The Philadelphia Eagles traded quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick, which can become a first-rounder if Wentz starts more than 75% of Indianapolis’ stats in 2021 (or 70% and the Colts make the playoffs). The Eagles’ decision to trade Wentz wasn’t a surprise, as it’s a move that’s been expected for several weeks. But did Philadelphia get a good enough return to justify moving the former second overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft?
The short answer is, no. The Eagles sold Wentz at a discounted rate, which isn’t shocking considering Wentz was arguably the worst statistical quarterback in the NFL last season. He completed just 57% of his passes for 2,620 yards with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions over 12 games. He was benched for second-round rookie Jalen Hurts.
Wentz earned a 65.0 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2020, which was the lowest mark of his career by a wide margin. His 2017 MVP-worthy season — when he scored an 84.9 from PFF — is a distant memory.
Colts won the Carson Wentz trade despite QB’s struggles
The Colts are very, very close to being a legitimate contender in the AFC. They have the necessary pieces on offense — offensive line, running game, quality pass-catchers — and the defense is one of the better units in the conference. In fact, Indianapolis was in the hunt last season, earning the final wild-card spot with Philip Rivers — a very old Rivers — behind center. They’re a quarterback away from making a much deeper run in the playoffs.
Enter Wentz, who’s likely to experience a positive regression in 2021. While he may never be the quarterback he was in 2017, he’s certainly not the guy he was in 2020 when he was playing with a cast of Eagles wide receivers destined for reserve roles in the soon-to-be-relaunched XFL. Few if any quarterbacks would look the part throwing to Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham. Reuniting with coach Frank Reich is a positive for Wentz too.
And here’s the real ‘win’ for the Colts: they acquired Wentz at a low-risk cost.
Indianapolis, essentially, ‘selected’ Wentz with the 85th pick in the 2021 draft. That’s insane value for an experienced starting quarterback who’s flashed elite upside, even if it was a few seasons ago. And even if Wentz settles in as a slightly above-average starter for the Colts, it’s still extremely difficult to find guys like that, and it’s highly unlikely a team would be able to land an above-average starting quarterback in the third round. Home run, Indy.
The 2022 NFL draft capital that the Colts sent to the Eagles isn’t concerning, either. It’s a second-round pick for now; it could become a first-rounder if Wentz starts most of the season. Bottom line? If Wentz is the guy Indianapolis thinks he can be, the Colts will be playing deep into January and their first-rounder will have little value anyway. Plus, they will have solved their quarterback problem with a 28-year-old who will lead the offense for a longer stretch of time than a first-round pick in 2022 would probably last in Indy.
And if Wentz fails? So be it. The Colts paid a second-round pick to gamble on the most important position in sports. It’s worth the risk, even if it busts.
What’s next for the Eagles after the Carson Wentz trade?
I have a hard time believing Philadelphia is ready to commit to Hurts as the quarterback for either the short- or long-term. Instead, it feels very much like he’ll be a placeholder until a rookie first-round pick is ready to take over, probably after just a few weeks (if even that long) into the 2021 regular season.
The problem for the Eagles is the location of their 2021 first-rounder. The sixth overall selection, while a premium spot for sure, is outside the expected range for any of the top four quarterback prospects: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance.
Lawrence is going first overall to the Jaguars, and the No. 2 pick (whether it’s held by the Jets or they trade out) will be either Wilson or Fields. The Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 overall are likely to take Matt Ryan‘s heir, while the Miami Dolphins at No. 3 overall are a candidate to trade out to a team like the Carolina Panthers, who are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of a franchise passer in this year’s draft.
The Eagles can take the same strategy as the Panthers, and at this point, it seems like that’ll be their only choice. But if they’re forced to deal draft capital to move up a few spots to replace Wentz, just one year after spending a second-rounder on Hurts, Eagles fans will have every right to be angry with GM Howie Roseman.
Remember this now-infamous quote from Roseman after last year’s draft?
“For better or worse, we are quarterback developers,” he said. “We want to be a quarterback factory. We have the right people in place to do that. No team in the National Football League has benefitted more from developing quarterbacks than the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Yikes. That didn’t age well. Philly’s QB factory seems like it’s shuttered closed.
Grading the Carson Wentz trade
It’s pretty obvious who won this deal. The Colts landed an experienced quarterback with MVP-level play on his resume (that level of play came under the tutelage of Reich) whose contract is team-friendly (if he pans out) and it only cost them a third-rounder in 2021 and future draft capital. Indy can add a playmaking wideout in this year’s first round to enhance the odds Wents delivers the goods, and if he does, the Colts will gladly part with their 2022 first-round pick.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are starting from scratch with just the 85th overall pick in 2021 added to their rebuild assets. Not great. Rolling the dice on Wentz for one more season would’ve made more sense.