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Carson Wentz extension inevitable -- but still a gamble for Eagles

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Giving quarterback Carson Wentz a record-breaking contract was the easy part for the Philadelphia Eagles. He's young, talented and he plays the right position to warrant such a glorious payday. The real issue is whether Wentz can deliver on that type of investment. As promising as he's looked in his brief career, anybody who's followed the Eagles knows this is the only question worth asking right now.

The reality is that Wentz's new deal -- a four-year extension through 2024 worth $128 million that includes $66 million guaranteed at signing and a record $107.9 million in total guarantees -- isn't that shocking. He was due to reach such a stratosphere after other star quarterbacks around the league signed their own lucrative deals over the past 15 months, with Seattle's Russell Wilson being the most recent to do so before Wentz. There's also a slew of young signal-callers waiting for their own future raises, some of whom will surpass the contract Wentz just received. In fact, it's safe to assume stars like the Los Angeles Rams' Jared Goff, Houston's Deshaun Watson and Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes were as excited about Wentz's deal as Wentz was.

What all those other quarterbacks have going for them is certainty. They were drafted to be the leaders of their teams and they've all responded by playing at a Pro Bowl level. Wentz has produced individually as well. His problem is that he's struggled to stay healthy and a guy named Nick Foles dominated the postseason when Wentz was nursing those injuries.

This isn't a knock on Wentz. It's a fact. He's getting the money the Eagles have invested in him because he's benefitting from the going rate for star quarterbacks in today's market. However, his job is going to become substantially harder in the coming years. As that happens, the Eagles won't have the luxury of leaning on Foles, now a Jaguar, to make everything better in the end.

The first bet the Eagles are making with this deal is that Wentz can avoid the type of medical issues that have plagued him the last two seasons. He was off to what looked like an MVP year in 2017 -- when he threw for 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 13 games -- until he sustained a season-ending knee injury. The Eagles were 11-2 when he tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee. Even their own fans were writing them off until Foles led Philadelphia on a playoff run that culminated with a win over New England in Super Bowl LII.

Wentz wasn't nearly the player he was when he returned to action last season. He was still productive -- throwing for 3,074 yards with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions -- but the Eagles went 5-6 during his time as a starter. Wentz also went down with a back injury that sidelined him for the final three games of 2018. In stepped Foles again, as he rallied the Eagles to a playoff spot and led them to a win over the Chicago Bears in the Wild-Card Round.

In fairness to Wentz, Foles benefitted from the same factors that helped turn Wentz into a star early in his career: a strong supporting cast. When Wentz was at his best, he elevated a team blessed with a strong offensive line, reliable skill-position players and a sturdy defense. When Foles was asked to fill in, he accentuated those strengths by being himself and playing his role. Wentz was the superior talent while Foles was the more mature one.

Even if Wentz manages to stay healthy in the coming year, we all know what's going to happen to the rest of the Eagles' roster, which has often been too underrated in Philadelphia's success. The Eagles are going to start losing talent. They're going to start relying on less experienced role players. The same depth that has been their trademark the last two years will be sorely missed in future seasons because of the cost of Wentz.

It's in moments like these that teams learn what kind of quarterbacks they actually have. All these guys are going to get paid at some point, mainly because that's how the business works. The ones who ultimately prove that they're worth the investment are the stars who actually can do more with less. In other words, some quarterbacks need help to be great while the elite ones find a way to make everyone around them better.

For Wentz to be truly stellar, he can't just have the biggest bank account at the moment. He has to do what the game's greatest quarterbacks have done for years, men like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. He'll have to carry the Eagles at times, make due when some of his favorite targets leave in free agency or when he's saddled with a defense that won't always dominate. The reason people shouldn't have an issue with the four-year, $140 million deal Russell Wilson signed in April is that we've seen Wilson leading the Seahawks as nearly every key member of the vaunted "Legion of Boom" defense vanished. Hell, he earned his money simply by leading Seattle back to the postseason last year.

The problem Wentz faces is that Foles enjoyed all the moments that could've belonged to him. As much as people should celebrate the way Wentz played for most of 2017, they'll honor Foles for actually delivering the championship Eagles fans had craved for decades. It's a cruel twist of fate, that much is true. What also can't be overlooked is how Philadelphia struggled when Wentz was under center last year, even though injuries to other key players, especially on defense, factored into their issues.

So what we know about Wentz presently is easy to quantify. He's had one dominant year in the NFL. He's failed to finish two of his three NFL seasons and never even played in a playoff game. He's watched his backup quarterback lead the team to one Super Bowl win while becoming a folk hero in Philadelphia. Finally, he's now guaranteed more money contractually than anybody who's ever played professional football.

That last fact is a great story for the offseason. It means we'll spend the next few days talking about the way quarterbacks are being rewarded in this league before turning our attention to the next signal-callers seeking their own riches (we see you coming, Dak Prescott and Jared Goff). We'll also be discussing Wentz and this deal midway through next season and well into the coming years. That's because, by that point, we'll have a much better sense if he was really worth all that money.

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter @jeffrichadiha.

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