At my seventh camp today, and yes, the days are running together now …
Colts coach Frank Reich passed along the news this morning that Carson Wentz will undergo foot surgery and miss 5 to 12 weeks (which is a pretty wide range). And that means former fourth-round pick Jacob Eason is going to get a good, long look over the next few weeks. Eason was an elite high-school recruit, started as a freshman at Georgia, then saw his run in Athens come to an end after Jake Fromm beat him out the following year and a number of off-field issues surfaced. The talent, though, remained, and showed up in flashes at Washington—enough so that the most common comp I got on him ahead of the 2020 draft was Drew Bledsoe.
And when I asked GM Chris Ballard the other about the possibility Wentz could miss time, you could hear that getting a look at Eason would be a silver lining in the kind of unfortunate situation that his team, obviously, has become accustomed to managing at quarterback the last few years.
“We’ll figure it out,” Ballard says. “We’ve got some young quarterbacks on the roster that we like. It’ll be good to see Jacob Eason. He’s got a lot of talent, we’ll see what he can handle, and then we’ll adjust for what he can do, see what Sam [Ehlinger] can do, and we’ll adjust as we go forward. But … How do you win? How can you win the game? Whoever’s playing quarterback, they’re going to play the way Frank wants them to play, and we’ll try to find a way to scratch out wins.”
• The other obvious piece to this is the Eagles. If Wentz fails to either play 75% of the Colts’ snaps, or play 70% of snaps with Indy making the playoffs, then the first-rounder that the Eagles dealt for in February will become a second-rounder. And that’s pretty relevant, considering that Philly could be in the market for a quarterback (like, say, Deshaun Watson) either via trade or in the draft over the next year. If Wentz goes on the regular-season PUP list, that’d knock him out for six weeks. Which, from a games perspective (which is a little different than a snaps perspective, obviously) would amount to 35% of the season, and almost certainly mean the final return for Philly would be a 2 and a 3, rather than a 1 and a 3. Philly used the third-round pick, by the way, to move from 12 to 10 and select Heisman winner DeVonta Smith last spring.
• This quote from Nick Foles, the Bears’ third quarterback, was interesting: “I don’t want to go to someone that I don’t know. When you have a great coaching staff, you have something special. Big reason we were great in Philly was we had a great coaching staff. It put us in position to succeed ... I don’t want to just go somewhere where I don’t know them, I don’t know the offense. I’ve gone down that road before and it’s not fun.” So, I can say that the Bears very much value what Foles will bring in helping the team develop Justin Fields. And part of that is that he needs fewer reps, which has allowed for the coaches to put Fields exclusively with the 2s (who get more reps than the 3s). But there is a team I’d watch here, and it’s not yet the Colts, who I think might have reservations about the idea of interesting Foles into the lineup with Wentz out, given the history (Reich loves Foles, but also is well-aware of the awkwardness that putting those two together could present). It’s the Jets. They could use a veteran backup to help Zach Wilson out, and GM Joe Douglas was together with Foles in Philly. I wouldn’t rule that one out.
• While we’re on the Bears, I talked at length with Bears GM Ryan Pace the other day about identifying Fields as the guy worth moving up for. And what did it for Pace was antithetical to some pre-draft narratives on the former Ohio State star. It did it for the Bears' coaches too. “With the amount of Zoom interviews we do, you really got to get your coaches involved deeply to firmly grasp all that,” Pace says. “We knew not only was he talented, but his football IQ, his ability to process, all those things were high. Being connected with coaches on that gave us a lot of confidence, that he had all those traits.” For what it’s worth, that dovetailed with what Nagy told me in seeing Fields work: “He's going to give it his all, he cares so much—again the word’s ‘prepared,’ ” Nagy says. “He's always going to be prepared. And he's got talent. So there have been a lot of quarterbacks that have been able to come in their rookie year and do things. And every situation, teams build a little—they’ve all had their own situations and scenarios. So that’s the ultimate goal, to get him ready as soon as we can. But we got to be able to see more.” And they’ll get to see more in a little more than a week when preseason games get rolling.
• I was with the Browns on Monday, and we’ll have more on them in the next week. But I’ll say that it was the first time I can remember going to their camp where there wasn’t some sort of overwhelming storyline that threatened to seep into how the season—it’s just a good, well-run team getting itself ready. Also, when offensive-line depth is atop the list of things to work out, I’d say the roster is in pretty good shape. Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry have done a heck of a job.
• Bills GM Brandon Beane was pretty clear on Buffalo radio Monday in saying that Josh Allen’s contract has to get done soon or be tabled until 2022. That put some pressure on Allen’s camp, but it puts pressure on the team too. The risk in waiting, of course, is that the price could go up over the next year. And for the quarterbacks in Allen’s spot, the thing that could change the price is how Aaron Rodgers’s situation has changed. Chances are, next spring, Rodgers will be doing a new contract with either the Packers or a new team, since his current contract now expires after 2022. And if Rodgers plays the way he did last year again, the price will be high regardless of who’s picking up the tab.
• While we’re there, the subject of the receiver market being complicated came up in regards to Packers WR Davante Adams—and it is very much true. The gap in average per year from DeAndre Hopkins ($27.25 million) to Julio Jones ($22 million), Keenan Allen ($20.25 million) and Amari Cooper ($20 million) is indeed cavernous. But there’s nuance to Hopkins’s deal. He signed it after a trade, and with three years left on his old deal. And over its first three years, it’s worth just over $60 million. Adams, on the other hand, is going into a contract year. And so the question then is whether you look at Hopkins and Hopkins only as the top of the market. Or you consider where Jones, Allen and Cooper landed as important markers too, since they signed more conventional extensions.
• Witnessed something pretty cool on Monday morning in Detroit: Lions coach Dan Campbell set up the team meeting area in the field house for players and coaches to watch David Blough’s wife, Melissa Gonzalez, run the 400 hurdles in Tokyo, taking what they did the other night (Blough watched with the quarterbacks, and was surprised to see his coaches join them in the room before Gonzalez’s heat) to another level. Overall, to me, it’s indicative of a pretty fun environment the new staff has put in place there. Maybe it means something tangible in the fall, maybe it doesn’t. But I can tell you the guys there have prioritized it.
• The NFL is practicing what they’ve preached in mandating vaccinations for league-office employees. And while there is some wiggle room in the fact that they’ll allow for some medical and religious exemptions, I can tell you, having talked to coaches about this, some applications for those have been rejected. Which, of course, says that if you’re not getting the shots, you better have a good reason for it.
• I’ll be interested to see if prep super-recruit Quinn Ewers’s decision to graduate high school a year early and enroll at Ohio State has a ripple effect. In Ewers’s case, it will allow him to make NIL money now. Down the line, it also could put him in position to get to the NFL quicker—in 2024, rather than 2025. And I’d think the combination of those two things might entice elite players to try and graduate from high school in three years rather than four. Lots of college players are put on tracks to graduate in three years when they enroll, so it’s not that out of whack to consider that the same could happen with high schoolers. Which could (and we’re getting ahead of ourselves) could mean more 19- and 20-year-olds in the draft.
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