Can Nick Foles Save the Kansas City Chiefs?
The Kansas City Chiefs are slowly but surely building the foundations of a serious contender.
Six players from the 2012 roster eventually made their way to the Pro Bowl, and there are difference-makers on offense, defense and special teams. At head coach, the Chiefs brought in a respected and accomplished winner in Andy Reid. John Dorsey, the new general manager, brings a rich history of team-building from his time in the Green Bay Packers' front office.
The biggest puzzle piece missing now just happens to be the biggest of all the pieces: a franchise quarterback.
The Chiefs and new coach Andy Reid are interested in acquiring Foles if he becomes available, according to a person informed of the team's thinking. The person, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because the Chiefs haven't discussed their thoughts publicly, said the team is working on plans to add a quarterback and considers Foles a possibility.
Foles, a third-round pick of Reid's and the Eagles' in 2012, played in seven games after Michael Vick went out with a concussion last season. If Reid can't find a better option or wants to continue working with the 24-year-old, a deal for Foles makes sense.
Certainly, recent returns from the quarterback position have held the Chiefs back from being a contender.
Over his four years in Kansas City, Cassel is just 19-28 overall, with 59 touchdowns, 44 interceptions and a 77.5 passer rating. In his one playoff appearance, Cassel threw three picks as the Baltimore Ravens steamrolled the Chiefs, 30-7, at Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas City is just 5-12 in games Cassel has started since 2011.
Owed $7.5 million in 2013 and $9 million in 2014, Cassel is a predictable cut for the Chiefs this offseason. He's simply not worth that kind of cash over the next two seasons.
Brady Quinn, 28, started eight games for Kansas City to end 2012 and went just 1-7. He's a free agent this spring and shouldn't be back.
Former fifth-round pick Ricky Stanzi is still only 25, and he has prototypical size (6'4", 230 lbs) for the position. However, considering he didn't play a snap over Cassel and Quinn last season, it's difficult to envision a future with him starting and winning games for the Chiefs.
These realities leave Reid, Dorsey and the Chiefs with a relatively straightforward mission this offseason: find a quarterback to bring Kansas City back from the ruins.
How realistic an option Foles is in that pursuit can be debated.
While USA Today reported nothing more than interest from the Chiefs' side (no true pursuit of Foles has been reported), CSN Philadelphia reported that, according to league sources, the Eagles have no plans to trade Foles unless they are blown away by an offer.
Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press later built on that premise when he reported that the Eagles haven't even discussed moving Foles, and, if they did move him, such a trade would have to include a first- or second-round pick coming to Philadelphia.
NFL source tells me #Eagles haven't discussed trading Nick Foles w anyone & would want 1st or 2nd round pick to even consider it. Story soon— Rob Maaddi (@RobMaaddi) February 15, 2013
Reid may be fond of Foles, but sending a top pick to his old employers for an unproven quarterback is not something Dorsey is likely to sign off on. When in Green Bay, Dorsey and the Packers treasured their own draft picks, using the protected capital to build one of the NFL's strongest rosters.
In fact, Dorsey was on the staff when the Packers pulled the trigger on Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 NFL draft, even with Brett Favre still on the roster. This kind of forward thinking has kept the Packers among the NFL's elite despite the sticky transition at quarterback.
That said, the Chiefs are in an undesirable situation in Dorsey's first draft. While quarterback is a clear and present need, the growing consensus is that no player at the position in the 2013 class is worthy of the top pick.
West Virginia's Geno Smith might be the top quarterback, but the idea of drafting him at No. 1 is getting cooler and cooler as April approaches. Taking a quarterback in the second round might be more palatable.
Yet if the Chiefs could swing a deal for Foles that didn't include a top pick—say a fourth-round pick or some combination of later picks—Dorsey might be tempted.
Foles, who made his first NFL appearance in Week 9 of 2012, finished last season with 1,699 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Philadelphia went just 1-5 in his six starts, but five of his seven overall games saw Foles finish with a passer rating over 85.0.
To be fair, historic rookie performances by quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III likely overshadowed what was an encouraging start for Foles to his NFL career. There's certainly talent worth molding, whether it's in Kansas City or Philadelphia or elsewhere.
Former NFL scout and current NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah said last week (via NFL.com) that both Reid and new Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson remain enamored with Foles.
I know both Andy Reid and Doug Pederson were very high on Nick Foles and his future. They were huge supporters through the entire process and believe in him greatly. I would think they would explore that opportunity if it presented itself.
However, not all observers were impressed with Foles last season.
NFL Films executive producer Greg Cosell told Philadelphia Magazine he wasn't "blown away" by anything Foles did in 2012.
I’ve watched every game of Foles really closely. I think there’s been some steady improvement, some incremental improvement, but I must admit, I’m not blown away by anything. I don’t think there’s a lot of pop in his arm, and I think when you watch him throw live… you probably say his arm is pretty strong. But I don’t think he plays that way, and that concerns me.
There are other concerns.
According to Pro Football Focus, Foles' quarterback accuracy percentage—which takes into account dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls and batted balls—was actually below that of Cassel last season. He also completed just 10 of 28 passes that traveled over 20 yards in the air, which ranked in the bottom third of the NFL.
You can chalk these numbers up to either rookie inexperience or issues that could be a problem later on. The Chiefs would certainly have to chew on both if they decide to pursue the young quarterback this offseason.
Who should be the Chiefs QB in 2013?
Of course, the Chiefs could also pass on Foles and deal for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who was demoted last season despite leading the NFL in completion percentage. Matt Flynn of the Seattle Seahawks is another option.
Simply put, the Chiefs have to get this decision right.
Kansas City has clearly begun putting in place the building blocks of a contender. The roster has difference-makers on both sides of the ball, and there are now respected decision-makers at both head coach and general manager. The steps in the right direction are being taken.
One last step remains.
As is the case in so many NFL cities, making the right choice at quarterback will determine whether the Chiefs rise from the ruins of a 2-14 season or continue calling the cellar of the AFC West home.
Dealing for Foles is one legitimate option to consider when fixing the position. Trading for Smith or Flynn or drafting one in April are other worthwhile scenarios.
One thing is for certain: If the Chiefs nail this decision this offseason, wins are coming in 2013 and beyond.
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