The 2020 NFL season was the worst of Carson Wentz’s career. It was his fifth season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback, but he didn’t function nearly as well as he had in seasons past.
Wentz started 12 games for the Eagles and led them to a 3-8-1 record. He completed a career-low 57.4 percent of his passes and tossed a league-leading 15 interceptions despite being benched in favor of Jalen Hurts for the final month of the season. It was a sharp decline for Wentz, who had been considered one of the NFL’s up-and-coming young quarterbacks just a year before.
The Eagles had a quarterback conundrum on their hands during the 2021 offseason. Wentz wasn’t playing well, but he was signed to a contract worth up to $128 million. They had Hurts waiting in the wings as a second-round pick, but would they be able to find a taker for Wentz in a trade?
Ultimately, they did. The Colts stepped up and made the deal to acquire the 28-year-old quarterback. The move reunited Wentz with his former offensive coordinator turned head coach Frank Reich, and there was hope that they could rekindle the magic they enjoyed together in 2017.
How did the Carson Wentz trade happen? What compensation was exchanged in the deal? And is Wentz paying off for the Colts? Here’s what to know about one of the blockbuster quarterback trades that occurred during the 2021 NFL offseason.
NFL POWER RANKINGS: Bills proving to be serious contender
Carson Wentz trade details
- Colts get: QB Carson Wentz
- Eagles get: 2021 third-round draft pick, 2022 conditional second-round pick
The Colts were able to get Wentz for the relatively cheap price of two Day 2 draft picks. One was a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft that the Eagles traded to the Cowboys to move up and select DeVonta Smith. The second is a conditional 2022 second-round pick that the Eagles will be watching closely.
The Eagles can recoup a first-round pick in 2022 instead of the second-rounder if Wentz plays 75 percent or more of the Colts’ snaps or if he plays 70 percent of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs, per a report. So, there is some upside in this trade for the Eagles.
Also, Philadelphia offloaded Wentz’s contract in the deal. He had signed a lucrative extension in 2019 after leading the Eagles to a second consecutive playoff appearance, but the team quickly soured on him.
The Eagles had to eat some salary-cap space short-term after trading Wentz — he still has a dead-cap hit of $33.8 million in 2021; essentially, the Eagles already paid him $33.8 million in guaranteed money that they can’t use elsewhere this season — but in their minds, it was worth it to move on from him. They were able to start Hurts and Wentz’s contract will be fully off the books by 2022.
Carson Wentz contract
Wentz is on a four-year deal worth roughly $128 million, but the Colts won’t be on the hook for all of that money. The Eagles are paying a prorated portion of Wentz’s roster bonus — which amounts to the team’s dead-cap hit of $33.8 million — so that will defray the annual cost for the Colts.
The Colts will never have to pay Wentz more than $28.3 million annually as part of this deal, and he is slated to make about $103 million from Indianapolis, pending guarantees and incentives. Here’s a full breakdown of his four-year contract with the Colts, per OverTheCap.com.
|Year||Age||Base Salary||Roster Bonus||Guaranteed Salary||Cap Number||Cap %|
As you can see, Wentz’s contract is not guaranteed after the 2022 NFL season. So, if Wentz struggles in his first two seasons with the Colts, they can move on from him with minimal repercussions.
Why Colts traded for Carson Wentz
The Colts’ decision to trade for Wentz boiled down to a couple of basic things. The team needed a quarterback to replace Philip Rivers after his retirement and coach Frank Reich had a relationship with Wentz from their time together in Philadelphia.
Reich was Wentz’s offensive coordinator during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and ’17 was Wentz’s best season as a pro. He led the Eagles to an 11-2 record in 13 starts and threw for 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He was considered the MVP front-runner before suffering a torn ACL against the Rams.
Wentz has regressed since then, but at the time of the trade, Reich stated that he believed Wentz still possessed the skills that made him an MVP candidate.
“All you had to do, for me, was turn on the film in 2019, and with four games to go the Eagles needed to win out,” Reich said, per SI.com’s Albert Breer. “And not only did they need to win out, but in each of those games, as I recall, looking at the film, Carson had to play great in the second half and play a major role in that team winning those games in the second half. Now, they were team wins, they were team efforts, it wasn’t a one-man show. But Carson made the plays that a quarterback needs to make when you need to win four games in a row to make the playoffs.
“He did that, and that wasn’t 2017. That was 2019. So in my mind, that just confirmed to me this guy still has it.”
So, what went wrong for Wentz in Philadelphia? Reich simply thought that Wentz was asked to do too much.
“When you have superpowers, quote-unquote, and in ’17, it was like he did have superpowers, he made so many plays, ridiculous plays, you just can’t do that all the time,” Reich said. “And then in ’20, the protection wasn’t as good as it was in ’17, and so it required him to do more with less, because they had so many guys hurt and because of the other dynamics that were there.”
However, Reich didn’t completely absolve Wentz of the blame.
“So, yeah, some of it’s him,” Reich said. “Just get rid of the ball, help your offensive line out, it’s not just the protection isn’t good. The quarterback can help the protection, just getting rid of the ball. But it’s not all Carson’s fault either. It’s everybody’s fault.”
How Carson Wentz has fared through four games with Colts
The Wentz trade hasn’t paid immediate dividends for the Colts. He wasn’t able to get in a lot of work during the offseason, as he dealt with a foot injury that sidelined him for most of August.
Wentz surprisingly didn’t miss any regular-season time due to the injury, which was supposed to sideline him five to 12 weeks, but it did slow his progress. He also dealt with two ankle sprains that knocked him out at the end of the Colts’ loss to the Rams.
Overall, Wentz has led the Colts to just a 1-3 record, but he is completing 63.8 percent of his passes and for five touchdowns, just one interception and 230 passing yards per game. Those are respectable numbers, but he’ll have to up his scoring output a bit more if the Colts’ offense wants to compete with some of the better defenses in the NFL.