Eagles general manager Howie Roseman made no attempt to yank anyone’s chain during his presser today at the NFL combine in Indianapolis: Nick Foles will not be given the franchise tag, which means Nick Foles and his reportedly gigantic hog will hit free agency. There was nothing soft about Foles’s second tenure in Philadelphia, during which he proved to be the ideal backup to Carson Wentz. Wentz went limp in 2017 and 2018, thus giving Foles a chance to show his stuff. Foles hung on long enough to be the MVP of Super Bowl 52 and to thrust the Eagles toward a subsequent playoff run. But with Wentz still on his rookie contract, Foles’s time in Philly eventually, inevitably petered out.
It was always going to be hard for the Eagles to hold on to Foles. The tag figure for quarterbacks is estimated to be in the $25 million range, fully guaranteed, in both cash and cap—pretty stiff for a team like Philly, which only has a small package of available cap space to work with. Additionally, Foles had already agreed to pay $2 million back to the Eagles to opt out of the final three years of his deal—a sign of his desire to shake himself loose.
The Eagles could have tagged Foles with the intent of trading him, but that could have gotten hairy: Had Foles quickly signed his tender, the Eagles would have run the risk of being stuck with their hands wrapped around his $25 million cap number—a bulge much bigger than the $13.6 million he counted against the cap in 2018. Wentz is due to count roughly $8.5 million in 2019, so why pay top-tier QB money for a backup? In a league with a firm cap, there isn’t always enough for everyone. A trade also might have been a longshot, since another team would have to had to pay Foles that $25 million with no assurance he’d sign long-term. The Eagles reportedly explored trade scenarios, only to realize they weren’t going to get a larger return than the 2020 third-round compensatory pick they’ll likely accrue by letting Foles walk. So even though they don’t have an experienced backup for the oft-injured Wentz, they’re not totally getting the shaft here.
Where might Foles wind up? The Dolphins, Jaguars, and Washington all have possible holes to fill at QB. But no matter what happens, Eagles fans will forever fondly recall the rise Foles gave them by hammering home a championship—and for sticking it to Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots, to boot—before Alshon Jeffery cocked up a bid for an unlikely repeat. When it was his time to flash, Nick Foles shot his shot.