From the time that the Philadelphia Eagles selected Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, there has been a clock seemingly ticking on Carson Wentz as the starter in Philadelphia. However, with Wentz having signed a $128 million contract extension in 2019, any transition to Hurts was always going to be a messy one for the Eagles in terms of their cap space. Let’s take a look at the Carson Wentz contract structure following the extension and the potential impact on the Eagles salary cap number if they were to look to move on from Wentz prior to 2021.
How does Carson Wentz’s contract extension break down?
Wentz was drafted with the second overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft and signed a four-year, fully-guaranteed $26.6 million rookie deal with an option for a fifth year. He played three years on that rookie deal before signing his $128 million contract extension in 2019. At signing, $66.5 million of that money was guaranteed, with the total guarantees coming out to $107.9 million.
The base contract value is actually only $111 million, but there are some easily achievable escalators built-in, which would take the value up to the $128 million value that the deal is considered to be. As part of the contract, Carson Wentz had a $16.4 signing bonus, an option bonus of $30 million, fully guaranteed salaries in both 2019 and 2020, as well as a fully guaranteed roster bonus of $10 million in 2021. Additionally, Wentz’s 2021 salary became guaranteed on the third day of the 2020 NFL season.
What this means is that Wentz counted for $18.7 million against the cap in 2020. However, the $10 million roster bonus, the $15.4 million in guaranteed base salary, and the $9.3 million prorated signing bonus mean that his salary cap hit in 2021 jumps to $34.7 million. All of which is guaranteed against the cap regardless of whether Carson Wentz is on the roster or not. However, if the Eagles decide to cut Wentz, a further $25 million in prorated bonuses will accelerate onto the 2021 cap.
Looking further into the future of the contract, Wentz’s salary cap hit will always be impacted by the prorated bonuses on his deal, which accounts for over $9 million in 2022 and 2023 before dropping to $6 million in 2023. In terms of his salary, the final three years sit at $22, $20, and $21 million, respectively, with $11 million of roster bonus spread across those three years. His cap number across those final three years would be $31.3, $34.3, and $32 million.
What does this mean for the Eagles’ decision with Wentz in this upcoming offseason?
The fact that Carson Wentz will count nearly $60 million against the Eagles cap in 2021 if they cut him makes it almost impossible for them to do so. However, the structure of the contract going forward means that it is not as easy as just keeping him on the roster either. On the third day of the 2021 league year, $15 million of Wentz’s base salary for 2022 becomes guaranteed. Therefore, if the Eagles cut Wentz following the 2021 season, he would still count close to $40 million against the 2022 cap.
Therefore, the question for the Eagles is whether they want to lock themselves into paying Wentz at least another $15 million in 2022. However, cutting Wentz would mean the Eagles are essentially paying him nearly $35 million, and he is counting nearly $60 million against the cap, only for him to be playing for another team. The pressure is further increased when you consider that Wentz could go and sign for a division rival, two of which are potentially going to be in the QB market in this upcoming offseason.
Even if there is offset language in the contract that would mean any earnings Wentz made elsewhere would then not count against the Eagles cap, Wentz may well be willing to sign a veteran minimum contract with another team, leaving the Eagles on the hook for the majority of the money owed to Wentz in 2021. Could we see Carson Wentz in a Dallas Cowboys or Washington Football Team uniform while his contract is still counting 25% or higher on the Eagles cap in 2021?
How has Wentz performed in 2020?
No matter how you slice it, 2020 has been the worst year of Carson Wentz’s five year career. His 57.4 completion percentage is the lowest of his career, while his 3.7 touchdown percentage is second-worst only to his rookie season. However, the turnovers have been the most damaging statistic for Wentz. In 2020, he has thrown a league-leading 15, with an interception percentage of 3.4.
In terms of his other passing numbers, his yards per attempt are the lowest of his career (6.0), and his yards per game (218.3) are below even his rookie season. However, all of this needs to be put in context that Carson Wentz has been sacked a career-high 50 times, with the highest sack percentage in the league at 10.3. Given the pressure he has been under, it is no surprise he has struggled for consistency.
Wentz’s struggles culminated in him being benched during the Week 13 matchup with the Green Bay Packers. Jalen Hurts came into the game and went 5-of-12 passing for 109 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He added 29 yards on five carries while being sacked three times. Despite the in-game change, the Eagles did not immediately name a starter for Week 14 following the game. However, on Tuesday, the Eagles announced Jalen Hurts would start in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints.
What does OVM tell us about Wentz’s performances?
However, Pro Football Network’s Offensive Value Metric (OVM) demonstrates that Wentz’s struggles are not all the fault of his offensive line and the injuries to his receiving corps. OVM grades players based on their performance within elements that are under their control, and Wentz has an OVM of just 20.36. That OVM places Wentz around the likes of Cam Newton and Drew Lock as well as behind Daniel Jones, Andy Dalton, and Nick Mullens.
However, OVM in isolation does not tell you everything. For example, at 23.36, Patrick Mahomes has an OVM in the same ballpark as Wentz. The difference is that Mahomes is playing in a superbly designed Andy Reid offense surrounded by high-quality talent. Meanwhile, Wentz is struggling in an injury-hit offense under Doug Pederson that looks worse and worse every season.
After guiding the Eagles to a Super Bowl win over Tom Brady with Nick Foles under center, Pederson looked to be the toast of the town among head coaches. However, his reputation is fading as fast as Wentz’s. That combination is providing an ugly situation for the Eagles.
Could we see both Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson leaving Philadelphia in the upcoming offseason?
What impact would cutting Wentz have on the Eagles’ salary cap situation in 2021?
There is no way to sugar coat it. The Eagles are in a bind in 2021, and they do not have an easy way to get back under the projected cap. Over The Cap has the Eagles projected as being $65 million over the salary cap as it stands with just 45 contracted players on their books. They will need to look to negotiate contract extensions and re-structures with a number of players in order to get under the cap. Otherwise, the players on this roster in 2021 could make the group Wentz has played with so far in 2020 look like an all-star cast.
The problem would be exacerbated by cutting Wentz because his cap hit would increase by $25 million if they cut him. The only way the Eagles can reduce that cap number is to trade Carson Wentz and his contract. However, due to the remaining prorated bonus accelerating onto the 2021 cap if he was to be traded, the Eagles would save less than $1 million on that original $34.7 million salary-cap number. If the Eagles feel strongly they need to get Wentz off their books, they could even offer a draft pick to a team as an incentive, much like the Texans did with Brock Osweiler.
Given that the Eagles’ salary cap situation gets drastically worse in 2021 by cutting Wentz, they will likely decide to ride through 2021 with Wentz on the roster unless they can make a trade, knowing that it will have implications in 2022. However, with expectations being that fans will be back in the stadium in 2021, the salary cap woes will likely not be as great in 2022 as they are in 2021. The impact on the 2022 cap of cutting Wentz (around $40 million in dead cap) is likely to be more palatable to the Eagles than potentially seeing their former-number two overall pick in the uniform of one of their division rivals while he is costing them $60 million in cap space.