Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts will make his first NFL start Sunday, but team sources told ESPN that the Eagles still have every intention to keep Carson Wentz and have him be a major part of their team.
Despite his struggles throughout this season, the Eagles still believe in Wentz, 27, as a player and a person, and they think he can return as the type of standout quarterback he once was, according to team sources.
"None of this changes the belief that people have in Carson," one team source insisted to ESPN this weekend.
Player and team sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that they believe the switch to Hurts could be for the rest of the season.
Philadelphia doesn't know what the future holds for Wentz. But the Eagles are on the clock, in a sense, to decide Wentz's immediate future with the organization.
The Eagles must make a decision by the second day of the 2021 league year -- sometime in mid-March -- because on the third day of the league year, Wentz's $22 million base salary for 2022 becomes fully guaranteed and his 2021 roster bonus of $10 million also is paid out.
The Eagles could cut Wentz and designate him as a post-June 1 release. In this case, they still would owe him his 2021 salary of $25.4 million -- $15.4 million base salary and a $10 million roster bonus. Wentz's total cap hit would be $59.21 million, but if he is designated as a post-June 1 release, the Eagles would be allowed to spread the cap charge over two years.
Philadelphia also could trade Wentz -- and if the Eagles complete a trade before the third day of the 2021 league year, they would not owe him his $10 million roster bonus and the team that acquires him would take on his $25.4 million salary.
The Eagles then would be on the hook for $33.82 million worth of salary-cap charges -- $9.27 million of signing bonus proration and another $24.55 million of guaranteed money from 2022 to 2024. They could not use a post-June 1 designation on a trade to spread out any cap charges. One NFL executive told ESPN this past week that the best of these scenarios might be to trade Wentz and eat the accelerated guarantees.
Although the Eagles have benched Wentz, the organization is still standing behind him, as was evident this past week when veteran team leaders Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce voiced their support for him publicly.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is not second-guessing coach Doug Pederson on the switch to Hurts down the stretch, sources told Mortensen. Lurie's approach is that he fully supports the coach and won't intervene on in-season decisions, sources said.
Philadelphia (3-8-1) is mired in a four-game losing streak and is third in the NFC East entering Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.
This has been the worst season of Wentz's career. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2016 draft ranks first in the NFL in interceptions (15) and sacks (46), 31st in completion percentage (58.1%) and 30th in yards per attempt (6.02).
Hurts played 33 snaps over the first 11 games, lining up all over the formation while being used mostly as a gadget player. With increasing calls for Hurts to take more snaps in recent weeks, the former Oklahoma star saw an increase in first-team reps at quarterback before Philadelphia's Week 12 game against Seattle. He replaced Wentz off the bench last Sunday against Green Bay.
ESPN's Tim McManus contributed to this report.