By Scott Crabtree
Evaluating Nick Foles using his on-field performance alone would grade him at somewhere in the top 20 quarterbacks in the NFL. Foles would be an upgrade over the incumbent quarterback on anywhere from ten to fifteen teams, depending on how you rate players like Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler. This would be simply judging on-field performance. Now when his salary is factored in, Foles becomes even more valuable. He was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft, and is still on his rookie salary, a 4-year, $2.7 million deal. His cap hit in any year on this deal is under $850K. A look at some of the other starting quarterbacks in the league begs the question: who would you rather have for the future?
Nick Foles provides the Eagles with two more years of cost security, and represents a serious value over players who are below the elite tier of quarterbacks. Simply comparing the passing statistics of these players doesn’t represent the true impact on team performance. The question is not would you rather have Tony Romo or Nick Foles, since most would agree Romo is a better quarterback. Instead the question is: would you rather have Tony Romo or Nick Foles, Lesean McCoy ($9.6 million average cap hit), and Jason Peters ($10.3 million cap hit)? The answer is pretty clear, over the next two seasons you would rather have Nick Foles and nearly $20 million in surrounding talent than the other players on this list. With this value at quarterback, the Eagles will have the flexibility to go after the players that they need in free agency to fill in the holes on defense. Aside from his contract, Foles is the youngest player on this list, and will continue to improve over the next couple seasons. Every other player on this list is, at this point in their careers, about as good as they are ever going to be. When framed in this way, Nick Foles starts to look more like a top twelve value at the quarterback position.
Now let’s assume that even after all the success that Foles has experienced this year, and despite commentators describing Nick Foles as “fleet of foot” (*see footnote below) because he is afforded the opportunity to run without a defender within ten yards, Chip Kelly decides he isn’t mobile enough to run the read-option. That means the Eagles have a good young quarterback that will be on the trading block. What is a player like that worth? Three comparisons would be what the Broncos received from the Bears back in 2009 for Jay Cutler, the Kevin Kolb trade, and the package that the Rams received in the RGIII deal. Cutler was traded because he didn’t get along with new head coach Josh McDaniels. The Broncos traded Cutler and a fifth round pick, and in return received Kyle Orton, two first rounders, and third rounder. At the time Cutler had been in the league for three years, and was coming off an impressive 2008 season. Kevin Kolb, on the other hand, had played significant time in only seven games between the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In those games he put up some decent numbers: 270 yards/game, 62.5 completion percentage, and a 1.1 TD-INT ratio. He was seen as a redundancy with Vick playing at a pro bowl level in 2010, and was subsequently traded. The compensation received for Kolb was a second round pick, and former pro bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who played two seasons for the Eagles before being released. Most recently, the Redskins traded three firsts and a second rounder to the Rams in exchange for the pick that ended up being Robert Griffin III. The Rams still have one more draft pick from that trade, and it looks like it could be the fifth overall pick.
If the Eagles do move Foles, he will probably fetch a package that is somewhere in-between the Cutler and Kolb deals. The number of draft picks received in such a deal would depend on who is making the offer. A good team would be forced to offer more in picks than a team with a bad record since each pick will fall lower in the draft. Is it unrealistic to expect the Birds to get something like a late first and second round pick for a potential franchise quarterback?
Let’s also take a look at potential suitors for the hypothetical Nick Foles trade. Teams that are closer to competing for a title right now are more likely to take a chance on a player with experience rather than waiting for a rookie to develop. Three teams that fit that criteria are Arizona, Houston, and Kansas City. Both Arizona (7-4) and KC (9-2) might not have a good enough pick to get a blue chip quarterback in the draft without trading-up. Arizona has among the best defenses in the league through twelve weeks, some quality weapons on offense, and an aging quarterback. If the Cards can upgrade their offensive line and their quarterback, there is no reason they can’t compete for a championship. Simply getting last year’s first round pick, guard Jonathan Cooper, healthy will improve their line play, but the Cards will still need a quarterback. Maybe the Cards make a move for Foles. Houston has been a letdown this year after making the playoffs last year. The Houston fans have completely turned on Matt Schaub, and Case Keenum is not very good. Gary Kubiak will probably be fired at the end of the season, and the new regime will likely want to bring in their guy at quarterback. It will be interesting to see what Foles could do to DeAndre Hopkins’ fantasy value, considering his success with Riley Cooper. (Editor’s Note: I don’t necessarily think the Eagles would consider trading Foles, but the idea is super intriguing from a Houston perspective.) Finally there is Kansas City, a team that was rumored to be interested in trading for Foles before acquiring Alex Smith from the Niners. Alex Smith is a check down machine, 6.14 yards per attempt, and yet cannot seem to get his completion percentage above 60%. Foles was drafted by Reid before he left the Eagles, and Andy might look to upgrade his quarterback with a familiar face. If any of these teams offers multiple picks for Foles, the Eagles will have to decide whether to continue to run the neutered version of the read-option, or to pull the trigger on a trade.
*Nick Foles ran a 5.14 second forty yard dash at his pre-draft combine workout. Four of his five offensive starting linemen ran better times than Foles, and the fifth, Todd Herremans, ran a time of either 5.01 or 5.23 seconds depending on the source. Of the other four linemen, none were less than .2 seconds faster than Foles’ time with the slowest time being 4.93 seconds. Can we please put complimenting Foles on his speed to rest?
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