Former Eagles president Joe Banner does a weekly Q&A with Inquirer pro football writer Paul Domowitch. This week, the two discuss the possible offseason scenarios with regard to Carson Wentz, whether his relationship with Doug Pederson is repairable, and what the Eagles might be able to get for Wentz in a trade:
Domo: Before the game last Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported some pretty obvious things about the Carson Wentz saga, including that Carson has no interest in being a backup, would want to be traded if Jalen Hurts remains the starter next season, and isn’t pleased with the way he’s been treated by the Eagles. Your reaction to Adam’s report?
JB: My first reaction is why is anybody surprised, and what’s wrong with what he’s saying? And we should be careful to note that he’s actually not saying it. It’s not like he took a megaphone out and called the press over and said, “Hey, let me tell you how I’m feeling.’' If that were the case, I’d be very critical of the timing of what he’s saying. But he isn’t saying it. This is apparently coming from people that he knows that he probably presumed he was talking to privately.
There’s a saying that a strength taken too far can be a weakness. And any professional athlete who isn’t hyper-competitive, that’s a problem. So when an athlete acts as a very competitive, self-confident person, we’re, like, outraged, even though any one of us in his shoes would be feeling the same way.
Domo: Adam said the other day that this didn’t come from Carson’s agents at Rep1 Sports. I’m a little skeptical about that. How about you?
JB: I certainly believe that these comments reflect how his agents also feel. But I know Adam well, and I worked with Adam. He’s an extremely high-integrity guy. If he’s publicly saying it didn’t come from them, my inclination is to believe him.
That doesn’t mean his agents won’t be up to stirring the pot and trying to produce the outcome they want after the season’s over. They will be. That’s what they get paid to do. But I’m inclined to trust Adam and believe the story he reported was not coming from them. And it’s believable to me. I mean, Wentz does have a lot of supporters on that team. Some are close friends. The thought that he would be saying those things to them, presumably privately, I see nothing wrong with.
Domo: So, if you are his agents, what’s the next move?
JB: Their first job is to understand what their client really wants. It’s totally believable to me that in Carson’s mind the bridges here are burned. That the organization has left him hanging out to dry. I’m not saying I necessarily agree with that. But that’s probably the way he’s viewing it right now.
He might just feel that his relationship with Doug Pederson and the offensive coaching staff wasn’t what it needed to be and that he wasn’t supported and that he was scapegoated. Even before Adam’s story, it was pretty safe to say he doesn’t want to be a backup and believes he still can be a quality starter in the league and would like to get a chance to prove that somewhere.
Then, the agent’s job is to try and figure out what’s the best way to get him out of there. Knowing the people involved, the best strategy in my opinion would be to quietly call the Eagles and probably set up a face-to-face meeting and express that you don’t feel this is the right place for him. You seem to have somebody else you believe in. He doesn’t feel he was treated properly. And let’s talk about some solutions that can maybe work for both of us.
If the Eagles say the hell with that. He has a contract here. We took a big risk giving him a lot of money up front. We control his rights and we’re going to be the ones who decide what happens, then frankly, the agent would need to elevate this into something more public. And then the Eagles would face the question, are we really willing to bring back a quarterback who is respected by at least a portion of the team, who we know is going to be disruptive and doesn’t really want to be here? In that seat, I would have a really hard time thinking that would be smart to do. The fragility of the relationship between Hurts and Wentz and the impact it could have on the whole team, I would not take that chance. If he made it really clear that he’s going to be miserable here and hat they’d be better off getting him out of their locker room, I’d be disappointed and frustrated, but I’d accommodate him.
Domo: But what if they go into the offseason with their first preference being that they want to try and fix Wentz, but they can’t make a commitment to him because they won’t know until maybe next summer whether he can be fixed? What do you do then?
JB: First of all, that’s a very likely scenario from the team’s standpoint. When you have your face-to-face conversation with him, you would try and see if you can get him back to the point where he really trusts that. And if he trusts that, is he willing to come in and prove that he can win the competition.
I mean, right now, he’s probably feeling like Doug doesn’t believe in him anymore. And he’s not going to listen to all this talk. He’s going to be convinced that it won’t be a level playing field. I’m not saying that’s true or not. I’m just saying that if we’re looking at this from his perspective, he’s not going to trust that the process is going to be objective, and he’s going to want to get out of here.
So you would have to convince him that he’d be going in as the frontrunner, but you’re not making him any promises. You’re ready to work with him and do everything you can to get him back to where he was. And he’s going to have to decide whether to trust them or not.
Domo: What impact do you think his benching has had on the relationship between Carson and Doug? And is it repairable?
