Friday marked a week since a number of media outlets, including this one, reported that an Eagles trade of Carson Wentz seemed near.
Not that near, it turned out.
Why is Wentz still not traded? In conversations with a number of league sources, obvious and not so obvious reasons emerged.
Before we delve into all that, let’s establish two important points:
Wentz almost certainly is still getting traded. There are no reports of any sort of rapprochement between the quarterback and the organization, even if some of us continue to believe that might be the surest path forward for both the team and Wentz; NBC Sports reported that a group of young Eagles receivers is planning to meet up with QB Jalen Hurts soon to work on route timing. We’re just too far down the road now. Maybe you can change your mind on trading a kicker or something, but once you’ve made it clear that the face of your franchise is on the block, he has to go.
This can’t go on forever. You don’t want players reporting for spring work in a few months, with Wentz and the leadership of the offense still flapping in the breeze. As one player noted via phone Friday, “you always wonder who’s going to be the leader for the year.”
It probably can’t go on past March 19, when the Eagles owe Wentz a $10 million roster bonus that will increase the $33.8 million 2021 dead cap charge for trading him to $43.8 million. The first figure would be more dead cap money than ever incurred in the history of the NFL. The second figure would be nearly double the highest dead cap figure ever incurred (Jared Goff, $22.2 million), and that would just be beyond ridiculous. We can be pretty sure Howie Roseman, who takes pride in managing the cap, doesn’t want to be thought of as being beyond ridiculous.
Due diligence though, what happens if somehow the Eagles can’t trade Wentz by March 19, and we do venture beyond the bounds of ridiculousness? Well, a post-June 1 trade of Wentz would actually be better for the Eagles’ 2021 cap -- spotrac.com says the dead cap money this year would be $19,373,538. But before you yell “Eureka!” and decide that option makes the most sense, a post-June 1 trade just means the dead cap is spread over two years. So instead of being completely out from under Wentz’s contract in 2022, as they would be if they traded him now, the Eagles would still be carrying around $24,543,076 of dead Wentz cash. The two-year total adds up to the potential dead cap figure this year if there’s no trade by March 19.
So, back to why this hasn’t happened yet. Sources say Roseman looked at the Goff-Matthew Stafford trade and thought the third-round pick the Lions got this year, plus two future firsts and quarterback Jared Goff, would be a pretty good template for a Wentz trade. But teams know what Stafford is, after 165 games and 282 touchdown passes. They might not agree on exactly where he ranks, but he’s in the top dozen or so starters, every year. Wentz has been that, too, but in far fewer career games, and this year he was barely among the top three dozen NFL QBs.
Roseman’s problem might be that teams see Wentz as much more resembling Goff -- who was drafted first overall in 2016, just before the Eagles took Wentz -- than Stafford.
Nobody knows exactly what teams have offered for Wentz. NFL sources believe the only confirmed bidders are Chicago and Indianapolis, and Wentz is not the only QB property on the market. Houston doesn’t want to trade Deshaun Watson but probably will have to accede to Watson’s request. Now Russell Wilson seems to be pushing a trade from Seattle. The Jets and former Eagles exec Joe Douglas are dangling Sam Darnold. Marcus Mariota is in the mix after a year as a Raiders backup.
The danger in waiting is that one or more of the teams willing to deal for Wentz gets involved in talks about one of the other QBs. What happens if the market suddenly dries up entirely? The 2016 Sam Bradford option -- waiting for another team to suddenly need a starter at the last minute -- doesn’t seem like anything you’d want to hang your hat on.
Bottom line, league sources doubt Roseman has been offered a first-round pick of any sort for Wentz, this year or in the future. The haul from a Wentz trade is the only mitigation Roseman can get from the disaster of having to deal away a healthy 28-year-old QB he handpicked as the future of the franchise, saw play for three years, then rewarded with a $128 million contract extension. If Roseman walks away with a midround pick this year and a conditional second or something down the road, he has seriously marred his legacy and probably has deepened the hole the 4-11-1 Eagles have to climb out of, in terms of acquiring talent.
It’s unclear how the Eagles plan to spin the situation, post-Wentz. Is it Hurts’ team? Will they say that? The NFL Network reported that the Eagles sent an observer to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s pro day Friday. Lots of teams were there who, like the Eagles, have no chance of drafting Lawrence, but the Eagles pick sixth overall, and they have to consider the option of taking a quarterback, even if it isn’t Lawrence. That decision might shape the future of the franchise just as much as the Wentz trade.
So there’s a lot going on here, even when nothing is going on.