Carson Wentz Trade Saga an Indicator of Evolving QB Power Dynamics in NFL

Kalyn KahlerContributor IFebruary 12, 2021

Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz looks to the sidelines during a timeout during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

A few weeks ago, the idea that the Eagles could trade Carson Wentz seemed unrealistic. Asking around the league, I don't remember talking to anyone who took it seriously. A veteran agent who closely monitors the quarterback market said emphatically: "Wentz will not get traded. Their whole coach search was about fixing him."

The Eagles conducted their coaching search on the premise that they would retain Wentz as quarterback, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, and new head coach Nick Sirianni's experience as the Colts offensive coordinator gave him the proper credentials to fix Wentz. Plus, Wentz's massive contract meant the Eagles were, in the words of general manager Howie Roseman after the team drafted quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round, "married" to the quarterback. A Wentz trade would leave the Eagles with $34 million of dead money on their salary cap.

But that was a different world in mid-January. That was before the quarterback movement this offseason got off to a blistering start with the Rams' blockbuster trade for Matthew Stafford. L.A. traded quarterback Jared Goff (along with two first-round picks and a third-round pick) to Detroit for its preferred passer. The Rams are left with $22.2 million of dead money from Goff's contract against their salary cap (highest in league history).

In the past couple of months, it feels like more quarterbacks have asked for, demanded or hinted at trades than ever. Stafford got his wish. The Texans are stubbornly fighting Deshaun Watson's demand. After Russell Wilson's recent comments on The Dan Patrick Show about having a say in the team's personnel moves and needing better protection, Seattle's front office was flooded with calls about the quarterback, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, a free agent who will be part of the offseason movement, told Bleacher Report last week that he closely followed the Stafford-Goff trade and Watson's power move on wanting to get out of Houston.

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"I know it happens a lot more in the NBA," Fitzpatrick said. "In the NFL it is more difficult, and there are very few guys that possess that power and the talent to be able to do that, and Deshaun is one of them. And he has earned a right to do it. I don't see it as something that is going to happen all the time because there are very few guys that are in that and have that status in the NFL."

Wentz may not be the elite player Watson is, but it looks like his apparent desire to play elsewhere after a poor 2020 season will be fulfilled. With reports going back to December that he was unhappy in Philadelphia, Wentz hasn't officially requested a trade (not publicly reported, at least). He let those reports stand and accumulate as the weeks went by.

The Eagles have been known to take Wentz's opinion into consideration with personnel decisions, and it appears that willingness to work with Wentz holds. Among many reports about negotiations, the team is reportedly in trade talks with the Colts and the Bears and is asking a high price.

One former Eagles employee says Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie are always trying to win trades, and that's clearly what they are doing with Wentz given that no deal has come to fruition yet. GMs who are open to deals where both sides win establish a better reputation for making trades, and organizationally under Lurie, the Eagles have been known to be the type of team that tries to win each trade.

I polled a handful of executives around the NFL, and none believe the Eagles will get a Stafford-type haul for Wentz. That seems to be too much to ask for a quarterback who played some awful football in 2020. Mike Kaye of NJ.com reported the Colts are asking for more compensation than Wentz. That could be an extra player or pick.

"I don't think they will get Stafford compensation," said one executive. "But I do think Wentz is very talented, and if a team believes in him, then they should give up what is necessary to get him."

The Eagles have played this well. All of the messaging coming out of Philadelphia is that the Eagles don't want to part with Wentz. ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported, "The Eagles keep telling teams that they do not plan on trading Wentz unless they get what they believe to be the appropriate compensation."

By maintaining they don't want to trade the quarterback they drafted second overall in 2016, the Eagles can downplay the question that Wentz's availability naturally brings up: Does this mean the Eagles have given up on him?

Philadelphia might hold out to try to push either the Colts or Bears to make a significantly better offer, but the Eagles risk losing leverage if one of the teams loses interest or becomes frustrated by the delay. Both coaching staffs have a connection to Wentz. Bears quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo coached Wentz in 2016 and 2017, and Colts head coach Frank Reich was the Eagles offensive coordinator during that time.

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

As we've previously reported, Bears general manager Ryan Pace liked Wentz a lot in the 2016 draft and even looked into the possibility of trading up for him. Not making a move then motivated him to lay it all on the line for Mitchell Trubisky the following year. The Bears are desperate for a quarterback solution, and head coach Matt Nagy told NFL.com's Michael Silver: "Anything we can think of, we're gonna look into it. We feel like we're really close."

Pace also has a history of overpaying at the position. He gave up two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick to move up one spot to pick Trubisky, a move that many in the league thought was unnecessary. One source once likened it to trading up against a ghost. In 2017, Pace signed free-agent quarterback Mike Glennon to a huge deal that many around the league believed was well over his market value. One interesting fact to note: Trubisky and Wentz share an agent, Ryan Tollner with Rep1 Sports.

The Eagles will have incentive to get a deal done by March 19 when they owe Wentz a $10 million roster bonus. As the days drag by, they risk losing interest from potential trade partners. There may be interest down the line from a team that loses out on Watson (if and when the Texans acquiesce to his demand), but Wentz isn't the only intriguing quarterback on the market. Cam Newton, Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston and Jacoby Brissett are free agents, and Sam Darnold and Jimmy Garoppolo could also be on the trade block.