The Eagles Did Themselves No Favors With Carson Wentz Contract Structure

Liam McKeone
Nov 24, 2020, 3:06 PM EST
Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson
Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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Carson Wentz has undergone a stunning transformation at quarterback. This time last year, he was comfortably seated as the signal-caller of both the near and far future for the Philadelphia Eagles. Fast forward 12 months, and just about everybody is demanding the Eagles bench Wentz and start literally anybody else, ideally 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts.

That might feel like a bit of an overreaction if you're only a casual viewer of NFL football, but he really has been that bad. Wentz has thrown 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 10 games this season. He's lost four fumbles on top of that. He ranks near the bottom of all statistical measures compared to other quarterbacks this season. The Eagles are 3-6-1 in what is, by far, the worst division in football. I can't tell you what happened, but this isn't the same player who was an MVP candidate three years ago.

That is a rather significant problem for the organization because they gave Wentz a contract that assumed he would be near that MVP level for the foreseeable future. And they did not give themselves an easy way out if the worst possible outcome came to fruition, which kind of feels like the outcome they currently find themselves in. If the Eagles traded or cut Wentz during the 2020 season, as some are already calling for, his dead cap hit would be an astounding $77 million. That is over a third of the current maximum salary cap at $222 million.

So obviously they won't do that. They'll ride with Wentz this season, for better or worse. But is trading Wentz or cutting him outright a possibility in the near future? Kind of! After the 2021 season, the Eagles can cut the former No. 2 overall pick for "only" $24 million. That is still a lot of money and Philly would be in dire financial straits if that happened, considering they currently are slated to have a cap number of $187 million in 2022. Cutting Wentz would bump that number up to over $200 million, and that's before you take into account that players like Miles Sanders and Andre Dillard (who is out for the year but believed to be the left tackle of the future in Philly) will want big new contracts by then. The salary cap will probably stay around $220 million for the next few years as the league attempts to handle the financial impact of the global pandemic.

But would that even be worth it? Wentz isn't the only one with a big cap hit in 2022. Fletcher Cox will cost the Eagles $23 million against the cap that year. Darius Slay comes in at $19 million, Brandon Brooks at $17 million, Javon Hargrave at $15 million, and Lane Johnson at $14 million. Those can be lessened with some weird cap maneuvering that no fan could hope to understand, like converting salary to signing bonuses, but that will only make a marginal difference in the grand scheme of it. These players are all key pieces of the team, so the Eagles won't be cutting any of them outright. Things do change quickly in the NFL, but Philadelphia is not in a position to have money to spend if they get rid of Wentz. That money is taken up anyway.

They could cut Wentz after next year anyway and just deal with the fact that they'll have very little cap room that season, hoping for the best in the following ones. But unless they want to launch into a full-scale rebuild, that probably won't be the path the franchise takes. His cap hit in 2022 will be $31 million if he stays on the roster and $24 million if he doesn't, so they'd only save $7 million. It's more likely they wait until 2023. That year, Wentz will have a cap hit of $36 million if he's on the roster but will only cost $15 million if he's cut or traded, saving the Eagles $21 million. That's a bit easier for the front office to deal with, and it's so far off in the future at this point that the team could look entirely different as far as their financials go.

But the fact that we're talking about the Eagles maybe getting themselves out of this contract three years from now is not good at all. They loaded up his dead cap numbers to help manipulate their cap sheet and let them keep pricey veterans around Wentz during what they viewed as contending years. All that careful planning goes right out the window if he suddenly stinks, and that is exactly what has happened this year.

Like it or not, the Eagles are stuck with Wentz for at least the next two seasons. By then, the members of their heralded defensive line that helped drive them to a Super Bowl will be far out of their prime. Regardless of whether or not Wentz is on the roster, Philly has no cap maneuverability to help bolster other parts of the team. The only path available to take in the near future is hope that Wentz remembers how to play football well and the rookies selected in 2020 and 2021 can help fill in the gaps. Otherwise, this is how the Eagles will look for a while.

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