Eagles’ tough offseason starts with Nick Foles

Nick of time: The Eagles must decide if they want to keep Nick Foles soon. SOURCE: ANDY LEWIS

Turn on a sports talk radio show or podcast, read a sports blog anywhere in the Delaware Valley right now and every show will feature discussions about the Eagles.

Yes, the Sixers are good again. Yes, the Flyers found a goalie and are winning. The Phillies are about to open the 2019 season with a much-revamped lineup that has baseball fans here optimistic about a run for a playoff spot.

But in the end, it’s the Birds who rule the day, every day in Philadelphia.

Eagles fans are wondering what is going to happen to quarterback Nick Foles?

As painful as it may be for his supporters, everyone knows Foles is not the future of this franchise. Although he had magical runs both years he has been here, “St. Nick” must leave so franchise quarterback Carson Wentz can get on with his career as the starter.

The Eagles and Foles did what was expected and moved onto their options. The Eagles can still slap the franchise tag on Foles, but he still would have to sign the tag. Both sides seem to be looking to help each other, so it will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

It would be too big a distraction for Foles to stay, plus his re-worked contract virtually guarantees his salary to be over $20 million in 2019. No team is paying that, regardless of the circumstances, for a backup.

So where will Foles land? Most fans and observers look at the Jacksonville Jaguars as the most likely landing place. The Jags need a quarterback desperately, as the Blake Bortles run is over.

Jacksonville has had a solid defense for years, yet has come up short every time in the playoffs because of its weakness at quarterback.

Listed at the top of the list of quarterbacks in 2019 on the Jaguars’ fan-friendly site, blackandteal.com, is Nick Foles, followed by Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones and Drew Lock.

Marcus Mariota has been the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans since 2015 when he was taken with the No. 2 overall pick. That year, Tennessee finished 3-13, The following three seasons, the Titans finished 9-7 each time, making the playoffs once, winning a Wild Card game over a bad Buffalo Bills team.

Mariota has never played a full season because of injuries and was hobbled for most of the second half of the 2018 season.

Could the Titans realize this is who Mariota is and don’t see a Super Bowl in his future? Could they swing a three-team deal to bring Foles there? The Birds would want draft picks, not Mariota, to get a deal done. Would you be shocked?

How about Cincinnati Bengals signal caller Andy Dalton? Like Mariota, Dalton is all brand, little success on the field. Dalton has made three Pro Bowls since joining the Bengals in 2011. He is 0-4 in playoff games.

Could Foles end up in Cincinnati? It would likely take three teams to make the deal happen, or the Bengals could just release Dalton.

The only other teams that are looking for a quarterback are the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. Both are in the NFC East, and the Birds will do whatever they can to keep Foles off those rosters.

What will happen? Probably something none of us saw coming.

Another tough decision for the Eagles is how to handle aging veterans Jason Peters and Darren Sproles. And, how they can sign linebacker Brandon Graham.

Peters, a future Hall of Fame tackle, is 37 years old. He has been injured often over the last few years. He missed the second half of the Eagles’ Super Bowl season but was impactful from the bench as a player-coach. Peters has been selected to nine Pro Bowls, and named All-Pro first and second team six times. He has a longtime relationship with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.

Peters had to come out of games several times in 2018 because of injury. Letting go of Peters will be painful, but has to happen.

It’s the same situation with Sproles. At the start of training camp, he will be 36 years old. For a running back, that is serious senior citizen stuff. Over the last two seasons, he has played in just nine games. Sproles was a big part of the Eagles’ remarkable run to make the playoffs in 2018. He has not lost much, if any, of his speed and elusiveness, but he just can’t stay healthy at this point of his career.

Another sad goodbye.

Graham made the most important play in Eagles history when he strip-sacked Tom Brady near the end of Super Bowl LII, in what ended up being the deciding play in winning the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.

Graham, who is now 30 years old, played with a foot/ankle injury throughout the playoffs and Super Bowl. That injury prevented him from taking part in last year’s OTAs and mini-camps. It clearly held him back in 2018.

But the former Michigan star was still productive in 2018. Graham played in all 16 regular season games, recording 39 total tackles, four sacks, 11 quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss.

His foot/ankle should be 100 percent this year, and Graham will no doubt play better. This decision is all about money. Graham has value, and the Eagles almost certainly will make him an offer. But will it be enough to keep him in an Eagles uniform for a few more seasons? Judging from his “don’t count me out” comments the day after the playoff loss to New Orleans, Graham will be the first to tell you he hopes it is. ••

Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii