The Eagles showed they were committed to Carson Wentz in February, when they let Nick Foles take his dick somewhere else. And by signing Wentz to a four-year extension two years before they had to, as the Eagles did Thursday night, they showed too that they’re all-in on him.
It’s a decision that’s not without some risk, given Wentz’s history of injuries dating back to his college years. But by taking care of Wentz now, the Eagles have locked in their future before the cost of that future catches up with them. This is also a move that’s perfectly aligned with the Eagles’ forward-thinking approach at all levels of their football operations.
The exact details haven’t yet been revealed, but the basic contours of Wentz’s deal reportedly include a few baubles right near the top of the quarterback market: a record $107.9 million in total guarantees, $66 million fully guaranteed (which ranks fifth), and $128 million in max value (eighth). It’s a four-year extension that secures Wentz’s rights through 2024. Foles might have quarterbacked the Eagles to their long-awaited Super Bowl title, but let’s not forget that it was Wentz who positioned them to get there. What the Eagles are betting on is the promise they see in Wentz—the same promise that led them three years ago to trade up twice to draft him. It’s a prudent gamble.
The average on Wentz’s extension is $32 million, which only ranks below Russell Wilson’s $35 million, Ben Roethlisberger’s $34 million, and Aaron Rodgers’s $33.5 million. But the most salient detail here is that Wentz still has two years remaining on his rookie deal, including 2020’s option year. During those two seasons, Wentz is slated to earn a combined $26.9 million. By getting Wentz’s big second contract done so soon, the Eagles effectively locked in a discount: They’ve committed to paying Wentz an average of $25.8 million across the next six seasons—not a whole lot more than the $22 million per year Foles is set to get from the Jaguars.
And by doing this deal as early as the rules allowed—after Wentz’s third season—the Eagles also locked Wentz in before the market really begins to accelerate: Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Dak Prescott are all entering contract years (as is Tom Brady, but he’s different); Jared Goff is also now eligible for an extension; and Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson can get new deals as early as next offseason. Given the continued growth of the salary cap, it’s possible to envision the price tag by that time exceeding $40 million per year.
This is how the Eagles have built a consistently successful operation under the stewardship of Howie Roseman—though, in fairness, this sort of salary cap optimization dates back to the days of team president Joe Banner, the architect of the teams that reached five NFC title games and a Super Bowl during the 2000s. Chairman Jeffrey Lurie bought the franchise in 1994, the year the NFL instituted a salary cap. As Lurie recently explained to The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia, he immediately viewed the cap as a resource for team-building, rather than an obstacle. “And so I guess that mentality I brought to the franchise,” Lurie told Kapadia, “but there were plenty of people here who completely agreed with that—from Joe Banner to Howie Roseman.”
Under Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles are aggressive, they spot trends, and they stay ahead of the curve. They brought DeSean Jackson back to give Wentz a true deep threat, and they structured Jackson’s deal to keep his cap number ($3.16 million) remarkably low this year. They traded up to draft offensive tackle Andre Dillard in this year’s first round, a way of preparing themselves for life after Jason Peters—and to provide long-haul, cost-effective protection for Wentz, who’s coming off seasons in which he sustained a torn ACL and a stress fracture in his back. They continued to deal for players on rookie contracts by trading for running back Jordan Howard—a move that provides them with the added flexibility of either a possible future option or compensatory pick compensation. And they’ve not only developed a solid core around Wentz, they’re retaining it:
The Eagles have long been on the forefront of data-driven decision-making. It’s an approach that’s constantly evolving, but it was fascinating to read Lurie’s reaction to Kapadia’s question about what he thinks when broadcast announcers say teams need to establish the run in a league in which passing has become so efficient:
“What’s the right way to say this?” he asks himself out loud. “It’s just not a truthful way of reporting based on all the information we now have. OK? That’s sort of a nice way to say it.”
Why might this be relevant to Wentz? Here’s a hint (click to view):
The Eagles’ long-term commitment to Wentz has the distinction of being smart and a no-brainer. Wentz isn’t just the centerpiece of the Eagles’ grand plan, he’s the fulfillment of it.