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Carson Wentz trade rumors: Projecting the Eagles QB’s value, likely landing spots for potential deal

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Two NFC teams kicked off the 2021 quarterback carousel ahead of Super Bowl LV thanks to the Lions and Rams‘ blockbuster swap of Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff. A third NFC team — and another big-name QB trade — might not be far behind. While many believed the Eagles hired new coach Nick Sirianni in large part to restore former MVP candidate Carson Wentz under center, NFL Network reported Thursday that Philadelphia has begun listening to offers for its allegedly disgruntled signal-caller.

There’s a chance the Eagles never get the offer they want and embrace an awkward, if not messy, return by Wentz in 2021. There’s also an argument Philly shouldn’t shop the QB at all, with the option of revisiting a succession plan in 2022. But as some have speculated, it’s unlikely leaks of the team fielding calls would even surface if substantive trade talks aren’t already underway, and/or Wentz isn’t wholly committed to forcing the Eagles’ hand for a split.

A day after ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggested as much, saying Wentz would prefer a fresh start elsewhere but won’t be moved unless the Eagles receive what they deem “fair value,” the big question centers on exactly that: Fair value. What is it, in Wentz’s case?

Wentz’s projected trade value

Unlike Stafford, who struck a mutual agreement with Detroit to find a new home and has a longer, more proven track record, Wentz is a bit of an enigma. His 2020 regression was historic for a team that’s now in complete transition, and his $128 million contract is as daunting as the one the Rams unloaded with Goff. But he’s also just 28 with four good — and occasionally great — other seasons under his belt. Then again, he’s just one of, oh, a dozen different established starters who could be available in an unprecedented QB market.

Schefter estimated this week that the Eagles will likely want a minimum of a first-round draft pick in return for Wentz. That’d be ideal, both optically and from a roster-building standpoint, for them. But it feels awfully unlikely, unless the Eagles are throwing in a pick of their own. Wentz has always been a superior talent in comparison to Goff, whose big contract necessitated the Rams pay more than expected to acquire Stafford, but just because the Eagles won’t pay someone to take Wentz’s deal in a similar manner (and mark our words: they won’t) doesn’t mean his market is bursting at the seams.

In the wake of the unexpected Goff-Stafford deal, creativity is probably key here. If the Eagles actually move Wentz, there’s a fair chance it won’t be a traditionally structured this-for-that swap. Maybe it involves multiple picks from both sides, or a player or two as well. But if you’re looking for a potential reference, the closest recent comparisons to Wentz — in rough terms of age, experience, upside and contract situation — appear to be Kevin Kolb, who was dealt by the Eagles to the Cardinals in 2011; and Alex Smith, who was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs in 2013.

If it’s not obvious to you already, these are imperfect comparisons. Wentz is neither Kolb nor Smith; all three have or had very different careers and playing styles. But it’s not easy to find many trade examples of similarly established QBs — NFL teams tend to prefer retaining or rebuilding young signal-callers, not trading them away! Here’s a look:

QB: Kevin Kolb
Traded for: Second-round draft pick, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Kolb was 26 at the time of his trade, two years younger than Wentz, and had a surprisingly comparable contract; he joined Arizona with just one year remaining on a $12.25 million extension, which would’ve made him the NFL‘s 10th-highest-paid QB that season. (Wentz would cost an acquiring team $25.4M in 2021, or the 12th-highest QB cap hit, but could be cut for a savings of $6.7M in 2022, or $19M in 2023). Kolb was much more of an unknown, departing Philly with just seven career starts, but had just lost his job to Michael Vick, in part due to injury.

QB: Alex Smith
Traded for: Second-round draft pick, conditional (second-round) pick

Smith was 29 at the time of his trade, just a year older than Wentz, and similarly had a several-year injury history after coming in as a high first-rounder. His cap hit in 2013, when he was dealt, was significantly lower — $8.5 million, or 16th-highest among QBs — but he’d also just lost his job to a younger dual threat in Colin Kaepernick. He’d started 75 games up to that point, not far off Wentz’s 68.

Kolb was sold as a developmental piece, whereas Smith was sold as a reclamation project. The Eagles could conceivably sell Wentz as something in between. Either way, the compensation here is key: Getting something like a second-round draft pick, plus a secondary asset, like another pick or potential starter, feels like a realistic ceiling for a move in this offseason. If the team is convinced that’s not enough, maybe Wentz is back. But the floor could easily be much lower: It’s fair to expect some offers, based on other QBs available, as well as Wentz’s regression over the last two years, to look more like a single mid-rounder.

“His value will depend on the number of serious suitors,” says Joel Corry, CBS Sports contributor and former agent and cap expert. “I can’t see Philly doing a Brock Osweiler-type salary dump. Nick Foles went to Chicago for a fourth-round compensatory pick. Philly will want more. Personally, I wouldn’t give up a first- or second-round pick based on this season’s regression. The best bet may be a conditional 2022 pick that could elevate to a first-round pick based on how Wentz and/or the acquiring team perform in 2021.”

Likely landing spots

Long shots:

  • Carolina Panthers: They’re in the market for a veteran upgrade, but going from Teddy Bridgewater to Wentz might not be significant enough when Carolina can just opt for cheaper upside in the draft.
  • Las Vegas Raiders: As solid as the expendable Derek Carr has been, Jon Gruden is more likely to swing for a veteran successor at QB than draft one, and both he and general manager Mike Mayock, a Philly native, are big fans of Wentz.
  • New York Jets: Former Eagles executive Joe Douglas knows Wentz well from his time in Philadelphia, and the Jets have plenty of cap space to absorb his deal, but why wouldn’t they rather take their own guy in the draft?
  • San Francisco 49ers: Like Carolina, they’re in the hunt for a better veteran arm, and Wentz’s athleticism would surely intrigue Kyle Shanahan, though it’s hard to say he’d be an easy sell over Jimmy Garoppolo.
  • Washington Football Team: They’ll probably call about every available QB, and while the Eagles have traded a franchise name to Washington before (see: McNabb, Donovan), they don’t want to watch him right his career playing them twice a year.

Favorites:

  • Chicago Bears: A Nick Foles reunion would bring Wentz’s dramatic career full circle, but we already know the Bears are hungry for a new QB, and they’ve got both a GM in Ryan Pace who’s targeted Wentz before and the QB’s old position coach from 2017.
  • Denver Broncos: If John Elway still maintained final say over the roster, this might be even more likely, but Denver is perpetually a hot spot for veteran QB acquisitions, and there’s enough youth and defense already in place to justify a gamble.
  • Indianapolis Colts: The fit that’s been beaten to death, Indy checks all the boxes now that Stafford’s out of the picture: They’re loaded with money, they’re not primed to get a top rookie QB, and they’re ready to compete now under Wentz’s former offensive coordinator in Frank Reich, reportedly one of the QB’s most trusted NFL mentors. It helps Indy is a more laid-back market.
  • New England Patriots: Bill Belichick is never one to shy away from big-name reclamation projects, the Pats desperately need a potential long-term solution and have the cash to swing big, and Eagles GM Howie Roseman trades with New England a ton.

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