What’s not to like about Carson Wentz’s new four-year contract extension?
Absolutely nothing, said Joe Banner.
The former Eagles president applauded his old team Friday for locking up their talented, but oft-injured 26-year-old quarterback through the 2024 season (the extension doesn’t kick in until 2021).
The $32 million annual average of Wentz’s $128 million deal puts him behind only Seattle’s Russell Wilson ($35M), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger ($34M) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers ($33.5M).
More than $107 million of the $128 million is guaranteed, which is the largest guarantee in NFL history, though, according to league sources, only about $66 million of it is fully guaranteed at signing. The rest of the $107 million is in “rolling’’ guarantees that won’t become fully guaranteed until some point in the future, which is believed to be after the 2022 season.
In other words, if Wentz, who had both of the last two seasons cut short by injuries, continues to have problems staying healthy, the Eagles could get out of this deal in the next four years and only owe Wentz $66 million.
Given that Wentz already was guaranteed $31.3 million over the next two seasons on his rookie deal — $8.5 million in salary this year and $22.8 million next year — it’s basically only costing the Eagles another $35 million to keep Wentz in Philadelphia for the next four years.
“The way I look at that and the way most contract people would look at it is, for $35 million, they basically bought four more years [of Carson Wentz],’’ Banner said. “That’s not literally accurate. But that’s effectively what happened. That’s the [small] risk if this ends up being a mistake.
“That’s a great deal if you can take a great quarterback, or even a good one at this point, and get a four-year commitment for that amount of guaranteed money. That’s a great outcome. I’ll take that risk-reward any day.’’
Wentz has suffered significant injuries in each of the last four years. He had the broken bone in his back last year, the ACL tear in 2017, fractured ribs as a rookie in 2016 and a fractured wrist in 2015 at North Dakota State.
At the 2016 scouting combine, X-rays also turned up another healed broken bone in his back, probably from his high school playing days.
While the Eagles are very closed-mouthed about injury information, it’s safe to say that Wentz has had more than his share of bone-density tests over the last eight months.
In deciding whether to do a new deal with their quarterback now, the Eagles had to weigh his injury history against Wentz’s immense difference-making talent, which everybody had a chance to see two years ago before he hurt his knee.
He almost certainly would’ve been the league MVP in 2017 if he hadn’t gotten hurt. He threw a franchise-record 33 touchdown passes in 13 games. His plus-26 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential was the best in the league.
He was the king of situational football, leading the league in passing on both third down (123.1) and in the red zone (116.0). Averaged a league-best 9.5 yards per attempt on third down. Fifty percent of his third-down pass attempts (62 of 124) resulted in first downs. That was the highest percentage in the league.
“If he plays well, this is a great, great deal,’’ Banner said. “They either did something that’s moderately costly and doesn’t work out, or they did something that’s really fantastic with a huge upside.’’
Only time will tell whether Wentz’s injuries have just been a run of bad luck or a career-threatening pattern. But the Eagles felt they couldn’t afford to stand around and wait to find out.
“If they didn’t do this deal and Carson had played another year and stayed healthy and played well, they would’ve had to pay him at least $4 million per year more,’’ Banner said. “They would’ve had to beat [Russell] Wilson’s deal.’’
With two other quarterbacks from Wentz’s draft class — the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and the Rams’ Jared Goff (who has the same agent as Wentz) — also currently looking for new deals, and the Chiefs’ prolific Patrick Mahomes eligible to sign a contract extension after the 2019 season, the Eagles knew the price for re-signing Wentz only was going to go up.
“Prescott is a good, solid quarterback, but he’s not even close to Wentz,’’ Banner said. “Let’s say [Prescott] went out and got $30 million [a year] from the Cowboys, which is totally reasonable when you consider that [the 49ers’ Jimmy] Garoppolo got $27.5 million.
“If Prescott got $32 million and I’m Carson and his agent, I’m not taking $32 million. So Prescott’s deal really could’ve pushed them up.’’
Banner said the same thing would’ve happened if Goff had signed before Wentz.
“If Goff had gone first, I think he would’ve gotten more than $32 million because he hasn’t been injured. I think Wentz is better than Goff, but the health factor would’ve helped him.’’
“The way it typically works is the guy that does the newest deal gets the most money. So they would’ve been trying to beat Goff. That’s why going first made sense.
“This way, nobody else dictated the Eagles’ deal. They got to set the market and the other guys have to work around it. With a top-tier player at a critical position, that’s a much better position to be in.’’
Wentz’s extension doesn’t actually kick in until 2021, which means the Eagles, who have more than $22 million in cap space this year, can take some of the $128 million of his extension and give it to Wentz this year and next year.
That means he’ll be able to buy more hunting rifles and the Eagles will be able to keep their quarterback’s cap number well below the $32 million average of his extension.
“They’re going to be rolling part of his future cap charges into the next two years,’’ Banner said. “So his effective cap number for the four new years will be a lot less than $32 million. We’ll have to wait and see, but they’ll probably have a cap number for Carson that averages somewhere in the $26-27 million range.
“It’s still going to be a challenge to work with a $27 million cap charge for a quarterback. But they’ve minimized significantly the impact of having such an expensive quarterback on the future cap charges.