As expected, the Philadelphia Eagles have agreed to trade embattled quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. The deal includes a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-rounder for Wentz, reuniting him with Frank Reich, Indy’s current head coach and Wentz’s former offensive coordinator. Nothing is official until 4 p.m. EDT March 17.
After spending a 2020 fourth-round pick on quarterback Jacob Eason, the investment — albeit a mild one — in Wentz slams that door shut for the time being. It also means 2019 starter Jacoby Brissett won’t be returning as a possible QB1 in 2021, although that was more of a last resort for the team anyway.
In 2020, Philip Rivers served his purpose, playing efficient football and relying on the running game, led by rookie standout Jonathan Taylor and a strong offensive line. The Colts were bounced from the postseason after narrowly losing to the Buffalo Bills. Rivers retired following the year, and Indy was a team in seek of a new quarterback.
Wentz lost his starting job in 2020 to rookie Jalen Hurts and saw head coach Doug Pederson get replaced by former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. The 2016 first-round pick had fallen on hard times at that point. Wentz started 12 games and had thrown only 16 touchdowns to his 15 interceptions, completing a rookie-like 57.4 percent of his throws. The flailing Philly offense needed a spark, and Hurts immediately made a difference, but the Eagles already were careening toward Earth at this point.
In 2016, when Wentz was chosen second overall out of North Dakota State, he was inserted into the starting lineup from the onset and played well enough to give Eagles fans hope the club landed its franchise quarterback. In Year 2, starting only 13 games due to injury, Wentz was spectacular. He finished the year with 33 touchdown passes to only seven picks, and his team would post an 11-2 record with Wentz in the lineup on its path to a Nick Foles-orchestrated Super Bowl upset. The first two seasons with Reich as his playcaller went so well it led to the fabled comeback king to land a gig as Indy’s head coach entering the 2018 campaign.
Wentz was unable to stay healthy again in 2017, tallying 11 starts. He was more efficient than his first two years, and the then-third-year pro would set a personal best in QB rating at 102.2 on the strength of a 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio and a career-high 69.6 percent completion rate.
At 27 years old, Wentz would stay healthy in all 16 games in 2019 and lead his team to a 9-7 record. The team rewarded the effort with a superstar-caliber contract. He posted a career high in yardage (4,039) and accounted for 28 offensive touchdowns. For the third straight year, he would throw seven interceptions. Perhaps most impressive of all, the Eagles had absolutely nothing left at wide receiver after injuries and suspect personnel moves at the position plagued the team.
The Colts now have what is effectively a one-year rental to the tune of two draft picks and $25.4 million in salary-cap space allocated to a former Pro Bowler. The contract leaves Philly absorbing more than $33 million against its cap in dead money, and the Indy gets a penalty-free escape route in 2022 by cutting or trading Wentz. Sure, the potential losses in draft capital could prove detrimental, but there’s still way too much to like about adding a quarterback on the right side of 30 whose best days actually could be in front of him.
Reich has earned a reputation as being successful with quarterbacks and also understands this team is a run-first offense at its core. The offensive line may have taken a minor step back last season, though it still ranked in the top seven, according to Pro Football Focus. It should return intact for the upcoming year to pave the way for a prolific second season for Taylor in the backfield.
Wentz is at his best when he has a competent running game and can rely on play-action passing. The 2021 Colts have a few areas of need to address, so it’s not all roses just yet. Standout receiver T.Y. Hilton is poised to be a free agent in March, and he has expressed interest in returning if the two sides can agree on compensation. He also has said he’s 100 percent focused on free agency. The Colts made returning more attractive by adding Wentz, in theory. Indianapolis has plenty of money to spend this offseason, and the class of free-agent receivers is extremely deep.
No offense to Jack Doyle, but the veteran tight end isn’t on the same planet as Wentz’s former teammates, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, in terms of talent. That said, Ertz could be coaxed into joining Wentz if the Eagles part ways with him.
Fantasy football takeaway
With Sirianni gone, Reich hired Marcus Brady to call the offense, but that one has some observers on the skeptical side, given the latter’s lack of having ever done so in the pros. The CFL alum may be quite reliant on Reich in 2021 as he feels his way through the process. Given Reich’s history of calling plays and remaining involved in game planning, his imprint on the offense never will stray too far from being obvious.
The outlook for Wentz overly depends on two things: He must stay healthy, and Indianapolis needs to add more talent to this promising roster. It needs to get faster and more diverse with its type of playmakers. The Colts have a quality No. 2 option in second-year receiver Michael Pittman Jr., provided he develops as expected in an offseason that should be a little more traditional that the last. But the roster currently lacks a legit No. 1.
Taylor is the workhorse and the heartbeat on this side of the ball. He’s going to help Wentz tremendously in avoiding added defensive pressure. The sword cuts both ways, however, since lower volume means the necessity for greater efficiency in the passing game from a fantasy perspective.
Wentz also showed a little bit of his mobility skills in last year’s failed season, rushing for five touchdowns after having scored only three in his previous years combined. Consider it an aberration — he’s mobile in the way Big Ben is … get out of trouble, extend the play, and continue to look down the field. Any gains in this area should be considered gravy in fantasy scoring.
So what’s the statistical forecast for Wentz? It’s tough to get too accurate without seeing the impending moves at wide receiver and tight end. The floor is probably somewhere in the 3,400-3,500 yards range, granted he stays healthy, and creeping up toward 4,200 or 4,300 should be a reasonable expectation for his ceiling. Rivers went for 4,169 yards last year, tossing 24 touchdowns. If this year’s Colts look like the 2016-17 seasons Reich ran Philadelphia’s offense, we’re in the right neighborhood for suggesting Wentz will be about as efficient as Rivers was but offer a little more pop in the scoring column.
Depending on what the team does to beef up its weaponry, Wentz could see his draft stock soar to overinflated levels. The Colts won’t become the Arizona Cardinals’ pass-happy AFC counterpart overnight, and Wentz remains an elevated if not worrisome injury risk in fantasy football as a low-end starter. Make sure to back him up with a competent option, unless you’re confident in playing the matchups off of the wire.
If nothing else, the fantasy football optimism surrounding the Wentz-Reich reunion should have gamers pleased to see another proven asset return to the conversation of being a No. 1 option. That alone is good for the game.