According to multiple reports, the Indianapolis Colts are strongly considering trading or releasing starting quarterback Carson Wentz during the offseason. March 18 is the fateful date to watch. If Wentz remains on Indianapolis' roster then, his $22 million in base salary becomes guaranteed in addition to him receiving a $6.29 million roster bonus. If Wentz is released before then, the Colts will remain on the hook for $15 million of his base salary, but they’d be off the hook for the other $13.29 million, which represents significant savings against the salary cap. In addition to Wentz's aforementioned 2022 guarantees, an inheriting franchise would owe Wentz a base salary of $20 million in 2023 and $21 million in 2024, with north of $6 million in roster bonuses for each season. Wentz's contract could serve as a significant roadblock to the Colts' faint hopes of finding a willing trade partner. Never underestimate the desperation of a general manager whose team lacks a capable starting signal-caller, however. We've identified three franchises that may consider swinging a trade for Wentz this offseason.
CAROLINA PANTHERSThe Carolina Panthers largely lacked adequate quarterback play throughout the 2021 season. The decision made by general manager Scott Fitterer and head coach Matt Rhule to acquire Sam Darnold from the New York Jets exploded in their faces as Darnold failed to take positive steps forward as a quarterback. A change of scenery failed to aid Darnold in his development as a signal-caller, and much of the ugly decisions and throws we witnessed him make in New York followed him to Carolina. The Panthers eventually turned to veteran quarterback and local legend Cam Newton, who also failed to showcase the ability necessary to serve as Carolina's quarterback of the future. Former XFL star P.J. Walker also received a turn in Carolina's game of quarterback musical chairs. The Panthers possess a legitimate roster outside of the quarterback position. Their defense is littered with young stars including Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, and Jaycee Horn. The veteran acquisitions of Stephon Gilmore and Haason Riddick filled out the unit nicely. Their offense possesses the playmakers necessary to produce with a quality quarterback at the helm. The Panthers are literally acceptable quarterback play away from being playoff contenders. Wentz comes with his flaws, but he's an upgrade on Darnold.
PITTSBURGH STEELERSThe retirement of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrust the Pittsburgh Steelers into the quarterback market this offseason. The Steelers currently possess the 20th overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. If they hope to draft their quarterback of the future, the likes of Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett may be long gone before the Steelers come on the clock. That fallout may force the Steelers to turn their attention to the veteran quarterback market. Mason Rudolph remains under contract for the 2022 season and is the current favorite to serve as Pittsburgh's starting signal-caller for the upcoming campaign. General manager Kevin Colbert (along with his impending successor) should aim higher than Rudolph as the Steelers have constructed a roster capable of competing for playoff positioning on both sides of the ball in the ultra-difficult and wildly unpredictable AFC North. Rudolph has consistently performed in a rather pedestrian fashion when under center throughout his four-year career with the Steelers. Acquiring Wentz would serve as a viable backup option should the Steelers fail to land their desired quarterback prospect via the draft.
WASHINGTON COMMANDERSThe Washington Commanders will once again find themselves in the hunt for a new quarterback this offseason. Last season’s acquisition of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick unfortunately backfired when the 39-year-old Fitzpatrick suffered a season-ending injury just minutes into the 2021 campaign. Taylor Heinicke then served as Washington's starting signal-caller, but the former St. Louis Battlehawk legend failed to prove himself capable of ushering the franchise forward. General manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Ron Rivera must now shift their attention and priorities to upgrading the quarterback position this offseason. In this scenario, the Commanders may prefer to acquire a veteran quarterback as opposed to drafting a rookie that will undoubtedly take his bumps and bruises. The Commanders' roster is ready to win now with a fierce defense that features the likes of Chase Young and Montez Sweat, and an offense that possesses elite weapons such as Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. Operable quarterback play could catapult the Commanders to NFC East contenders next season. Wentz is certainly better suited to lead such a project than Heinicke is.
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