As a longtime NFL scout, Joe Douglas understands better than most why quarterbacks make the big, big bucks.
“The quarterback position is not only the most important position in football, but you could argue it’s the most important position in all of professional sports,’’ the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel was saying Tuesday.
We had received another reminder of that earlier in the day when the Seattle Seahawks made their quarterback, Russell Wilson, the highest-paid player in NFL history, signing him to a four-year, $140 million contract extension that includes a $65 million signing bonus and a whopping $107 million in guarantees.
Wilson’s $35 million-a-year extension surpasses the four-year, $134 million deal Aaron Rodgers signed with the Green Bay Packers last August.
It remains to be seen what, if any, impact Wilson’s huge payday will have on a potential new deal for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
“Any time there’s a new deal, especially if it resets the market at the top, it’s not good for the team that’s trying to sign one of its own guys,’’ said former Eagles president Joe Banner.
Despite the fact that Wentz was sidelined last December by his third major injury in the last four years – a fractured vertabra in his back – the Eagles remain fully committed to him. Wentz is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract and is eligible for an extension.
“We’ve been clear that we want Carson on this team for the long term,’’ executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said Tuesday.
The back injury, which Wentz acknowledged Monday still hasn’t fully healed, sidelined him for the final three regular-season games and the playoffs. The year before, he tore his left ACL and LCL in Week 14 and missed the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.
His final year at North Dakota State, he missed eight games with a broken wrist. He also suffered a hairline fracture of his ribs in a preseason game as a rookie in 2016 but started all 16 regular-season games.
If not for the back injury, Wentz might already have a new deal. But the injury put negotiations on hold. Now, there’s the added complication of Wilson’s extension.
The wise move for the Eagles would seem to be to wait until next year to do an extension with Wentz. See if he can stay healthy this season and recapture the MVP magic of 2017 before he shredded his knee, and then make him a rich man.
The dilemma for them is that if he has a great season, the cost of re-signing him will only go up. But are they willing to gamble $100 million in guaranteed money right now on a guy with his injury track record? Only they know the answer to that.
“Our philosophy [with the Eagles] for 20 years was, if you know you want to keep somebody, waiting can only increase the price,’’ Banner said.
“I don’t think Wilson’s deal is going to have a huge impact [on negotiations with Wentz]. But it moves the market a bit. We’ve already gone through Rodgers and Wilson. I don’t think there’s anybody else out there who is going to push the market any higher right now. So the risk of waiting goes down a little bit.’’
Like the Eagles, Wentz and his representatives also are weighing the pros and cons of getting a new deal done sooner rather than later.
“Everything depends on each side’s mindset right now,’’ Banner said. “If Carson is worried that he may likely be somebody who is going to get hurt frequently, then he’ll be very anxious to do a deal [sooner] and secure his future.
“On the other hand, he may feel that these injuries were flukes and that he’d rather wait a year and try to maximize his value.
“We don’t know what he’s thinking and we don’t know what the Eagles are thinking. But if they’re nervous about his health, they have nothing to lose by waiting a year.’’
Wentz said “it’s exciting’’ to hear that the Eagles want to sign him to a new deal. But he said he’s letting his agents handle all of that.
When the Eagles restructured tight end Zach Ertz’s contract last week and created an additional $5.76 million in cap space, many took it as an indication that they were clearing space for a new deal for Wentz. That might be the case. Or it might not be.
“In the new [cap] system, you can push that money forward,’’ Banner said. “So there’s almost a reason to create [space] even if you don’t think you’re going to use it. If you don’t use it, you push it forward [into the next league year]. If you do use it, then you’re glad you have it.’’
On a scale of 1 to 10, Banner put the likelihood of the Eagles signing Wentz to an extension before the start of the season at 7.