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Time to Rethink Nick Foles' Departure?

Cutting Nick Foles seemed a probable Bears option when offseason began but with free agency approaching and plans forming to use the second and third phases of free agency it might be time to reconsider and save money with a Super Bowl MVP for backup.

When Bears GM Ryan Poles announced his target for free agency would be second and third phase players, it completely altered what anyone could have envisioned for the Bears this offseason.

It's an obvious indication they intend to be as frugal as possible and the reason is there are too many roster spots to fill for them to spend a major amount on one position.

This impacts every position down to backup quarterback, and backup quarterback is no insignficant matter.

Laughing this position off as a minor issue shows short memory. The Bears wound up using three quarterbacks as starters last year and every time they changed quarterbacks injuries or COVID-19 caused it. They needed starts from a backup in every single season of the Matt Nagy coaching era.

Injured quarterbacks are the norm in the NFL and it's more common with passers who run the ball or hold the ball too long. So the Bears will always need competent backup help as long as Justin Fields is their starter.

Andy Dalton's departure appears imminent in free agency. The assumption earlier in the offseason was Nick Foles would not be coming back to Chicago either, although he had a contract for one more year.

It made little sense to retain a player who did not fit with what the team was going to do in the coming season, especially if some type of cap savings could be derived from his departure. The first season for a coach also is an ideal time to change as much personnel as possible.

Foles has been successful over the last seven seasons only in the Andy Reid style offense and use of this system ended in Chicago with Nagy's departure. Foles bombed out as a starter in St. Louis with the Rams and in Jacksonville. With the Bears, his 6.1 yards per attempt and 82.6 passer rating say it wasn't a success even in the Reid system. A 3-5 record by the Bears when he started backed this up.

However, there are reasons now why it might not be entirely out of the question for Foles to return.

1. Cash

The announcement the Bears are looking at second- and third-phase free agents was made because they have so many holes to fill. Their $25.6 million in available cap space will vanish quickly. They can't afford to waste any.

Foles carries a hefty $10.67 million cap cost but by cutting him the Bears save back only $3 million in cap space. The rest is guaranteed money. So he can cost them $7 of cap space and play elsewhere, or cost them $10.67 million and serve as backup. Essentually what you're saying is if you can find a backup with better skills and/or fit for the system for $3.7 million or less, then Foles should be cut. Finding one for $3.7 million or less isn't the problem. Finding one with better skills AND $3.7 million or less is.

Marcus Mariota, Joe Flacco, Mitchell Trubisky, Tim Boyle, Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Brandon Allen, A.J. McCarron, Geno Smith, Colt McCoy and Chase Daniel are examples of quarterbacks making less than $3.7 million last year. Mariota and Trubisky could make more this year.

Is Foles better for that $3.7 million or less than the rest of the players? How many of them have been Super Bowl MVP?

A case could be made for Colt McCoy because he was so efficient with the Cardinals last year but it was in an offense clicking on all cylinders and in the past he normally hadn't been as effective. The only other player you could argue for would be Tim Boyle, based on his past as a Green Bay backup with Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy as the quarterbacks coach. Boyle never played then, however. When he had to play in Detroit, he was awful.

2. Foles' Success in Other Offenses

While Foles' history is success in the Reid style of offense, it wasn't always this way. He enjoyed spectacular 2013-14 seasons under coach Chip Kelly with the Eagles in a spread offense, with 40 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, a passer rating of 100.5 and 8.0 yards per attempt. Perhaps he'd adapt to what the Bears will now do better, although this is difficult to assess. The style of offense they'll play now with wide zone for run blocking is different than both, but there will be run-pass pass option involved because of Getsy's familiarity with this. And Foles was always very comfortable with this concept, except for the quarterback running aspect of it.

3. Foles' Chicago Familiarity

Foles blamed part of his problems in 2020 when he failed as a starter in place of Trubisky on complete unfamiliarity with Chicago and the Bears, not just the offense. Now he has that familiar setting, even if the coaches are different.

4. Balancing Out Experience

The experience factor with Foles is huge. Considering they have a starter with only 10 starts and 12 games played, a backup with 68 games, 56 starts and a 4-2 record with a 98.8 passer rating in six postseason starts is huge. They won't find this in any of the other backups available. Ryan Fitzpatrick has more experience but it's not realistic to expect him to come to a team and expect to be the backup, especially when he's going to be in demand for far in excess of $3.7 million.

5. No Deal

The rumors of Foles being traded last year were hot but there have been none lately and he likely would bring back only a seventh-round or conditional pick. At the same time, teams wouldn't want to trade for a backup player with a $10.7 million cap cost. The possibility of a trade is more a matter for training camp and preseason than now because a deal would be made by a team desperate for quarterback help and willing to take on that higher cost as well as pay more draft pick compensation.

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