WASHINGTON – Coming off a mediocre 7-10 season, a tumultuous name change, and controversial allegations against their owner, the Washington Commanders needed to make a splash in the 2022 NFL offseason.
And before the new league year has even begun, they’ve landed a major piece to the puzzle.
Dealing three high-round draft choices, the Commanders traded last week for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz in a reported early blockbuster deal.
He’s the newest hope for a team that has run through a long string of quarterbacks. Washington’s football team hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1992.
Wentz, who spent five years previously with the Philadelphia Eagles, makes a return to the NFC East looking to bring stability to the position and lead Washington back to the playoffs.
“I’m looking forward to getting to Washington,” Wentz said in a tweet. “This organization has a rich history and a roster full of talent. I’m going to do everything I can this offseason to prepare for a special season, and I can’t wait to see you at FedEx Field this fall!”
In addition to getting Wentz, the Commanders received a second-round draft choice and a seventh-round draft choice, both this year.
The Colts got second- and third-round draft choices this year and a conditional second-round draft choice next year.
The trade comes after Washington reportedly inquired about a potential trade involving then-Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
But the Seahawks ended up sending Wilson to the Denver Broncos in a blockbuster trade.
“It’s clear to me that Washington is trying to make the best out of this situation,” former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum said to The Spun. “They gave up a lot for a guy who is going to play with three teams in three years, but I don’t think they had another choice.”
Wentz will likely take over the starting role from Taylor Heinicke, who threw for 3,419 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in 16 games played last season.
Wentz does come with his own questions though, despite a quality statistical season with the Colts in 2021, where he threw for 3,563 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 17 games started.
That was highlighted most by a crushing season-ending loss in Week 18 to the 3-14 Jacksonville Jaguars that helped eliminate the Colts from playoff contention.
Inconsistency has been a trademark of Wentz, whose play dropped off in his final year with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020 as well.
That’s the risk the Commanders take, and time will tell if the gamble pays off.
But at the NFL’s most important player position, Wentz seems to be an upgrade over Heinicke and will be a better offensive scheme fit, according to former Washington Post and The Athletic writer Mark Bullock.
Bullock says Commanders’ offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s Air Coryell offense, a system dedicated to throwing the ball deep down the field, is a better fit for the stronger-armed Wentz than for Heinicke.
Common sense also says that Wentz’s ability to throw deep will work better with speedy wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who has accumulated over 3,000 receiving yards in three seasons with the Commanders. Bullock says Heinicke’s reliance on shorter passes held McLaurin back at times.
Either way, Washington’s move towards a new quarterback was predictable once last season ended.
The Commanders have had quarterback issues for years, and haven’t found even moderate stability there since starter Kirk Cousins left after the 2017 season following three years as the full-time starter with the team.
“We’re looking at all opportunities there in terms of quarterback…we are looking to upgrade that position and we’re looking at every angle possible,” Washington General Manager Martin Mayhew said at the NFL Combine in March before the deal was announced. “That is a big piece of the puzzle and what we spend there we can’t spend somewhere else.”
And Wentz could be worth his weight in gold, and the Commanders will pay him like it: Wentz is getting $28 million for the 2022 season. In return, Wentz will be under contract for the next three years.
If Wentz doesn’t work out in 2022, he has an out in 2023 in his contract that allows the Commanders to release him without spending any more money on him.
But as Mayhew said, acquiring Wentz will prevent Washington from spending in other areas of need. To alleviate the hit, Washington recently reportedly released starting safety Landon Collins to clear cap space even though it opened another position for the Commanders to fill.
With limited cap space, the Commanders still will look to bring back some of its own free agents like wide-receivers DeAndre Carter and Cam Sims - both potential weapons for Wentz - while also looking for more outside talent.