PHOENIX — Nick Foles is gone to Jacksonville but far from forgotten, as was apparent when Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and head coach Doug Pederson spoke at the NFL meetings.
The path the Eagles eventually followed with their Super Bowl LII MVP was the one most observers anticipated — they didn’t franchise Foles, allowing him to seek a starting job as a free agent. He signed a four-year, potentially $88 million deal to quarterback the Jaguars, with more than $50 million guaranteed. But Lurie said the Eagles anguished over parting with a franchise icon, and they harbored some concerns as they did so.
“Exceptional person. It was hard. We went through every alternative we could think of as an organization, how to proceed here,” Lurie said Tuesday evening. “Nick really did want to have a team to take control of and be the guy. He’d just come off winning the Super Bowl and almost taking us back to the Super Bowl. We know him so well, we’re so close to him. I think we just felt like this is what he wanted.”
The Carson Wentz-Foles dynamic was a great situation for the Eagles, giving them quarterbacking depth that was the envy of the NFL. But it also was an untenable situation financially, even if Foles had been OK with remaining the backup.
“It wouldn’t have made sense to franchise Nick. It just wouldn’t have been the right thing to do,” Lurie said. “He’s a legend in Philadelphia. He will always be part of our family, forever. … He and Carson are different, and so terrific, both of them. They both benefited from each other in so many ways.”
Pederson also spoke of what a shame it was to break up the tandem, even if saying goodbye to Foles was inevitable. One thing Howie Roseman, Pederson and Lurie made clear in Arizona was that they have no reservations about signing Wentz to a long-term contract, that they are willing to bet on his ability to stay healthy. The plan for 2019 seems to be Nate Sudfeld as No. 2 and a late-roundish draft pick as QB 3.
“You get to a point where, at some level, what Nick has done has given Nick an opportunity to be a starter. And me personally, I didn’t want to hold him back from that,” Pederson said. “I’m so excited for Nick, the opportunity to go play and run a franchise and run an organization, because we’ve got so much confidence in Carson, and that’s the battle. That’s the struggle. Because we’ve got a great quarterback in Carson, but yet we understand and appreciate what Nick has done for our team, for our organization, for me personally.
“And then it gives him an opportunity to secure his family financially for the rest of their lives and go play. So for me, those are tough decisions, but at the same time, I’m excited for both quarterbacks moving forward.”
Lurie indicated that he fielded questions from teams who were wondering if a 30-year-old QB who has never played a full 16-game season could repeat his Philly magic elsewhere.
“It was just a great example of a player we all loved and doing the right thing. And supporting him with other teams. I would get asked, ‘What’s Nick like? Can he be dynamic for anyone but you?’ and all that,” Lurie said. “I just think it’s part of our role, my role, I think personally, to absolutely be honest and let people know how wonderful he is and what a great leader he is.”
Lurie was the first Eagles official to acknowledge that the Giants’ and Redskins’ iffy QB situations factored into unease over parting with Foles.
“Certainly, Howie and I had long discussions about it. We thought the sooner we do it the better, because we wanted to give Nick every opportunity to be in the best possible situation and not have a team worry that we were gonna potentially keep him, and [Foles] not have the opportunity to start, because there aren’t that many opportunities,” Lurie said.
“We were also, to be honest about it, hoping that he didn’t end up with the Giants or the Redskins. That was part of it — we were very confident that he was going to play for Jacksonville.”
Pederson, who spoke at the coaches’ breakfast, was asked what the Jags are getting in Foles.
“One, they’re getting a great person. Great family, a great leader. Someone that can really bring that offense together and bring that team together,” Pederson said. “He’s not going to be a rah-rah guy. He’s not going to stand on the table and say, ‘Follow me,’ but he’s one of those guys that’s going to lead by example. He’s going to work extremely hard; he’s going to be in early and out late. He’s going to demand excellence from everybody. That’s who he is. I’m excited for him.”