Nick Foles is playing for a new contract in 2014, a long-term extension that would cement his status as the franchise quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. At least, that’s the chief narrative surrounding Foles as the 25-year-old signal-caller heads into his first NFL training camp as the undisputed starter.
In all honesty, though, any suggestion 2014 might be a make-or-break season is to invent conflict where none exists. The reality of the situation is, barring almost unimaginable regression, Foles’ immediate future with the Eagles is likely as good as set in stone.
What? Were you under the impression that starting quarterback is an easy position to upgrade?
Organizations have hitched their wagons to passers who showed far less promise than Foles, because the ugly truth is there aren’t 32 quality starting quarterbacks in the NFL. When somebody comes along who’s competent or displays even a modicum of upside, most front offices stick with that player for as long as it takes to determine whether he’s the one.
Just look at some of the quarterbacks other teams around the league have willingly attached themselves to. Then ask yourself how bad Foles would have to be this season to convince the Eagles they can do better.
How low would his completion percentage have to plummet? How many interceptions would he have to heave?
Wherever the benchmark lies, there is absolutely zero evidence to suggest Foles will fall that far. Sure, he has to prove his breakthrough 2013 season was no fluke, but only in the context of how good is Foles really.
Foles isn’t exactly some Johnny-come-lately. We already know the kid can play a little. He’s appeared in 20 games over two NFL seasons, which is enough, I think, to say he’s a capable starter.
Even as a third-round pick thrust into the lineup as a rookie, Foles exhibited many of the qualities scouts search for in a passer. He was poised and decisive with the football. He moved well within the pocket and kept his eyes locked downfield. He anticipated receivers coming open and his throws were on target. He limited mistakes and improved weekly.
Foles compiled a 1-5 record in his first season despite being given very little to work with. Pro Bowl weapons LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson were on the shelf for much of that time with injuries, as was three-fifths of Philadelphia’s offensive line. The numbers weren’t awful, however, as Foles completed 60.8 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Of course, his 2013 campaign blew that out of the water. Foles arrived when he tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a win over the Oakland Raiders. He wound up finishing the year with 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions and establishing the best single-season ratio in league history, while his efficiency rating was good for third all time. Along the way, he took home NFC Player of the Month honors and was named MVP of the Pro Bowl.
What brought about such rapid development practically overnight?
First-year head coach Chip Kelly was perhaps the biggest influence, which is possibly why there is any discussion at all the Eagles would consider going in a different direction under center. If the coach or system are viewed as responsible for Foles’ productivity, there might be a feeling internally he can be replaced.
Still, that’s a huge risk to take. It likely means investing a high draft pick in another unknown quantity, which would be tantamount to starting over in year three or four under Kelly.
If the Eagles were indeed having second thoughts on Foles, they had an opportunity to address them back in May. The club opted to trade out of the 22nd overall pick instead, passing up a chance to land Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.
None of which is to say the Eagles are necessarily married to Foles for life, either. The deal San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick agreed to in June could serve as a template for Foles’ next contract.
While Kaepernick’s six-year, $126-million contract sounds fantastic, ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio reports the Niners have plenty of outs. Only $13 million was guaranteed at signing, which allows for plenty of flexibility on the team’s end in case things aren’t working out.
Kaepernick’s contract would seem to suggest that even if Foles were coming off something of a down year next offseason, he could easily negotiate a “long term” extension anyway. At that point, he’ll be entering the final year on his rookie contract, so there will be an expectation something gets done.
Given the fact that finding anybody who gives Kelly and the Eagles a better chance at competing for a championship within the next few years would likely prove difficult, it’s only logical to keep Foles in the fold.