re getting to the point where that’s coming a reality.”
There are risks, of course. Wentz didn’t exactly regress last season after an MVP-worthy 2017. He was a more accurate passer, for instance. But there was a dynamism that was missing, both in his throws downfield and his mobility. And the Eagles didn’t win as much.
Injuries played a role in Wentz’s struggles. He returned from tearing the ACL and LCL in his left knee in a little more than nine months. And he played with a stress fracture in his back that prematurely ended his season for the second straight year.
Despite the questions about Wentz’s durability, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he would be comfortable with an extension this offseason.
“He played his whole rookie year, durable. Absolutely,” Lurie said Tuesday. “When you draw it up, he’s exactly what you want. Highly competitive, Type-A personality. Demanding. Very smart. Obsessed with winning and winning big. Respected by everyone. Can’t draw it up much better.”
A Wentz extension would place cap restrictions on the Eagles for the foreseeable future. But as Roseman said, they have prepared for that reality and will look to build more through the draft. This year the Eagles have seven picks — with five in the first four rounds — and could have as many as nine picks next year, depending on how they make out with the compensatory formula.
“We think we’ve added talent to our football team, continued to look for ways to add talent to our football team,” Roseman said after the Eagles’ moves in free agency. “But at the same time, we have to be realistic about the fact that we have a quarterback that we want to pay, that we want to extend long-term, too, and how we’re going to build our team with that player. We want to have a team led by a franchise-type quarterback.”
Lurie called it “the blueprint.” But if the Eagles’ reasons for locking Wentz down long-term this offseason are obvious, his aren’t as clear-cut.
A season equal to or greater than his performance two years ago would increase his worth and conceivably close the gap on Mahomes, depending upon how the Kansas City quarterback plays this season.
But there’s something to be said for security. And while the Eagles don’t want a Wentz who is uncertain about his durability, it would likely factor into his decision to accept an early offer.
The term franchise player gets thrown around a lot in the NFL, but it applies to only one position, and to about a dozen or so quarterbacks. The financial implications are significant, but a Wentz extension would reverberate throughout the organization. He will have more stability than any other player and will have greater pull in terms of scheme and personnel.
Wentz also will have more leadership responsibility. His character was questioned in January when anonymous sources in a PhillyVoice article described him as selfish and egotistical. While Wentz rebutted the few details that were in the story, he acknowledged that he could have been a better teammate last season.
“I think being a better teammate, sometimes just being a little more vulnerable, being a little more accessible,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday when asked where Wentz thought he could improve. “You’re obviously committed to your craft and developing your skill, but it’s like you want to walk across the aisle and talk to the other side.
“And that’s all part of the maturation process, and the growth process. It’s something that you learn through time.”
Wentz spent the better part of last offseason rehabbing after knee surgery. He was often cut off from the team and said that might have affected his relationship with the rest of the locker room. But his schedule-oriented personality could also separate Wentz from some of his teammates.
He also didn’t have the opportunity to lead the Eagles through the latter parts of the last two years and watched idly as Foles won a championship in his place and was maybe a play away from having a chance to return to the Super Bowl last season.
Pederson said he wasn’t worried about the pressures Wentz will face with Foles setting the highest bar.
“Carson’s fine,” Pederson said. “Carson, just go play. Carson, just lead our football team. Do the things he’s done. And I don’t worry about that because if we start thinking that way, we start thinking about the end result and not the process, then we’ve lost our mind.”
Asked if he thought Wentz was affected last year, based on his film study, Pederson said, “We were winning games.”
Reminded that the Eagles, in fact, lost more than they won with Wentz at quarterback, Pederson responded, “Well, we won a couple games. It’s a team, man. It’s a team. It’s not one guy. It’s not about one guy.”