After the way Nick Foles delivered in the playoffs, is there a chance he’ll be starting quarterback next season?
At Monday’s post Super Bowl press conference, that question was thrown at Eagles coach Doug Pederson multiple times. He was asked point blank if Carson Wentz will be the starter, and egged on as to whether he was considering the QB position next year an open competition.
Pederson didn’t come out with a definitive answer. But he didn’t skirt the question because he still had to think about it.
The look on his face said all that needed to be said.
True, Pederson didn’t say Wentz was his starter next year. Instead, he focused on celebrating the championship he won just 12 hours earlier. He mostly talked about this season because Foles was there with him, having just received the MVP trophy for helping win the Super Bowl.
But no, there is no open competition next year.
Foles will be forever a legend in Philadelphia for what he did the last month, but the Eagles didn’t mortgage the franchise two seasons ago to trade up to the No. 2 pick to take Wentz just to make him compete for the starting job.
No matter what the trolls say.
Skip Bayless isn’t just an old loudmouth who suggested this to get attention. There are people — actual football people — who think this might be an issue leading into the 2018 season.
That is a bad take. They all are.
Yes, it’s true that Foles was at his best in the playoffs, but a month ago half the city wanted to bench him headed into the playoffs for Nate Sudfeld, who had never started a game in the NFL. People in Philly are happy, but they aren’t crazy.
In Wentz we trust
Wentz completed just 60.2 percent of his passes this season, but he had a league-best 33 touchdown passes despite playing only 13 games, with just seven interceptions. Wentz was legendarily good on third and fourth down this season, and completed 65.5 percent of his red zone throws, with 23 touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a quarterback rating in 2017 of 101.9, fourth-best in the NFL. In two seasons in the NFL, Wentz has thrown for 7,078 yards and 49 touchdowns in 29 starts. This is his team.
In his career, Foles has thrown for 9,752 yards and 61 touchdowns in 49 games, 39 of which he started. Before his historic playoff run, Foles completed just 56.4 percent of his throws this season. Sure, he needed time to get rhythm, but it’s impossible to think he did enough to supplant Wentz as the starter next year, and yes that includes winning the MVP of the Super Bowl.
Foles is just 28 years old, but he contemplated retiring after being released by the Rams following the 2015 season. But for Andy Reid signing him as a backup in Kansas City, and Doug Pederson bringing him to Philly this year, Foles may be out of the league. That’s not to say he hasn’t shown he can start somewhere, just not here.
And so this is where things may get tricky for the Eagles. There’s surely a market for Foles via trade, especially for a team that plans to draft a quarterback, but may be looking to start a veteran next season. The Eagles could totally pull off another Sam Bradford-esque trade to snag a first or second round pick and it would be genius.
Unless Wentz won’t be healthy to start the season, which given the type of injury he has is no guarantee. Sources I’ve spoken to who are familiar with the type of knee injury Wentz suffered have indicated the rehab is usually a full year, so even if Wentz is ahead of schedule that could push his return into late September or October.
That doesn’t mean Foles starting the season would be a controversy. It would be a necessity.
And before you get started on this, no, if Foles starts the season and goes 4-0 and then Wentz is healthy enough to play, there won’t be a controversy then either. Even if Wentz loses a few games in his return and maybe throws a few interceptions, it still won’t be a controversy between him and Foles, no matter what you hear on sports talk radio. Yes, I’m taking this hypothetical a little far to make a point: This conversation is dumb.
Besides, the great thing about the Eagles this season is how selfless player were, and that stemmed from the team-first mentality of the quarterbacks. Foles knows his role on this team, as does Wentz, and that’s a credit to them as players, and as team leaders.
What the Eagles can’t do in the wake of the title is what the Phillies did after 2008: Pay guys big contracts as thank-yous for time served. Smart roster decisions need to be made this off-season, both in the short-term and long-term, and one of those will be what the Eagles do at quarterback.
The Eagles have 13 players on the roster who are unrestricted free agents, including Darren Sproles, Nigel Bradham, Trey Burton, Corey Graham and LeGarrette Blount. Torrey Smith has a team option of $5 million to return and, already, the Eagles look to be over the 2018 salary cap. Cuts will have to be made.
Moreover, long-term plans will have to be made at key positions. Jason Peters is due $11.6 million next season, which will become fully guaranteed on March 18 if he’s not released. Cutting Peters will save the Eagles $5.3 million against the cap. Jay Ajayi enters 2018 on the last year of his rookie deal, making just $705,000. If he’s part of the long-term plans for the Eagles, they’ll need to pay him a lot more.
Ronald Darby will make just over $1 million in the final year of his contract, and it’s unlikely the Eagles traded for him just to let him go after two seasons. Jordan Hicks is entering the final year of his rookie deal as well, making less than $900,000 and Brandon Graham will hit 2018 as the last year of his contract. He’s slated to make $7.75 million in 2018, but expect that salary to go way up after the way he performed this season.
All that’s a set-up for this: Sudfeld will make $630,000 next season. Foles will make more than Wentz.
Foles will make $7.6 million in the final year of his two-year deal, while Wentz, on his rookie contract, will make $7.28 million next year and $8.49 million in 2019. The Eagles will not go into 2019 without a long-term deal for Wentz, so expect his contract to be negotiated at some point during next season. The going rate for quarterbacks will push past $25 million when Wentz signs his new deal, something Howie Roseman and his staff need to take into consideration for 2019 and beyond.
Super Bowl teams have a tendency to break apart once the young quarterback earns his payday. How teams build around that — knowing the payday is coming — is what separates good front offices from the great. If there’s a controversy on the roster, it might be how much the team offers Brandon Graham or if Peters, Sproles, Corey Graham or Blount are invited back.
The one position there won’t be a controversy? Quarterback. No matter what the trolls say.