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 last season, Foles guided the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl. This 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.
Once Philadelphia’s season is over, Foles could be available for any team that needs a quarterback in 2019.
Foles isn’t guaranteed to depart from the Eagles, but his deal with Philadelphia escalates to him being owed $20 million in 2019, with both sides having the ability to agree to it or part ways (if the Eagles pick it up and Foles were to decline, he’d have to pay back a $2 million signing bonus). The Eagles could even pick up Foles’ option and then try to trade him.
But it wouldn’t be the craziest thing for the Eagles to pick up his option and pay Foles, still Wentz’s backup, $20 million in 2019. As long as Wentz is still on his rookie deal, that would still only add up to about $29 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 provided Wentz makes a full recovery, the $20 million could potentially be better spent elsewhere.
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 is 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, he 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.
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?
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?
It’s always possible that Foles remains in Philadelphia — he means a lot to that team and his salary is something the Eagles could handle. Or, if starting opportunities don’t seem that great, Foles could always re-work his deal with the Eagles to make them more likely to keep him if he’s happy staying put.
Philadelphia could also franchise tag Wentz, to the tune of about $25 million, and then try to trade him. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported there should be a “quality trade market” for Foles’ services.
Beyond that, there are quite a few teams around the league in need of a reliable quarterback, whether the Eagles sign and trade him or let him hit free agency. Currently, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos and Washington are the most starter-needy teams (Denver can get out of its large deal with Case Keenum, if John Elway wants to).
There is also, of course, the possibility of retirement. Foles hasn’t ever seemed concerned with his reputation and has talked often about his plans after football. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Foles decides the best move is to move on.
Whenever the Eagles’ playoff run ends, Foles’ future will be one of the major storylines to watch this offseason.