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Just as we all predicted prior to the 2017 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions after quarterback Nick Foles put together an MVP performance to cap an unforgettable playoff run.
Wait, you guys didn’t see that coming?
OK, it’s possible I didn’t either. Nor did the Eagles, who signed Foles to a two-year, $11 million contract in March, hoping only that he’d serve as an insurance policy for franchise quarterback Carson Wentz.
After a disappointing 2015 season in St. Louis and a year as a backup in Kansas City, the 29-year-old, who considered retiring in 2016, took over when Wentz suffered a torn ACL in December. And because Wentz was viewed as a top MVP candidate when that happened, it felt as though Philadelphia’s season was over.
The 2012 third-round pick looked rusty in relief of Wentz late in the regular season, but he was on fire throughout the playoffs, posting a combined 115.9 passer rating in upset victories over the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots.
The Super Bowl MVP—the man with the highest playoff passer rating in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 125 attempts—is slated to earn only $7 million as a backup quarterback in 2018.
That can’t happen, can it? You’d have to think that one of the league’s many quarterback-thirsty teams would be willing to make Philadelphia an offer it can’t refuse, especially considering that the Eagles would probably face losing Foles for no return when his contract expires in March 2019.
The way I see, there are four potential avenues for Foles in the year ahead. Let’s break them down.
1. Foles is traded this offseason
These days, there’s so much pressure on teams to find a quarterback who can win them a Super Bowl that it has to be tempting to go after a quarterback who just won one.
What if Foles is the real deal? It’s not as though he came out of nowhere—he made a Pro Bowl after posting the third-highest qualified single-season passer rating in NFL history in 2013—and now the sixth-year signal-caller can be had for just $7 million in 2018.
That’s if you’re able to dangle enough in front of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.
If you’re an Arizona Cardinals team looking to avoid a rebuild following Carson Palmer’s retirement, are you willing to part with the No. 15 overall pick? What about Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones or Budda Baker?
If you’re a Cleveland Browns team trying to finally stop the bleeding under center, are you willing to trade away any of the four picks you have in the top 35? What about Joe Thomas, Jabrill Peppers or Jamie Collins?
If you’re a New York Jets team tired of swinging and missing with quarterbacks in the draft, would you be better off sacrificing the No. 6 overall pick? Maybe your second-rounder? What about Darron Lee or Marcus Maye?
If you’re a Denver Broncos team looking to upgrade on Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian, what would your thoughts be on dealing away your early first- or second-round pick? What about Derek Wolfe, Brandon Marshall, Aqib Talib or Bradley Roby?
And if you’re the Eagles, can you justify turning down an offer involving any of those assets, knowing that Foles isn’t supposed to play in 2018 and will likely be gone in 2019?
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that the front office “would consider” trading Foles “for the right price,” noting, too, that the Eagles haven’t shied away from making trades in recent years.
There’s a good chance offers are made. The question is how much teams are willing to part with in exchange for a quarterback who hasn’t done much outside of two magnificent stretches.
Ultimately, don’t be surprised if Foles winds up starting in 2018 for the Cardinals, Browns, Jets, Broncos or Bills.
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2. Foles is retained until Wentz is ready, then he’s put on the trade market
The Eagles haven’t issued a timetable for Wentz’s recovery, but with an ACL tear (not to mention an LCL tear as well), you’re typically looking at a minimum of nine months. There have been exceptions, but it’s far too early for anyone to know if Wentz will be one of those.
“I feel very confident, I truly believe, my goal is to be ready for Week 1,” Wentz told the media last week, according to Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News. “I’m going to push and do everything I can to be ready, and I’m confident in that.”
Still, Wentz suffered the injury on December 10, which casts a fair amount of doubt on whether he’ll be able to suit up for Philly’s season opener on September 6.
The Eagles will have a target on their back as they try to fight off a Super Bowl hangover next season. Would they risk playing without both Wentz and Foles to start the season? Before pulling the trigger on a potential Foles deal, they might be better off waiting for Wentz to recover, prove that his knee is fully healed and produce in some regular-season games.
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3. Foles spends the 2018 season as Wentz’s backup before hitting free agency in 2019
If you take the above approach and Wentz isn’t ready before the midseason trade deadline, you’re probably thankful you kept Foles around. That could happen, but listen to the way the Eagles talk about Foles and their philosophy on having more than one reliable quarterback and you realize they’d probably be just fine with keeping Foles all season, regardless of what happens with Wentz.
“Our priority, as you’ve seen, is to make sure we have the very best possible other starting quarterback,” owner Jeffrey Lurie said last week, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano. “I won’t even call [Foles] a backup, because we had him evaluated as a very strong quarterback. He’s been 18-5 for us over the last 23 games when Nick has started a game and finished. His quarterback rating in the postseason—he’s a big-time, big-game player. That’s Nick.
“And we utilized about $12 million to have a second quarterback. And it may have seemed irrational, but I remember the phone call when it was [Roseman] and I talking, and we said, ‘We have an opportunity to do this. Do you have any reservations of using this $12 million this way versus other positions?’ And we both agreed this was absolutely the right thing to do. We never knew it would come to this, but we knew that Nick could win big games for us.”
With that in mind, I can envision the Eagles driving a hard bargain.
4. Foles is given a chance to take Wentz’s job
Even with Foles lighting it up in the playoffs and being crowned Super Bowl MVP, this scenario is the least likely of the four. Foles was every bit as good as Wentz the last few weeks, but the Eagles won’t likely allow this to become a quarterback controversy unless they’re unbeatable with Foles playing at an MVP level in Wentz’s stead next fall.
Even then, his leash would be short with Wentz healthy.
Philly essentially used back-to-back first-round picks on Wentz, who at the age of 25 might have been the league MVP if not for that December knee injury. The Eagles should be expected to give him the right of way throughout the 2018 season because he still has a higher ceiling than Foles and was dominant for a longer stretch in 2017.
That being said, crazier things have happened in the NFL.
For now, though, what’s next for Foles is a vacation.