Last week, Hogs Haven published a survey that asked members to choose whether they would rather have seen the front office do the Carson Wentz trade or the Matt Ryan trade.
The article detailed the terms for both trades, the contract structures for both quarterbacks, and some headline statistics for each player.
Reading through the comments from HH members, their general preference for Wentz seemed to be grounded in a few specific areas:
- Age - Wentz is 30; Matt Ryan is 37
- Upside - there were a number of commenters who felt that Ryan had passed his peak already, while Wentz has the opportunity to re-establish himself among the top-tier of NFL quarterbacks over the coming seasons.
- Headline stats - Wentz’s 2021 27:7 TD:INT ratio in comparison to the 20:12 ratio for Matt Ryan was a frequently cited stat.
Fans seemed to discount concerns about Wentz’s leadership and quick exit from the Colts, with many seeing it as the result of lazy media reporting and a meddlesome owner. Wentz supporters in the fan base tended to point to recently reported comments attributed to Colts GM Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich, who spoke glowingly about Wentz, his abilities and his future.
Those same fans also pointed the number of quotes and tweets from former Colts teammates extolling the QBs virtues and wishing him well.
The minority who would have preferred the Matt Ryan trade comprised a significant portion of the survey respondents.
Reading the comments, it seemed that they focused on:
- Trade terms - the Ryan compensation was just a 3rd round pick, while the Commanders swapped (down) in the 2nd round of this year’s draft, gave up a 3rd round pick this year, and a 3rd round pick (that can become a 2nd) in the 2023 draft.
- Skills - a lot of people in the Ryan camp seem to feel that he is a better passer than Wentz, despite the 2021 numbers.
- Leadership on and off the field - Ryan backers cited the former Falcons QB’s maturity and leadership, pointing out that he took his team to a super bowl and had them in a winning position late in the 4th quarter.
- Injuries - There was some discussion of Wentz’s injury history, and the suggestion that he may be either “injury prone” or simply unlucky.
The trade for Carson Wentz was a bit shocking when it was announced. First of all was the fact that he is a former Eagles player. Secondly, the whole issue of being traded away by the Colts before the Philadelphia front office had had the chance to use the draft picks they acquired in last year’s trade couldn’t be ignored. And Washington’s long history of not getting it right at the QB position, and the seeming 7-decade-long drought with respect to drafting and developing a franchise quarterback of our own was discussed quite a bit.
But, as I said in the previous article, Commanders fans seemed to move through the 7 stages of grief pretty fast, and, following his introductory press conference, Wentz seemed to be the recipient of a slightly warmer welcome.
It was national pundits primarily who, after the Ryan deal was consummated, argued that Ron Rivera and the front office had missed an opportunity to grab Matt Ryan by panicking when they couldn’t seal the deal to trade from Russell Wilson (which they absolutely tried to do).
A bit of clear-eyed reflection, however, pointed out that it was only Atalanta’s late entry into the Deshaun Watson derby that acted as the catalyst to force the Matt Ryan trade. It would have taken all the tea leaves in Boston Harbor for the Commies front office to have forseen Ryan’s trade availability at the time they made the deal with Indy.
Even if they had predicted Ryan’s availability, statements by the front office execs indicate that they were sold on Wentz when they agreed to trade for him, and they remain committed now.
Meanwhile, the results of this fan survey indicate that Hogs Haven members have gotten comfortable with the idea of Commander Carson leading the offense in 2022, proving yet again, that a (former) Eagle in the hand is preferable to a (former) Falcon in the bush.
In one other Reacts survey this week, a general lack of enthusiasm with the Commanders efforts this offseason was signaled by the grades given by surveyed fans.
The lack of enthusiasm may indicate more acceptance of the Wentz deal than actual enthusiasm. The lack of any big names or big dollar contracts in the current free agent period is probably another driver. But fan reaction is probably also driven by the tradeoffs that have been made.
As you can see from the lists of free agents gained from other teams versus the free agents lost to other teams, there has been an overall talent drain from the roster, which seems to be driven at least in part by salary cost concerns that resulted from the trade for Carson Wentz.
Washington has brought in only 4 free agents from other teams, while (so far) allowing at least 11 significant players from last year’s team to escape the roster (4 of these guys have not been signed to any NFL team’s roster yet, and could still be re-signed).
The team has, however, had a huge focus on re-signing its own. To date, the Commanders have re-signed at least 20 guys who were Washington Football Teamers in 2021.
The team has clearly had an eye on salary cap, as it has released some players with more expensive contracts, made liberal use of void-year contracts in re-signing players, and has clearly had an eye on value (eg. LG Ereck Flowers was cut, saving $10m; RG Brandon Scherff was not re-signed after playing on an $18m+ franchise tag in ‘21, and LG Andrew Norwell as signed on a 2-year, $10m deal that reduced the team’s investment in the offensive line. We also learned today that swing tackle Cornelius Lucas’ new contract is a thrifty 2-year, $6.42m deal that is significantly cheaper than the $8.2m number announced by his agent last week).
Beyond a focus on clearing cap space, the team may be focusing on re-signing its own, at least in part, in an effort to protect the two compensatory draft picks that the team is currently projected to be awarded in 2023.
The net result of the front office approach seems to be that the fan base is underwhelmed. The 2022 roster (pre-draft) is shaping up to look an awful lot like the 2021 roster did, with Carson Wentz subbing in for Ryan Fitzpatrick, and a few key defensive players gone for good. Keeping a 7-10 roster largely intact is not the way to excite the fan base, though survey respondents seem to recognize that the front office also hasn’t done anything really stupid.
It seems fair to say that how Carson Wentz plays will ultimately be the most significant factor in the success or failure of this offseason strategy, but it will take some special decisions in the draft to ignite any real passion from fans about the offseason roster-building done by Ron & the Martys.
Hang in there. The draft is just a month away.