PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles have been expressing their commitment to signing Carson Wentz to a long-term deal all offseason, and by the sounds of it, they could have their franchise quarterback locked up before the 2019 season kicks off.
“My belief is that deal will get done at some point this offseason,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said this week on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. “From everything I’ve gathered, I think the two sides have begun talking. I think that both sides are motivated to get it done. I don’t think they’re close right now to getting it done, but when I talk to people around the league who look at that deal, they believe it’s going to get done.”
That lines up with the signals the Eagles front office has been sending in recent months. Howie Roseman, the executive vice president of football operations, said at the owners meetings in March that “having Carson here long term is our goal” and the organization will “work toward that.” Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie added he would “absolutely” be comfortable extending Wentz this year, even though Wentz is coming off two significant injuries and is under contract through 2020.
Why now? What will the contract look like? And is there a way for the Eagles to protect themselves should another major injury occur? Let’s take a look with the help of contract and salary-cap expert Joel Corry, a former agent:
Why would the Eagles do a deal now?
The Eagles’ ambition to get a contract done suggests they don’t feel the stress fracture in Wentz’s back, which wasn’t fully healed as of mid-April, is a long-term concern. That’s good news for Philly fans.
The price for premium quarterbacks is only going to go up. By extending Wentz now, the Eagles can lock him in before the market resets. Though the deal will be a big one, this is likely the best leverage point they’ll ever have with Wentz, given that he isn’t close to free agency and is coming off a pair of season-ending injuries. It shows Wentz that they are committed to him, and at the same time gives the Eagles concrete numbers to work with as they set parameters for building their team moving forward.
There is some risk in this approach, no question, but they feel confident Wentz is the right guy to place a big bet on.
Why would Wentz do it now?
Peace of mind is the answer that makes the most sense. If he plays this season out and returns to MVP form, he could ask for the moon and get it. The flip side is he could get hurt again, and then where would he be? While he would be forgoing the chance to achieve maximum value, he’d still be set up for life by securing this second contract and can put any uncertainty in the rearview mirror.
It also provides an opportunity for another massive payday down the road while he’s still in his prime.
“Russell Wilson has played it the right way from the standpoint that he’s done four-year extensions,” Corry said of the Seahawks QB, who just signed a four-year, $140 million contract that includes $107 million in guarantees. “The way the market has changed with the quarterback position so dramatically the past couple years, I would go shorter. So if I could give up four new years, great, then you get another bite of the apple sooner rather than later.”
The Dak effect
While the Eagles and Wentz’s representatives are talking, there’s incentive for Wentz’s camp to slow-play this a bit so quarterback Dak Prescott puts pen to paper first. Contract negotiations between Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are “off and running,” and some project Prescott will net a deal that averages $30 million per season.
“If Dak gets in at 30 [million], or north of 30, that’s the floor,” Corry said.
Wentz’s agent, Ryan Tollner, can certainly make the case that his client deserves to come in higher than Prescott. The smart play, then, would be to wait Prescott out, which is one reason it might take some time before Wentz signs.
OK, the big question: What kind of deal is Wentz going to get?
Corry predicts Wentz signs a deal that averages $32 million a year with $90 million in guarantees and $75 million due at signing.
“Quarterbacks always seem to get overcompensated, to a degree,” Corry said. “And particularly what you’ve seen over the last two years is it’s been a musical chairs, pretty much; the next guy up takes his turn as the highest player in the league whether he deserves it or not. … That’s kind of been the trend.
“If Philadelphia can get him for $32 million per year — I know that sounds high; that’s the average of the top five deals right now — roughly 90 [million in] overall guarantees and about 75 [million] fully guaranteed at signing, they should call that a day and be happy with that, as strange as that may seem.”
Is there any way to minimize the Eagles’ risk?
Yes. Corry lays out that Philly can potentially use per-game roster bonuses, which are triggered if you’re active on the 46-man roster for that particular game. If you have $1 million worth of roster bonuses per season and Wentz misses half the year to injury, the Eagles could recoup a half-million worth of cash and cap savings. Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo are two examples of QBs who have structured their contracts that way, per Corry.
The Eagles are one of the best in the business in being creative with their deals and will find ways to build in some safeguards, but ultimately, there’s no getting around what this is: a major investment that will only pay off if Wentz can stay on the field and regain his 2017 form.