Nick Foles has to be considered the best backup quarterback in the league at this point, and he’s shown enough in that role that he could earn a job as a starting quarterback. In relief of Carson Wentz in the 2017 season, Foles guided the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl. This past season, Foles pushed the Eagles to 9-7 down the stretch and into the playoffs, where they won their wild card game against a tough Bears team and had a spirited contest with the Saints in the Divisional Round.
Foles didn’t have a great game against the Saints, but the most pivotal play, an interception of his, was on another player, as the pass went right through the hands of Alshon Jeffery. Foles finished that game 18-of-30 for 201 yards, a touchdown and (technically) a pair of interceptions.
Now that the season is over, Foles is available for any team that needs a quarterback in 2019.
The Eagles are letting Foles hit free agency
Foles’ deal with Philadelphia was set to escalate to a $20 million salary in 2019, with both sides having the ability to agree to it or part ways. The Eagles exercised that option, but Foles declined it and will have to pay back a $2 million signing bonus.
That means the only way the Eagles could retain Foles would be by placing the franchise tag on him. There were reports that the team might try to do this earlier in the offseason.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Philadelphia would try to trade Foles for a third-round pick, potentially after retaining him with the franchise tag. That would add approximately $7.5 million to his salary in 2019 — the average of the top five salaries at his position across the NFL.
It wouldn’t have been the craziest thing for the Eagles to franchise tag him and still keep him as Wentz’s backup in 2019. As long as Wentz is still on his rookie deal, that would still only add up to about $35 million of the Eagles’ salary cap going to quarterbacks — which is less than some quarterbacks get on their own. It would also give them the security of having a proven and stable backup quarterback. But with Wentz expected to make a full recovery, the money could potentially be better spent elsewhere.
In the end, the Eagles decided not to tag Foles, letting him become a free agent:
Let’s take a look at where Foles has been, where he is and where he might be going.
What Foles has done recently
Foles replaced Carson Wentz, who was dealing with a back injury and is expected to be fine after some rest, in December. He led the Eagles to three consecutive wins to just barely make the postseason. In those three games, Foles threw six touchdowns against three interceptions while completing well over 70 percent of his passes.
That was a marked improvement from Foles’ first two games of the season, before Wentz made his 2018 debut. Foles threw just one touchdown and one interception with a 78.9 passer rating. That number jumped to 108.4 in his final three games of the regular season.
He added another win in the playoffs, this time against the Bears, before falling to the Saints. His postseason numbers dipped, though. In those two games, he completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 467 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. However, he led the Eagles on a game-winning drive against the Bears and might have pulled off the same against the Saints if Jeffery hadn’t dropped his pass.
In 2017, Foles took over for Wentz for the first time after the starter tore his ACL in December. He went on to lead the Eagles to three consecutive wins before the playoffs. There, he bested the Falcons in the Divisional Round, the Vikings in the NFC Championship and the Patriots in the Super Bowl, earning Super Bowl MVP with three touchdowns and 373 yards in the game.
That’s a pretty stellar recent history.
Didn’t he suck at one point?
Well, Jeff Fisher makes fools of us all, doesn’t he? In truth, Foles wasn’t particularly great in eight games for the Eagles in 2014, completing just 59.8 percent of his passes for 2,163 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions — a clear regression from his 27:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio from 2013, his breakout year.
But it got worse in St. Louis, where he completed just 56.4 percent of his passes for 2,052 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 11 games with the Rams. His play was simply not good under Fisher, and after such a harrowing experience, he was considering retirement.
What’s that about retirement?
Yes, retirement. Foles stepped away from the game and was mulling his future when he got the opportunity to work with Andy Reid again on the Chiefs. He came back to do just that, and said it was entirely because of Reid that he did. He didn’t play much as a backup in Kansas City, but his NFL career was revitalized, leading to him re-signing with the Eagles in 2017.
Is he a starter?
Looking at his body of work as a whole, Foles would appear to be one of the better veteran options likely to be available this offseason, including guys like Blake Bortles, Ryan Tannehill, and Teddy Bridgewater. Foles falls at No. 10 on our top free agents list of 2019.
In 54 career games, he’s completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 11,165 yards, 68 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. He posted a completion percentage of 72.3 this past regular season.
And, of course, you have the intangibles. He plays his best when the stakes are high, an incredibly valuable trait for a starter, and one that is rare for a backup. He’s been well-liked in the locker room in Philadelphia, and he’s been durable throughout his career.
The biggest concern, of course, is his lacking play in previous years. Is he only going to be good with the Eagles, or could he transition to another team and find success? That’s the gamble, but he’ll almost assuredly get a chance to start going forward.
So where does he go from here?
There are quite a few teams around the league in need of a reliable quarterback. Currently, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and Washington are a few starter-needy teams, with the Jaguars likely being the favorites.
It might be bittersweet for Foles and the Eagles to move on, but it’s not unexpected. After their loss to the Saints, Foles sounded like he was saying goodbye:
“No matter what happens it’s been a joy being here every single day, being in this locker room, wearing this jersey, being a part of this city,” Foles said. “We’ll see what happens.”
“He’ll always be remembered in Philadelphia for bringing a Super Bowl to this city. So, a lot of great things for him and we’ve got these next few weeks, few months to make some tough decisions, but we’ll make them at that point,” head coach Doug Pederson added.
But now, Foles gets a chance he’s earned again: to be a team’s No. 1 quarterback. It looks like the lucky team to pay for his services in 2019 will indeed be the Jaguars. He’s expected to sign with the club — who will in turn release Blake Bortles — once free agency officially begins on March 13.