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One season was all it took for Colts to move on from Carson Wentz

Coach Frank Reich and the Colts are parting with quarterback Carson Wentz after only one season. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

The refrain is far too familiar to the Indianapolis Colts. They are back in the quarterback market after agreeing Wednesday to trade Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders.

Wentz lasted only one season with the Colts after they obtained him last offseason in a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Wentz played reasonably well but failed to recapture the near-league-MVP form of his early days with the Eagles. His reunion with Colts Coach Frank Reich, formerly his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, failed to live up to expectations amid early injuries, scrutiny over Wentz’s vaccination status and the late-season disappointment of failing to reach the AFC playoffs.

Commanders reach deal to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz from the Indianapolis Colts

So the Colts will be searching for their fifth starting quarterback in five seasons after Andrew Luck in 2018, Jacoby Brissett in 2019, Philip Rivers in 2020 and Wentz last season.

“Here we go again!” Colts linebacker Darius Leonard wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “About to be 5 years with the Colts and 5 different QBs! Thank you Carson for everything this year my guy! Wish you nothing but the best!”

The Colts’ noncommittal stance toward Wentz during the NFL combine last week in Indianapolis seemed to signal they were ready to move on. General Manager Chris Ballard said then that he and Reich would make the decision in consultation with owner Jim Irsay.

“I know I’m going to get a lot of questions about Carson right now,” Ballard said at the combine. “I don’t have a direct answer for you. We’re working through it. ... Mr. Irsay and Frank and I will sit down over the next 10 days and figure out where it’s going. Ultimately we’ll do what’s best for the team, for the Colts, both in the short term and in the long term.”

Some observers said Wednesday that the Colts did well to get what they got from the Commanders. The Colts will receive two third-round draft picks, one of which can be converted to a second-rounder. The teams also are swapping second-round draft positions this year. The trade cannot be official until next Wednesday, when the NFL’s free agent market opens and trade activity can resume.

“Who did Washington think they were bidding against[?]” former Eagles and Cleveland Browns executive Joe Banner wrote on Twitter. “What tape did they watch[?] It’s literally almost 5 years (2017) since Wentz looked like he could be a quality starter, not to even mention that he can’t stay healthy for long.”

The Colts sent two lofty draft picks, a third-round choice last year and what became a first-rounder this year based on Wentz’s 2021 playing time, to the Eagles for Wentz in last year’s trade. That represented a substantial commitment. But Ballard said at the combine that would not be a factor in the Colts’ deliberations that led to this trade.

“When we made the decision at the time, you always do what you think is the best with the information you had,” Ballard said. “I don’t ever worry about what we gave up. ... Whatever the repercussions of that are, they are. We deal with them, and we figure out how we can move forward.”

Ballard said then that he had met with Wentz for about an hour in his office at the Colts’ training facility that day. It had been a trying 2021 season for Wentz. He underwent foot surgery in training camp. He injured both of his ankles during an early-season loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He reportedly was unvaccinated and spent time on the covid-19 reserve list in August after being identified as a high-risk close contact. He played a late-season game during a week in which he reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, benefiting from a protocol change that shortened the NFL’s isolation period to five days.

Wentz was decent overall with 27 touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 94.6. But Reich did not get Wentz back to the level of the quarterback’s second NFL season in 2017, when he was an MVP contender before suffering a season-ending knee injury that put backup Nick Foles in position to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl triumph. The Colts lost their final two games of the season to finish 9-8, falling at Jacksonville in their finale with a postseason berth at stake.

With Wentz gone, the Colts are left to sort through an already depleted quarterback market. Aaron Rodgers is staying in Green Bay. Russell Wilson is headed to Denver. The remaining trade possibilities could include the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson and the San Francisco 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo. The available free agents include Jameis Winston, Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor and Brissett.

Without a first-round selection in the upcoming draft, the Colts might have to trade up if they want to get their next starting quarterback that way. But it’s not considered a particularly promising draft class for quarterbacks.

“Ultimately,” Ballard said at the combine, “you’ve got to have a guy that you believe in and you can win with.”

That, for the Colts, was not Wentz.

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