We’re just beyond the halfway point of the NFL season, which I suppose makes this a good time for reflection. Of course, one of the key stories of both the Colts and Eagles seasons was always going to be the performance of Carson Wentz for the Colts and Jalen Hurts for the team he left behind.
Mason and I have attempted to answer what we see as the key questions around the trade to assess who has gotten the best deal so far. These answers are our opinions of the current situation and where we think things might be headed. There is plenty of time for events to make us both look foolish.
Who is winning the trade?
Seb Bench (SB):
The Colts are clearly winning the trade, although we’ll get onto whether that means the Eagles made a mistake making the trade later.
When Chris Ballard traded for Wentz, he hoped he was getting a Quarterback with elite physical traits. A Quarterback who was once great and could be again with the help of his old coach Frank Reich.
This is the Carson Wentz Indianapolis has gotten so far. It hasn’t been entirely plain sailing; the pre and early season injuries and 0-3 start saw to that. While we saw too much of last season’s Wentz at the end of the second Titans defeat as he threw two costly interceptions.
Yet Wentz has thrown 17 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions, throwing for over 2,000 yards in the process. There have been 3 lost fumbles in there, but Wentz has done an impressive job cutting down the turnovers that dominated his 2020 season. Wentz isn’t setting the world alight in terms of his touchdowns and yards per game (although there’s less need to when Taylor is playing this well), but he’s playing well.
Having improved so quickly from last year’s horror season, there are encouraging signs that Wentz could replicate his 2017 form in time. Especially after he’s given more time to gel with his new offense and is protected by a healthy Nelson, Smith, and Kelly in front of him.
That’s not bad for a QB who will likely cost a 1st and 3rd round draft picks. Compare that to Matthew Stafford, who has looked like an MVP candidate this year but had a terrible game against the Titans (maybe this Titans defense is good?). Stafford now has 23 touchdowns, six interceptions, and 2,771 yards so far this season. Stafford cost the Rams three first round draft picks and is significantly older than Wentz.
Or we could compare Carson Wentz to the rookie quarterbacks. Ballard might have moved up to draft if Wentz wasn’t’ available. However, Chris Ballard highlighted that it’s not as simple as drafting a first-round Quarterback and finding your franchise QB over the offseason. It’s very early in the careers of the 2021 class, but the early results show us what Ballard was talking about.
The Colts were never getting near Lawrence or Wilson with the first two picks. The 49ers gave up three first rounds to draft Lance. It would have taken even more for the Colts to get him or a similar haul to take Atlanta’s fourth spot to draft Fields or Jones. The Bears gave up slightly more to move up to draft Fields than the Colts spent on Wentz, and I certainly don’t think Indianapolis could have waited until draft night to find their quarterback. So far, Wentz is looking like much better value than Lance, Fields, or Jones. Acquiring a Quarterback is not cheap in today’s NFL, so getting one of Wentz’s quality for his price was a real deal for the Colts.
That doesn’t mean Jalen Hurts has been a bad player this year. Hurts has 6 passing touchdowns, four interceptions, just over 1,000 passing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, 354 rushing yards, and two lost fumbles. In other words, Hurts looks like a solid if unspectacular quarterback, which is pretty good value for a second-round draft pick. His rushing ability poses questions for defenses, but his limitations in the passing game suggest he’ll never be a player who can take his team deep into the playoffs. I wonder if drafting Hurts prevented the Eagles from drafting Fields, who could have tremendous long-term potential.
It has been pointed out that part of the value of drafting a young quarterback is their rookie contract and the great players that allow you to surround your QB with. But I think this benefit can be overstated. There are cases like the 2013 Seattle Seahawks where an elite rookie quarterback’s cheap contract allows their team to surround them with incredible players to win a Super Bowl. But unless your rookie QB is good immediately and already surrounded by talent, I don’t think that rookie contract is that useful. So unless you’re trading for a Brady, Stafford, or Rodgers, don’t focus too heavily on the next five years. Look instead at getting the right quarterback for the ten years and beyond.
Was the team ‘losing’ the trade still right to make the trade?
Mason Roach (MR):
The team that is losing the trade was still in the right to make the trade. Whether you think the Colts or Eagles lost the trade, either way, the trade needed to happen for both sides. The Colts were in the midst of a revolving QB door since the abrupt retirement of Andrew Luck after the 2018 comeback season. The Colts were looking for a franchise altering quarterback who could give the team the stability they have been desperately needing.
The Eagles were in the middle of a bad breakup with Carson Wentz after 5 tumultuous years in Philadelphia. It was evident Wentz was rubbing the front office and old head coach the wrong way with his actions after the initial drafting of Jalen Hurts. With Wentz essentially checking himself out mentality, the Eagles knew they needed to do something quickly before it blew up in their face.
As the rocky relationship got worse between the two sides, Wentz’s value was slowly trickling down as the days trucked on, and more negative publicity came out about him. While the Eagles did their due diligence in looking for suitors, it was pretty obvious where everyone thought Wentz was heading. Everyone and their mom could have predicted that the Colts were going to offer for Wentz. With the Colts having the old offensive coordinator of the Eagles (who helped Wentz become an MVP candidate in 2017; the media and fans everywhere predicted the move despite the Colts also being linked to other Quarterbacks.
The Colts lost on the initial big QB fish as the Lions traded Stafford to the Rams for a historic haul. Truthfully, the Colts could not give up that much draft capital despite Stafford being as good as he is. Chris Ballard will do anything to keep his precious draft picks. Ballard indeed did make a move by making one offer to the Eagles for Wentz. His proposal was set in stone, and he told the Eagles that he was adamant about not changing his price tag. This led to an extended period of waiting until the Eagles decided their plans for Wentz. The Colts weren’t the only team shopping for Wentz; they were just the ones who sent the best offer to the Eagles. Ballard was persuaded and ultimately made the move because of Frank Reich’s pure love and connection with Wentz and Wentz’s ability to play the quarterback position.
