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Derik Hamilton/Associated Press
This is fixing to be one wild NFL offseason—quite possibly the wildest in recent memory.
That’s because 2021 could be the year of the quarterback carousel.
We’ve already seen one huge deal at the position, with the Detroit Lions sending Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-rounders (one each in 2022 and 2023), a third-rounder in 2021 and Jared Goff.
And that could be just the beginning.
As Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN reported, the Philadelphia Eagles are closing in on trading disgruntled quarterback Carson Wentz. The No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft (behind Goff) is coming off a down 2020 that saw him tie for the NFL lead in interceptions and get benched in favor of Jalen Hurts. But he’s also a 28-year-old quarterback who has shown elite ability, playing a key role in Philly’s Super Bowl run in 2017.
With the Eagles reportedly looking for a “Stafford package” from a trade partner and Wentz carrying a 2021 cap hit of nearly $35 million, it will take a massive investment to make this trade work.
But as we just saw with Stafford, there’s no shortage of teams looking to play Let’s Make a Deal.
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Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
Wentz to the Las Vegas Raiders is admittedly a long shot, for one rather robust reason: the $22.1 million cap hit that incumbent signal-caller Derek Carr carries for 2021.
But given that the quarterback market has already been wild, let’s kick the carousel into turbo.
By most statistical standards, Carr had a solid 2020—4,103 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, nine picks and a passer rating (101.4) that ranked inside the top 10.
And yet, as they have seemingly since the moment that Jon Gruden took over as head coach for the Raiders in 2018, trade rumors continue to circulate around Carr—in part because he’s 16 games under .500 as the team’s starter.
Mind you, we’re not talking a swap here. The Eagles likely have little interest in adding a slightly older quarterback than Wentz with a slightly lower salary. But if the Raiders are serious about moving the 29-year-old Carr, then there will be suitors—including every other team listed in this article.
Both Gruden and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock have had good things to say about Wentz. In 2017, Gruden told a group of high school football players that Wentz is the quarterback they should emulate. Mayock ranked Wentz as the No. 1 QB prospect in the 2016 class.
It would be difficult to sell Carr at retail after acquiring Wentz. But it would (in theory) be possible for Las Vegas to trade Carr to recoup some of the picks spent on Wentz.
Hey. Every race needs a dark horse.
Trade Package: 2021 Round 1 Pick (No. 17 overall), 2021 Round 4 Pick, 2022 Round 2 Pick
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Brian Westerholt/Associated Press
It has been less than a year since the Carolina Panthers handed Teddy Bridgewater a three-year, $63 million contract.
But after Bridgewater’s pedestrian season (3,733 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions), the Panthers were one of the teams that reportedly made a run at Stafford.
If Carolina is willing to put its top-10 pick on the table for Wentz as well, then the Panthers have to be included in this conversation.
Granted, Wentz doesn’t have Stafford’s resume. His 2020 was ugly. But don’t forget that when Wentz tore his ACL in 2017, he was the front-runner to be named NFL MVP. That season he had almost 3,300 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven picks over 13 games. His passer rating was 101.9.
Wentz wasn’t cat food the following season, either. In 11 games he averaged almost 280 passing yards per contest, posted a 21-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio and had a career-best passer rating of 102.2.
Wentz’s 2019 campaign wasn’t as good as the two years prior, but his numbers that season weren’t terrible. From a statistical perspective, he has shown more reason to think last year was an exception.
He also offers a higher ceiling than Bridgewater and won’t turn 29 until just before the calendar flips to 2022.
If the Panthers were willing to give No. 8 to get Stafford, it’s not a stretch to imagine the franchise doing the same for Wentz.
And that early pick in April should get general manager Howie Roseman’s attention.
Trade Package: 2021 Round 1 Pick (No. 8 overall), 2021 Round 3 Pick, 2022 Round 4 Pick
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Justin Edmonds/Associated Press
It’s not exactly breaking news that the Denver Broncos need help at quarterback.
After showing promise over a 4-1 stretch at the end of his rookie year in 2019, Drew Lock regressed badly in his second season. He didn’t complete 60 percent of his passes, threw an NFL-high 15 interceptions (tied, coincidentally enough, with Wentz) and barely posted a passer rating of 75.
It’s the continuation of a theme that has existed since Peyton Manning‘s 2015 retirement.
