The draft-pick compensation in trades for two former franchise quarterbacks are virtual locks as we continue Week 13 of the season.
The Carson Wentz and Baker Mayfield trades this offseason came with conditional picks that hinged on the respective QBs playing at least 70 percent of their teams' snaps. Through 12 games, it's now mathematically improbable that either quarterback will reach that mark in the regular season, and their former teams won't get as rich in draft capital next spring.
When the Commanders traded for Wentz and his contract this offseason, they dealt a third-round pick to Indianapolis as well as a conditional third that could turn into a second if Wentz played 70% of the snaps. (The teams also swapped 2022 second-round picks.)
The Commanders have played 834 offensive snaps so far this season, according to Pro Football Reference. Wentz has played in 422 of those snaps. If the team averages about 70 snaps per game like it has the previous 12 games, Wentz would need to play nearly six full games to account for 70 percent of the team's snap total for 2022. Washington has just five games remaining, and Taylor Heinicke will start Sunday against the Giants.
"That had nothing to do with it," one Commanders source said recently about whether the decision to keep rolling with Heinicke as the starter was related at all to draft-pick compensation. The Commanders are amid a playoff push in a competitive NFC East, and they won't allow the idea of a third-round pick becoming a second-round pick influence what they do down the stretch of a playoff run.
When Carolina dealt for Mayfield, the Panthers sent a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick to Cleveland that could turn into a fourth if Mayfield played in at least 70 percent of the snaps. The former No. 1 overall pick has been benched twice this season, and he'll likely be third on the depth chart in a week when Carolina returns from its bye and faces the Seattle Seahawks.
Mayfield has played in 372 of the 705 offensive snaps in Carolina this year, according to Pro Football Reference. At that pace, he'd need to play in about five-and-a-half games in order to reach 70 percent, and Carolina only has five games remaining.
So what's next for these two quarterbacks? Wentz has the better chance of seeing the field again in 2022, but both men are on pace to be on different teams in 2023.
Mayfield is not under contract in 2023. Carolina will very likely target a franchise quarterback in the first round of the draft. The Panthers drafted Matt Corral in the third round last year, and they're more likely to retain either Sam Darnold or P.J. Walker than Mayfield, if any of the three at all.
While the Commanders are 2-4 with Wentz under center and 5-1 with Heinicke as the starter, the latter hasn't exactly played like a world-beater in his six games. The team definitely improves with Heinicke as the starter, and there's plenty to be said about that. But Heinicke's performance hasn't been so spectacular that head coach Ron Rivera couldn't turn back to Wentz in December if he needed to.
There's no guaranteed money remaining on Wentz's deal, and the Commanders can cut him this offseason with no dead-cap penalty. Depending on how Heinicke finishes the season, he could be in a line for a new deal in Washington as a pending free agent. Washington also drafted Sam Howell in the fifth round of the 2022 draft.