INDIANAPOLIS – The familiarity and belief of Frank Reich, at the most important position in sports, is sitting at the precipices of another major decision for the Colts.
For a second straight offseason, Reich’s history has the Colts in play to potentially make another head-turning play at the quarterback position.
And this one comes with a far higher ceiling, and also one with more long-term ramifications for the franchise.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is reportedly on the move from Philadelphia. When asked about the Wentz trade rumors and the Colts on Friday, Chris Ballard certainly didn’t deny anything. Simply stating that no trade was happening on “today” (Friday).
While a trade cannot be officially announced until the new league year starts on March 17, predicting trade compensation is difficult. Any team wanting Wentz would have to send some draft capital to the Eagles, likely in the Day 1/Day 2 pick range. Would Wentz’s contract situation force Philly to send anything additional back to that team?
The Colts and Eagles have additional connections with Reich and new Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, who was with the offensive coordinator in Indy for Reich’s first three seasons as head coach. New assistant coach Press Taylor (worked with Wentz and the Eagles quarterbacks since 2016) is reportedly joining the staff in Indy and wide receivers coach Mike Groh (Eagles offensive coordinator in 2018 and 2019) are on the Colts staff, too.
Getting rid of Wentz would mean the Eagles save more than $30 million in cap space. The trading team would have Wentz under contract for four more seasons (through 2024), but just two of those years are guaranteed (for around $47 million). So, a trade for Wentz would have him likely with his new team for at least two seasons, and possibly two more.
This trade would be a clear message that the Colts view Wentz, 28, as their quarterback of the present, and the next few years, at the minimum.
It would help appease the ‘veteran vision’ that Jim Irsay had mentioned a few weeks back (Wentz has 68 career starts, 36-32 as a starter).
Although, the move also carries some long-term consequences that would stunt this franchise if Wentz doesn’t work out. This is more than just a band-aid, one-year move, with Wentz’s contract not coming off the books next offseason.
Make no mistake, this deal would not happen without Reich’s prior relationship with Wentz. Nor would it happen without Reich still having tremendous belief that Wentz can return to the player he was prior to tearing his ACL in 2017, when no QB in the league was better on third down or in the red zone.
Just two months ago, as Wentz was getting benched in Philadelphia, Reich publicly backed his former pupil. When appearing on the Rich Eisen Show, Reich was asked about the struggling Wentz.
“…I know and love Carson and he’s a close friend of mine,” Reich said. “And I think he’s a really good player. You know I have a lot of belief and confidence in him personally. But right now I’m just more focused on our guys.”
Reich has always been a fan of the potential of Wentz. In another late-season interview with Peter King, Reich said he’s “extremely close” with Wentz.
In January of 2016, the Eagles hired Reich as their offensive coordinator at the beginning of that offseason. A few months later, Philadelphia traded up twice from the No. 13 overall pick to the No. 2 spot, where they selected Wentz out of North Dakota State.
After going 7-9 as a rookie starter in 2016, Wentz put together an MVP caliber season in 2017, throwing 33 touchdowns to 7 interceptions with a league best QBR of 78.5. But ever since tearing his ACL in December of that season (in which Nick Foles filled in and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title), Wentz has yet to reclaim that type of production.
Wentz is coming off by far his worst NFL season, completing 57 percent of his passes, throwing 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and was sacked 50 times in just 12 games played. No offensive line allowed more QB hits last season than Philly.
When the Colts prepared for Wentz and the Eagles back in 2018, Reich didn’t hold back in his praise for the “fearless” QB.
“Obviously (Wentz) was having a phenomenal year (in 2017), just a phenomenal year and probably was the MVP and deserved every bit of it,” Reich said of Wentz. “What you love about Carson is much like Andrew (Luck), is a team-first guy, an explosive player with the right kind of attitude and the right kind of work ethic.
“It was just fun watching him grow as a player, just in the short two years that we were there together and truly one of my coaching highlights was a chance to work with him. He’s just a class act.”
In a way, the addition of Wentz would have some similarities to Philip Rivers.
While the two players are vastly different in their skillset and career arcs, the Colts would have acquired both off of teams that lacked enough support around each player.
How much of Wentz’s recent downfall should be attributed to an injury-riddled offensive line in Philly, not enough skill talent and a hanging cloud at backup quarterback?
If the Colts can stabilize some of those things, would Wentz’s career be resurrected with Reich again mentoring him?
Here comes another quarterback domino, folks.