Even coming off the worst season of his career, Wentz presents team president John Elway, new general manager George Paton and the Broncos with an opportunity to upgrade at quarterback. And given that Denver reportedly offered Detroit a top-10 pick in 2020 and Lock for Stafford, it’s clear the team wants one.
Why the Lions took the Rams’ offer instead ranks up there with those heads on Easter Island among life’s great mysteries.
The question now is whether the team is willing to offer that same package for Wentz—and if it would be enough for the Eagles.
The Broncos aren’t likely to sweeten the pot significantly more than that for Wentz, so if the Eagles are serious about their demands, this trade isn’t especially likely.
But a deal involving Lock and the ninth pick would give Philly two selections inside the top 10 and some cheap insurance behind second-year pro Jalen Hurts.
It’s an offer worth real consideration from both sides.
Trade Package: 2021 Round 1 Pick (No. 9 overall), 2021 Round 3 Pick, QB Drew Lock
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Adrian Kraus/Associated Press
When I wrote a similar column about Stafford two weeks ago, I expected him to land in Indianapolis.
Of course, I didn’t think Detroit could get two first-rounders for Stafford—or that the Rams would convince another team to take on the abomination that is Goff’s contract.
The Colts check all the boxes of the sort of team that would make a big move at quarterback. Indy is coming off a playoff run after an 11-5 campaign. The team’s window of contention is ostensibly open—whether it’s skill-position weapons, offensive line or defense, Indy doesn’t have a glaring weakness.
Well, except for the massive hole at quarterback left by Philip Rivers’ retirement. Wentz would fill that hole nicely, and given the success he enjoyed when Colts head coach Frank Reich was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, there probably isn’t a team in the league with more confidence that it can turn Wentz around.
The problem boils down to compensation.
Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star doesn’t see the Colts overpaying out of a sense of desperation. “We know Colts won’t get into a bidding war,” Keefer tweeted, “and they won’t just make a move to make a move. Sense I got this morning was team is not gonna do something out of character just to solve the QB issue.”
Assuming Keefer’s right, the Colts won’t hand multiple first-rounders to the Eagles for a quarterback with an injury history who was mostly awful in 2020.
However, unless there’s a team (such as the club in the next entry) that will overpay for Wentz, then the Colts should remain in the thick of the Wentz race.
Trading him out of the NFC would also be a nice bonus for Roseman.
Trade Package: 2021 Round 1 Pick (No. 21 overall), 2021 Round 3 Pick, 2022 Round 2 Pick
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Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press
Per Mortensen and Schefter, the Eagles are looking for a big haul in a Wentz trade—as in multiple first-rounders.
It’s understandable for several reasons—not the least of which is that the dead-cap hit of almost $34 million for trading Wentz will all but eviscerate the Eagles’ salary resources in 2021.
This season will be a wash. There’s no way around it.
And if Philly truly is hellbent on getting a pair of Round 1 picks for Wentz, then there’s one team above all others that may pull that trigger.
The Chicago Bears were a playoff squad in two of the past three years, but they’re no threat to the elite NFC franchises. The reason for that isn’t hard to pinpoint—whether it has been Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky, the quarterback play for the Bears has been…
Well, let’s put it this way: 2020 Wentz wouldn’t be any worse. 2017 Wentz would get streets named after him in the Windy City.
Head coach Matt Nagy is allegedly an offensive whiz and quarterback guru. Bears GM Ryan Pace has shown the willingness to make a big trade, dealing multiple No.1s in 2018 to obtain edge-rusher Khalil Mack.
If the Bears don’t show marked improvement next season, neither is likely to be employed much longer.
There are also reports that Foles could be included in a trade package, per 670 The Score’s Joe Ostrowski (h/t Bleeding Green Nation), sending him back to the team he led to a victory in Super Bowl LII.
That’s good, because if Wentz showed up in the Windy City and Foles was there, it could be, you know, awkward.
The wisdom of mortgaging the future for Wentz is debatable. But if a team is going to do so, the smart money is on Da Bears.
And if trading Wentz inside the NFC is what it takes to get those first-rounders, then that’s what Roseman will do.
Trade Package: 2021 Round 1 Pick (No. 20 overall), 2022 Round 1 Pick, 2022 Round 3 Pick, QB Nick Foles
Contract and salary-cap info via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.