Does Nick Foles Have a Future in Jacksonville?
The strange NFL career of quarterback Nick Foles took yet another turn on Monday as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced that Foles, after only three starts since returning from a Week 1 injury, would be benched in favor of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
This comes only months after the Jaguars signed Foles to the most lucrative contract in franchise history; a four-year, $88 million contract with a franchise-record $50.125 million in guaranteed money. From owner Shad Khan to the front office duo of executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and general manager Caldwell, obtaining Foles was always the Jaguars' top priority entering the 2019 offseason.
“I can tell you this, categorically, that as soon as the season was over, our dream was to get Nick Foles for all the different reasons that have been elaborated before, and it happened," Khan said in April.
But that dream became a nightmare as the 2019 season progressed. First, Foles broke his clavicle on a touchdown pass on the 11th snap of Week 1. Then Minshew went 4-4 in his place and dazzled with his uncanny playmaking ability.
Many questioned if Foles would get his job back when healthy, but Marrone appointed him the starter moving forward after Minshew had a disastrous performance against the Houston Texans in a Week 9 26-3 loss. The hope for Jacksonville was Foles could get their 4-5 season on track and prove to be worth his investment.
After only three starts though, it became clear this wasn't going to happen. In 10 quarters with Foles as the starter over the last month, the Jaguars had a -65 point differential. They have not won a game since Week 8, Minshew's second-to-last start before Foles returned.
In Foles stint as starter since Week 11, Jacksonville lost games by 20, 22, and 17 points as Foles failed to produce points, throwing two touchdown passes, two interceptions and two lost fumbles in 109 pass attempts over last three weeks.
Marrone decided he had enough of the anemic offensive output under Foles at halftime of the Buccaneers game, benching Foles after he turned the ball over on each of his first three possessions, leading directly to Jacksonville facing a 25-0 halftime deficit. Minshew came in and led two scoring drives and was one-yard away from scoring another touchdown in the 28-11 loss.
Marrone said Monday when he announced Minshew would start in Week 14 that he made the move to Minshew and put Foles on the bench due to Minshew's mobility. After lass than 12 quarters of football, Foles has lost his grasp on the starting quarterback position.
So, what happened, and does Foles have a future in Jacksonville?
Well, the weirdness of Foles' 2019 season plays right into the bizarre NFL career he has already had. The counterpoint people made when Jacksonville signed Foles to such a large deal was that he had only ever been good when playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and was otherwise a career backup. Looking at Foles' career with the context of 2019, it appears this may be the case.
- 2012: Goes 1-5 as a starter while starting for Eagles in Andy Reid's final season.
- 2013: Goes 8-2 as Eagles' starter after replacing Michael Vick in Chip Kelly's first season. Throws 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions and named a Pro Bowl alternate before winning Pro Bowl Offensive MVP.
- 2014: Goes 6-2 as Eagles' starter before sustaining a season-ending collarbone injury. Production regressed, finishing with a 13-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
- 2015: Traded to St. Lous Rams in offseason along with a fifth-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick for Sam Bradford and a fifth-round pick. Goes 4-7 as Rams' starter, throwing seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions while being benched for Case Keenum. Played poorly enough that Rams drafted Jared Goff with No. 1 overall pick in 2016 NFL Draft to take his place.
- 2016: Starts one game for Kansas City Chiefs after requesting his release from Rams. Throws only 55 passes as Alex Smith's backup, but throws three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
- 2017: Signs a two-year deal with the Eagles as a free agent. Starts two of the final three regular season games and three post season games for Eagles, going 5-1 in the process. Leads Eagles to Super Bowl LII after shredding Minnesota Vikings' top-ranked defense in NFC Championship game (26-of-33 for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns). Beats New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl and is named Most Valuable Player of game after throwing three touchdowns and catching another.
- 2018: Starts season as backup but returns as starter due to injury to Carson Wentz. Goes 4-1 as starter in regular season to guide Eagles to playoffs, throwing seven touchdowns and four interceptions in the process. Wins Wild Card game vs. Chicago Bears but loses 20-14 to New Orleans Saints in Divisional Round.
- 2019: Signs record-breaking contract with Jacksonville but goes on injured reserve for eight games after a Week 1 injury. Last two-and-a-half games starter when he returns until he is benched for rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
As you can see, nothing has ever truly been normal or simple for Foles' career. He has spent time as a backup, been the main guy for a franchise but been benched, and everything else in between. His two best seasons both came with the Eagles (2013 and 2017), and it appears that he is just a different quarterback when not wearing the green and white.
Now, Jacksonville is faced with the massive question of what to do at the quarterback position after 2019. They will roll with Minshew for four more games to close this season, but what do after that?
According to Spoctrac.com, Foles’ $15M 2020 salary is already guaranteed. He would carry a massive $33.8M dead cap next season, and $12.5 million in dead cap in 2021. If Jacksonville can trade Foles, though, they would have to deal with $18.75 million in dead money but earn back $3.125 million by trading him before June 1. Foles also has a $5 million roster bonus that is guaranteed if he is on the roster on March 20.
So essentially, Foles' contract would take a massive effort to move but it would likely be the best-case scenario if they can find a willing trade partner. It would likely take a Brock Osweiler type deal where Jacksonville sends a premium pick so a team takes Foles' massive contract off of their hands, though.
If Foles is outright cut, it would send massive financial ramifications throughout the organization and would likely lead to the team losing a few players they would otherwise be able to keep.
There is no easy answer for what to do with Foles due simply to the fact that the team gave him such a massive deal off of the sample size of a few games.
What could happen though is the team could not address the position in the 2020 offseason and have Minshew and Foles duke it out in a quarterback competition. Minshew has four more games left to show Jacksonville they should consider him part of the future and not just use a top pick on a new quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft, though.
Whether Jacksonville is back in the quarterback market after this season largely depends on who is calling the shots. Marrone, Coughlin and Caldwell all appear to be on the hot seat as the 4-8 Jaguars are heading toward their second-consecutive losing season.
But for right now, it appears that Foles is only a part of the Jaguars' future because of the price tag attached to his name. Benching him after only a few games in favor of a rookie quarterback picked in the sixth-round more or less means it is impossible to go back to Foles if Minshew, or any other quarterback, is injured.
Foles has had a strange NFL career full of ups and downs. After today's announcement, it seems as if Jacksonville is yet another twist in his story.