The Eagles will not be benching Carson Wentz despite his early-season struggles, no matter how much Philly fans want to see Jalen Hurts on the field more. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson pushed aside the idea of benching Wentz while speaking on his weekly radio show Monday morning.
“You don’t go there,” Pederson said on SportsRadio 94WIP. “That’s a knee-jerk reaction.”
Pederson’s comments come after the Eagles tied the Bengals in Week 3, 23-23. Philadelphia lost its first two games before the tie, and Wentz has thrown two intereceptions in each of the Eagles’ first three contests while also losing one fumble. But Pederson also probably has a few points working in his favor when it comes to keeping Wentz as his starting quarterback.
MORE: What’s wrong with Carson Wentz?
Carson Wentz’s contract isn’t benchable
Wentz signed a new contract in June 2019. Beginning in 2021, that extension has a cap hit of more than $30 million for each year through 2024. His salary averages out to $32 million per year.
Teams don’t just bench quarterbacks earning that much money. Wentz will have the sixth-highest cap hit of any quarterback (and therefore any NFL player) in 2021, and the names around him on the list (Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Russell Wilson) won’t be benched any time soon. An NFL team making that much financial investment in even a temporary backup would likely lose some front-office folks their jobs. The Eagles are already reportedly down for more than $100 million in guarantees to Wentz on the new deal, so cutting ties quickly would be a huge sunk cost.
Stafford was the most recent big-money quarterback to get benched, with backup Dan Orlovsky taking over for Stafford after he’d thrown three interceptions against the Cardinals in 2015. At that point, Stafford was a $50-million man, due less than half the money Wentz is, and Stafford still made it back to get another big contract and be an established starter once again.
Is Jalen Hurts ready?
Hurts is exciting. The Eagles unexpectedly took him in the second round after Hurts’ graduate transfer season at Oklahoma went extremely well. But every quarterback at OU under Lincoln Riley seems to play well, so whether Hurts is a sure-thing NFL quarterback can’t just be gleaned from that.
The sample size is extremely small, but Hurts did make it on the field for three snaps in both Week 2 and Week 3. He got his first two NFL carries in Week 3, taking them for a combined eight yards. The Eagles have yet to have Hurts attempt a pass.
Hurts was always going to be a project. His passing skills at Alabama before his transfer didn’t look NFL-level, and the adjustment to an NFL offense could still take time for Hurts with the truncated offseason. The only other QB on the Philadelphia roster is Nate Sudfeld, and Wentz won’t be benched for him. And for Wentz to be benched for Hurts, the rookie would actually have to be ready to lead an NFL offense.
Eagles’ offensive line is more to blame
Wentz was sacked eight times in Week 1, then three times in Week 3. In Week 2, he wasn’t sacked because he shortened his passing aim, even keeping noted deep-threat DeSean Jackson at a much-below-average 10 yards per catch because there was simply no time to wait and throw down the field.
Lane Johnson is coming off ankle surgery, and while he’s back active, that’s not an easy injury for an offensive tackle to return to 100 percent from. Future Hall of Famer Jason Peters is 38 years old and on the decline. Beyond those two and Jason Kelce at center, the Philadelphia offensive line is young and inexperienced — and that was made worse by Andre Dillard’s season-ending biceps injury before opening day.
Wentz’s best NFL season was 2017, when he threw 33 touchdowns and the Eagles went 11-2 in his starts. That’s also the completed season that Wentz was sacked the fewest times in his pro career (28 times in 13 games). This year’s current pace would see Wentz sacked 58 times, by far a career-worst mark.
So Pederson is right that the Eagles wouldn’t be smart to bench Wentz right now. He probably won’t spend much time on the bench this season, assuming he stays healthy. But Wentz will probably spend a lot of time on his backside.