Sunday, March 16, 2014
Foles gives Eagles ability to maneuver
By Dan Graziano
There weren't many bigger Nick Foles skeptics than this guy, I'll be the first to admit. What Foles did last year in 10 games as the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback was astounding. Put up monster numbers every week while making almost no mistakes and led the team to the NFC East title in Chip Kelly's first year as coach. Foles threw as many touchdown passes (27) as Eli Manning threw interceptions in 2013, and Foles himself was intercepted only twice. Dazzling.
Nick Foles' low salary-cap number has given the Eagles financial flexibility this offseason.
And Foles' positive effect on the Eagles has now extended into the offseason, allowing Kelly and GM Howie Roseman to make the big moves they need to make to improve the rest of the roster with the confidence of a team that has a quarterback and the financial freedom of a team that has a really, really inexpensive one.
This is a league-wide trend. Teams like the Seahawks and 49ers, who are winning with young quarterbacks who weren't first-round picks and aren't breaking the bank, have significantly more salary-cap room than the teams that pay their quarterbacks $20 million per year. As a result, they're able to make the kinds of offseason moves that financial concerns prevent other teams from making. They can be looser in their allocation of top resources. The 49ers last year, convinced Colin Kaepernick was the man at quarterback, could make the deal for Anquan Boldin. The Seahawks last year, convinced Russell Wilson was their man, could trade a first-round pick for Percy Harvin and not even use him until the Super Bowl. They were able to do these things because Kaepernick and Wilson ate up less than $1 million in cap room.
The 2014 Eagles may not have expected it, but they find themselves as one of those teams. Foles' 2014 cap number is $770,800. His base salary is $615,000. Even if the Eagles wanted to reward him for his big year with a big new deal, they couldn't. The new rules prohibit teams from renegotiating with a player until after the player's third year. Foles has only played two. He's locked in.
So come on down, Darren Sproles. Your addition to the Eagles' backfield as a luxury item owes itself to the Eagles' ability to allocate $3.5 million in cap room to him while already allocating $9.7 million to LeSean McCoy. And sure, Jeremy Maclin, just because Riley Cooper re-signed doesn't mean you can't, too. The Eagles didn't have to crunch the numbers to make sure they could take on a $5.25 million cap number for a wide receiver coming off ACL surgery. They have more room than they know what to do with. Division rivals like the Giants and Cowboys, saddled with whopping eight-figure cap numbers for Manning and Tony Romo, can only look on in jealousy. The Redskins are only committing $5.76 million in cap room to Robert Griffin III in 2014, so they're not as strapped as teams like the Giants, Cowboys and Saints are. But that's still $5 million more than the Eagles will spend on Foles next year.
The Eagles always do a good job managing their cap. They always have plenty of room. But this here is found money, and a lot of it. A year ago, the Eagles expected to be looking for a quarterback this offseason. Kelly didn't know what he had in Foles. He liked him, sure, but you certainly remember that he gave the starting job to Michael Vick in training camp. If Kelly had known Foles was capable of doing what he did, there wouldn't have been a contest.
The question going forward with Foles is whether he can do it again, and no one knows the answer to that. Maybe 2013 was a flash in the pan, but on the other hand maybe Foles is exactly the right guy for Kelly's no-huddle offensive bonanza -- able to process and execute the plays with the speed and efficiency that Kelly's system demands. If nothing else, he's earned the right to prove the latter long-term. And because of that, the Eagles are not looking for a quarterback this offseason. They believe they have one. And as an added bonus, he's playing for peanuts. It's a salary cap-era GM's dream come true.