Details on Colts-Eagles blockbuster Carson Wentz trade, plus Steelers noncommittal on Big Ben’s future

Based on how the offseason has gone so far, I thought we were going to be talking about Carson Wentz trade scenarios every day for the next month, but that’s not going to happen, because the trade went down today!

The Eagles and Colts agreed to a blockbuster deal that will reunite Wentz with former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who’s now the head coach in Indianapolis. For the past few weeks, there was no movement on the trade front because the Eagles overestimated Wentz’s value by about as much as someone could possibly overestimate someone’s value. 

The Eagles originally wanted two first-round picks for Wentz, but it seems they finally got hit in the face by reality, because they shipped him off to Indianapolis for zero first-round picks, although I should probably point out that the Eagles could end up getting a first-round pick out of the deal if Wentz ends up playing well in Indy. 

Is this trade good for the Eagles? Are the Colts the new favorites in the AFC South? Who won the trade? We’ll answer all those questions and more in today’s newsletter. With that in mind, let’s get to the rundown. As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link

1. Today’s Show: Deep dive into the NFC East

© Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one division that was an absolute disaster in 2020, it was the NFC East. I mean, the Eagles finished 4-11-1 and they were in title contention until the second-to-last week of the season. Nothing screams, “Our division is horrible!” quite like a four-win team being in contention until the penultimate week of the season. 

The reason I’m bringing up the NFC East right now is because that was the main focus of today’s podcast. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be going one division at a time to cover the offseason priorities for each team and today, we hit the NFC East. Since Ryan Wilson and I have already repressed every memory we had of the NFC East in 2020 (it was too painful), Will Brinson decided to ditch us to bring in Cody Benjamin and Jared Dubin. 

Over the course of the episode, the three guys broke down the top needs for the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants and Washington. The first thing you’ll notice is that 75% of the teams are in the middle of some drama with their quarterback situation. The Eagles don’t know who their starting quarterback is yet, the Cowboys don’t have their starting quarterback under contract and Washington has no idea who its quarterback is going to be. I never thought I’d say this, but the Giants might be the most competent team in the division. 

To listen to today’s episode — and if you’re a fan of a team in the NFC East, you’re definitely going to want to — be sure to click here.  We also have an emergency podcast about the Carson Wentz trade, so be sure check our pod feed today. 

2. Carson Wentz finally gets traded 

After nearly two months of drama, the Eagles have finally unloaded Carson Wentz. For the past few days, it seemed like the Colts were the only team really interested in Wentz and not surprisingly, that’s where the quarterback is headed after Indianapolis and Philadelphia pulled off a blockbuster deal on Thursday. 

Here are four quick things to know about the trade:

  • The terms: The Colts will be getting Wentz and in exchange, the Eagles will be getting a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick that could turn into a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75% of the snaps next season. The pick could also become a first-rounder if Wentz plays 70% and the Colts make the playoffs. 
  • Eagles financial ramifications: With the trade, the Eagles will now take on a $33.8 million dead-cap hit, which is the largest dead-cap hit in NFL history. If the salary cap is set at $180 million, that means 18.7% of the Eagles’ cap will be taken up by someone who’s not even on the team. 
  • Colts financial ramifications: The Colts are basically getting Wentz on a four-year contract that will pay out $98 million over the course of the deal, which means they now have their starting quarterback under contract for just $24.5 million per year. If Wentz can turn things around in Indy, that price is a bargain and sets the Colts up for the future. If Wentz struggles, the Colts can get out of the deal after just two seasons with almost zero cap repercussions. 
  • Wentz reunited with Frank Reich: Wentz and Reich were together for two seasons in Philadelphia (2016-17) and if you’re wondering why Reich would take a risk on the Eagles quarterback, it’s because the best season of Wentz’s career (2017) came while playing for the Colts coach. 

The clear winner in this trade is the Colts and I don’t think it’s close. If Wentz is bad, the Colts can bench him and they don’t have to worry about losing a first-rounder in the deal. If Wentz is good, then Indy has their quarterback of the future and they only gave up a one first-rounder and one third-rounder to land him. The Colts are also getting a bargain if you consider that they paid Philip River $25 million last year, but only have to pay Wentz an average of $24.5 million over the next four years.  

