The Eagles took the first step towards moving on from Carson Wentz as their franchise quarterback on Sunday when they benched him in the third quarter of the team’s loss to the Green Bay Packers for rookie Jalen Hurts.
The question is what comes next — and is a permanent move coming this offseason.
Despite the narrative that the Eagles are financially tied to Wentz for the 2021 season, the reality is that they really aren’t. They can absolutely trade Wentz, move to Hurt as their quarterback and begin the rebuild. It might even be the smart thing to do.
Here is a detailed dive into how, starting with the team’s current salary cap situation.
The Eagles currently have $23 million in salary cap space, and assuming they make no major moves over the final four weeks, all of that money will roll over into the 2021 season.
This is how that $23 million will impact the Eagles’ 2021 Salary Cap Space, according to OverTheCap.com:
$88,084,761 (currently over the cap in 2021)
$23,496,337 (salary cap space that will roll over)——————
$64,593,761 projected over the cap in 2021
That is obviously a big hole to dig themselves out of, but they can do it by moving on from veterans like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and restructuring the contracts of other players.
Wentz is currently set to have a cap hit of $34.67 million in 2021. Cutting him is a non-starter — it would move his cap hit up to $59.2 million, and put the Eagles at around $89 million over the cap. They will not be releasing Wentz.
Trading him, believe it or not, actually has a positive impact on the available cap space.
If the Eagles were to trade Carson Wentz prior to June 1st during the 2021 offseason, Wentz’s cap hit would go from $34,673,536 to $33,820,608. That is a savings of $816,928 in cap space.
Repeat: The Eagles save cap space in 2021 if they trade Carson Wentz.
Yes, Wentz would still be on the books for $33.8 million, a massive dead-money hit. But if the Eagles don’t believe he is the answer anymore internally, and want to move to Hurts, there is no question it makes sense to take the hit now, collect an asset and trade Wentz instead of waiting and dealing with the financial implications later.
The Eagles’ will have Hurts and Wentz on the books in some form in 2021 no matter what, whether it is Wentz’s normal cap hit or the dead-money cap hit. There is no getting around that.
But by moving on from Wentz this upcoming offseason, the Eagles would have have him completely off the books in 2022.
If they trade Wentz during the 2021 offseason their cap space would go from a projected $50 million to $81 million for the 2022 offseason. If they trade Wentz after the 2021 season, and during the 2022 offseason, they would have $56 million in cap space instead of $81 million. A difference of $25 million.
If the Eagles trade Wentz this offseason, play Hurts plays in 2021 and he is impressive, the team would have $81 million in space to build around him with. If Hurts isn’t the answer, they can enter the 2022 offseason armed with a likely high draft pick and an extra $25 million find their next quarterback.
If they did look to move Wentz, the Indianapolis Colts present a potentially very unique opportunity to recoup a quality asset for Wentz. The Colts are a win-now team that needs to replace their quarterback (Philip Rivers) and has a head coach (Frank Reich) that has already coached Wentz. Other chances to trade Wentz will be there in 2022, but there might not be one better than the Colts — or another team as motivated. The idea of the Colts trading a first-round pick for Wentz is not crazy, and it might even be likely. If Wentz is bad in 2021 again, the Eagles won’t be getting a first-round pick for him. They might be wise to jump on the chance now.
There is also the very real financial benefit of finding out what the team has in Jalen Hurts.
Hurts, the team’s second-round pick, is on a four-year rookie deal. There is nothing more valuable in the NFL than a quality starting quarterback on a rookie deal, and Hurts’ deal is ticking away each week he sits on the bench.
Here are the cap hits for Hurts moving forward:
2021: $1.3 million
2022: $1.6 million
2023: $1.9 million
There is also dilemma of firing Doug Pederson or Howie Roseman, but sticking with Wentz.
What if the most qualified candidate doesn’t believe in Wentz? What if the best candidate, the one that is the best head coach, runs an offense that doesn’t fit Wentz? Do the Eagles pick the best head coach, or the best head coach for Wentz? Those are two very different things. The same goes for the general manager. Do they pick the best general manager, or the general manager that convinces them they believe in Wentz?
By trading Wentz, but giving Roseman and Pederson one more year (a year they probably deserve), Lurie gets one last look at the duo with a young quarterback. Pederson was 10-2 with Nick Foles, including one pretty big win in the Super Bowl. The idea of him winning without Wentz is not crazy. If Pederson, Roseman and Hurts win in 2021, Lurie can move forward with the trio. If they don’t, Lurie can completely clean house and begin the rebuild in 2022 free of Wentz, Pederson, Roseman and with $81 million in cap space. With a clean slate, it would be most likely be the best situation in the NFL for any head coach or GM to come into it among the open jobs.
Of course, all of this is predicated on the Eagles believing Wentz is no longer the answer. If they still believe in him, they won’t trade him.
The idea that they are stuck with him through 2021, however, simply isn’t true — and the possibility he is traded shouldn’t be ruled out either after being benched on Sunday.
You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at email@example.com!