Philadelphia is mulling the franchise tag in hopes of trading Foles outside of the NFC East. But the move could backfire if Foles won’t sign elsewhere.
Are the Philadelphia Eagles willing to pay quarterback Nick Foles roughly $25 million for one year to keep him from driving north on the Jersey Turnpike?
Keeping Foles from the division-rival New York Giants — assuming the Giants decide to move on from Eli Manning — appears to be the biggest consideration as the Eagles toy with the idea of putting the franchise tag on him. According to two NFL sources, Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is considering that idea after an exchange of moves that could potentially leave Foles as the top free agent quarterback on the market next month.
The Eagles believe there’s a strong chance the Giants will part ways with Manning and attempt to sign Foles if Foles hits the market.
On Tuesday, the Eagles exercised the $20 million option on Foles’ contract for the 2019 season. In turn, he exercised the $2 million buyout of that season. Philadelphia now has the option to put the franchise tag on Foles, guaranteeing him roughly $25 million for one season in hopes of trading him to another team.
There’s just one problem with doing that: Foles would likely have to cooperate with the process. Any team looking to trade anything of substance (even as little as a third-round pick) would want to sign Foles to a long-term contract. That’s where Foles’ leverage comes into play.
If the Eagles put the franchise tag on Foles, he signs it and then refuses to agree to a new deal, the Eagles might be stuck with Foles on the roster for one year at $25 million. That would force Philadelphia to make a number of difficult salary cap decisions just to keep a backup quarterback.
Or as one NFL executive indicated Wednesday: “I think Howie is overthinking this. If you put the franchise tag on (Foles), that means he and the agent are going to think $25 million a year is the starting point for a negotiation and that’s going to be too high in my opinion. I think his market is more in the $22 or $23 million range (annually) … Howie could get stuck with him at $25 million for one year.”
The Eagles are roughly $4 million over the projected salary cap of $191 million for the 2019 season. Adding $25 million for Foles would force the team to cut players such as left tackle Jason Peters, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, safety Rodney McLeod and wide receiver Nelson Agholor.
Any team acquiring Foles would have to fulfill two requirements for him. First, it would have to be a team willing to pay Foles what he wants. Second, it would have to be a team Foles wants to play for. Given that Foles nearly quit football three years ago after a bad experience with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, he is probably unwilling to play for simply any team that happens to acquire him.
At the same time, the list of teams interested in acquiring a quarterback this offseason could be somewhat limited. The Giants, Jacksonville, Miami and Washington (where Alex Smith is expected to miss next season) have the most immediate needs for a quarterback. Washington’s need is likely to be tempered by the fact that Smith could return in 2020. In addition, perhaps Denver, Cincinnati and Oakland could be in the market depending on how they view their current starters compared to Foles.