With the Eagles ready to trade Carson Wentz, everyone can connect the dots that he will be dealt to either the Colts or the Bears soon in the 2021 NFL offseason. After Wentz’s breakdown in 2020 that put Philadelphia on the path to firing coach Doug Pederson, Indianapolis and Chicago are by far the most logical landing spots.
The Colts need a QB and employ former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as head coach. The Bears need a QB and employ former Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo as their passing game coordinator.
Reich and DiFilippo continue to get a ton of credit for getting the best out of Wentz, turning him into an NFL MVP candidate in 2017 while both worked under Pederson. Based on Wentz’s struggles to the point of being benched for rookie second-rounder Jalen Hurts last season, most teams won’t be willing to give up much for Wentz, considering the high supply of quarterbacks between the veteran market and the 2021 draft.
Reich reunited with Philip Rivers and that helped the Colts get into the playoffs, but Rivers retired and Jacoby Brissett is a free agent. The Bears didn’t have the same QB success in reuniting Nick Foles with DeFilippo and coach Matt Nagy, but they still made the playoffs with Mitchell Trubisky, who is a free agent.
The evidence is there that Indianapolis and Chicago are both the two best and only fits to feel comfortable about reviving Wentz’s career. But which team is the better fit? Here’s a breakdown of what would be Wentz’s chances for revival in either case:
How Carson Wentz would fit with the Colts
The Colts have more than $69 million in projected salary-cap space for second-most in the NFL, per OverTheCap.com. They have the standard seven picks in the draft, starting with No. 21 overall. Along with Rivers, stalwart left tackle Anthony Castonzo also retired. Along with Brissett, their most notable unrestricted offensive free agent is long-time wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, in decline at age 31. Backup tackles Chaz Green and Le’Raven Clark and tight end Trey Burton, Wentz’s former Eagles teammate, are also unsigned.
Wentz did get sacked an NFL high 50 times and somewhat related to that pressure, threw an NFL high 15 interceptions in only 12 starts. The Eagles had shaky offensive line play because of injuries and had an inconsistent receiving corps, too.
The Colts’ highest priority after QB needs to be replacing Castonzo. Their are some good values there for their first-round turn, on top of more viable free-agent options than usual. They also like Zach Pascal and promising second-year player Michael Pittman Jr. at wideout, and the hopeful healthy return of speedster Parris Campbell make Hilton expendable as a fading big-play threat. With plenty of other good wideouts available in free agency, the team also ample resources with which to go after a younger upgrade from Hilton.
Wentz didn’t get help from the Eagles committing to the running game, either, to take pressure off him and create needed balance and play-action opportunities for the passing game. The Colts are one of the more dedicated and efficient running teams in the NFL, now with young workhorse Jonathan Taylor established as a force. Even if Burton isn’t re-signed, Reich and the Colts can also support Wentz with more of the helpful two-tight end sets with Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox.
The Colts will try to acquire Wentz without giving up No. 21, but if not, they can get some help for Wentz from both free agency and having picks No. 54 and No. 85 on Day 2. Wentz reestablishing the connection with Reich alone would be huge, as it was for Rivers, who ended his career with a jump back in efficiency. Rivers was sacked only 19 times in 16 games and dropped his interceptions from 20 to 11.
But then you can throw in the strong line beyond Castonzo’s successor, versatile skill players, varied personnel formations and the baseline of a strong rushing attack with Taylor. Wentz would get the coaching and supporting cast he needs to get back on track without needing to look over his shoulder. Reich can rein in Wentz’s reckless abandon to make sure he’s put in comfortable places to use his big arm and athleticism to his benefit again.
How Carson Wentz would fit with the Bears
The Bears don’t have the rosy salary-cap picture the Colts do. They are projected to be $6 million over the cap, one of the 13 NFL teams in the red for 2021. They currently hold only six picks in the draft, starting at No. 20 overall.
First, Chicago will need to designate cuts to fit in Wentz, and offensively the best bets are tight end Jimmy Graham and offensive tackle Bobby Massie. Second, they also know it will be difficult keeping top wide receiver Allen Robinson from leaving in free agency to pair with Wentz.
The Bears can survive fine without Graham at tight end by elevating talented second-year player Cole Kmet, who would be an immediate key target for Wentz. They do have one-time Pro Bowler Charles Leno Jr. at left tackle, but they also need to upgrade their offensive line with pass protection more in mind for Wentz.
Without Robinson, the Bears’ next best wide receivers would be second-player Darnell Mooney, a revelation as a rookie, and Anthony Miller, a disappointment as a third-year player. There’s a chance the Bears part ways with Miller, too. The potential of Mooney and Riley Ridley — Calvin’s fourth-rounder brother — being the starters doesn’t sound great. Should Robinson walk and Wentz arrive, wideout would be the first-round priority over right tackle.
The Bears could offer a good rushing attack fueled by their third-year workhorse, David Montgomery. Tarik Cohen also can return to healthy to be a versatile receiving asset from the backfield, much like Wentz had with Darren Sproles and others in Philadelphia. But having Kmet and Mooney as his top downfield targets isn’t an upgrade from the Eagles.
Once Chicago gives up something for Wentz, it will have more limited means of being able to do enough to lift Wentz personnel-wise right away. DeFilippo and Nagy can combine to be a fine coaching influence on him, but the player support pales to what the Colts can work to provide for Wentz.
Reich can keep his offense together with his former coordinator, Nick Sirianni, gone to replace Pederson for the Eagles. Given the combined struggles of Trubisky and Foles, it’s much harder to trust Nagy as a QB whisperer.
The Bears moving to get Wentz would be out of desperation and they might end up with the shakier Eagles version of him. The Colts can do it more out of confidence with better feelings about fixing Wentz because of Reich and GM Chris Ballard.
The Colts (11-5) were the better team than the Bears (8-8) in 2020 and they are the better organization, period. Wentz won’t work in another situation with more Philadelphia-like dysfunction. Based on the kind of NFL structures they have now and what they can do to boost him soon, Indianapolis is a much better Midwest relocation plan for Wentz than Chicago.