For the Eagles, this allows them to move on from their disgruntled quarterback, but it likely means they’re in for a long season in 2021 since they’ll be dealing with Wentz’s cap hit. 

This trade also means that there are zero (out of 22) quarterbacks drafted in the first round between 2009 and 2016 who are still with their original team. That’s a mind-blowing stat that tells you how fast life moves in the NFL. 

3. NFL Insider Notes: Deshaun Watson to Carolina not as crazy as you’d think 

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I love rumors and one of the most interesting ones that I saw floating around the internet this week is the idea that Deshaun Watson might get traded to the Carolina Panthers. As it turns out, that idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds, and CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora explained why in his weekly “Insider Notes.”

Basically, what this all boils down to is that Panthers owner David Tepper really, really wants Watson and it sounds like he’s willing to do whatever it takes to land the Texans quarterback. Tepper views Watson as a monstrous upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater, who led the Panthers to a 5-11 season last year. 

From JLC:   

  • “I’m told that Tepper is over the idea of a ‘game-manager’ at the quarterback position, and ready to pounce on the best proven, young, elite passer that potentially could be available, and that has him fixed on Watson for a multitude of reasons.”
  • “The owner is consumed with landing a true franchise quarterback, who could transform the fortunes of the team on field and off, and make Panthers games more alluring to fans and sponsors alike.”
  • “Watson, sources said, is far and away his guy.”

Despite Tepper’s interest, JLC doesn’t see a trade going down anytime soon. The Texans have been insisting all offseason that they’re not going to trade Watson, but that doesn’t mean a trade won’t happen. If someone blows them away with an offer or if the team realizes that Watson is actually willing to sit out the year, they’d almost be forced to trade him. In both of those instances, a trade would likely get done closer to the draft. To check out La Canfora’s entire column, be sure to click here

4. Steelers GM noncommittal on Ben Roethlisberger‘s future

It’s not often that you see a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback get kicked to the curb, but it kind of feels like that’s what’s starting to happen in Pittsburgh. During an interview on Wednesday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was absolutely noncommittal when he was asked about Roethlisberger’s future with the team. 

“[Ben] reiterated that to us that he wants to continue to play, and we told him quite frankly we have to look at this current situation,” Colbert said. 

Um. That doesn’t sound good. Imagine if your relationship with your spouse was on the rocks and you said you wanted things to work out and she replied with, “Quite frankly, I have to look at this current situation.” I’m not a divorce lawyer, but I can tell you that things probably aren’t going to work out if that happens. 

In the Steelers situation, it’s all about Big Ben’s cap number, which is set to be $41.25 million in 2021. 

“With Ben’s current cap number, some adjustments will have to be made,” Colbert said. “Hopefully there’s a way we can figure out what’s best for the organization. Hopefully he can see that and feel the same way. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

The problem with Colbert’s comments is that there aren’t a lot of “adjustments” that can be made. Of the $41.25 million cap hit, $22.25 million of it has already been paid out, which means that even if Ben retires, the Steelers will still have to take a cap hit of at least that much. The other $19 million for 2021 is Roethlisberger’s salary, so when Colbert says “adjustments” have to be made, that’s the number he’s talking about. Basically, it sounds like the Steelers want Big Ben to take a big pay cut if he wants to return (the Steelers could also restructure his deal and add a year or two, but that would be kicking the can further down the road, which might not be a horrible idea if the salary cap significantly increases over the next two years). 

The Steelers are currently projected to be nearly $15 million OVER the salary cap in 2021, so if they dump Roethlisberger’s salary by convincing him to retire, they’d be back under. 

As for taking a pay cut, it’s not unprecedented. Peyton Manning was in almost the exact same situation in 2015: Manning was set to make $19 million, but the Broncos wanted him to take less. In the end, Manning took a $4 million pay cut that he was able to earn back after Denver won the Super Bowl. 

If Roethlisberger does retire, it’s not like the Steelers will have the money to add another quarterback, which means their starter would likely be Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins. If one of those two guys is your starter, you’re almost throwing away your season before it even starts, which is the worst possible scenario, considering the Steelers’ Super Bowl window is somewhat open this year thanks to their defense. 

5. Ranking free-agent running backs

With free agency starting next month, now seems like a good time to take a look at players who will be available. Since I don’t want to overwhelm you by listing every player who will be a free agent, we’re going to do this in an organized manner. I’m going to list off the top players by position and today, we’re going to go with running backs. 

