Based on quotes from the Colts brass, including Chris Ballard, it sounds as if Carson Wentz’s days are numbered in Indianapolis. I’m sure if Colts fans were polled, the overwhelming majority would favor a Wentz trade. The issue is, it will be incredibly difficult to trade Wentz and be better off at the quarterback position.
The Stafford for Goff mega deal - why that isn’t going to happen this time around
The Stafford for Goff deal, that included two 1st round picks, a 3rd round pick, and Jared Goff going to the Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford, was a very unique scenario. Firstly, Matthew Stafford had explicitly asked for a trade and was unhappy in Detroit. That eliminated a lot of the Lions leverage. Secondly, both GM’s had worked together and had a very good working relationship. Thirdly, the Rams also had a quarterback they were wiling to part with. The Colts might have the third part of that, but they don’t have the first two parts.
If we look at all the NFL quarterbacks who are true, undebatable upgrades over Carson Wentz, we get the following list (in no particular order):
- Patrick Mahomes
- Josh Allen
- Aaron Rodgers
- Dak Prescott
- Kyler Murray
- Justin Herbert
- Joe Burrow
- Matthew Stafford
- Mac Jones
- Lamar Jackson
- Ryan Tannehill
- Matt Ryan
- Russell Wilson
- Derek Carr
- Kirk Cousins
Of course there are argument for Jimmy Garoppolo and a few others, but I wanted to keep the list to true, undebatable upgrades.
How many of those quarterbacks are unhappy? There are 3 that are or have been unhappy: Aaron Rodgers, Kyler Murray, and Russell Wilson. Aaron Rodgers, according to reports, is contemplating a short-term deal to stay in Green Bay. Kyler Murray, in a public letter, affirmed his commitment to the Cardinals, but he wants a contract extension. Russell Wilson, has said he is now happy in Seattle. For the Indianapolis Colts, you can essentially waive those guys goodbye.
Mahomes, Allen, Prescott, Herbert, Burrow, Stafford, Jones, Jackson are unmovable because of their age and/or value to their teams. That leaves Tannehill, Ryan, Cousins, and Carr.
I would bet my entire life that the Titans aren’t wiling to do a swap within their division, so that leaves the other three players.
Josh McDaniels and Derek Carr have both publicly shown admiration and excitement about working with each other. It’s probably safe to say he’s going to be staying in Las Vegas. Kirk Cousins reportedly had a hand in hiring Kevin O’Connell as their head coach. That leaves Matt Ryan, who has received support from Arthur Smith, but the coach himself has said that “an offer he can’t refuse” could force the Falcons to trade their longtime quarterback.
Matt Ryan — maybe the only option
Matt Ryan is maybe the only option, but if the Colts want to trade for him, it won’t be in Stafford-Goff fashion. If traded before June 1st, Ryan’s dead cap hit for the Falcons would be just over 40M in 2022 and 15.6M in 2023. It’s for that reason why a Wentz-Ryan and picks swap is almost impossible, because the Falcons would have to pay 68M in cap hits for this deal. They don’t have nearly that type of money, so you can rule out a swap.
The Colts would have to offer picks and potentially a low cap hit player to the Falcons. If the Falcons brass is even putting the word out there, it means they’re very much open to a trade.
Wentz’ last two weeks of the season killed his value
You don’t need to be a trade value expert to know that Carson Wentz tanked his value over the last two weeks of the season. His putrid performances not only cost the Colts a playoff spot (at which they had a 90% chance of getting at one point), but it also severely hurt the Colts’ chances of trading him.
The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” type of league, which is why the bitter taste of Wentz’s final performances is still in the mouth of every GM around the league.
His contract isn’t good for the team trading for him
Whoever trades for Wentz would have to pick up the entirety of his contract. The Colts would have zero cap space. His cap hits over the remainder of his deal are:
- 2022 - 28.294M
- 2023 - 26.176M
- 2024 - 27.235M
As it stands, his 2022 cap hit would be the 10th highest in the NFL. Only 9 teams can afford it right now.
The free agency or draft route
Let’s say the Colts unload Wentz at a discount (a 4th or 5th round pick) to some team. Who can they pick up in free agency or the draft? This free agency class is very weak, with the two best quarterback options being Jameis Winston and Mitch Trubisky. At their best, both are barely upgrades over Wentz and at their worst, they can kill your season.
In terms of the draft, the Colts would have to wait until the 2nd round to get a quarterback, which means they will only be picking the 2nd, 3rd or 4th best quarterback on their board. Is that someone who they want to roll the dice with?
2022 is a weak year for quarterbacks in free agency and the draft, so it’s best the Colts avoid that option as they won’t be getting an upgrade, at least in the short term.
Chris Ballard has a stellar draft record — is it best that he loses more draft capital?
Chris Ballard has an incredible draft record, with him selecting Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson, Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman, Grover Stewart, Braden Smith and Julian Blackmon, among others in his 5+ years with the team. His record includes 7 All Pros and 38 combined seasons where his players have been the primary starters for that season.
It’s a simple question that needs to be asked: does Chris Ballard want to take away the thing that Chris Ballard is the best at doing?
The Colts only hope is overpaying
The draft and then free agency/draft route doesn’t work on many levels. There aren’t any quarterbacks who were as disgruntled as Matthew Stafford was, and the general quarterback market is weak right now. A lot of teams have their stars of the future and aren’t trading them for anything. The way the Colts get a quarterback is by overpaying a stagnant team to convince them to move their guy.
A Matt Ryan trade is the best option for the Colts, but as mentioned earlier, it can’t include Wentz because of the financials. The Colts would have to have a deal in place to trade Wentz and then trade for Ryan. The Colts can’t get a high draft pick for Wentz because of his contract and the way his season ended, so my opinion is the best the Colts can get is a 4th round pick or a future 3rd.
In terms of trading for Ryan, he is a 36 (to be 37 in May) year old quarterback on a team that has won 25 games in the last 4 years. They have a 2nd year head coach and general manager, who are probably looking to make their move sooner of later. In my opinion, I don’t think the Falcons would need a king's ransom to move Matt Ryan. He has two years left on his contract and his last 3 seasons have been worse than his career averages. He might have 3 or 4 more competent seasons left in him, and I highly doubt the Falcons are looking to keep him beyond this contract.
The Rams essentially gave up 2 first round picks, a third round pick, and a player worth a 4th round pick to get a 33 year old Stafford playing his best football. Ryan is 4 years older and not playing the best football of his career.
It’s why I believe if the Colts offered a 2022 2nd round pick, 2023 1st round pick, and a 2023 4th round pick, that would get the Falcons to the table and could get them to pull the trigger. It would give them 4 picks in the top 60 in the next two drafts. The Colts don’t have leverage, which is why they would have to give up another 1st round pick to get a quarterback. If Ryan wanted out, and the Colts played their cards a bit better with Wentz (like the Rams did with Goff), then they would probably be able to keep their 1st rounder, but that isn’t the case.
The reality of this is the Colts can go far with Matt Ryan as their quarterback, whereas we saw with Carson Wentz that they can’t.
The other side of this is that when Wentz’s confidence is shattered, he’s one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, as seen by his last season in Philadelphia. What the Colts’ brass are putting out there isn’t going to do anything but hurt Wentz’ confidence, which is just another reason they have to be all in on getting rid of him. This could be an atrocious season if Wentz plays terribly, and it could put Ballard and Reich on the hot seat. It’s for those reasons why I do believe Wentz is gone, but the options are very, very limited, and the Colts will need to overpay to move him.