Per Adam Schefter the Eagles will indeed be making what looks like a permanent QB change from Carson Wentz to rookie Jalen Hurts. I wrote about Wentz’ contract the other week and the ways out of the deal but as you can imagine have gotten plenty more questions in light of this news so I wanted to share a few thoughts on some of the various topics I have been asked about or have read about.
Do you like this move?
I do like this move for a few reasons. The Wentz contract was about to consume Philadelphia for the next three months at least, if not longer. With the team now 1.5 games behind the Giants and the Football Team with just four games left I don’t think they could let Wentz be the focal point of any stretch run. They probably have to win 3 games to stay in contention and with Wentz its basically win or bust. With Hurts at least you change the narrative. You aren’t getting peppered with questions and comments about Wentz. The players aren’t forced to throw Wentz under the bus and/or lose even more confidence in someone who may be the QB next year. Now you start to look more at the positives and negatives of the rookie QB, how the players react to him, how he prepares each week and so on. This can also become your offseason story rather than how bad Wentz is and how messed up the Eagles roster is.
It’s a small audition but it also should give Philadelphia some insight into their young QB. Because things have gone so bad this year Philadelphia now finds themselves in a position to draft a top QB, which is a possibility I don’t think anyone is really talking about because they are so focused on Wentz’ contract and the Eagles cap situation. I never know anything about college players so I asked Mike Renner of PFF about high end prospects this year and he quickly said there are easily 3.
Yes think Lawrence/Fields/Wilson are all fairly comfortably top-5 caliber— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) December 7, 2020
The Eagles currently hold the 6th pick in the draft. We know that the Jets and Jaguars, who will pick, in some order, 1-2, are taking the top two QBs. The next two teams are the Bengals and Chargers who both drafted top QBs last year and are not taking a QB. Dallas is at five and clearly could be in the market for a QB if they want to go the lower cost route. Behind Philly is Carolina, Atlanta, Miami (via Houston) and Denver all at 4 wins. I think if the right prospect were there Miami could select a QB. Carolina and Atlanta should both be in the market.
Philadelphia needs to gather as much info as possible about their younger QB to see what they want to do in 2021. Three wins may land the playoffs but anything less should put them in a position to draft a QB or move up to draft a QB. If they don’t think they need a QB there are enough teams behind them that should want one that perhaps they can trade the pick.
Before people go crazy on the concept of drafting another QB remember that the Eagles are the team that signed Sam Bradford to one of his many draft status contracts only to turn around and trade up for Wentz. Bradford was bent out of shape. The backup QB (Chase Daniel) was aggravated. The Eagles sunk a ton of money into the position and wound up winning a SB a short time later. You can never have too many prospective top QBs on a team and it is a great consolation prize for the team if they fall apart and finish 0-4 or 1-3 and Hurts looks terrible.
In any event identifying that you have a QB and may be in a position to trade down or putting yourself in a position to draft a QB if you dont have one probably saves the GM a lot of headaches in the offseason since its a silver lining to this lost season.
Doesn’t this hurt Wentz’ trade value?
What trade value did Wentz really have? Every week Wentz was killing himself with his play and every week he loses value. If anything this protects it a bit, especially if Hurts struggles. Let people blame the Eagles roster for Wentz’ problems not Wentz himself.
Should the Eagles trade draft picks to move Wentz
I hate this idea. The most famous of these moves is the Brock Osweiler to the Browns trade in which the Texans parted with a 2nd round pick to move Osweiler’s contract off the books. Draft picks are much more valuable, however, than cap room or salary relief in most situations, especially for a team that may need a QB. If you are the Eagles you can not part with a pick that could turn into a starting QB. Even if you save $20M in cap room you cant buy a good QB for that money, but you could lose one by parting ways with the draft pick. The pick is probably more valuable if you are using it on a corner, edge rusher, or receiver as well. So it would need to be a 3rd or lower to even entice me a little to do it.
There are also key differences between the Texans and Eagles situations from a financial perspective. The Texans are usually (this year notwithstanding) one of the cheaper teams in the NFL. They operate on a much tighter budget. For Philadelphia it’s not the end of the world as they typically have the highest budgets in the NFL. The Texans also gained, IIRC, $10M in immediate cap room with the Osweiler trade. There are so many sunk costs in Wentz’ contract that they basically gain nothing this year in cap room (they do gain over a two year period) so I cant see giving up a 1st to not gain cap space. They are better off just June 1ing him to avoid his 2022 guarantees from kicking in and picking up some offset credits in 2022.
Should they pay a team money to take Wentz?
I would again lean toward no. They have too many sunk costs in the Wentz contract to do that. A trade right now is cap neutral short term slightly beneficial long term. Anything you pay a team to take him moves those to cap negative short term and hardly beneficial long term. Even if you wind up stuck with his 2022 salary remember thats a whole season for him to maybe find a way to improve his trade value too. The salaries in the contract itself should be low enough for teams to consider.
How can a team deal With a $32M paperweight on the bench?
Lets imagine that the Eagles do stick with him next year and possibly the year after. It hurts to see all that money on the sidelines but it probably doesn’t kill the cap as much as people think. If Hurts is the starter the Eagles spend on the QB position is exactly the same as what it would have been anyway in 2021 and 2022, the roles are just reversed. Even if you add a third rookie QB into the mix the cost (around $7.5M for the 5th overall pick) doesn’t kill you, though it is money you didn’t expect to spend. On an annual basis its around the same percentage that the Eagles were willing to lock into with Bradford, Daniel and Wentz in 2016 and at $41M per year on QBs. However you do need the QB you draft to hit as the only teams that would spend more at that point are the Colts, Texans, and Chiefs and we know the Texans and Chiefs have all world talent at the position driving those costs.
Ideally if Hurts can be the QB this situation would come close to mirroring the Dallas Cowboys situation with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott where Prescott took over as the cheap QB while the Cowboys rode out the finances of the Romo contract.
What is the cost to cut Wentz in 2021?
You can read the full version here with more creative solutions, but the basics of the deal are as follows.
If the Eagles cut Wentz in 2021 they will incur $59.2M in cap charges. They can split those charges at $34.7M in 2021, which is the same as his current cap number, and $24.5M in 2022 by designating him a June 1 cut. The Eagles would get a salary cap credit in 2022 for any salary Wentz earned from another team. If they do not cut Wentz his 2022 salary will become guaranteed.
What is the cost to trade Wentz in 2021?
If they trade Wentz they will take on a dead money charge of $33.8M and have no charges in 2022. The caveat is that ant trade would have to occur before the 3rd day of free agency at which point the Eagles would have to pay him $10M on top of the $33.8M in sunk costs.
Is it true that Wentz extension hasn’t even kicked in?
Yes I wrote about that the other day. If they trade him basically they gave him a $29.6M raise for the 2019 and 2020 seasons and if they cut him it was a $55M raise for those years.
Why did they sign this contract?
There is nothing wrong with the contract itself, just as there was nothing wrong with the Jared Goff contract with the Rams. These were essentially market contracts for highly drafted competent players. It was not long ago that people were saying Wentz was an MVP candidate and it was only a few months ago when my timeline would often fill up with Prescott vs Wentz debates about who was worth more. In hindsight this is going to turn into an awful decision by Philadelphia and one that lives in infamy in the city in seems, but that is not what anyone thought at the time. This wasn’t Gurley or Zeke or a multitude of RB deals you expect to blow up. It was a contract that was either celebrated or never talked about until about 5 weeks ago when it became more than just a bad start for Wentz.
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Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.