Our Patrik Walker put together a list of the top 10 running backs who will be hitting free agency. The biggest name is definitely Aaron Jones, but the most intriguing name is probably Leonard Fournette, who went from almost getting cut in December to becoming a playoff hero for the Buccaneers. After only making $2 million with Tampa Bay last season, Lombardi Lenny is probably in for quite the raise. 

Two other interesting names on this list are Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore, and that’s mostly because they’re both going to be over the age of 36 when the 2021 season starts (Peterson will be 36, Gore will be 38). To give you an idea of how rare it is for a running back to play this long, just consider this: DOUG FLUTIE has the sixth-highest single-season rushing total for any player over the age of 36 and Flutie was a quarterback. The fact that both guys are listed in the top 10 here is really kind of amazing. 

Here’s a look at the top 10 running backs heading into free agency:

1. Aaron Jones
2. Kenyan Drake
3. Leonard Fournette
4. Chris Carson
5. Todd Gurley
6. James Conner
7. Marlin Mack
8. Mark Ingram
9. Adrian Peterson 
10. Frank Gore

If you read his piece, Walker went into more detail about how much money each guy will be able to command in free agency, so you can get an idea of whether your favorite team will be able to afford any of these players. To check out Walker’s story, be sure to click here

6. NFL teams get good news about the salary cap

If any team is thinking about signing any of those running backs I just mentioned, they’re going to need some salary cap space to do it — the good news is that they’re going to have at least $5 million in extra salary cap space to work with this offseason. 

During the 2020 season, the salary cap was set at $198.2 million, but that’s expected to go down this year due to the fact that the NFL lost billions in revenue due to the pandemic. Before this week, the salary cap floor for 2021 was set at $175 million, but that floor has now been bumped up to $180 million, which means that number is now the lowest possible level the salary cap could be set at in 2021. The number won’t be finalized until March and by the time that happens, it could actually be even higher. The new number isn’t ideal, because it’s still an $18 million drop from the 2020 cap, but it’s better than the originally planned $175 million floor. 

This is good news for every NFL team, but it’s especially good news for teams that currently have zero salary cap space. For instance, the Eagles are projected to be $41.5 million over the cap, but if the cap goes up to $190 million, then they’d only be $31.5 million over, which means it would be slightly easier for them to get under the cap. 

With that in mind, Cody Benjamin took a look at the 10 ugliest cap situations in the NFL right now and mapped out a way for each team to get under the cap. 

Here’s the 10 teams with the worst salary cap situations: 

1. Saints ($65.6 million over the cap)
2. Eagles  ($41.5 million over the cap)
3. Rams  ($25.2 million over the cap)
4. Falcons  ($23.2 million over the cap)
5. Chiefs  ($18.1 million over the cap)
6. Steelers ($14.2 million over the cap)
7. Packers  ($13.5 million over the cap)
8. Raiders  ($9.7 million over the cap)
9. Vikings  ($5.1 million over the cap)
10. Lions ($1.8 million over the cap)

To check out Cody’s master plan for each team, be sure to click here. Chris Trapasso also put together a list of players who might end up being cap casualties and you can check out that list by clicking here

7. The Kicker: Jaguars going back to teal

For the first time in forever, Jaguars fans actually have something to be excited about in Jacksonville. Not only do they have a new coach (Urban Meyer) who will likely be drafting a new quarterback (Trevor Lawrence), but the Jags are also going to have new uniforms in 2021. Actually, if we want to be technical, their new uniforms are really just old uniforms that they’re bringing back. 

The Jaguars announced this week that their teal uniform is going to once again serve as their primary home uniform. The Jags wore teal from their expansion year in 1996 to 2011, but then they switched to black in 2012. While wearing teal, the Jaguars put together a 64-50 record, which makes you wonder why they ever switched. Teal did serve as their alternate color over the past few years, so they have worn it occasionally, but they haven’t worn it full-time since 2011. 

In the nine seasons with their black uniforms (2012-2020), the Jaguars went 39-105, and that includes a 2020 season where they finished with the worst record in franchise history (1-15). I’m not sure going back to teal is going to fix all of their problems, but honestly, it’s an awesome color, so it might. As a matter of fact, I like the color so much that I’m probably going to paint my bathroom teal tonight. 

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