As the Eagles kick Carson Wentz to the curb for Sunday’s game against the Saints, they’re already commencing the process of posturing for a looming offseason mess with Wentz.
Step one in advance of potentially trading him in March: Create the impression that they won’t be trading him in March.
“None of this changes the belief that people have in Carson,” a team source “insisted” to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
In order to have any leverage in trade talks, the Eagles have to say they’re keeping Wentz. In order to have any sort of a positive relationship with Wentz if they can’t trade him, they also have to say they’re keeping Wentz.
The Eagles already are on the hook for $25 million in 2021 salary for Wentz. Another $15 million in 2022 salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2021 league year. Thus, they need to figure out fairly quickly Wentz’s future, and if they’re going to entertain a trade they need to find a way to get suitors to the table.
The cap number associated with keeping Wentz exceeds $34 million. The cap number associated with trading Wentz approaches $34 million. But a trade in the three-day window when the league year begins avoids the $40 million in new cash obligations to Wentz.
This information is readily available, and it’s undoubtedly well known to any team that may be evaluating Wentz. If the Eagles create the impression that they’re motivated to sell, that can be used by an interested team to get the Eagles to take less for Wentz, and/or to get them to pay part of his 2021 or 2022 salary.
That’s what the Dolphins had to do to unload quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s contract in 2019, paying $5 million in order to get a 2019 seventh-round pick and a 2020 fourth-round pick from the Titans for Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick. The worst-case scenario, of course, would be a Brock Osweiler-style hot potato trade, pursuant to which the Eagles would have to send significant compensation simply to unload Wentz’s guaranteed pay.
In Osweiler’s case, the Browns essentially paid $16 million (ultimately, a little more than $15 million) for a second-round pick from the Texans. Cleveland had no desire to use Osweiler when trading for him; any team that would trade for Wentz presumably would try to salvage his career.
The Colts continue to be the team that makes the most sense for Wentz. Former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich serves as the head coach, and the Colts will see both Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett become free agents in 2021. Indeed, if Reich doesn’t want Wentz despite having a history with him, that should be a bright red flag for any other team.
Whether it’s the Colts or anyone else, the Eagles need leverage in order to get the most they can for the asset they’d likely love to unload. So they’re telling Schefter what they need to say, hopeful that he’ll spread the word.
And so he’s spreading the word, just like he did in early 2019, when he reported that the Eagles were expected to use the franchise tag on quarterback Nick Foles and then try to trade him, citing unnamed “sources on other teams who have been in touch with Philadelphia” — a deft move that created the impression that other teams were considering trading for Foles, despite having the $24.685 million 2019 quarterback franchise tag as the starting point for a multi-year deal.
It didn’t work. The Eagles ultimately didn’t tag Foles because they knew they couldn’t trade him, because no one was going to give the Eagles trade compensation and pay Foles that kind of money.
In this case, it remains to be seen whether the Eagles’ insistence that they’re keeping Wentz will get someone to make some/any offer that the Eagles wouldn’t refuse. Although they may be able to find a way to move on from Wentz without giving up a second-round pick and/or paying millions in his 2021 or 2022 compensation, the Eagles will have a very hard time getting anything to close to what they could have gotten for Wentz if they had decided after the 2018 season to keep Foles and to trade Wentz.
Sure, Foles hasn’t been great in the two seasons since he left the Eagles. In hindsight, however, the Eagles would have had a far easier time cleaning up the mess associated with keeping Foles than they’ll have cleaning up the mess associated with keeping Wentz.