PHOENIX — It’s coming.
At some point, be it this offseason or next, the Eagles are going to break the bank for Carson Wentz. They’re going to sign him to a mega contract to be their franchise quarterback for years to come. That contract is going to be wildly expensive. It’s also an inevitability.
It’s something for which the Eagles have been planning for years. At the 2019 owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore, it’s pretty clear every move the Eagles have made recently keeps in mind the fact that they will one day soon pay Wentz over $30 million annually.
This offseason is the first opportunity the Eagles have to sign Wentz, a rookie in 2016, to a contract extension. Even if it doesn’t happen this offseason, it’s going to happen. And the Eagles are going to be ready for it.
Despite Wentz’s recent injury history, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he would “absolutely” be comfortable signing Wentz to that mega deal this offseason.
“When you draw it up, it’s exactly what you want,” Lurie said about Wentz at the annual NFL owners meetings on Tuesday evening. “Highly competitive, very type-A personality, demanding, very smart, obsessed with winning and winning big, respected by everybody. You can’t really draw it up much better. And we’re lucky to have him.”
Every move matters
This offseason — and really the last two — it’s been pretty clear the Eagles are taking more of an interest in the compensatory pick formula, which gives back draft picks to teams that lost more free agents than they signed in the previous offseason. In typical Howie Roseman fashion, he’s worked to get the most out of this system by bringing in players who were cuts or players who were traded and therefore won’t count against the Eagles’ compensatory pick formula.
The reason for this is simple. It has a lot to do with Wentz.
In recent years, the Eagles have been signing more expensive and older veterans to fill out the roster. Now, their strategy has simultaneously shifted to finding younger and inexpensive players to supplement a roster built around Wentz and his eventual payday.
It’s fascinating to realize everything the Eagles have been doing revolves around one player.
The Eagles have been stockpiling draft picks. They’re just going to play a numbers game in late April for at least the next two years.
“We’re trying to plan by getting more young players into our system,” Roseman said. “We haven’t had that opportunity that last couple of years because of the decisions we’ve made. Again, happy about those decisions, but again, the ramifications of those and not having those picks is that we have to make sure that going forward, we have more picks and we have more shots because we’re not going to hit on every draft pick.”
When asked about compensatory picks, Roseman offered his reasoning about Wentz and how the eventual contract is central to their thinking. Just a month ago, Roseman seemed more hesitant to talk about an eventual extension with Wentz. On Tuesday, he explained balancing Wentz’s contract while building a successful and cost-effective roster around him. It’s not an easy task and it has hurt other teams in the past; the Colts infamously had trouble building a team around Andrew Luck’s big salary for years.
But if you have a top quarterback, it’s incumbent that you pay him and then have a plan for how to fill in the roster. We’ll see if the Eagles’ plan works, but they at least 100 percent have one.
The long game
It was around this time three years ago that the Eagles had their sights on a bold play to move up to No. 2 in the draft for Wentz, the player they determined had all the traits necessary to become the next franchise quarterback in Philadelphia. Eventually, they pulled the trigger and got their guy.
At that point, the Eagles hoped they found their franchise quarterback, but that wasn’t when they began to plan for this upcoming contract.
“It definitely doesn’t start the day you draft him, but that’s making me think that maybe it should have,” Roseman said with a chuckle on Monday afternoon.
“I think that once you see the kind of impact that he had on the field, the kind of player he is, the work ethic that he has, you start planning out how you’re going to build a team around a highly-paid player at that position. That’s something that we’ve been talking about really for the last two years.”
Since Wentz is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract (the Eagles will clearly exercise a fifth-year option if they don’t reach a new deal), he’ll have a cap hit of $8.4 million in 2019. There’s some conventional wisdom saying not to pay Wentz just yet. Squeeze one more cheap labor year out of the franchise quarterback’s first contract.
Maybe it would even behoove both sides to wait one more year. The Eagles might want to make sure Wentz can stay healthy and Wentz might want to prove it himself to cash in with a bigger payday.
“But I think most organizations plan for the moment when you’re going to be spending top dollar for a quarterback,” Lurie said. “It’s part of the blueprint. You don’t want to not get Peyton Manning, Tom Brady … it’s what you hope happens.”
He’s the guy
The highest-paid quarterback in the league right now is Aaron Rodgers, who has an annual average salary of $33.5 million. Since Rodgers signed that deal in August, the salary cap rose over $11 million per team and that trend isn’t going to stop for the NFL ratings machine.
Expect Wentz’s next contract to pay out over $30 million per season. To put that into perspective, the highest cap hit on the team right now is Alshon Jeffery at $14.725 million. Even in the first year of his contract, Rodgers’ cap hit was over $20 million and it will rise to $37 million by 2022. That’s a lot of money but these figures aren’t going to creep up on Roseman and the Eagles.
Despite the inevitability of his next contract, the Eagles have never wavered in their support of Wentz. Even when Nick Foles led the Eagles to the first Super Bowl win in franchise history, they were always going to stay the course. This was always going to be Wentz’s team.
“We love Carson and we drafted him for that reason — to be our quarterback,” head coach Doug Pederson said.
With the label of franchise quarterback comes the price tag to match. It won’t be long until Wentz is making major bucks.
At least the Eagles will be ready.
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