Amid a cold and snowy February that has somehow felt like the longest month of the year despite having the fewest days, the topic of Carson Wentz’s trade has created some heated debates in the NFL world. It was simply a matter of “when” and not “if” a trade would occur. With Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN reporting (via Twitter, 2/18/21) that the Colts and Eagles have agreed to a trade, we finally have some closure.
- Colts receive: QB Carson Wentz (under contract through 2024).
- Eagles receive: 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick. If Wentz either plays 75% of snaps this season or 70% of snaps with a playoff appearance, that 2022 second-round pick will turn into a 2022 first-round pick.
The Falling-Out in Philly
2017 does not feel that long ago to most people, but in a “What have you done for me lately?” league, it might as well be ancient history. That was the season Wentz quarterbacked at an MVP-contending level before suffering an ACL injury in Week 14. From there, Nick Foles went from backup QB to hero, sweeping Eagles fans off their feet with a memorable Super Bowl run while Wentz’s on-field results have steadily declined since then (below, per PFF Grades). As someone outside of the Eagles organization, I will not attempt to speculate on what ultimately led to the break-up, but by the end of this past season, it was evident that both the player-coach and player-management relationships were fractured.
Carson Wentz PFF Grade/rank by year:
🔹2016 – 69.9 (21st)
🔹2017 – 84.9 (5th)
🔹2018 – 79.4 (14th)
🔹2019 – 76.5 (14th)
🔹2020 – 65.0 (31st) pic.twitter.com/ZNQJXfp4Lf
— PFF (@PFF) February 18, 2021
Wentz appeared to lose confidence behind a shaky offensive line and could not get in sync with an injury-riddled group of RB/WR/TEs. Compared to the dynamic young QB I recalled him being in previous seasons, he looked like a completely different player who seemed “broken” in some way. He threw the most interceptions of his five-year career (15) and absorbed the most sacks of his career (50) in just 12 games before being benched in favor of Jalen Hurts. Regardless of where one places the blame, the results are often what matters the most to management, and the results were difficult to watch at times. The decision to roll with Hurts as the starter proved to be the writing on the wall for Wentz as the Eagles opted to cut their losses, eat up his hefty dead-cap hit, and get what they could in return.
The Reunion in Indy
From a Colts perspective, they had every incentive to make this trade happen. Even after the deal, they are projected to be top-five in the NFL in terms of salary cap space, which will allow them to address other team needs in free agency and the draft. Wentz’s MVP-caliber 2017 season factored into the Eagles giving him a contract extension in 2019 and certainly contributed to the Colts hiring Frank Reich in 2018, who was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator at the time. The QB-Head Coach familiarity made this a natural choice as Indianapolis aims to find their signal-caller of the future.
Although Wentz’s final season in Philly ended in disappointing fashion, let us not forget he is a former second-overall pick who, at 28-years-old, still possesses the arm strength and above-average mobility that Philip Rivers severely lacked last season. With Wentz’s physical tools largely intact, Reich’s reputation as a “QB whisperer” will be put to the test by restoring Wentz as a more consistent, fundamental, and confident leader for Indy. This was a relatively low-cost, high-upside move considering the duo’s past success and it should be apparent after the 2021 season whether or not this was a hit by management.
Fantasy Impact: First Impression
It is still early in the offseason and the fantasy outlook for both teams will undoubtedly shift after free agency and the draft. That said, there is still a lot to consider with the current state of both squads. Instead of getting too far into the weeds with hypotheticals, let’s focus on what we know right now.
For the Eagles, the departure of Wentz opens the door for Hurts to prove himself as a potential franchise QB, though last year exposed a number of holes on the roster. Regardless of the offensive weapons that they surround him with, we know that Hurts is likely to provide a solid floor with his dual-threat abilities as a runner. The offensive line and pass-catchers will surely be an area of focus this offseason and could propel Hurts into reliable QB1 territory if budding talents like Miles Sanders, Jalen Reagor, and Dallas Goedert continue to progress. As with most running quarterbacks, it will be essential for Hurts to limit the hits he takes in order to stay on the field. With a head-coaching change and several expected tweaks to the offense, this will be a very wait-and-see situation to monitor.
If Wentz is to restore the star potential he displayed early on in his career, Indianapolis seems like an excellent setup to do so. His familiarity with the coaching staff combined with the Colts’ supporting cast could be the key to making him both a successful NFL QB and a fantasy-relevant option once again. Although I feel Wentz will provide more of a vertical passing threat that the offense missed last season and will improve the team overall, expectations should be tempered given Reich’s propensity to use a variety of players to move the chains.
Ultimately, my first impression is that this will turn out to be a better “real-life football” move as opposed to a significant needle-mover for fantasy purposes. Yes, I truly believe that Wentz is capable of returning to relevance and giving the Colts a shot to compete in the AFC playoffs, but I am not ready to gush about his fantasy potential due to how this roster is currently structured. This is still a team built in the trenches that aims to grind down opposing defenses with their offensive line and rushing attack led by Jonathan Taylor, who will likely be drafted as an RB1 near the back of the first round. Nyheim Hines should continue his hybrid rushing/receiving role out of the backfield, but consistency will always be an issue in the current pecking order. The players I feel this could impact the most are Indy’s young pass-catchers like Michael Pittman Jr and Parris Campbell (T.Y. Hilton re-signing TBD), who could thrive with a more mobile QB that can buy time with his legs. If the Colts are able to once again field a hard-nosed defense and play ball control with short passes, I expect that it will lead to solid but not consistently top-tier numbers for Wentz. Way-too-early projection: back-end QB1 with some top-5 “boom” weeks sprinkled in.
TL;DR: This trade makes a ton of sense for both teams and 2021 will tell us a lot about the trajectory of these franchises. Stay tuned for more offseason news as things unfold.
(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)