It was less than a calendar year ago that the Indianapolis Colts pulled off a blockbuster trade for quarterback Carson Wentz. In said deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis yielded a conditional first-round pick and another mid-round selection.
Fast forward roughly 12 months, and Wentz is not on firm footing with the Colts. He put up a brutal Week 18 performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a spot in the NFL Playoffs on the line. In reality, the former No. 2 pick has not been a starter-caliber quarterback since back in 2019 with Philadelphia.
Even then, it’s surprising to learn that Indianapolis is expected to release or trade Wentz before March 19. According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, that’s when his $15 million base salary for the 2022 season becomes guaranteed.
Indianapolis Colts ready to admit Carson Wentz trade was a mistake
“I don’t care who you have at the position at the time — I think every year, you’ve got to evaluate it in full, both free agents and the draft. I mean, it’s that important. And it’s one that we’ll exhaust each and every year and we do with our scouts and with our coaches.”Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard on Carson Wentz (January 20, 2022)
The backdrop here is Indy’s first-round pick (16th overall) heading to Philadelphia in that now ill-fated trade last February. It conveyed after Wentz met certain conditions (75% of Indianapolis’ offensive snaps for the 2021 regular season).
To move off a quarterback after exhausting that type of draft capital would by Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s way of admitting he made a major mistake in acquiring Wentz in the first place.
- Carson Wentz stats (2021): 62% completion, 3,563 yards, 27 TD, 7 INT, 94.6 rating
While those numbers seem to be pretty good on the surface, it’s important to note that Wentz came up small when it counted the most.
In Week 18’s loss to a hapless Jaguars team, Wentz threw one interception and lost a fumble. It culminatd in a 26-11 defeat against a Jags squad that had lost 29 of its previous 31 games. With a win in that environment, Wentz would have led Indianapolis to the playoffs.
Wentz is currently playing under a four-year, $128 million extension he signed with Philadelphia back in June of 2019. By releasing him, the Colts would save north of $13 million against the cap. That seems to be the likeliest scenario at this point, as no other team likely views him as a starter-caliber quarterback at this point.
Sans Carson Wentz, where do the Indianapolis Colts go from here?
A blockbuster trade for someone like Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson doesn’t seem to be in the cards here. By virtue of trading for Wentz in the first place, Indianapolis doesn’t have the draft assets to make a move of that ilk.
A likelier scenario here is looking for yet another stopgap option under center. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be traded here within the next month or so. He’d likely cost Indianapolis a second-round pick and change in a trade.
With the NFL free-agent market void of many starter-caliber options, it’s likely going to take a trade to land the Colts their next starter. In addition to Garoppolo, there’s an off-chance that somone like Cleveland Browns signal caller Baker Mayfield could end up on the trade block.
Right now, the Colts are in quarterback purgatory. They thought Carson Wentz would end that. But after one season, the team is back to the drawing board without many realistic options to replace the former Pro Bowler.