When the Commanders‘ top quarterback went down at the end of the 2020 season, and again at the start of the 2021 season, the team stuck with emergency starter Taylor Heinicke rather than looking elsewhere. This offseason, Washington spent big to land a new signal-caller, trading multiple draft picks for Carson Wentz. Coach Ron Rivera has had nothing but praise for Wentz since the QB’s arrival, but Heinicke hinted to reporters Wednesday that there’s another reason he’s now confined to the bench: money.
The 29-year-old backup was clear while addressing reporters during minicamp that he expected Washington to add QB competition this year, either via the draft or free agency. But when asked if he thinks he has any opportunity to change the staff’s mind about the starting QB job ahead of 2022, Heinicke pointed chiefly to Wentz’s salary.
“I don’t think that’s an option,” he said of his chances at reclaiming QB1 duties. “You look at the NFL and, at the end of the day, it’s kind of a business. And if you’re paying someone $30 million and you’re paying someone else $2 million, you’re paying this guy $30 million to play, you know? And that’s not me — you know, Carson’s a great QB, and you see it through OTAs and minicamp. And I hope he goes out there and succeeds. Again, my job is just to back him up. Hopefully he’s on his deal, (and) I’m helping out whatever way I can, and if for some reason he goes down, I’m ready to go play. … But again, the NFL’s a business. If you’re paying a guy a lot of money, you’re paying him money for a reason. He’s gonna go play.”
Wentz, for the record, is due $28.3 million in 2022 as part of the four-year extension he originally signed with the Eagles in 2019. Heinicke, on the other hand, is owed $3.6 million on the final year of a two-year extension he signed in 2021.
The latter isn’t necessarily saying anything controversial, by the way. By nature of not only absorbing Wentz’s deal but surrendering draft picks to do so, Washington has committed itself to the ex-Eagles and Colts starter as its primary option under center. The real controversy, in these types of situations, usually lies with the team putting itself in such a position. Wentz, for example, has been a serviceable QB, at best, since his peak in Philadelphia — not a clear-cut upgrade from Heinicke. That’s why, as Heinicke has unintentionally reiterated, the Commanders’ big bet in 2022 is that Wentz will finally prove he’s worth his price tag.