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Washington Commanders deny benching Carson Wentz to protect 2023 draft pick

Washington Commanders, Carson Wentz

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz will be on the bench again in Week 13, serving as the backup to Taylor Heinicke. Not only is Washington sticking with the hot hand, but it has also protected one of its most important assets in 2023.

The Commanders’ disastrous trade for Wentz has already proved costly for the franchise. Acquired back in March, Washington absorbed Wentz’s entire $28.294 million cap hit and they sacrificed multiple Day 2 picks to acquire him.

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After struggling to find a trade partner for Wentz, the Indianapolis Colts struck a deal with the Commanders after an injury wiped out their pursuit of Jimmy Garoppolo. In the blockbuster deal, Washington traded the 42nd pick, its 2022 third-round pick and a conditional 2023 third-round pick to Indianapolis for Wentz and the 47th pick.

  • Carson Wentz stats (2022): 84.1 QB rating, 10-6 TD-INT, 62.1% completion, 2-4 record

The conditional third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft would become a second-round pick if Wentz played at least 70% of the snaps this season. Even after Wentz landed on injured reserve with a fractured ring finger, he could still return in time to meet the threshold.

However, the Commanders went 3-1 with Heinicke as their starting quarterback. As Wentz closed in on his return, Washington committed to Heinicke and planned to keep Wentz on the sideline when he returned.

As a result, Indianapolis is now practically guaranteed the Commanders’ third-round pick in 2023. Facing questions about the motivation behind the move, Washington is rejecting any suggestion that its decision was motivated by the draft-pick condition.

Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports covered the draft-pick compensation fallout from the Wentz and Baker Mayfield trades. Washington’s second-round pick is now essentially protected from Indianapolis, but a Commanders’ staffer denied that played a role in the decision at quarterback.

“That had nothing to do with it.”

Washington Commanders source on notion Carson Wentz was benched to protect 2023 second-round pick

Related: NFL playoff scenarios 2022

Few would question that Heinicke is the better quarterback for Washington right now. He is well-liked in the locker room and the coaching staff clearly feels comfortable with his decision-making, even if his talent puts limitations on the offense.

The Commanders would be the No. 7 seed in the playoffs if the season ended today, but that wasn’t the case when the organization made the decision. While a majority of the responsibility for the decision is likely tied to team performance and the locker room, Washington certainly kept in mind that its decision also protected one of its top draft picks.

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