For a stretch there, you couldn’t blame the lonely hearts of America for longing to find someone to love them the way the Philadelphia Eagles loved Carson Wentz.
At least until they no longer did.
At the start though of the relationship, this was a pursuit and a commitment out of some classic romance novel.
The Eagles spied their diamond in the North Dakota State rough and then traded twice to move up and select him second overall in the 2016 NFL draft. They handed him the starting job. When he was hurt, they stuck with him, letting Super Bowl hero Nick Foles depart. They even recommitted two years ago to the tune of four years at $107 million guaranteed.
Carson Wentz was the franchise quarterback. Carson Wentz was supposed to be the Eagles, to be Philadelphia. This small-town, duck-hunting, product of the Plains was big and good enough to handle Philly.
Most of that promise was built off highlight-reel throws in the FCS and a magical 13-game run in 2017 before a knee injury ended his season, a season in which Philly would go on to win that Super Bowl.
Then it all changed. At some point, the Eagles realized they had miscalculated his talent and then they miscalculated his ability to be challenged. They drafted Jalen Hurts in the 2020 second round, which signified their concerns about Wentz’s ability, and all but severed his relationship with management and coach Doug Pederson.
One awful season later, he got shipped to Indianapolis, about the only team in the NFL that even wanted him. The return wasn’t much — a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional second in 2022 (it can become a first-rounder if Wentz plays well). The Eagles will still have to contend with $33.8 million in dead money on the salary cap.
Essentially, they were willing to pay to get rid of the guy, even though Hurts hasn’t done enough to assure anyone he is the solution. You can expect Philly, which owns the sixth pick in 2021, to be on the market for a quarterback.
There was no good way out in this bad marriage, and they’ll be dissecting how it all broke bad up and down North Avenue for years to come.
Was he ever worth drafting? Was he ever worth the extension? Was he worth blowing the whole thing up over — Pederson, among others, is gone in the wake of this destruction.
Conversely, for Wentz, is the question of just how good he is and how good he can be. You can’t get a much better situation in the NFL than a franchise committing everything to get and keep you, then offering patience and perspective when you don’t immediately pay dividends.
The Colts are greener pastures at this point, a dream scenario even. With a loaded defense and plenty of weapons, Indy views itself as the 2020-21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a just-add-water (or functional quarterback) away from Super Bowl contention.
They got outbid for Matthew Stafford. They couldn’t wait and hope that Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson will actually get traded.
They landed their potential savior in Wentz without sacrificing either of their two top-54 picks in this spring’s draft. It also reunites Wentz with coach Frank Reich, who was the Eagles offensive coordinator during the quarterback’s best days. He knows what he’s getting. Maybe he knows what no else does.
Regardless, it’s a low-stakes, potentially high-reward gamble, at least if Wentz can somehow return to 2017 form when he threw 33 touchdowns against seven picks and led the Eagles to an 11-2 record before injuring his knee.
In Philadelphia, they thought that was the proof they had been right about this guy all along. Instead, nothing was ever as good. He never won a playoff game and last season went just 3-8-1 as a starter, throwing 15 interceptions and just 16 touchdowns. He was sacked a whopping 50 times.
His confidence rattled, his attitude and relationship with the team soured. It all became untenable.
Philadelphia will keep paying the cap-space bill, but at this point, one of the great NFL romances is over, unceremoniously severed in the middle of a midwinter ice storm.
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