Nick Foles may not have put up Tom Brady’s crazy numbers—he merely passed for 383 yards as opposed to Brady’s insane 505 passing yards—but he is the Super Bowl MVP. He earned it by making the first-ever receiving touchdown by a quarterback in a Super Bowl, and through not fumbling the ball on a strip-sack at the game’s most crucial moment. Still, the Austin native, Westlake High School grad, and Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback finds himself in an unusual situation: the MVP still won’t be the Eagles’ starter when they kick off the season in September.
That job will go to Carson Wentz, the exceptional second-year quarterback who would have led the Eagles through the playoffs but for a season-ending injury he sustained in week 14. Foles, after some hiccups in the regular season, has been phenomenal, but no team benches a young player with Wentz’s potential (and with his draft status—he was the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft). So barring a surprising medical setback, Foles’s prospects for 2018 are either to return to Philly as a backup earning $7 million on a two-year deal, or to be traded to a team that could use a young Super Bowl MVP passer.
Never before has a Super Bowl MVP been his team’s backup heading into the following season. (In 1991, Jeff Hostetler won Super Bowl XXV with the Giants, but running back Ottis Anderson earned the MVP honors.) On one hand, his value to the Eagles is clear: Wentz is a physical, mobile quarterback who takes chances, and there’s a chance he gets hurt again; if he does, the Eagles already know that they have a backup who can win it all for them. On the other hand, Foles deserves a starting shot somewhere, and it’s likely that someone makes the Eagles an offer. The question is what the offer needs to look like for both teams to get a deal worth taking.
There are a half dozen teams going into 2018 without a reliable starting quarterback (The Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, and Arizona Cardinals), and another six that could use either a long-term solution or an upgrade over their current franchise QB (The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and the Cincinnati Bengals). There are also four likely first-round draft picks at the position—Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield could all go in the first ten picks—and a handful of other free agents worth considering, notably Washington’s Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater. (Other scenarios, which include Eli Manning being released or traded, or Drew Brees hitting free agency, could potentially come to pass, but let’s leave them in the realm of speculation for now.)
The Giants—who have Eli Manning, an older quarterback but a two-time Super Bowl MVP—are unlikely to be in play for the 29-year-old Foles; so are the Chargers, Ravens, and Bengals, who all have aging quarterbacks. So those teams are certainly in the market for the rookies in the draft, which means that the game of quarterback musical chairs is going to leave a lot of teams on the outside looking in. Say the Browns (number one overall), Giants (number two), Broncos (number five), and Dolphins (number eleven) all draft quarterbacks in the first round. That leaves the Bills, Jets, Vikings, and Cardinals looking at QB picks in the second-round or later, or someone they can pick up in free agency. Cousins might go to Arizona, and Keenum could return to the Vikings. The rest of the pool of free agents is tough to get inspired by. Bridgewater and Bradford both have injury history that makes them unreliable, and players like the 38-year-old journeyman Josh McCown or the long-suffering Jay Cutler don’t inspire much confidence.
Any team that needs a starter in 2018 would probably be happy to give up a third-round pick for Foles, but it’s hard to imagine why the Eagles would take that deal. A second-rounder is more in line with the current pricing on QB’s—the Patriots traded backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second in October—but Garoppolo was an untested 26-year-old prospect at that point. (He’s since proven himself to be impressive enough that any team would have happily surrendered a first-rounder, or more, for him.) The Eagles would have been happy to listen to offers of a second-round pick had Wentz stayed healthy throughout the season, but given that they may need a quality backup more than most teams, it’s not a sure thing that they’d take that deal either.
At the same time, a first-round pick for a 29-year-old quarterback who, until recently, bounced around the league as a backup is a tough bargain to imagine most teams making. Any team that trades for Foles gets him for the 2018 season at his current contract of $7.6 million, which is a bargain for a Super Bowl MVP-caliber quarterback. But they’d almost certainly want to sign him to a long-term deal after trading away a first-rounder for him, which means they’d end up paying him somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year, even if the cheaper 2018 ends up factored into the math. At 29, Foles should have at least another four or five years of high-level play in him—he hasn’t taken a beating as a passer, and seems to be getting better with age. A first-rounder would be a good deal for the Eagles, who’d be thrilled to upgrade at another position as they build around Wentz, but it’d be tough for any team that didn’t completely fall in love with Foles during the playoffs this year to justify it. A year ago, Foles was a free agent on the street—would you give up a big contract and the opportunity to draft a young player with more years of play ahead of him to take someone whose postseason could be written off as a fluke?
It’s possible the Eagles flip him for a second-rounder, or that a team that thinks he’s going to lead them to the promised land (that misses out on signing Cousins or Keenum without having to give up a pick) goes all-in on Nick Foles for 2018 and beyond. But it’s more likely that he basks in the afterglow in Philly, ready if he’s needed again for a team that has absolute confidence in him—and, of course, ready to cash in as a free agent in 2019.