Why a 2020 Compensatory Pick is the Likely End Game with Nick Foles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - When you kick the can as far down the road as possible, the only path forward is to pick that thing up and head home.
That's where the Eagles find themselves with Nick Foles and the $20 million mutual option which will likely make the Eagles backup quarterback a free agent in March.
The phrase buy low and sell high is something they live by on Wall Street but in sports, things can get a little more complicated. The Eagles certainly bought low when they brought Foles back to the organization as the veteran backup to Carson Wentz before the 2017 season but selling high would have required peddling Foles to the highest bidder after he played Mariano Rivera and closed the franchise's first Super Bowl championship last February in Minneapolis.
That "easy" decision was complicated by both emotion and Wentz's health after coming off ACL and LCL surgery so instead of garnering extra draft capital Philadelphia kicked this can down the road.
By the time Wentz was cleared in Week 3, it seemed as if Foles' value regressed to the mean after two so-so performances against Atlanta and Tampa Bay. However, when Foles was needed again late after Wentz's back injury he performed another miracle, leading the Eagles to three straight regular-season wins and a playoff upset in Chicago before people finally found out the shoe didn't fit in New Orleans last Sunday.
Even though Foles couldn't finish the deal this time the perception is that his value is back and Howie Roseman should use what leverage he does have to gain significant assets in return for Foles.
The problem comes is that leverage is usually overstated. The Eagles have until Feb. 10 to exercise their side of the option. Foles then would have five days from that point to essentially buy his free agency for $2 million.
Because Foles is likely to garner nore than $20M guarenteed on a multi-year deal in free agency, and $2M is better than nothing from a financial perspective most expect Philadelphia to exercise the option and Foles to buy his way out.
The romantic in Philadelphia believe that Foles might be willing to stay for $20M because he likes the city and organization but those observers are ignoring the Eagles' latest pledge to Wentz, along with Foles' own words of wanting to lead a team. More so, by kicking a different can down the road on a Wentz extension and paying Foles significantly more than the man he would be backing up for one more year is asking for trouble.
The even more naive believe Foles may accept the option in order to facilitate a trade and help the Eagles but that means eschewing more money and stability and giving a completely new organization the ability to look at him in its offense for a year without any assurances, simply not tenable from any player's perspective.
Once those initial machinations are out of the way the Eagles could theoretically put the franchise or even transition tag on Foles, the latter would be meaningless, however, because it only offers you the ability to match any offer and the Eagles aren't interested in that. The franchise tag would require the Eagles to essentially guarantee Foles around $25 million and would actually serve as a signal to any potential suitors to play hard ball.
After all Foles would have to sign the tender to be traded, again giving him only one guaranteed year in a new city while the other organization would have to accpet a massive salry-cap hit for 2019 while in theory also sending a significant asset or assets back to Philadelphia for the right to do that. It always only takes one in any scenario but that would be a new level of dumb from even the shakiest of franchises.
The likely exit strategy for Foles remains free agency and a potential compensatory pick in 2020 for the Eagles. And that's really not all that bad considering Philadelphia had so much fun kicking this particular can down to the end of the road.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen