Why Indianapolis Colts' Carson Wentz Trade Is Still Incomplete
The Indianapolis Colts put all of their chips into the pot the moment they traded for quarterback Carson Wentz from the Eagles in the offseason. Their decision to move a 2021 mid-round pick and 2022 first-rounder for Wentz was largely driven by the lack of other options.
However, the relationship between Wentz and Colts head coach Frank Reich also drove their decision to go all-in on the athletic passer.
After 15 weeks into their reunion, the Colts are likely happy with their return on investment from a team perspective. The Colts have surged with five wins in six games and are currently second in the AFC South. They're a clear favorite to win one of three AFC Wild Card spots.
Wentz has been generally efficient in the big picture, which is a marked improvement from the disastrous 2020 campaign he had in Philadelphia. He's completed almost 63% of passes for 3,005 yards, 23 touchdowns, and just six interceptions despite lacking a stellar group of receivers. The Colts have the third-best scoring offense and ninth-best scoring defense despite four losses in five games to start the year.
The Colts know their identity well, and Wentz has mostly filled his role effectively. They rarely ask Wentz to overtake the game with his playmaking. Wentz is much more comfortable being a game manager with some upside to connect on a downfield throw occasionally.
The running game has been phenomenal with Jonathan Taylor developing into an MVP candidate. Indianapolis has the second-most rushing yards in the league and the 24th-most passing yards. It's telling of Wentz's role that he's surpassed 251 yards just four times this season, and twice since October 11.
The concern is that the numbers aren't fully telling the truth. Wentz's stats mirror someone like Alex Smith, who was excellent at protecting the ball and moving the chains. This season, Wentz ranks 20th in first downs achieved, falling in line with the rest of his average production.
Last week's game against New England exposed some of the major combustibility concerns with Wentz. On top of a handful of missed throws that would've extended drives or resulted in points, Wentz had three interceptable passes in just 12 attempts. His lone touchdown came on a touch-pass.
We graded a quarter of Carson Wentz's pass attempts last night as turnover-worthy throws— Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) December 19, 2021
His reliability will be questioned throughout the rest of his career because he's never proven he can step up in the biggest moments. The 2021 playoffs offer a fresh opportunity to rewrite that narrative, but this season has given little reason to believe in him as a real franchise star.
At worst, Reich and general manager Chris Ballard will have bought themselves time by acquiring Wentz and reaching the playoffs. Moving a significant asset in a 2022 first-rounder, which officially met requirements when Wentz surpassed the 75% playing time stipulation placed on the trade last week, is a heavy price to pay. The only other option the Colts may have had last offseason was to move that pick to acquire either Justin Fields or Mac Jones.
The long-term impact of the move is still incomplete, though. Wentz is not as reliable or effective as his numbers suggest, and the expected availability of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Matt Ryan this offseason makes settling on a game-manager especially difficult to accept. Imagine telling the boss, Jim Irsay, we're still a quarterback away from competing for a Super Bowl despite acquiring an expensive veteran quarterback.
While Wentz has shown flashes throughout his entire career, especially in 2017 when the Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl after his ACL injury, there are way too many questions around him to consider him "the guy" for the Colts.
Photo: Getty Images