INDIANAPOLIS – The familiarity and belief of Frank Reich, at the most important position in sports, has struck again.
For a second straight offseason, Reich’s history has the Colts making a significant move at quarterback.
And this one comes with a far higher ceiling, yet also one with more long-term ramifications for the franchise.
The Colts have reportedly traded for former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
While the trade cannot become official until the new league year starts on March 17, the reported packages involves the Colts sending a 2021 third-round pick and then a conditional 2nd round pick in 2022, that could turn into a 1st rounder in ’22. Per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the conditional 2nd becomes a 1st rounder if Wentz plays 75 percent of the offensive snaps or 70 percent + and the team makes the playoffs. Unless Wentz gets hurt, that seems likely to happen.
Debating the exact compensation of the deal is a tad overblown.
The ultimate deciding factor on this trade is this: Will Wentz get back to being an above average starting QB in this league or not? If he can, this is a win for the Colts. If not, this trade is a costly loss.
Simply, the Colts are putting their faith in Reich fixing Wentz.
Getting rid of Wentz does mean the Eagles save more than $30 million in cap space. The Colts will have Wentz under contract for four more seasons (through 2024). However, the contract really is more of a 2-year $47 million deal when you look at the specifics of his situation.
This trade is a clear message that the Colts view Wentz, 28, as their quarterback of the present and the next few years, at the minimum.
This move does help appease the ‘veteran vision’ that Jim Irsay had mentioned a few weeks back (Wentz has 68 career starts, going 36-32 as a starter).
Although, it also carries some long-term ramifications that would stunt this franchise if Wentz doesn’t work out. This is more than just a band-aid, one-year move, with Wentz’s contract coming off the books next offseason.
If Wentz is the broken quarterback we saw in 2020, and Reich can’t ‘fix him,’ then the Colts will be nearly a handful of years removed from Andrew Luck’s retirement without any long-term answer under center.
Make no mistake, this deal does not happen without Reich’s prior relationship with Wentz. Nor does it happen without Reich still having tremendous belief that Wentz can return to the player he was prior to tearing his ACL in 2017.
Even just two months ago, with Wentz getting benched in Philadelphia, Reich publicly backed his former pupil. When appearing on the Rich Eisen Show, Reich was asked about the struggling Wentz.
“…You know, I know and love Carson and he’s a close friend of mine,” Reich said. “And I think he’s a really good player. You know I have a lot of belief and confidence in him personally…”
Reich has always been a fan of the potential of Wentz. In another late-season interview with Peter King, Reich said he’s “extremely close” with Wentz.
In January of 2016, the Eagles hired Reich as their offensive coordinator at the beginning of that offseason. A few months later, Philadelphia traded up twice from the No. 13 overall pick to the No. 2 spot, where they would then select Wentz out of North Dakota State.
After going 7-9 as a rookie starter in 2016, Wentz put together an MVP caliber season in 2017, throwing 33 touchdowns to 7 interceptions with a league best QBR of 78.5. But ever since tearing his ACL in December of that season (in which Nick Foles filled in and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title), Wentz has yet to reclaim that type of production.
Wentz is coming off by far his worst NFL season, completing 57 percent of his passes , throwing 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and was sacked 50 times in just 12 games played. Questions arose in Philly about how much Wentz wanted to remain part of the organization. Less than two months after giving Wentz a franchise-altering deal, the Eagles decided it was time to move on from him. Skeptics of this trade point to these actions by the Eagles as worrisome for any future Wentz home.
When the Colts prepared for Wentz and the Eagles back in 2018, Reich didn’t hold back in his praise for the “fearless” QB.
“Obviously (Wentz) was having a phenomenal year, just a phenomenal year and probably was the MVP and deserved every bit of it,” Reich said of Wentz in 2018. “What you love about Carson is much like Andrew (Luck), is a team-first guy, an explosive player with the right kind of attitude and the right kind of work ethic.
“It was just fun watching him grow as a player, just in the short two years that we were there together and truly one of my coaching highlights was a chance to work with him. He’s just a class act.”
In a way, the addition of Wentz has some similarities to Rivers.
While the two players are vastly different in their skillset and career arcs, the Colts have acquired both off teams that lacked enough support around each player.
How much of Wentz’s recent downfall should be attributed to an injury-riddled offensive line, not enough skill talent and a hanging cloud at backup quarterback?
If the Colts can stabilize some of those things, can Wentz’s career be resurrected with Reich again mentoring him?
This is the biggest risk yet taken by Chris Ballard and Frank Reich.
Will it pay off?