The Washington Commanders struck one of the most surprising trades of the 2022 NFL offseason, acquiring Carson Wentz as part of an active quarterback carousel. Many were skeptical of the move at the time, but the Commanders’ front office and coaching staff believed Wentz could turn things around in a new home.
Unsurprisingly, Washington said many of the same things we heard from the Indianapolis Colts in the months after they acquired Wentz. A change of scenery would unlock the former No. 2 overall pick allowing him to return closer to the player who lit up the NFL early in his career. Even if he never returned to that MVP form, Washington thought it could rediscover the quarterback who played at a Pro Bowl level after he recovered from his ACL tear in 2017.
- Carson Wentz stats (2018-’19): 66.2% completion rate, 7,113 passing yards, 48-14 TD-INT, 96.7 quarterback rating
Instead, the Commanders are 1-3 and things are only getting worse with each passing week. While there are still 13 games remaining, the writing is on the wall and it’s an outcome everyone but the front office, coaching staff and devoted fans saw coming.
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Here are three reasons why the Carson Wentz trade is already a failure for the Commanders.
Carson Wentz isn’t improving despite third chance
Washington expressed a lot of confidence in its ability to fix Wentz after acquiring him. The organization believed it found its long-term quarterback and the veteran signal-caller said the organization made him feel wanted. Despite everything that happened with the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts, the Commanders’ coaching staff believed it could get the most out of Wentz.
There were already signs of trouble this summer. He struggled with accuracy in training camp with reports detailing the daily bricked passes and bad decision-making from the 29-year-old passer. Washington downplayed it and after Wentz posted a 101 passer rating with four touchdowns in a Week 1 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was treated like a franchise quarterback who would save the Commanders.
He is the same quarterback we saw in 2020 with the Eagles and 2021 with the Colts. There are flashes of greatness, single moments during a game that is reminiscent of the MVP-caliber 2017 season. The truth is Wentz is the same player who threw 15 interceptions with a 3-8-1 record in his final season in Philadelphia and he did nothing to correct the issues that led to a 9-4 TD-INT ratio with an 89.0 passer rating and 3-3 record in his final six weeks in Indianapolis.
Philadelphia was desperate to get rid of Wentz because he ignored coaches and who reportedly teammates criticized privately. Landing with Frank Reich, the coach he had the best relationship with, ended badly and Indianapolis soured on him before the 2021 collapse even happened. Two stable franchises both couldn’t fix Wentz, yet Washington believed it could and the results thus far speak volumes.
Washington Commanders overpaid for a quarterback with no market
Very few people outside of the Commanders’ organization understood why it pulled the trigger on the Wentz trade. The Colts made it clear to everyone at the NFL Scouting Combine that they wanted to rid themselves of the quarterback and the contract. It put the front office in a position with no leverage in trade negotiations and yet they are going to come out on top of the deal with the Commanders.
- Carson Wentz contract: $28.294 million cap hit (2022), $26.17 million cap savings if cut in 2023
Multiple NFL executives indicated that the Commanders weren’t bidding against anyone. Before a deal even happened, reports surfaced that Indianapolis would even consider releasing Wentz. Perhaps acting out of desperation after the Jimmy Garoppolo surgery, Washington traded the 42nd pick, 73rd pick and a conditional 2023 third-round pick to the Colts for Wentz, the 47th pick and the 240th pick
Unfortunately for Washington, the trade will likely get even worse. If Wentz plays 70% of the Commanders’ offensive snaps this season, the conditional pick becomes a 2023 second-round pick. If the 2023 NFL Draft order looks anything like the NFL standings do through four weeks, that will be a top-40 pick.
If Washington acquired Wentz at a steep discount, the trade could have been justified. Instead, the Commanders absorbed his entire salary and sacrificed valuable Day 2 picks in the process.
Free agent quarterbacks proving viable with other NFL teams
The Commanders never stood a shot of convincing Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson to request a trade to one of the worst teams in the NFL. It left them with limited options and yet so many of the quarterbacks Washington could have pursued are either outperforming Wentz or would have come much cheaper this offseason.
Entering Week 5, Wentz ranks 25th in ESPN QBR (35.6) behind Geno Smith (72.4), Jacoby Brissett (61.3) Marcus Mariota. All three wanted to find opportunities to start with a team and Washington could have provided it. Another thing to consider is that Brissett ($4.65 million), Mariota ($4.25 million) Smith ($3.5 million) have a combined 2022 cap hit ($12.4 million) that is less than half of Wentz’s total.
- Geno Smith stats as starter (2021-’22): 75% completion rate, 108.2 QB rating, 1,608 pass yards, 10-2 TD-INT ratio, 7.6 ypa
It’s not as if either of the veteran signal-callers is in vastly superior situations to what the Commanders provided for Wentz in Washington. Smith is behind an offensive line with two rookie offensive tackles, Mariota starts behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and Brissett has a below-average receiving corps.
All of this doesn’t even factor Matt Ryan into the equation nor did we mention that Mitch Trubisky (69.9 PFF grade, 36.9 QBR) has been just as bad as Wentz. In both cases, Washington could have acquired any of these quarterbacks for a fraction of the cost and they wouldn’t be any worse off. A reckless offseason decision by the Washington Commanders has already failed and everyone outside the organization saw it coming the moment it happened.