The Eagles announced this week that they won’t be applying the franchise tag to quarterback Nick Foles. On the surface, it’s good news for Foles. At a deeper level, it means that Foles won’t be guaranteed nearly $25 million this year.
So what will he get on the open market? It’s unclear how many teams will jump into the bidding for the 30-year-old’s services. Last year, however, it took only two teams (the Vikings and the Jets) to get Kirk Cousins $84 million fully guaranteed on a three-year deal.
With the Broncos trading for Joe Flacco (as of March 13), not many teams have an obvious need for a starting quarterback in 2019. The universe of franchises that need someone now currently consists of the Dolphins, the Jaguars, and Washington. With Alex Smith still on the books for plenty of injury-guaranteed money in Washington, Foles’ future could come down to Miami and Jacksonville. And if one of those teams doesn’t want Foles, it could come down to one. (If neither wants Foles, he’s got a little problem.)
So what can a Super Bowl MVP with a decidedly mixed bag of career production get on the open market? Kirk Cousins got his $28 million per year without winning many/any big games. But Foles has won games at the highest level of the sport. And his low point came with the Rams, a place where pre-McVay plenty of quarterback careers went to die — or at least to end up in a coma.
Then there’s the question of whether the teams that need quarterbacks will prefer to pay a veteran or roll the dice on a rookie. Last year’s quintet of first-round quarterbacks, all of whom passed the eyeball test, may cause teams to look toward the draft, where signal-callers come far cheaper than they do in free agency.
Still, if a significant market were in place for Foles, the Eagles would have tagged him and traded him. They surely tried, and obviously didn’t succeed. Which means that no one wanted to give the Eagles a draft pick and to pay Foles nearly $25 million for 2019, and/or to sign him to a long-term deal with the franchise tag as the starting point.
Without the draft-pick compensation to the Eagles, will someone pay him $25 million or more per year? That undoubtedly will be the target for Foles, given that players like Derek Carr (no playoff wins), Matthew Stafford (no playoff wins), Jimmy Garoppolo (no playoff wins), Cousins (no playoff wins), Matt Ryan (no Super Bowl wins), and Aaron Rodgers (one Super Bowl win) are making that much or more.
Also, with the salary cap now at $188.2 million, $25 million represents only 13.2 percent of the cap. Given that Foles has stepped up and played well in the biggest of spots, that seems like a small percentage to devote to the most important player on the field.