Nick Foles wants to start again. He wants to walk into the huddle as the starting quarterback and help lead his team to a championship.
The restructured contract the Eagles gave Foles last week prepares for that possibility. But as it stands now, he won’t have that opportunity with the Eagles. The reigning Super Bowl MVP is slated to return to his pre-title position of backup – a scenario that even the unassuming quarterback admitted was bizarre.
“It is a crazy situation,” Foles said Tuesday. “I don’t know how many times it’s happened.”
How about never?
Foles said he isn’t bitter. He said he’s “not banging on the table” to force a trade. He said that when he thinks about how it would be to start again, he looks at the arc of his career and how fortunate he is to play in Philadelphia, and realizes he can’t worry about what he can’t control.
He was originally signed to be Carson Wentz’s backup and he’s under contract. And while he will hold down the fort and maybe even start a game or two until Wentz returns from a knee injury – a role Foles said he is comfortable filling – he is not the franchise quarterback.
But make no mistake, he wants that chance again. Not that it should come as any surprise.
“I shouldn’t have to come out and say, ‘Hey, I should be a starter again,’” Foles said at the NovaCare Complex. “There’s a lot of guys that say that, that shouldn’t be starters. The key is to go out on the field and lead your team to show people that, ‘Hey, this guy is a good guy in the locker room. He can lead a team. He did it on the field. He’s shown it.’”
The Eagles, obviously, see that value; otherwise, they wouldn’t have placed such a high price tag on Foles this offseason. They reportedly sought at least a first-round draft pick when the new NFL year opened last month.
But there was more to their demands than just Foles’ talent. The Eagles still don’t have a concrete timetable for Wentz’s return – he said last week that his goal was still to be back by Week 1 – and they understand better than most teams the value of having a starting-caliber backup.
They also had a potential insurance policy in place should something further happen to Wentz, something beyond just this season. Wentz is expected to make a full recovery, and barring an unforeseen setback, he should continue his path toward cementing his place among the league’s best quarterbacks.
But the revised deal the Eagles and Foles agreed to last week was about more than just rewarding him for his championship contributions and for being a loyal soldier.
Foles received a $2 million signing bonus and with various incentives – for playing time, wins, and awards – he could earn up to $23 million for 2018. The Eagles, in turn, received an option year for 2019.
“It benefits me, it also benefits the team, as well,” Foles said. “They have an option on me.”
But the option year is mutual, meaning the Eagles can pick up the additional year at $20 million, but if Foles wants to buy his way to free agency he must give back the $2 million bonus.
“We were able to create something that basically protected me and protected the team because it is a unique situation we’re in now,” Foles said.
But the Eagles can still use their franchise tag on Foles. He would earn about $5 million more for 2019, but he would be unable to become a free agent. The only reason the Eagles would exercise the tag was if something was to happen to Wentz.
And who could blame the Eagles for protecting themselves? Under different circumstances, they might not have been able to give out such a contract. They might have thought it best to trade Foles, for whatever they could get, to avoid any awkwardness.
But the quarterbacks seemingly have a relationship devoid of selfishness. Wentz put his own self-interest aside and was one of Foles’ greatest supporters even though Foles would step into his shoes and fulfill his boyhood dreams. And when Foles said that he hoped his teammate would “get healthy, get back to Carson Wentz,” it appeared genuine.
“It could be tricky, for sure,” Foles said. “But he and I are close. [Third-string QB] Nate [Sudfeld], Carson and me – we have such a great group that works like a dynamic.”
The dynamic could be tested over the next several months. As Wentz rehabs, Foles will run the first-team offense, starting next month when formal practices begin. He will likely retain that role through training camp, the preseason, and possibly into the regular season.
“My mind-set won’t change,” Foles said. “There’s definitely times when I’m tempted to look at the future, like any of us are. I’d be lying if that wasn’t the case. But you have to reel back in and stay in the present.”
As far as the past, Foles said he’s still coming to grips with the fairy-tale finish to last season. He said he’s still the same person – “Just can’t go many places” – but there are constant reminders of his and the Eagles’ recent accomplishments.
“I don’t know if it will really ever set in,” Foles said. “I don’t know if it’s really meant to.”
He aspires to win another, but he said he would be content repeating as a backup.
“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” Foles said. “Do I want an opportunity to lead a team again? Absolutely. But am I trying to run away and do it now? Well, I’m grateful to be here. I’m grateful that the team was able to work through a restructure that benefited me and the team. … I love it here.”