Column: Wentz deal shows the Commanders can’t call their own shots

When word broke of the Washington Commanders’ deal for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, three words came to mind — and they all start with the letter ‘D.’

Desperate, damaging and dumb.

Before I breakdown the reasoning behind each of those words, let me express this reality on Wentz: Teams (arguably too many) still believe he’s the MVP-caliber quarterback we saw before a knee injury prematurely ended his 2017 season — one that ended with the Philadelphia Eagles winning a Super Bowl without him. In the years since, it’s become apparent that 2017 was the outlier, not his multiple years of underachieving.

That’s why the Commanders, very publicly thirsty for a franchise quarterback, would chuck up this desperation, full-court heave after missing a clean look at now-Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson.

Let’s be clear: Neither Seattle nor Green Bay was likely to deal their franchise passer to another NFC team, lest they run up against them in the playoffs. So that ruled out Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, even if those big fish wanted to take their talents to Washington — which they didn’t.

Wilson picked a team with no owner over Dan Snyder’s franchise tucked conveniently close to Wilson’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, Rodgers chose the devil he knows.

That left only Deshaun Watson in Houston but he’s getting ready to go before a grand jury later this week, so for a Commanders franchise knee-deep in litigation stemming from years of misogyny and harassment, he’s (at the absolute best) the QB Washington deserves but not the one it needs right now.

So that left Wentz and a free agent class headlined by Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota — both flameout No. 2 overall picks headed to their third different team like Wentz — Cam “How Come Y’all Don’t Want Me, Man” Newton and Jameis Winston coming off a season-ending knee injury.

That brings me to the second word: Damaging. Washington gave up, at the very least, two third round picks, one in each of the next two drafts. If you think that’s marginal compensation, I’ll remind you the Commanders’ two best offensive weapons (Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson) were third round selections in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Thus, the Wentz trade is costing Washington two potential key players — and that’s not to mention the possibility of missing out on a difference-maker by moving down five spots in the second round of the upcoming draft. Is the difference between Wentz and Taylor Heinicke great enough to merit possibly losing three starters? Methinks not.

Of course, also taking into account the financial ramifications, this deal may cost Washington more than three starters. The Commanders are taking the full brunt of Wentz’s $28 million cap hit, which eats up the vast majority of their $33 million in cap space.

Washington needed to knock down Landon Collins’ unwieldy cap number ($16.2 million) anyway but now they face having to outright release him just to have enough space to improve a roster almost certain to lose All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff. (Update: Collins is reportedly out already.)

Rodgers, Wilson or Watson at $28 million is a bargain. For Wentz’s 90.1 career passer rating? Not so much.

Now for the final word: Dumb. Even if Wentz’s injury history doesn’t scare Washington, the likelihood that he’s an amalgam of all the QB failures in recent years should have.

Wentz, who like Kirk Cousins, was a vocal detractor of the COVID-19 vaccine, is currently remembered as the guy who choked away a winnable game in the regular season finale with a playoff berth on the line (also Cousins) and ushered out the door amid reports of his lack of leadership (Dwayne Haskins).

And that’s after the former No. 2 overall pick lost his starting job (a la Robert Griffin III) because he was too busy looking over his shoulder at a lesser-regarded backup.

Oh, did I mention Colts head coach (and former Maryland Terrapin) Frank Reich was touted as the one man capable of getting the most out of Wentz? Yet the man who coached Wentz to his best NFL season gave up on him after one season. That has to be the reddest of the red flags.

Maybe Ron Rivera was looking at Wentz’s 16-9 record against the NFC East. After all, that would look mighty good to a guy with a 6-6 division record. But is having improved arm strength at quarterback really worth this risk?

As I said in this week’s episode of the D.C. Sports Huddle, the best course of action — and, really, only given the available options — would be to sign Trubisky (or someone else low-risk, high-upside like Newton) and draft a QB to develop, preferably Malik Willis if he’s still on the board at No. 11 overall in the upcoming draft.

People keep laughing at my Cam-to-D. C. campaign but can you really say unequivocally that Newton on a cheap free agent contract is worse than dealing away draft picks for the right to dedicate 13% of the cap to a quarterback that’s been reliable for only a third of his career?

Regardless of what you think of the franchise’s new moniker, it certainly oozes with irony given the heaping helping of rejection from Wilson and Matthew Stafford the last two offseasons.

Washington is in command of nothing — least of all, respect.

Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on

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