Here’s the thing about NFL contract extensions: We tend to treat them like highway billboards, momentarily taking in the gaud, the size and the sense of the attraction before passing right on by. Inevitably, there will be more billboards.
The contractual leapfrog these quarterbacks perform with each and every new deal is tiresome. Outside of someone like Kirk Cousins, who squeezed a depressed market for every ounce of financial security he could attain, it’s largely a game of next man up. The first quarterback will get $X dollars. The second quarterback will get $X dollars PLUS two million.
But Carson Wentz’s four-year, $128 million (with a reported $107 million guaranteed) extension is interesting because he’s not yet on the cycle, and the reported figures don’t quite follow the pattern. The other quarterbacks in the cycle—Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson—have won playoff games and Super Bowls. They have longevity. They are a commodity beyond their rookie contract. Wentz has not even reached his fifth-year option. He has played just one 16-game season in three years, and he’s coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries to his ACL and his back.
While it represents another calculated gamble for Eagles GM Howie Roseman—getting Wentz for probably $6 or $7 million per year cheaper by doing the deal now instead of waiting for the next cycle of quarterbacks to sign and drive up the average per year price—Philadelphia is also doing something they haven’t done much of during their recent string of successes. They’re betting on things that are not quite projectable, like health and the expansion or contraction of the modern NFL offenses that have aided Wentz’s star rise. Like the changing complexion of the Eagles’s veteran locker room, which was an essential component of the team’s success during Wentz’s early years.
In two years, Wentz’s deal may look like a bargain, much like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppollo look like clearance merchandise now. Even if they are no longer held in the same regard as they were at the time they signed their deals, they are still highly effective, game-winning quarterbacks—the league’s most important position—at a great price. The Eagles will also benefit from the blinking they’ve forced franchises in comparable situations (Rams, Cowboys) to do with their quarterbacks at this stage. At the least, though, Philadelphia made a move on Thursday that slightly deviated from the standard highway billboard. This one was worth popping out of the car to take a look at for a moment.
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