Hoge: Bears were smart not to overpay for Carson Wentz originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
For all the grief Bears general manager Ryan Pace receives for negotiating against himself in trades, he handled the team’s pursuit of Carson Wentz very well.
The Eagles ended up trading Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts Thursday for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second-round pick that could become a first-round pick. That’s a high price to pay for a broken quarterback due to be paid $25.4 million in 2021, but a reasonable deal if Wentz can recapture the form that put him in the MVP discussion three years ago.
That’s a big if though.
Much like an NFL Draft board, the Bears likely have all available quarterbacks stacked in an order with prices attached to them. In the same way you should stay disciplined to your draft board, teams should stay disciplined when it comes to trade prices. In other words, whatever price the Bears attached to Wentz was the price they stuck to – and it wasn’t worth increasing that price in a bidding war with the Colts.
Whatever that price was, it was well short of what the Eagles were asking. If Philadelphia had received offers anywhere near a 2021 first-round pick, Wentz would’ve been dealt a long time ago. More recent reports indicated the Colts offered two second round picks, but I had my doubts about that. The bloated contract did not match up with that kind of trade offer, especially when you consider that this was a relatively cool market.
The agreed upon trade with the Colts bridged that gap to an extent. A third-round pick in 2021 seems reasonable and the Colts can justify giving up a 2022 first-round pick if they salvage Wentz’s career. In that case, it will almost certainly be a late first-round pick. But that doesn’t mean the Bears should’ve paid the same price – and they would have had to beat that price.
I’ve argued that the Ryan Tannehill trade from 2019 is the strongest comparison to this current situation. Tannehill was a former No. 8 overall pick on his second contract and the Dolphins were ready to move on. Miami received a fourth-round pick in that trade and swapped sixth- and seventh-round picks with the Titans. On one hand, a restoration of Wentz might come with a higher ceiling, but on the other, the Dolphins ate some of the money on Tannehill’s contract so the risk the Titans inherited was much lower.
To me, that equated Wentz’s worth at nothing more than a 2021 third-round pick, which is what the Colts ended up paying in the short term. It’s the 2022 conditional pick that carries more risk, but one that the Colts – with head coach Frank Reich, Wentz’s former offensive coordinator, and a healthy salary cap situation could accept.
And that’s important to remember. The Colts’ situation is different than the Bears’ situation, especially when you consider recent reports that Wentz preferred to go to Indianapolis. Wentz’s leverage in the deal was debatable, but the idea of trading significant draft capital for a broken quarterback making $25.4 million in 2021 is already a stretch. If that quarterback isn’t fully invested in getting better in your organization, there really isn’t any logic in making that trade.
This was never a situation that called for the Bears to be aggressive. They set their price and stuck to it. They may have even backed off in recent days. Despite arguments to the contrary, the Eagles had very little leverage to drive up the price because they were being forced to deal a slumping quarterback with a bad contract and if they didn’t do it by Mar. 19, they were going to have to cut that quarterback a $10 million check in the form of a roster bonus. The Eagles were the team that had to make a move. The Bears and Colts had other options – granted, they aren’t great options, but they are options that might be better than taking on a gut-rehab project that even Chip and Joanna from “Fixer Upper” would have a hard time turning into a profit.
The hard truth is that the Colts probably have a better chance of salvaging Wentz than the Bears. They have a better offensive line and a better running game, plus the familiarity of Reich. The Bears have quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who was Wentz’s QB coach in Philadelphia, but it’s not DeFilippo’s offense.
There’s no question Pace and head coach Matt Nagy are still under the gun to find an upgrade at quarterback. But they can’t let desperation lead to risky decisions under less than ideal circumstances. A less risky option would call for more aggression.
The Bears were smart to wait out the Eagles and Colts in this situation. Wentz only made sense for the Bears at a bargain price.
And the 2021 quarterback carousel is far from over.