January 06, 2019
Win or lose against the Bears on Sunday, Nick Foles has played too well and has shown too much upside for the Eagles to afford to keep him as their backup next season.
Enjoy watching him this January, because he won't be an Eagle next year. His contract and value more or less makes that impossible.
Why are we talking about this right now? Well, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport went on TV and said that the Eagles want to trade Foles.
In case you don't want to watch the clip, here's the important quote:
"My understanding, talking to several general managers around the league, the belief is that the Eagles will in fact be able to trade Nick Foles again,” Rapoport said.
(The first time Foles was traded, by the way, it was to the Rams for Sam Bradford... who eventually was flipped for the draft picks needed to move up to take Carson Wentz. Funny how these things connect.)
Trading Foles again is easier said than done, however. Here's our Eagles expert Jimmy Kempski's explanation of Foles' contract from one of his live chats back in December:
The Eagles can pick up an option on Foles for the 2019 season, which would pay him a salary of $20 million. However, Foles can buy his way to free agency by paying back a $2 million signing bonus he received when they amended his deal earlier this year. He would almost certainly pay that back to assure his free agency, as he would (a) be able to pick his new team, as opposed to being traded to one of the Eagles' choosing, and (b) might actually make more than $20 million on the open market, especially given the fact that Kirk Cousins got 3 years, $84 million (all guaranteed) a year ago.
So yes, it would be almost impossible to trade him. [Live Chat 12/26]
Of course the Birds would want to get something for Foles. They have one of the best young quarterbacks — when healthy (which yes, is a concern) — under contract for the next two seasons at an affordable rate, and in case you forgot, he played like an MVP last season. He also played like a top tier quarterback this year, even though he never was fully healthy, throwing 21 touchdowns to just seven interceptions with a QB rating over 102.
Wentz is 26. Foles will be 30 in two weeks.
Like it or not, Foles' contract paired with the Wentz situation means that a harsh business decision will come for Howie Roseman and the Eagles front office sometime around March when the new league year begins.
WIP's Elliot Shorr-Parks wrote about the difficulty in trading Foles and touched on what could be the most sensible option — declining his option and then hitting him with the franchise tag.
From Foles perspective, picking up the mutual option doesn’t make much sense, unless the Eagles agree to trade him to the team of his choice. A interesting wrinkle in the contract that could entice Foles to allow that to happen is that in order to decline his part of the mutual option, Foles has to pay the Eagles $2 million. Foles could decide to agree to the option, saving the money, and then hope the Eagles would trade him to the team of his choice. That would save Foles money and allow the Eagles to get some kind of asset back for Foles, as opposed to him simply walking as a free agent.
If Foles declines the option, the Eagles could use the franchise tag on Foles, which would increase his cap hit for around $25 million, but would then allow the Eagles to trade Foles. If he is indeed the most coveted quarterback available this offseason, the idea of the Eagles landing a second-round pick or better for Foles shouldn't be ruled out. [94 WIP]
Let's not discount the rest of the NFL's savvy here. Teams know Foles can and likely will be a free agent. Would they rather negotiate with Foles himself? Or part with a draft pick to pick up a salary they have no say over?
There is a huge risk that Philly is stuck with upwards of $20 million in salary for Foles next season if they either take his option or slap him with the franchise tag. The team is already projected to be more than $11 million OVER the 2019 salary cap and needs to shed or renegotiate with several players to make things work. Committing all that money to Foles unless they have a willing and ready trade partner prior is a huge risk.
It also bears mentioning that two of the teams likely in the market for a quarterback next season are in the Eagle's division, the Giants and the Redskins.
Other options for Foles include the Dolphins, Jaguars and Broncos. It wouldn't make much sense for Foles to head to a team in rebuild mode, like the Raiders, nor would it make sense that a team with a young QB like the Cardinals or Jets pay a premium for him as a back up.
The options will probably be extremely limited.
The Nick Foles era is fast approaching its conclusion in Philly — assuming he doesn't make a third return to Philadelphia in his mid-30s to back up Wentz again in the future. While he's a local legend and the only Philadelphia quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl for this football-crazed city, there are very few logical scenarios that would put him back here next season.
That being said, four more wins this postseason (or possibly even three) could change everything. Even noting the above logic, it would be hard to justify trading away a back-to-back championship winning quarterback. The best Eagles fans who are in Team Foles can hope for is another Super Bowl run to make things impossibly difficult for the front office.
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