We’ll always have “Philly Philly,” but now two of the three protagonists of the most famous trick play in Eagles history have moved on.
As expected, former Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Foles caught the touchdown pass thrown by then-Eagles tight end Trey Burton, just before halftime of what became the team’s historic 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, the only Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
Burton left a year ago in free agency to Chicago. Of the players who touched the ball on that fourth-down play -- actually named “The Philly Special,” but verbally mangled by Foles when he suggested running it on a trip to the sideline -- only running back Corey Clement, who took the direct snap and pitched it to Burton, remains an Eagle.
The deal is for four years and $88 million, reportedly with $50.125 million guaranteed. Those are big numbers, considering no other suitors ever emerged after the Eagles announced two weeks ago that they would let Foles become a free agent, declining to apply the franchise tag at nearly $25 million for one year. Tagging Foles would have given them an impossible salary-cap situation, and as executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman acknowledged, the team supported Foles’ quest to become a starter elsewhere.
“It’s hard when you have someone who’s incredibly valuable to your organization at the most important position in sports,” Roseman said at the NFL Scouting Combine, when asked about the decision to set Foles free. "We’ve had incredible success with him when he’s had to play. Four playoff wins in the last two years. Great teammate. Huge resource for Carson [Wentz], and Nate Sudfeld as well.
"But at the same time, he deserves the opportunity to lead a team. It’s a goal of his to lead another team, lead another locker room. We feel at this point it’s the right decision."
Sources told The Inquirer earlier this month that the Jaguars expected to sign the Super Bowl LII MVP, and the deal came on the first day of the “legal tampering” period ahead of free agency opening on Wednesday.
A source close to the situation called Foles, 30, “a perfect fit” for the Jaguars, whose offensive coordinator is John DeFilippo, Foles’ quarterbacks coach with the Eagles in 2017.
The Jags almost played the Eagles in the Super Bowl that season before blowing a lead to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. They finished with a 5-11 record last year.
Reports say the Jaguars plan to release Blake Bortles, whom they drafted third overall in 2014. There has been speculation that even if the Jags signed Foles, they would still draft a quarterback to develop. But if the Foles contract figures are to be believed, they won’t be moving on to a youngster anytime soon.
Foles has been in this situation once before, when then-Eagles coach Chip Kelly traded him to the St. Louis Rams in 2015 to become their starter. The Eagles got Sam Bradford in return. Foles was not a good fit for then-Rams coach Jeff Fisher’s offense (not many people have been), and he eventually lost the starting job that season. When the Rams drafted Jared Goff, Foles asked for his release and got it. Then he came close to retiring, Foles has said, before agreeing to serve as a backup in Kansas City for former Eagles coach Andy Reid, the man who drafted Foles out of the University of Arizona in 2012′s third round.
Foles spent a quiet year backing up Alex Smith for the Chiefs, then signed with the Eagles to mentor Wentz. He ended up leading the team into the playoffs two years in a row, after Wentz’s knee injury in 2017 and his back injury last year.
Foles leaves -- this time for good maybe, but who can say? -- as the franchise’s ninth all-time passer, with 8,703 yards, a 62.9 percent completion rate, 58 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. His Eagles passer rating is 93.2, the top figure in franchise history. He completed an Eagles record 25 successive passes last season against the Redskins, and tied a team and NFL record in 2013 with seven touchdown passes in a game against Oakland.
Foles’ 1,633 playoff passing yards and 11 playoff TDs with the Eagles are second in franchise history to Donovan McNabb.
After this past season’s playoff run ended with a loss in New Orleans, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of Foles, “I can’t thank him enough. He’s a pro’s pro. He’s a great human being, great leader in the locker room. He’ll always be remembered in Philadelphia for bringing a Super Bowl to this city.”