As the calendar turns to July, many of us usually have plenty of material to chew on thanks to weeks of mini-camp practices at TCO Performance Center. Of course, this year is no normal offseason thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, so writers like myself are getting creative and perhaps far fetched with what they write when it comes to the Minnesota Vikings.
One of the things I’ve learned recently is that people love a good conspiracy theory, and with Vikings fans continuing to fall deeper into the black hole of sports, I figured I’d dust off one of my favorites: Carson Wentz will be the Vikings’ next starting quarterback.
Before some of you say my next piece should be if the Chiefs would accept Kirk Cousins for Patrick Mahomes, this is something I’ve felt for a while and I’m not proud of that. The stars have lined up both in Philadelphia and Minnesota for a potential move, and if things continue to shift that way, it’s very possible that this gut feeling could become a reality.
Why would the Eagles get rid of Wentz?
The root of this theory began during the 2018 season. That year, the Eagles were coming off their Super Bowl-winning season, and not having Wentz be a part of it due to a torn ACL made many believe the Eagles could be even better the following year. The logic was sound, but the results didn’t live up to the hype.
One year after becoming an MVP candidate before getting hurt, Wentz didn’t look like the same quarterback he was the year before, but not to the point of completely cratering. With his play going from elite to average, the Eagles slumped to a 5-6 record with Wentz before he went down with a back injury.
|2017 Carson Wentz||2018 Carson Wentz|
|PFF Overall Grade||84.9||79.4|
|PFF Passing Grade||79.4||78.5|
|Record as Starter||11-2||5-6|
|Yards Per Game||253.5||279.5|
With Wentz on the shelf, the Eagles once again turned to Nick Foles, who led the Eagles to a 4-1 record, passed the Vikings for the final NFC playoff spot, benefited from a double-doinker in Chicago and was an Alshon Jeffery drop away from the NFC Championship Game. That combined with his legendary Super Bowl run might have swayed some fans in his corner, but the Eagles let him walk and sign a four-year, $88 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With Foles out of the way, Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million contract extension with the Eagles prior to last season and the path was paved for him to get back to the 2017 form that had Philadelphia in the Super Bowl conversation to begin with.
And then 2019 happened.
Wentz saw his interception percentage drop to a career-low 1.2%, but the rest of his stats screamed trouble. His 4.4% touchdown rate was the lowest outside of his rookie season (2.6%), and his 6.7 yards per attempt was a full yard lower than his 2018 campaign. With a passing grade (74.5) that ranked 18th in the NFL, Wentz was an average quarterback with a massive salary.
Instead of just trying to accommodate Wentz in the draft (outside of drafting wide receiver Jalen Reagor in the first round), the Eagles may have tipped their hand by selecting Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. If the Eagles had drafted a quarterback later, nobody would blink at this, but for them to take one this early in the draft may have been a warning sign.
An extended injury history and a decrease in performance could make Wentz available, and with an opt-out in 2022 that would save Philadelphia $22 million with a post-June 1 designation on a trade or release, the Eagles could turn to Hurts if his development goes well.
Why would the Vikings want Wentz?
As we come into the 2020 season, Kirk Cousins’ job looks pretty secure for the Vikings. He’s coming off the most efficient season of his career, and a game-winning playoff drive in New Orleans helped secure a two-year, $66 million contract extension this spring. All of this doesn’t scream to a team willing to get rid of its quarterback. But in the NFL, it’s always good to read the fine print.
Although Cousins’ deal created temporary relief for the cap-strapped Vikings, his cap hit balloons to a ridiculous $44 million in 2022. This is the trademark of contracts from executive vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski, who gives plenty of money upfront but has a high number on the back end that the player likely will never actually see.
In the event that Cousins should regress or even just play average over the next two years, there’s a good chance that the Vikings will want to make a change. Cousins would be entering his age-34 season in 2022, and with the no-trade clause that was in Cousins’ previous contract being waived, the Vikings could get out from underneath it if they find a decent suitor.
It’s impossible to tell how the quarterback carousel will play out two years from now, but a team like the San Francisco 49ers have already been mentioned as a potential destination as recently as last spring. If Jimmy Garoppolo takes a step back (a possibility with Deebo Samuel being lost to a Jones fracture in his foot), the 49ers might want to make a change.
With Kyle Shanahan‘s familiarity with Cousins, there’s a chance they may make a godfather deal that Rick Spielman can’t refuse. (There’s also the chance that if the Vikings crater in 2020, Spielman isn’t the one making the deal, meaning a new regime could come in and try to get their own guy.)
With a $35 million cap relief built into Cousins’ contract, it’s highly unlikely he plays out his current deal with the Vikings as-is. If the current regime is in place, they’ll be looking for a quarterback that won’t rock the boat, and a veteran like Wentz could be the target.
Should the Vikings actually Want Wentz?
From a marketing standpoint, the Vikings could do much worse than landing Wentz to play quarterback. He grew up as a Vikings fan in Bismarck and helped create the North Dakota State dynasty, which has a large fanbase in the Twin Cities area. Plastering Wentz’s face on billboards would get people to come to games, and since sports are a business, it would be appealing.
But once it’s time to play football, a signing of Wentz would be disheartening. Aside from his decline over the past couple of seasons, acquiring Wentz, who would be entering his age-29 season, would be deja vu from the Kirk Cousins experiment. If we’re being honest, Cousins has had his ups and downs, but nothing that would insinuate that he could lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl title.
Just as Cousins came to Minnesota at age-30, Wentz would be at a similar time in his career. If he took a next step either this year or next, it’s likely the Eagles wouldn’t make him available and look to deal Hurts if he makes progress. If he continued to be average, the Eagles would probably make him available and would be fool’s gold for any other team that signs him.
Throughout Vikings history, they haven’t been able to keep themselves from making this mistake. Minnesota has been the place where quarterbacks go to die, and while it worked out with Brett Favre and Randall Cunningham, there have been just as many flops such as Jeff George and Donovan McNabb.
Whomever is running the Vikings needs to pound their fist on the table and get a guy they like if Cousins doesn’t work out in the next couple of years. Next year’s draft will be a prime opportunity with a strong quarterback class that should include Ohio State’s Justin Fields and another fellow Bison star in Trey Lance. By signing Wentz, the Vikings would just stay at the status quo, which, in nearly 50 years since Fran Tarkenton hung up his cleats, just hasn’t been the answer.