The trade for Wentz was officially for a 3rd round draft pick plus a conditional second round draft pick (goes to 1st round if Wentz plays 75 percent of snaps in the regular season or 70 percent of the snaps while the Colts make the playoffs). However, the media and fans everywhere had a truthful reaction to the trade. Most people thought the Eagles won the trade by a landslide.
The immediate reaction to the trade made it fair to say the Eagles won the trade when it was made. Wentz was coming off his worst season professionally, had a rocky exit with the franchise and the fan base, and the Eagles had his replacement already in Jalen Hurts. The Eagles strengthened their team and the foundation of the team through this simple trade. The Eagles flipped a broken/struggling/mentally tired Wentz for two mid round picks with the potential of a 1st coming their way. Before the season, it was apparent that the Eagles were running away with this trade all the way around.
As the season started and progressed to where it is now, the sediment of the trade could be seen a lot differently on both sides. Through nine weeks of this NFL season, The Colts are 4-5 and are second in their division. The Eagles’ record through nine weeks is 3-6, and they are also second in their division. However, the Colts have the upper hand compared to the Eagles on paper and through stats. The Colts have a better point differential, turnover differential, rush and pass yards on offense, and more points scored per game than the Eagles. In addition, the Colts are statistically better at stopping the run than the Eagles, but the Colts have the worst pass defense in the league.
The Eagles have few things that are better than the Colts this year, and pass defense is one of them, but the other is Carson Wentz. Carson Wentz is playing into the Eagles’ hand in this trade. This year, Wentz has not missed a game, despite dealing with a nagging double ankle sprain early in the season. This helps the Eagles increase the probability of the conditional second round pick turning into a first pick. Outside of the Eagles’ hope and dreams that Wentz plays the whole year fully healthy, at this moment, the Eagles are losing the trade.
Of course, the Eagles needed to make this trade, but now everyone sees what they gave up on in Wentz. Wentz has outperformed Jalen Hurts and has shown those who doubted him in Philly why they were wrong to give up on the determined quarterback. Instead, they traded a good/currently better QB than Hurts to a more balanced and explosive team. This is what Reich and Co were hoping for and believing Wentz would return to form, and they were right.
The Eagles only hope to win this trade if they draft two budding future NFL stars that help transform their team. Their recent track record in drafting through GM Howie Roseman has been hit or miss throughout the years, except the 2021 NFL Draft. If the Eagles miss on their draft picks, it was only more of a reason to make the trade. Ballard knew what he was giving up for Wentz, and he knew it was an underpay if Wentz played up to his full potential. This trade could go down perfectly even for both teams, or it could turn out to be a heist on either side as time moves forward. I must repeat that the Colts are winning this trade at this point.
Despite believing that the Colts are winning the Wentz trade, I think the Eagles were correct to make the trade. All actors in the trade found themselves in the odd position where Wentz was more valuable to Indianapolis than any other team, including the Eagles. The Colts’ offensive line, running game, and Frank Reich at head coach always gave the Colts the best chance of rehabilitating Wentz. Furthermore, despite rumored interest from Chicago in the offseason that Philadelphia tried to hype up, no other team was seriously interested in trading for him.
This lowered Wentz’s trade value, but Philadelphia couldn’t afford not to trade him. He was on a big contract, was no use as a backup quarterback, and neither he nor the fans wanted him there anymore. Sitting Carson for the year would have been a disaster for the Eagles and likely would have pushed his long-term trade value down further. With no other interested teams and no possibility of keeping him, the Eagles had little choice but to trade Wentz to Indianapolis when given a half-decent offer.
Not that the compensation the Eagles are getting for Wentz is terrible. To the benefit of both teams, Wentz has played well enough and been healthy enough to play almost all the snaps so far this season. Unfortunately, that means Philadelphia will end up getting a first and third round pick for Carson.
Given the Eagles already have Miami’s first round pick next year after their savvy trade this offseason, at present, Philadelphia will have three of the top fifteen draft picks this year (I don’t expect it to stay that way as I think the Colts will continue rising the rankings). That would give them a substantial amount of draft capital next year in which to rebuild their team. So while the short to medium term might be challenging for the Eagles, their long term future should be bright if they play their cards right.
As well as Devonta Smith is playing, I wonder whether Philadelphia would have been better drafting Justin Fields and using their extra draft capital next year to rebuild the rest of their team. However, I acknowledge that drafting a quarterback in the first round, having taken one in the second round the year before, would have been uncomfortable for the team. It’s just another way the Hurts draft pick has hurt the team. Hurts could turn out to be a good quarterback. We need to see whether he can raise his game beyond being a solid, athletic quarterback who is good with his legs.
MR: Overall, the results and opinions of this trade will forever change as time goes on. Both teams can come out on top as winners in the end, regardless of wins and losses. The Colts need Wentz to continue to be the franchise QB stalwart that he is playing like at the moment. The Eagles need Hurts to prove he was worth drafting and trading Wentz in the process. Both teams are on the road to those goals as long as the players mentioned above continue to do what is believed to be possible for them. All in All, the Colts have the upper hand in the deal right now, but that does not mean the Eagles can not prove the doubters wrong in the end and us.
What would make the trade successful for each team in the years to come? For the Colts, it would have to be winning a Super Bowl with Wentz in the next five years when the likes of Buckner, Nelson, and Leonard are at their primes. For the Eagles, it’s likely that Hurts is proving himself to be one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league as they use their two extra first round picks next year to draft long term impact players for the franchise.