INDIANAPOLIS — The Eagles will let quarterback Nick Foles become a free agent by not using the franchise tag to try to trade him, top executive Howie Roseman said Wednesday at the NFL’s annual scouting combine.
The Eagles had until March 5 to tag Foles, which would have kept the Super Bowl MVP off the open market. Roseman said they decided to let him sign elsewhere in search of a starting job, but he would not comment on whether they tried to trade him or what the interest might have been.
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“We’ve been so fortunate over the last couple of years to have two top-15 quarterbacks in Carson [Wentz] and Nick,” Roseman said. “We’ve spent a lot of time discussing this internally and with him, and we’ve decided to let Nick become a free agent.”
The Eagles had determined Wentz will be their starting quarterback, so the only question was whether they would try to trade Foles or let him leave in free agency. The Eagles will likely receive a compensatory pick as high as the third round in 2020.
Roseman said “a lot” went into the decision. Although it could be interpreted as an act of good will to one of the iconic players in franchise history, it was the practical business decision more than anything else. By using the tag, the Eagles would have eaten up $25 million of cap space, and with only a few teams interested in a starting quarterback, it’s unclear whether any team would have surrendered compensation in a trade for Foles. Using the franchise tag to trade a player would be circumventing the spirit of the system, but Roseman indicated that discussion is moot.
“We’ve had incredible success with him when he’s had to play,” Roseman said. “Four playoff wins over the last two years, great teammate, huge resource for Carson and Nate Sudfeld, as well. But, at the same time, he deserves an opportunity to lead a team. It’s a goal of his to lead another team and lead another locker room, and we feel at this point it was the right decision.”
A statue of Foles stands outside Lincoln Financial Field with coach Doug Pederson, immortalizing the moment they called the Philly Special. Their history dates to when Pederson was the quarterbacks coach in 2012 and put Foles through a private predraft workout. The quarterback and coach had conversations after the season and knew the direction this was going.
“He knew where I stood and how I felt about him,” Pederson said. “He was a huge part of our success the past two years. But again, a lot like in Carson’s case, he was one piece of the puzzle. It’s an opportunity now … to become a starter in this league, and he’s very capable of doing that. I’m excited for his future.”
The most likely landing spot for Foles appears to be the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that was one win away from facing Foles in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. The Jags are expected to seek a replacement for Blake Bortles, and their new offensive coordinator is John DeFilippo, the Eagles’ former quarterbacks coach.
There aren’t many other open spots. Miami and Washington are expected to search for quarterbacks. The New York Giants sound as though they’re sticking with veteran Eli Manning, based on coach Pat Shurmur’s comments at the combine. Denver has a trade worked out for Joe Flacco. Oakland general manager Mike Mayock called David Carr a franchise quarterback.
It leaves the Eagles looking for a new backup quarterback. The likely candidate is Sudfeld, who was Foles’ backup in the Super Bowl and was the third-stringer last season before Wentz’s injury. Sudfeld is a restricted free agent, but the Eagles will likely give him a tender that will keep him in Philadelphia.
Sudfeld has never started a game, however, and has only 25 regular-season pass attempts. That’s far different than Foles, who had significant experience as a starter when he signed as Wentz’s No. 2 in 2017. It’s even less than Chase Daniel, who was the backup in 2016, during Pederson’s first season. Considering Wentz’s injury history, the backup role will be a focal point this offseason. Pederson said Sudfeld will need to win that spot.
“Nate’s done a great job,” Pederson said. “He’s really put himself in a position to compete for it. We just don’t go around and give out jobs. But, at the same time, we want him to compete for that spot. We feel like he’s earned the opportunity to do that. I’m comfortable with what he’s done, been with us for a few years,and understands our system.”
The Eagles could look for a free agent with starting experience or draft a developmental quarterback to compete with Sudfeld but eventually be the third-stringer.
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