Carson Wentz surprised by trade, happy to be 'wanted' by Washington Commanders

ASHBURN, Va. -- After being traded twice in one year, new Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz on Thursday let it be known that it was good to be "wanted."

"Knowing that you're wanted and feeling that support means a lot," Wentz said during his first news conference with Washington. "It allows me to play confidently, freely, which will allow me to play my best ball."

Washington acquired Wentz in a trade that became official Wednesday, swapping second-round picks with the Indianapolis Colts and also giving them a third-round pick this year and a conditional third-rounder in 2023. The Commanders also received a seventh-round pick.

"Definitely surprised," Wentz said of the trade. "Anytime you're in a new place, you want it to work out. God willing, it works out for a long time. It didn't [in Indianapolis]. God changed our plan and here we are."

Wentz struggled to understand what went wrong in Indianapolis.

"It's a great question," he said. "And completely fair question. And sometimes I wonder the same, to be honest. The way we finished, the way I finished, was poor. ... We just kind of collapsed and I didn't play well enough at the end."

For Wentz, it's another new stop. He spent one year with the Colts after spending five years with the Philadelphia Eagles, who made him the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft. He arrives in Washington with many questions, but he also joins a franchise that has long sought stability at quarterback.

Washington has started 32 different quarterbacks -- including nine over the past three seasons -- since it last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. The result is a franchise that ranks last in total QBR over the past four seasons.

That's why Washington was willing to not only surrender two picks, but also was fine with the Colts not paying any portion of Wentz's $28 million salary this season.

Commanders coach Ron Rivera said he didn't want money to be the holdup to a possible deal. And he said they did not want to wait to see if the Colts would cut him.

"The biggest reason was the sense of urgency," Rivera said. "When you have an opportunity to get a young man [with] that type of ability, you have to strike. We didn't want to put ourselves in a position [where] we were going to have to outbid anybody. We wanted to make sure we got what we wanted."

Rivera said the cost will be forgotten if they have success on the field. He said nobody remembers what the Los Angeles Rams gave up to get quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Said the coach, however: "I get [the criticism] if it doesn't work."

Washington also wanted Wentz to get a clear idea of how much they wanted him, which is partly why it held a news conference in the auditorium -- the first one in that locale since Rivera was hired in January 2020, before the pandemic struck.

Rivera said acquiring Wentz won't stop them from drafting a quarterback -- if one they like falls to them in any round -- but the need is no longer there because they now have Wentz.

"He is our QB1 going forward, and I'd love to see this be a very long tenure," Rivera said. "I really mean that."

He also sold Wentz on Washington's vision of the future, coming off a name change and trying to build something the franchise hasn't seen in a while: sustained success. Washington hasn't posted a winning season since 2016 and hasn't made back-to-back playoff appearances since 1991-92.

"It's a clear vision of where they want to go," said Wentz, who was accompanied by his wife and two young daughters. "It gives me chills. It gives me goosebumps."

Wentz, who wore a gold blazer with a burgundy collared shirt -- the team's colors -- was asked about the criticisms of him, including those from Colts general manager Chris Ballard.

"Which criticisms?" Wentz said, smiling. "There are a lot of things out there.

"It goes back to just trying to mature. Trying to keep growing, keep evolving as a player. Running around and making all those big plays, there's a time for that, but you know, trying to just be smart, and just keep the offense on the field, keep the ball moving, stay healthy, stay upright."

Wentz owns the NFL's 12th-best total QBR since 2017; he was ninth last season after throwing 27 touchdown passes to seven interceptions. His worst game last season came with a playoff spot on the line in the Colts' regular-season finale, when he recorded a QBR of 4.3 in a 26-11 loss to Jacksonville.

Wentz has thrown 124 touchdown passes since his second season, ranking eighth during that time. But here he is, with his third team in three seasons.

"I try not to use that solely as motivation," Wentz said. "Definitely it's humbling without a doubt, to go from where I was in Philly to being benched and traded. I'm aware of what that does, and I try and just stay optimistic. I don't hold a grudge, try not to walk around like there's a chip on my shoulder. It definitely refuels my fire for the game."