A funny thing happened on the way to the Nick Foles goodbye party in the days following the Eagles’ gut-wrenching 20-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
Neither party really officially said farewell. Although he can make the final decision on what happens, Foles still has ties to the Eagles contractually until the Birds management has to make a move by Feb. 11. Foles can become a free agent on March 13.
A lot can change between now and then, and likely will.
Foles famously became the starting quarterback with a few weeks left in the 2017 regular season.
He took over for injured Carson Wentz, who at the time was playing so well he had become the favorite to be named MVP of the league.
What happened next, no one saw coming.
Foles took the Eagles team and the city of Philadelphia on a magic ride that produced the first Super Bowl win in franchise history over the great Tom Brady and New England Patriots.
The drought was over, and an unlikely hero emerged.
But even though Foles was the Super Bowl MVP, this is Wentz’s team. Things have become a little complicated since then.
With Wentz on the mend, the Eagles wanted to make Foles happy and keep him for at least the 2018 season as an insurance policy if something happened to Wentz.
Last April, the Eagles and Foles agreed to more money for the 2018 season (he originally had a two-year deal) plus incentives if he ended up starting again – which he did for a total of seven games, including playoffs — plus a third-year option for both teams.
In reality, it was a new two-year contract worth up to $29 million in base salary. The contract paid Foles a $2 million signing bonus in 2018, which represents a $2 million raise from his original contract. There were/are $14 million in additional incentives available.
The 2019 season, which was a void year, is now an option year with a player void clause. The Eagles can opt into the contract, which carries a $20 million salary, by picking up the option a month before the start of the 2019 league year.
The salary is guaranteed on the third day of the league year. If the option is exercised, Foles may still become a free agent by paying back the $2 million signing bonus he received in 2018 as part of this new contract to void the 2019 league year.
Incredibly, Wentz was unable to finish the 2018 season, again due to injury. Last year, Foles took over with the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs all but assured.
In 2018, the Eagles were on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. Foles again came off the bench and did his thing, leading the Birds to three consecutive wins, including a road win over the eventual NFC champion Los Angeles Rams and the playoff-bound Houston Texans at the Linc.
Foles and a dominating defense helped the Birds upset a very good Chicago team before losing a heartbreaker to the Saints in the second round.
Now the Eagles and Foles have decisions to make.
If Foles somehow stays, it would create a terrible situation for Wentz. Everyone agrees Wentz is more talented and is the future of this franchise. To put him through the microscope of having Foles right there on the bench would be unfair.
But… How do you say goodbye to this guy?
Last week, in the Eagles locker room the day after the Saints loss, Foles talked about the options both parties have.
“I have an option to be a free agent, which is extremely important,” Foles said. “We’ll pursue it when it happens. I’m technically not under contract right now. That’s something we’ll discuss in the future. It’s a unique situation. It’s a good situation for this team to have. Our OB (quarterback) room has been really special these last couple years… Carson, Nate (Sudfeld) and I… the three of us can play. Even Nate had a lot of opportunity. That guy can ball. He’s got a bright future. He just had to wait in the wings. He continues to learn going into year four. Eventually, he’ll have an opportunity to start (somewhere) as well.”
Foles believes he and the Eagles will make the right decision.
“I have a great relationship with this team,” Foles said. “That’s genuine. We’ll continue to communicate, we’ll continue to talk about everything. Ultimately, we’ll make the best decision for both sides, we’ll figure it out. That’s what it’s always been about being here in Philly… it’ll work out.”
At a news conference on the Tuesday after the Eagles’ loss to the Saints, Eagles Vice President of Football Operation Howie Roseman was asked if it can be worked out, would he like to keep Wentz and Foles.
“We would love to keep Nick Foles,” Roseman said. “You talk about a guy who we drafted here and we’ve grown incredibly close with. I don’t know a team that wouldn’t want to have Nick Foles on their roster. Certainly, as we go into the substance of those discussions – we haven’t had them yet – but there is no question we love having Nick Foles as an Eagle in Philadelphia and we would love to keep him.”
“Everything’s open,” Foles said. “But right now the most important thing right now is to take a step back and really just see my family, taking a breath. That’s the most important part of this year…everything is open, we’ll talk about everything. Like I said, I love this city, I love this locker room. It’s special, it’s really special. I’ve enjoyed every moment… so we’ll see.” ••
Foles was saying all this in the Eagles locker room, watching many of the teammates he won a title with the year before clean out their lockers until they return in the spring. Only thing…this was likely Foles’ last time.
“It’s emotional, but at the same time, I’m talking to the guys, talking to the coaches…talking to my teammates,” Foles said. “I will probably head out for a few days with my family. But it’s emotional. It will probably set in more and more as the days go on, because everything is (going) so fast. We just played a game last night and gave everything we had. But no matter what happens, it’s been a joy being here every single day. Being in this locker room, wearing this jersey, being a part of the city.”
Foles paused for a second. “But we’ll see what happens.” ••