Ex-No. 2 Overall Pick Named ‘Smartest’ QB Trade Option for Steelers

Mike Tomlin

Getty Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“There’s no shortage of options” for the Pittsburgh Steelers to explore in terms of a quarterback trade, notes The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly in his February 24 column.

But if the organization wants to pursue a trade, “the smartest option” might be former No. 2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz, who Kaboly describes as “the beleaguered quarterback that went from getting MVP votes as a second-year starter to being shipped out of Philadelphia four years later, (only) to alienate Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay with back-to-back losses to end the season that inexplicably kept the Colts out of the playoffs.”

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Carson Wentz & the Colts: A ‘Bad Marriage’

Last week Bob Kravitz of The Athletic opined that “Wentz is as good as gone” from Indianapolis, calling the situation between player and team a “bad marriage” that cannot continue. As such, Wentz, who is 29, seems destined to be traded (or released) before March 18, the date that his $5 million roster bonus becomes guaranteed.

In order to make a trade, the Colts are going to need to absorb some of Wentz’s 2022 cap hit, as no NFL team is going to be willing to take on his $22 million salary and $28.2 million cap hit, both figures coming courtesy of overthecap.com. After all, other clubs are well aware that the Colts will incur a $15 million dead cap hit if they release Wentz.

Why Wentz Might be Attractive to the Steelers

One of the best things about Wentz’s contract—which runs through the 2024 season—is that it includes no guaranteed money after this season. Plus, if things went well with the Steelers, he has very manageable cap hits for 2023 and 2024, maxing out at $27.2 million in ’24.

He also managed a nearly 4-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio (27 TDS, 7 INTs) in 2021, making all 17 starts despite being hampered by a foot injury in training camp and an ankle injury suffered in Week 2. After six seasons in the league, Wentz has a winning record (44-40-1) and a 90.1 career passer rating, having thrown 140 touchdown passes against 47 interceptions.

“Wentz has a strong arm, is mobile enough to extend plays (he had 215 yards rushing and 21 first downs last season) and by all indications is liked by his teammates,” adds Kaboly, before noting that the Steelers could also wait to see if the Colts can find a trade partner. If not, the team could try to sign him as a free agent, at which point they might have more competition for his services.

Other Trade Options for the Steelers

Kaboly doesn’t like any of the other quarterback trade options nearly as much, including 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo, who he regards as marginally better than Mason Rudolph. For what it’s worth, The Athletic’s Bay Area Editor-in-Chief, Tim Kawakami, recently predicted that Garoppolo will be traded to the Steelers before the end of February.

Nor does he like the idea of trading for Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders, because there would need to be a contract extension along with a trade, which would require a real leap of faith about Carr being Pittsburgh’s extended-term answer at the position.

Most of the other possibilities—like Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Deshaun Watson (Texans), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Kirk Cousins (Vikings)—are realistic, at least in Kaboly’s estimation.

However, he calls the Eagles’ Gardner Minshew an “interesting option,” noting that “Minshew would fit more into that veteran competition role that the Steelers would love to add over anointing him the starter.”

Never mind the fact that Minshew is scheduled to earn a salary of just $2.54 million in the last year of his contract, according to overthecap.com. “He has no guaranteed money, so if things don’t work out, so be it,” concludes Kaboly.

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