Barnwell projects offseason QB dominoes: Three scenarios, including Darnold staying in New York

    Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

The last two weeks of the NFL season have turned the 2021 offseason quarterback carousel on its head. In Philadelphia, the idea that the Eagles might move on from Carson Wentz for rookie Jalen Hurts has gone from a thing you would say to troll Eagles fans to a thing you would say to excite Eagles fans.

Several train stops to the north, the Jets managed to break their own fans’ hearts by upsetting the Rams on Sunday and losing a hold on the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Jets would get rid of Sam Darnold and draft Trevor Lawrence, but now that it seems like the Clemson star quarterback is likely headed to the Jaguars with the top pick, the Jets have all options on the table.

Let’s evaluate three big decision points for this offseason and figure out what might happen next, with the predicted dominoes that could fall. I’ll use the ESPN Football Power Index’s projected draft order as the expected draft order at the end of the season.

Each of these three scenarios is independent of one another, and I’ll try to make each team’s logic clear in why these moves might make sense. I’ll use Spotrac’s estimates for 2021 cap space, which will inform the decisions each team makes. Let’s start with a scenario we couldn’t possibly have considered before this season began:


Scenario 1: Carson Wentz on the move

As we’ve discussed over the past couple of weeks, if the Eagles decide that they want to move on from their former franchise quarterback, there’s one team that is the most likely destination …

The Eagles trade Wentz to the Colts for a third-round pick and a conditional 2022 selection.

The Colts are the best candidate for Wentz. Eagles fans won’t be thrilled about the price tag, but the organization has virtually no leverage in making this deal and can’t afford to take on an expensive replacement. The addition that makes this deal work is that conditional pick; let’s say that the Eagles get a third-round pick in 2022 if Wentz makes it to the Pro Bowl or a second-round pick if he’s a Pro Bowler and the Colts make it to the AFC Championship Game.

The Eagles would move forward with Jalen Hurts as their starter, but they would still want to add a backup in case Hurts struggles or gets injured. With limited cap space, the Eagles can pursue an old friend …

The Bears trade QB Nick Foles to the Eagles for TE Zach Ertz and a 2021 sixth-round pick.

Chicago doesn’t have much cap space either, but Ertz’s $8.3 million salary would swap in as a replacement for Jimmy Graham, who is likely to be cut after the season. We all know how much general manager Ryan Pace loves his tight ends, and Ertz would step in alongside Cole Kmet in two-tight end sets for the Bears.

Foles has a $4 million base salary in 2021, which makes him financially feasible for his former team. What could the Bears do after parting ways with Foles?

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