Two NFL personnel sources said Friday that they’d heard the Eagles were getting close to trading quarterback Carson Wentz, as Colts general manager Chris Ballard was telling an Indianapolis radio show that he is “exploring lots of options” to replace retiring quarterback Philip Rivers.
Indianapolis seems a likely landing place if Wentz is traded, since the head coach there is Frank Reich, Wentz’s offensive coordinator with the Eagles for his first two years in the league. The Colts are expected to hire Press Taylor, the Eagles’ former quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, who is close to Wentz.
Ballard’s quote about exploring options was in response to a question about possibly trading for Wentz, and it certainly was not a denial. However, Ballard also said: “There’s no trade going down right now. Not today, not the Colts.”
In the wake of the recent trade that sent Matt Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions, the current quarterbacking market would seem to include Indianapolis, Chicago, Denver, and Carolina, at least.
The Eagles’ Super Bowl season quarterbacks coach, John DeFilippo, is the Bears’ QB coach these days. A trade there would reunite Wentz with Nick Foles, which would be so weird, it almost seems destined to happen.
Sources close to the situation have told The Inquirer that the firing of Eagles head coach Doug Pederson last month did not allay Wentz’s concerns about the organization, and that Wentz prefers to move on – though he has not formally requested a trade.
Sources also said that Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has placed a high asking price on Wentz, which probably would translate into multiple draft picks. The NFL Network reported Friday that teams have been asking the Eagles about the price for Wentz, 28, who signed a four-year, $128 million contract extension in 2019.
The Eagles would incur an NFL-record $33.8 million dead cap charge if they traded Wentz, but their cap picture beyond 2021 would look much better than it looks now, and Wentz’s cost to the acquiring team wouldn’t be terribly expensive for a starting QB. The new team could opt out after two more years and about $47.4 million.
The Eagles traded up twice to draft Wentz second overall in 2016, and they looked like geniuses in 2017 when Wentz broke the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season, with 33, and was the league’s best third-down passer (123.7 rating). His 116.0 rating in the red zone that season also was the NFL’s best.
But Wentz threw his team record-setting touchdown pass in the 13th game of the season, at the Rams, on a left knee that had suffered torn ligaments, both ACL and LCL, four plays earlier. He missed the rest of the Eagles’ run to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history, watched Foles win the game MVP award, and has played under a bit of a cloud ever since, at least in the eyes of some fans and observers.
The 2020 second-round drafting of quarterback Jalen Hurts is looking like the first step on the journey that might take Wentz away from the franchise where he once was considered an all-time great in waiting.
Wentz didn’t disparage the pick publicly, but he was not happy to see the team, its talent base aging, pass up a major chance to add a player who would help him win in favor of drafting his potential successor. Whether Hurts was the reason for it or not, Wentz went on to post shockingly awful numbers in the worst season of his career, until he was replaced by the rookie in a Week 13 loss to the Packers. Hurts ran the team the rest of the season.
Wentz completed just 57.4% of his passes in 2020, with 16 touchdowns, a league-high 15 interceptions, and a 72.8 passer rating. His first four seasons, he completed 63.8% of his passes, with 97 touchdowns, 35 interceptions, and a 92.7 passer rating.
Would a Wentz trade make Hurts the franchise quarterback? It might be enough to give him a shot; Hurts showed some exceptional flashes in the final month of the season, though his overall numbers – 52% of passes completed, six touchdowns, four interceptions, 77.6 passer rating – did not excite. Hurts seemed to be a strong leader.
But the Eagles hold the sixth overall pick in the 2021 draft, and if Wentz is traded, they might very well find a QB prospect there they like better than Hurts – especially if a Wentz trade were to bring draft-pick compensation that allowed the team to address other areas.
Inquirer staff writer Jeff McLane contributed to this report.