Nick Foles is hitting the open market at just the right time.
He showed that his 2017 run was no fluke by saving the Philadelphia Eagles' season when called into action again in 2018. Foles led the league in completion percentage and yards during a three-game win streak to close the regular season in place of an injured Carson Wentz, and he helped the Eagles to a road playoff win over the Chicago Bears before they fell to the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round.
For all his recent accomplishments in Philly, the reigning Super Bowl MVP is expected to be on the move this offseason. A number of teams will be looking to upgrade at quarterback, and Foles is arguably the best of the available signal-callers.
Will the Eagles parlay that into a trade? Where might he end up? And what are the different dynamics at work? Let's dive in:
Any way Foles is back with the Eagles next year?
Unlikely, barring a change in the front office's thinking. The Eagles have publicly committed to Wentz as their starter moving forward, and Foles wants a chance to lead a team full time. While he loves Philly and is someone who very much prioritizes a strong fit (he almost retired after a bad experience with the Rams), Foles should be able to find a situation he's comfortable in and command a salary that the Eagles can't justify paying. It's time to move on.
But isn't there an option year in his current contract?
Very astute of you. Here's how it works: The Eagles have until Feb. 10 to exercise a $20 million option in Foles' deal for 2019. But Foles holds voiding power. His camp has five days from that deadline to decline the option by paying the Eagles $2 million. In other words, he can buy his way toward free agency. The sense here is Foles will do just that if the Eagles trigger the option.
Can the Eagles exercise that option and then trade him?
Don't see how that would work since Foles can/will buy his way out of that option year, which would leave the Eagles' trade partner with nothing. It would require Foles going along with the plan and accepting the option. Given that he'll get more than a one-year, $20 million deal on the open market, there's no real incentive for him to do that.
What about a tag and trade?
Ah, the plot thickens. The Eagles can control Foles' rights by placing the franchise tag on him. The window to tag players is Feb. 19 to March 5.
The stars would need to align for Philly to pull off a successful tag and trade. The expected salary for quarterbacks with the franchise designation in 2019 is $25 million. The Eagles can't carry Foles on the books at that number as a backup and teams know that, stripping them of a leverage point. But if there is competition for Foles' services and the Eagles are confident one of those teams will step up and do to a deal to land him, and if Foles is happy with the destination and willing to sign the franchise tender, and if the team that is trading for him is confident they can sign Foles to a new deal once they acquire him, then we're talking.
What teams could be interested?
The Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins could all be in the market. Teams like the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals are viewed as maybes depending on how they decide to proceed with their respective veteran QBs. One source expects there to be about six quarterback openings in all. We'll see.
Don't think we're there yet, but the Jags make sense. They need a quarterback and might favor a veteran who gives them a chance to compete right away. Their new offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, was Foles' quarterbacks coach when the Eagles won the Super Bowl last year. He would presumably know how to build an offensive system that Foles is comfortable in.
How will this play out?
I'm no fortune-teller, my friend, but let's try and piece it all together: If the Eagles exercise the 2019 option, Foles almost certainly will opt out of it, handing the team back $2 million. If my math is correct, $2 million is greater than zero, so it seems like a good bet that the Eagles will trigger this transaction. They will then explore the tag-and-trade avenue. If they find a dance partner that Foles is interested in, they'll place the tag on him. Otherwise, they'll let Foles walk and be satisfied with the compensatory pick that they receive for losing him in free agency -- likely a third-rounder.