The most remarkable angle to the Nick Foles saga as it continues through a second postseason with the Eagles, is not that Foles was the Super Bowl MVP a year ago, or that the same result remains a possibility this time around, but that he will almost certainly not be with the team next season, regardless.
“I realize that I’m blessed to be able to wear this jersey at least one more week,” Foles said after the Eagles beat the Bears 16-15 in the NFC wild-card round last Sunday, “and I get to play with these guys one more week.”
Football is a cold business, and the players in the locker room understand that best of all. If Foles were to remain with the Eagles, at their option, he is scheduled to earn $20 million next season, which is too much to pay a backup in the NFL. Foles can also opt out of the contract if he chooses to enter the free-agent market and try his luck there. Either way, he is gone.
So cut and dried is Foles’ situation that center Jason Kelce sought him out just before Cody Parkey lined up to attempt the last-minute field goal that would have ended the season in Chicago.
“I went over to Nick Foles. I made sure I wanted to tell him, ‘If this is the last time we get to be on the field together, I’m going to miss you, bud,’ ” Kelce told reporters after the game.
As it turned out, of course, with help from a fingertip of defensive lineman Treyvon Hester, Parkey’s kick ping-ponged around the goal post before falling back into the field of play. They got at least one more week, bud.
“It means the world,” Foles said of the pre-kick exchange. “I’m not worried about the future, but at the same time, I understand where I stand. And every time I wear that jersey is special, and to play with guys like Jason, that’s special. I’ll never forget that.”
It is a touching story – Nick Foles and the quest to extend his time with the Eagles – but it isn’t the only tale of looming loss in the locker room. The end of every season is an ending for a lot of players. Teams that reassemble in the spring are never the same as the one that dispersed in the winter. From the Super Bowl team, the Eagles moved past a long list that included LeGarrette Blount, Torrey Smith, Trey Burton, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Patrick Robinson and Jaylen Watkins. All had a hand in the championship, but time, tide, and the salary cap wait for no man.
This season isn’t any different, and there is more than just one player who wants to pull on the uniform as many times as possible.
“We’re all doing that,” defensive end Michael Bennett said. “I’m doing that, Chris Long is doing that, Brandon Graham is doing that, Jason Peters is doing that. Just list the guys. Everybody has to stay present in the moment and not think about the future. That’s just football. The older you get as a player, you realize that things are going to change. The reality is that all of us could be cut, but you have to enjoy the moment and be present and be together.”
The players Bennett named are all potential – some more likely than others – roster casualties. To that list, you can add Jay Ajayi, Mike Wallace, Ronald Darby, Golden Tate, and Corey Graham. There are other question marks as well. Will Darren Sproles retire? Will the Eagles think twice about giving a new contract to oft-injured Jordan Hicks? Will one or more of the veterans agree to a restructured contract to stay with the team?
Nothing is certain except that the group will still be together in New Orleans on Sunday.
“I do think about that,” said offensive tackle Lane Johnson, whose roster spot is not in jeopardy. “All we can do is make the time that we’re together count.”
The focus, as so often happens, has settled on the quarterback. That’s understandable, given this particular quarterback and his peculiar situation. But his isn’t the only jersey that might fall to the floor for the final time depending on Sunday’s outcome.
“I don’t think past this game,” Long said.