Grading the Nick Foles Trade: Was the Return Worth It for the Jaguars?

Did the Jaguars get fair value in return for Nick Foles, or did they lose out on the deal to the Bears?
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The Jacksonville Jaguars made one of the largest trades in franchise history on Wednesday when they agreed to terms of a deal to send quarterback Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round selection. 

Was Foles as great of a talent as Jalen Ramsey? No. Nor did he net the Jaguars' two first-round selections. Was it as much of a jolt to the system as when Calais Campbell was traded the Baltimore Ravens? Not exactly, but that doesn't diminish the magnitude of the trade. 

The Foles trade isn't a monumental deal because of what the compensation the Jaguars got or because of his status with the team during his tenure. Instead, it was a massive trade because it represented an open admission by the Jaguars that they made a critical mistake in signing Foles to a four-year contract last March. Foles was given one of the largest contracts in Jaguars' history, but that didn't change the course for his departure.

After only four games and 117 passes, the former Super Bowl MVP that Jacksonville gave an $88 million contract to last March is no longer in the picture for the Jaguars. With Foles headed to Chicago, the Jaguars will now rely on young quarterbacks Gardner Minshew II and Josh Dobbs to lead the quarterback room, just one of many direct ramifications of the trade. 

When considering the rest of the consequences of the trade, does it make the deal look better or worse for the Jaguars? We examine the circumstances, what Jacksonville gained, and what they lost in an attempt to evaluate the trade and if it was one worth taking.

Note: The trade won't be official until Foles passes a physical with the Bears, which has become a complicated situation for teams throughout the league due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Was the return a reasonable one for the Jaguars? 

In exchange for Foles, the Jaguars got the Bears' lone 2020 fourth-round selection, which is a compensatory pick. The pick is the No. 140 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Essentially, Jacksonville unofficially got their third 2020 fourth-round selection for a quarterback who was unlikely to be their starter next season. Considering the number of holes on Jacksonville's roster, getting as many picks as possible before April is a smart strategy.

Jacksonville got more in a trade for Foles than they did for Campbell, though Foles' positional value as a quarterback obviously plays a big factor. Regardless, Foles was facing an uphill climb to be the Jaguars' starter in 2020 if he was on the opening day roster. Instead of keeping him and his massive cap hit on the bench, the Jaguars flipped him for a pick that has netted the following players in recent drafts:

  • 2019: RB Ryquell Armstead (Jaguars)
  • 2018: DT Maurice Hurst (Raiders)
  • 2017: RB Wayne Gallman (Giants)
  • 2016: WR Tajae Sharpe (Titans)
  • 2015: LB Ben Heeney (Raiders)

This draft slot has produced no true impact players in recent years, but the draft is all about taking as many shots as you can. With increased picks, there is an increased possibility of hitting. 

The trade also helped the Jaguars get out of Foles' long-term contract. While the Jaguars will still have Foles on the books in 2020, they no longer have to pay him the final two years of his contract, which is a positive considering the failures of the signing.

In total, the trade opened the door for Minshew to be the unquestioned starter, while also giving the Jaguars future cap relief and another draft pick for their arsenal in April. The Jaguars could use this pick as a tool to help them move up at some point in the draft, or they could instead stand pat and add to their roster with an extra fourth-rounder. 

What are the drawbacks to the trade? 

On the surface, the real drawbacks to the trade are the dead cap the Jaguars will have to be saddled with in 2020, as well as the optics of the move. 

By trading Foles, the Jaguars are hit with a $18.75 million dead cap hit in 2020. They save close to $3 million compared to if Foles was on the roster, but the team is still now paying Foles almost $19 million to not play for them. This comes one year after the Jaguars were on the hook for $16.5 million due to cutting Blake Bortles. 

With Foles' massive dead cap number, the Jaguars now have $33.9 million in dead money on their salary cap in 2020. According to Spotrac, this is the second-most amount of dead money any team has in 2020, behind only the Carolina Panthers ($46.1 million). 

This means the Jaguars will end up paying two quarterbacks more than $35 million combined to not play for their team, with each move happening only one year after the Jaguars signed the players to the original deals. 

To say the optics of the Jaguars having to eat so much dead money for the second consecutive year are bad would be an understatement. It is a sign of severe mismanagement since it shows just how considerable a failure each signing was.

Overall grade: B+

Many people, ourselves included, expected for the Jaguars to have to part with one of their own picks to unload Foles and his massive contract. For the Jaguars to get any pick out of this deal is a major win for general manager Dave Caldwell. 

The Foles signing was already a sunk cost, so for the Jaguars to get anything in exchange for a player who was expected to be their backup quarterback in 2020 is a positive, even if they do have to take on a massive amount of dead money in 2020. 

The only reason this trade isn't graded higher is because of the money the Jaguars lost out on in 2020 due to signing Foles to begin with. That kind of money could have been used to keep players like Campbell or A.J. Bouye, but instead is now being used on nothing that will impact Jacksonville positively in 2020. 

But even with that said, the Jaguars got a pick for a player they had no intentions of starting and who was set to be the highest-paid player on the team. No matter how you cut it, that is a win for Caldwell and the Jaguars.