Taylor Heinicke will remain the Commanders’ starting quarterback for at least one more game. The terms of the Commanders’ trade with the Colts give the Commanders a strong incentive to keep Heinicke under center for at least two more games.
If Wentz plays at least 70 percent of the Commanders’ offensive snaps this season, the Commanders have to send a second-round draft pick to the Colts. If Wentz plays less than 70 percent of snaps, the Commanders send the Colts a third-round pick.
Sunday’s game will be the fifth that Wentz has missed, and five games is 29 percent of a 17-game season. So if Wentz were to return to the starting lineup after Sunday’s game, Wentz would likely finish with just over 70 percent of the snaps, and the Commanders would have to send the Colts a second-round pick.
If Heinicke starts just once more beyond Sunday, that should push Wentz under the 70 percent threshold, and the Commanders would only have to give the Colts a third-round pick.
It’s possible that none of this will matter, as Wentz may not get cleared to return from his broken finger next week.
And it’s also possible that Rivera will just decide to stick with Heinicke because the Commanders have been a better team since Wentz went down. The Commanders are 3-1 in games started by Heinicke and 2-4 in games started by Wentz this season.
And that points to the question of why the Commanders traded for Wentz in the first place. When the Commanders traded for him, they gave up draft picks for the privilege of taking over Wentz’s $28 million salary cap hit for this season. If the Commanders had just stuck with Heinicke, who spent most of last season as their starter, they could have used those draft picks and that $28 million in cap space to bolster the rest of their roster. If they’re 3-1 with Heinicke, just imagine how good they could be with Heinicke and good players they might have drafted or acquired in free agency with that $28 million.
But that’s all in the past, and there’s nothing the Commanders can do about that trade now. Except not compound their mistake by going back to Wentz and costing themselves a second-round draft pick.