The often dramatic relationship between Carson Wentz and the Eagles took another turn on Tuesday when the team announced they were benching him for second-round pick Jalen Hurts.
The move is obviously a significant one and calls into question his future with the team. Wentz has not even started his four-year, $128 million extension and will now be the backup this Sunday. If Hurts has any success, not only will it make the Eagles debate making him the permanent starter, but it will open the door for a Wentz trade this offseason.
You can read more about how trading Wentz would impact the Eagles’ salary cap here, but for now, let’s look at what the team might get back for Wentz if they did put him on the trading block — and which teams would be interested?
The return for Wentz is tough to gauge. If the Eagles put him on the trading block at the end of the 2019 season they would have likely gotten, at least, one first-round pick and another high-end pick. They might have even landed two first-round picks. It will be interesting to see how much his disastrous 2020 season impacts his value. He played poorly, but he didn’t suffer a serious injury, and is now two years removed from a serious injury, which helps his value.
Another team looking at the Eagles’ situation and blaming Wentz’s struggles on a bad roster and bad coaching is very possible. The league thought extremely highly of Wentz prior to this year. A head coach and general manager convincing themselves they can be the one to fix the former No. 2 pick is very possible.
There is a lot of talk about Wentz’s deal making him hard to trade, but that really isn’t true. Wentz’s massive signing bonus was already paid by the Eagles. That means Wentz would be owed only his 2021 and 2022 salaries, plus a 2021 roster bonus, from his new team. Although the team would own his rights beyond the 2022 season, nothing is guaranteed, making it really a two-year, $47 million deal — not the $128 million deal you hear people talk about making him impossible to trade.
Two-years, $47 million would put Wentz around the middle of the pack in quarterback contracts. Of course, if Wentz plays like he did this season, he won’t be worth anything. But if a head coach believes he can turn him back into 2018 Wentz, or the 2019 version, he will be worth more than the $47 million he is owed over the next two seasons. Wentz could also re-do his deal to help facilitate a trade.
The bottom line is that it will come down the evaluation, not the contract, when it comes to Wentz’s value and another team’s interest in him.
To maximize his value, the Eagles will need multiple teams to have interest in Wentz. That is true for any team trying to trade any player -- the more teams interested, the higher the price.
The good news is that plenty of teams will be looking for quarterbacks.
A bunch of teams — like the Jets and Jaguars — will find their quarterback in the draft. But others will need to turn to free agency, where the options are slim. Dak Prescott is the best available, but he is likely returning to Dallas. Outside of Prescott, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston seem like the best options. That should help increase Wentz’s value.
If the Eagles can get two-or-three teams seriously in on Wentz, the bidding will begin, and they should be able to net a first-or-second round pick for him. Teams that will want Wentz are win-now teams that expect to contend with him. Not teams picking in the top 10 that are rebuilding. Teams trying to win now and needing a quarterback to do so do some crazy things, including trading a first-round pick for Sam Bradford.
Get those teams bidding against each other, and one bad year in 2020 likely won’t impact Wentz’s value as much as everyone thinks. Wentz will not be a $128 million dollar backup in the eyes of another team. He will be a healthy, 28-year old former No. 2 pick -- that, remember almost won the MVP in 2017! -- on a pretty reasonable two-year deal, with team control beyond that.
That makes Wentz a valuable trade piece, not the albatross many make him out to be.
The most likely suitors that the Eagles could get into a bidding war Wentz appear to be:
Indianapolis Colts: $76 million in projected cap space
The Colts are the perfect fit for Wentz. His former offensive coordinator Frank Reich is the head coach, and many (perhaps unfairly) give Reich the majority of the credit for Wentz’s success in 2017, especially since Wentz has struggled since his departure. The Colts are a win-now team that can be a serious contender in 2020 if they get the old version of Wentz, not the 2020 version. The Colts have a ton of cap space and could easily absorb Wentz’s deal without having to worry about it really impacting the cap. Wentz would also likely welcome a deal to the Colts, who currently hold the No. 23 and No. 54 overall picks in the draft.
New England Patriots: $67 million in projected cap space
The Patriots tried to make it work with Cam Newton, and although there have been some impressive moments, it doesn’t seem Newton will be back. That will leave Bill Belichick lookin for a quarterback, and it is hard to see him waiting around to develop a rookie. If any coach is going to be confident enough that a struggling player can turn it around in his system, it is Belichick, who has made a career of taking struggling players and winning with them. The Patriots also are always very active with their draft picks, and Belichick electing to take Wentz over either a rookie at No. 16 (which they currently have) or No. 47 for feels very possible.
Denver Broncos: $21 million in projected cap space
Broncos President of Football Operations John Elway loves himself a tall, bad quarterback — and Wentz certainly fits that description right now. The Broncos are loaded on offense with Jerry Jeudy and a host of young, talented skill position players. The (major) issue is they don’t have a quarterback. The Broncos could look for a quarterback in the draft, but trading away a future first-or-second round pick instead for a win-now Wentz might be a very attractive option for Elway.
San Francisco 49ers: $22 million in projected cap space
It seems unlikely that Jimmy Garoppolo will be back in San Francisco, considering the 49ers would save $22.4 million by moving on from him this offseason. The 49ers could essentially swap Garoppolo for Wentz. Kyle Shanahan might be the best offensive head coach in the NFL right now, and if any head coach can scheme around Wentz’s weaknesses, it is him. After a down year, the 49ers could be right back to contending with Wentz.
You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org!