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The Eagles Are Betting Carson Wentz Can Earn His Own Statue

Philadelphia has locked the quarterback up with a four-year extension that matches the most guaranteed money ever given to a player

Chicago Bears v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

“We think in Philadelphia that we go as [Carson Wentz] goes,” Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman told SiriusXM NFL Radio last month. On Thursday, Roseman put Philadelphia’s money where his mouth was. The Eagles have signed Wentz to a four-year contract extension that will keep him in Philadelphia through 2024, and the team is hoping it’s enough time for Wentz to earn his own statue outside the Linc next to Nick Foles.

Wentz is already under contract for an $8.5 million cap hit in 2019 and a $22.8 million hit in 2020. The four-year extension kicks in starting in 2021, and has $107 million in guarantees, a base value of $128 million, and a maximum value of $144 million including incentives, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The guaranteed money matches Russell Wilson’s deal for the most ever given to a player, though guaranteed money in the NFL is not always guaranteed. Wentz will earn $32 million per year during the extension, but including his 2019 and 2020 salary, Wentz essentially has a six-year contract worth $154 million, which comes to just under $26 million annually.

Lingering back issues ended Wentz’s 2018 season and forced the Eagles to turn to Foles and his playoff magic for the second year in a row. Wentz received medical clearance to practice without restrictions less than a month ago, but back issues are notorious for flaring up. That the Eagles invested in Wentz before this season rather than waiting to see whether he can stay healthy in 2019—especially with Foles now in Jacksonville—shows that Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie are not concerned about his long-term health.

In that Sirius interview last month, Roseman elaborated on why the team wanted to lock Wentz down:

The guy’s always in the building. He’s always studying film. He’s a great leader. He’s tremendously smart and passionate about his job. He’s got everything off the field you look for in a quarterback. Then, his skill set. He can make every throw. He’s tremendously athletic. He’s big and strong. Really, we’ve seen it in action. This guy was the MVP of the league before he went down with an unfortunate injury [in 2017]. We saw him even last year coming back off that injury and how he played. And so, we think in Philadelphia that we go as he goes. We’re very excited to have him back and start feeling really like himself. So he’s poised for it, but it was also our responsibility to make sure we surrounded him with talent.

The Eagles have done a pretty good job accumulating talent around Wentz. Philadelphia has been one of the most proactive teams at locking up their most promising players relatively early in their contracts at team-friendly prices, and Wentz is just the latest example. Tight end Zach Ertz (who set an NFL single-season record for tight end receptions in 2018), receiver Alshon Jeffery, 2019 second-round receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, tight end Dallas Goedert, running back Miles Sanders, right tackle Lane Johnson, rookie tackle Andre Dillard, center Jason Kelce, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox are all under contract for at least the next three seasons. The veterans who have performed at an elite level are at reasonable costs, and if the rookies become above-average starters, they’ll be bargains.

The next priority for Roseman is Malcolm Jenkins, the 31-year-old safety and team captain who has been holding out this offseason. Jenkins has vastly outplayed his contract and been the sole constant in a shuffling secondary, and the Eagles would be wise to reward him for his efforts. But Philadelphia as a whole is in about as good of a short- and medium-term situation to compete as any team in the league.

The ripple effects from the deal stretch beyond the Delaware Water Gap and touch two other quarterbacks drafted in 2016. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is entering the final year of his contract (unlike Wentz, Prescott does not have a fifth-year option because he was not a first-round draft pick). Prescott has earned the love of the Jones family, and Jerry has said he will be extended. Wentz’s deal likely sets the ceiling for anything Prescott will earn.

But the more interesting ripple touches the player drafted ahead of Wentz: Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Wentz’s agent also represents Goff, so while Wentz’s deal is the ceiling for Prescott, it might be Goff’s floor. Goff’s Super Bowl meltdown reignited the debate about whether he is a replaceable cog in Sean McVay’s system or truly as good as his regular season indicated. If the Rams fear he is replaceable, they may wait until next year to sign him, though the price may only go up from there depending on what the Chiefs do with quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. The Rams signed Blake Bortles to be Goff’s backup in 2019, so if the former Jaguar gets any meaningful playing time, we’ll have the perfect litmus test to see how much of Goff’s success should be attributed to McVay.

Long term, the last ripple effect comes back to Wentz himself. He’ll be 31 when the deal expires. If he’s half as beloved in Philly then as he is now—and especially if he delivers the city a Super Bowl without Foles—he’ll sign another large extension with the franchise. But if the Eagles haven’t soared back to the mountaintop by then, some fans may point at him rather than their savvy front office as the problem. As Wentz goes, so go the Eagles. Now we’ll see where he’ll take them.