JB: Assuming you’re keeping Doug, that’s the most important question. There’s no way for us to know. But we do know that Carson is a strong-willed guy. We certainly know he’s prideful and confident, even if his play on Sundays this season didn’t indicate that. I would imagine it’s going to be difficult to convince Carson that Doug still believes in him and this is a place where he has a chance to thrive going forward.
Domo: OK, so let’s assume Carson doesn’t want to be fixed here and wants to be traded and the team is willing to oblige him. Let’s talk about the biggest impediment to moving him – his contract. You mentioned a couple of weeks ago that they can convert money they owe him into a signing bonus that would make his contract more reasonable for another team. But there’s nothing they can do to avoid taking a nuclear salary cap hit themselves if they move him, correct?
JB: Exactly. If they move him over the next two years, they will take the largest cap hit ever for a player not on the team. But – and this is a key point to me – it will be much less of a hit than if they keep him. I mean, if they keep him, he’s going to cost them $65 million in cap space over the next two years. And there’s other obligations, some on paper and some that they’d actually owe. They could trade him and lower that $65 million number to as low as the low ’40s and have no future obligations beyond that.
The phrase I like to use is, you’re playing cards and you get dealt a certain hand. You can’t wish you had a different hand. You just have to make the best out of the hand you have. Well, this contract is there. There is nothing they can do with the contract itself that doesn’t leave them with a major consequence if he’s not on the team.
But there are things they can do if they don’t think he’s going to be the starter or they think he’s going to be disruptive or whatever it may be, in which they are significantly advantaged by moving him v. keeping him.
And that’s why I continue to believe, and I’m not predicting it’s likely, but the notion that some people have put out that it’s an untradeable contract and there’s no way you could do this, is not correct. I’m not saying it will happen. But I totally reject the notion that it can’t happen and won’t because of the contract.
I mean, there’s a risk to the team that trades for him. They’ll be inheriting a fully-guaranteed 2-year contract at over $40 million. Now, if Carson plays like he used to, that’s a steal. But if he continues to play the way he did this season, that’s $40 million you’ll be flushing down the toilet.
So, there are a lot of ingredients that need to come together. But it is not the contract that makes him untradeable. Because the Eagles will be taking a huge hit whether he’s on the team or not. And it’s actually a smaller hit if he’s not on the team.
Domo: What do you think the market would be for Carson? I know he probably would’ve been the league MVP in 2017 if he hadn’t gotten hurt. But he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this season. Is somebody going to be willing to give the Eagles a first-round pick for a guy with an onerous contract and a 72.8 passer rating?
JB: If you’re the Eagles right now, what you’re hoping is that there’s more than one team interested in him, or at least that you can create the perception that there is. If you can do that, then you have a chance of getting a decent pick. And by decent I mean most likely a second-round pick and maybe something else thrown in. A first-round pick, considering the contract they’re taking on and the way he’s played recently, I’m not going to completely take it off the table. But it’s unlikely.
I’ve made the basketball analogy that we see a lot of NBA players get traded for very little in return for cap relief. I think the most likely scenario here is, if the Eagles moved him, the main benefit they’re going to get is cap relief. Remember something. Over the next 4 years on paper right now, he’s on their cap for almost $130 million. So, in addition to the guarantees and the cap numbers over the next couple of years, including lowering his number in 2021 if they make this trade after June 1, you could actually help create some room in the 2021 cap that looks so challenging.
Domo: If they’re going to be willing to trade Wentz, they’ve got to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hurts is The Guy going forward. They’re going to have 4 starts to make that determination. That’s not a lot.
JB: First of all, you’ve got to be impressed with how he’s played in his first two starts. I don’t consider it a basis of information in which you can predict the future with great confidence. And two more games really isn’t going to change that, even if he plays well in those games as well.
But listen, executives in the NFL are paid to predict the future based on limited information. The ones that can do it well are the ones that are really good at their job. And the ones that can’t do it well don’t last.
This is a really hard decision. They’re not going to have as much information as they would like. But to be trite about it, this is what separates the men from the boys in professional sports. You’ve got to make these calls. You’re going to miss on some. It’s just too hard to get them all right. But you sure hope that on the most important ones, like your quarterback, you’re going to get it right.
Domo: Safe to say Jeff Lurie will have a significant say on what shakes out?
JB: Nothing will happen without Jeff’s approval. He’ll certainly be intimately involved in the discussions. As I’ve mentioned previously, his role in matters like these is usually to ask a lot of questions, be challenging, make sure they’re being really thoughtful, make sure every avenue has been thought through carefully, and every bit of research that could be done has been done.
Any decision that gets made will 100% have to have his approval. So whatever they do in the end will be something he’s in favor of. Now, it may be that he’ll be just trying to support the head coach and GM because he doesn’t really disagree with them. But he’ll be intimately involved in the discussions and absolutely approve the final decision.