The Los Angeles Rams and Carson Wentz have met at the perfect time and it could be in the best interest of both parties to stay connected beyond 2023. For that reason, the Rams need to give Wentz as many opportunities as they can this season, which means that L.A. should give the new guy starts as soon as it can happen without rocking the boat with Matthew Stafford.
Maybe even as soon as Week 12 against the Arizona Cardinals.
With Aaron Rodgers on the mend, the oldest starting quarterback in the NFL is Stafford, which at 35 should really re-set in the minds of Rams fans that Tom Brady’s longevity is an outlier that won’t be matched. Not even close: Brady retired 10 years older than all but one starting quarterback in the NFL just one season after he left for broadcasting school.
Preparing for games without Stafford
Being associated with words like “toughness” is perfect for a quarterback in the beginning and middle of his career, but that durability can take a toll when you’re the eldest statesman of the position. Stafford went from not missing a start between 2011 and 2018 to missing half of 2019, half of 2022, and the Rams’ most recent game. Despite missing half of 2022 and having to start four different quarterbacks, L.A.’s regime decided not to pursue a quality veteran backup in trade or free agency, a decision that led to risking the role on fourth round rookie Stetson Bennett and practice squad-quality backup Brett Rypien.
Bennett has spent the year on the Non-Football Injury list with “mystery” and Rypien is now on the practice squad of the Seattle Seahawks.
These moves led to the signing of Carson Wentz after he had spent the entire offseason and regular season as a free agent, giving the Rams more experience behind Stafford, something they’ve had twice before with other former top-3 picks: Blake Bortles behind Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield’s short stint after being added through waivers in 2022. Mayfield gave L.A. a chance to win without Stafford, going 1-3 as a starter and 1-0 in his debut in relief of John Wolford.
Carson Wentz taking practice reps with Rams pic.twitter.com/ixqlZayBlD— Gary Klein (@LATimesklein) November 15, 2023
Keeping Mayfield would have been ideal, but he played his way out of that opportunity by earning the chance to win one of the easiest quarterback competitions in recent memory: Beating out Kyle Trask to replace Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Mayfield is now something of an average NFL starter, which is not bad at all given where he was a year ago, and it’s not that hard to believe that Wentz could play his way into a similar position. Something he could prove on the L.A. Rams.
When should Rams give Wentz a chance?
At 3-6, the Rams are not eliminated from the NFC playoffs but their odds of 14% are not very good and would require a surprising winning streak that has to start this Sunday against the Seahawks.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford gives thumbs up on injury, new backup Carson Wentz— Gary Klein (@LATimesklein) November 16, 2023
Wentz: "I’ve had to learn the playbook every year, never in-season like this, so sometimes I feel like I’m drinking from a fire hose at times."https://t.co/Fr474kSpaY
Losing to Seattle and falling to 3-7 would all but end L.A.’s playoff hopes. With seven games left on the schedule after that, how many more times should Sean McVay really put Stafford at risk of getting injured or putting more wear and tear on his body when there isn’t anything to play for other than pride? It may not be Stafford’s preference to sit, but if he understands that is in the best interest of the franchise to protect him (Stafford has a fully-guaranteed $31 million base salary in 2024 and the Achilles tears suffered by Rodgers and Kirk Cousins serve as a reminder that you can never be too careful with your quarterbacks) and to find out what they have in Wentz, then the team could be doing what’s best by making a change.
Aaron Rodgers: Achilles
Kirk Cousins: Achilles
Deshaun Watson: Out for season
Daniel Jones: Out for season
Anthony Richardson: Out for season?
Joe Burrow: Injured
The Rams are killing two birds with one stone, protecting Matthew Stafford so that he makes it to the 2024 offseason as a healthy quarterback and also shaking the rust off of Wentz and seeing what he can do in the McVay offense. Wentz has struggled recently, especially in the last three seasons, but he also had to learn a new offense every year as he went from the Eagles to the Colts to the Commanders. He’s doing that again with the Rams and it seems in the best interest of everyone involved to give him live game reps in December and January if L.A.’s record and current franchise quarterback allow for it to happen.
Then the team can work to re-sign Wentz as a backup in 2024, since he’s someone that they could have really used from the start of 2023.