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Eagles agree to trade quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts for a pair of draft picks

Quarterback Carson Wentz will be traded from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Indianapolis Colts. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The NFL’s offseason reshuffling of prominent quarterbacks continued Thursday, when the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to trade Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a package of draft picks, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The trade cannot become official until March 17, when the NFL’s new league year begins with the opening of the free agent market and the resumption of trades. The deal ends Wentz’s once-promising tenure in Philadelphia and reunites him with Colts Coach Frank Reich, formerly the offensive coordinator for the Eagles.

The Eagles will receive a third-round choice in this year’s NFL draft and a conditional second-round pick in next year’s draft. The second-round selection in 2022 can be converted into a first-rounder if Wentz reaches certain playing-time benchmarks.

“This is a fair deal for both sides, the contract is a burden and if he plays, stays healthy and they make the playoffs the Colts would gladly pay the [first-round pick],” former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, once the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, wrote on Twitter. “The deal makes sense … for both teams.”

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Wentz, 28, signed a four-year, $128 million contract extension with the Eagles in 2019. He will count approximately $33.8 million against the Eagles’ salary cap in the 2021 season while not playing for them. The NFL informed teams in a memo Thursday that it had agreed with the NFL Players Association that the salary cap will be no lower than $180 million per team for the 2021 season. That’s $5 million more than the minimum set by last year’s agreement between the league and its players’ union at the outset of training camps but still a significant drop from the $198.2 million-per-team figure for the 2020 season.

Even with that sizable dent in their reduced salary cap, the Eagles decided it was time to move on from Wentz. The Chicago Bears were mentioned in trade speculation but reportedly never made an offer.

“Was never a doubt Wentz would be traded, because it’s what both parties wanted for a while,” former Eagles and Browns executive Joe Banner wrote on Twitter.

The leaguewide quarterback movement began last month when the Detroit Lions agreed to trade Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for fellow quarterback Jared Goff and a king’s ransom of draft choices. Goff and Wentz were the top two players selected in the 2016 NFL draft. Now they both have been traded within a span of three weeks.

The Colts declined to comment on the pending deal. But the team’s Twitter account posted a photo of a smiling Reich, and owner Jim Irsay referenced that picture and wrote on Twitter: “Smiling head coach.”

Wentz will become the Colts’ fourth starting quarterback in four seasons. He follows Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers. Luck retired abruptly just before the 2019 season. Brissett and Rivers had the job for one season each. Rivers, signed by the Colts as a free agent before the 2020 season, announced his retirement after helping the team reach the AFC playoffs.

Wentz once was an undisputed franchise quarterback and league MVP candidate in Philadelphia. He was the Eagles’ starter from the outset of his rookie season in 2016 and was a Pro Bowl selection as a second-year pro in 2017 when he threw for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns in 13 games. He was considered a leading MVP contender but suffered a season-ending knee injury that December.

Backup Nick Foles took over as the starter and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title that season. Foles took the Eagles back to the NFC playoffs the following season, when Wentz made 11 starts but then was sidelined by a back injury.

It is Foles, not Wentz, who has a statue at Lincoln Financial Field, commemorating his sideline consultation with former Eagles coach Doug Pederson on the famed “Philly Special” play-call during the Super Bowl triumph over the New England Patriots. Yet the Eagles allowed Foles to leave as a free agent following the 2018 season and recommitted to Wentz, giving him the huge contract and reinstalling him as the starter for the 2019 season. He played reasonably well, and the Eagles reached the playoffs.

But things unraveled during the 2020 season, and Wentz was benched late in the year by Pederson, who was fired following the season, in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts. Wentz threw 15 interceptions, was sacked 50 times and had an unsightly passer rating of 72.8 in his 12 starts.

Now he will try to rebuild his career with Reich in Indianapolis while Hurts becomes the presumptive starter in Philadelphia for Nick Sirianni, the former Colts offensive coordinator hired to replace Pederson as the Eagles’ head coach.

“Beyond the quality of play, the money, picks, etc., I believe this about Wentz and the Eagles: They would have kept him but for a severely fractured relationship, one that even firing the coaching staff could not fix,” former Green Bay Packers executive Andrew Brandt wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps blame on both sides but seemed a true breach of trust.”

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