With the contract dance between the Eagles and quarterback Nick Foles already progressing to the point at which the final decision rests in the hands of the team, the player needs to take full advantage of his leverage. And he has plenty.
With the Eagles apparently hoping to tag and trade Foles, Foles and his representatives should be prepared to counter any attempt to block his path to the open market, either by persuading the Eagles not to do it or by challenging the effort, or both.
First, Foles should take the position that, if the Eagles apply the franchise tag, he’ll immediately accept it, putting him under contract for 2019 at roughly $25 million, fully guaranteed. That’s cash and cap dollars that will apply to Foles on the Eagles’ books, unless and until Foles is traded. Foles also should make it clear that he won’t be signing a long-term deal, with the Eagles or anyone else. That would make it much harder to trade him, since his new team would be stepping into a Kirk Cousins-style conundrum, which would entail Foles costing $25 million for 2019 and, if tagged again, $30 million for 2020.
That could be enough to scare away any team that believes it will parlay a trade for Foles into a long-term deal, especially if the team wants to pay less than $55 million over the first two years. In turn, that could persuade the Eagles not to tag Foles in the first place.
Second, Foles and his agents should challenge the franchise tag, if it’s applied. Article 4, Section 8, subsection (b) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement states as follows: “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” If the Eagles would simply be tagging Foles to trade him, Foles should invoke this provision and fight the tag, via an expedited grievance that would be resolved before the start of free agency.
What could the Eagles say in response? Whatever it is, Foles should force them to try to come up with something other than what their strategy for the tag would apparently be: A placeholder aimed at getting the Eagles a draft pick now instead of a compensatory pick later. If the Eagles attempt with the straight face to argue that this isn’t the plan, Foles should use this ESPN report as the starting point for a scorched-earth effort to review text messages and emails to determine whether and to what extent the Eagles have spoken to other teams about a tag and trade.
Yes, the Eagles have the right under the rules to tag Foles. But unless they truly intend to employ Foles at the amount of the tag for 2019, they’re abusing the rules. Is that how the Eagles should be showing gratitude to the quarterback who delivered the team’s only Super Bowl championship?
That’s a question Foles and his agents should be asking now, as the Eagles finalize their strategy. With so many people seemingly accepting the idea that the Eagles have every right to tag and trade Foles, the sooner Foles and his agents make sure everyone realizes that: (1) the strategy isn’t appropriate; and (2) Foles will fight it, the more likely the Eagles will possibly decide to do the right thing and let Foles hit the open market.