The First order of business this off-season for the Philadelphia Eagles is to make a decision on Nick Foles. They have until March 5th to apply the franchise tag, or they can let him walk and receive a compensation pick in 2020.
There has been a lot of speculation that the Eagles will indeed look to tag Foles and then trade him.
If they do decide to tag Foles, the team that many believe would be the most logical trade partner is the Jacksonville Jaguars. I have been one of the people that believe the Jaguars should and will make a move for Nick Foles this off-season.
Q and A:
BM: Give us that state of the Jaguars quarterback situation.
JJ: Well, simply put, they need a starter at the position and there currently isn’t one on the team. After giving Blake Bortles almost five full seasons (73 total starts) to shake his sporadic play, it’s clear that he is who he is at this point — and that’s a player who is capable of occasionally playing lights out, but also one who can cost you the game if you rely on him too frequently. And while there were several other issues around him on offense like four of his starting five offensive linemen going on injured reserve and his receivers havingthe league’s second-highest drop rate, it’s the things that Bortles can control like his mechanics, inaccuracy, and placement that indicate it’s time to move on. For the sake of Doug Marrone, that makes things hard going forward because they simply don’t know what player they’ll get week in and week out.
Marrone gave their backup Cody Kessler a shot after Bortles hit a wall in 2018, and he also proved to be largely ineffective. While he did offer them better care for the ball, he was only able to accumulate two touchdowns over the course of four starts, which tells fans all they need to know.
The Jags also currently have Tanner Lee, who they drafted in the sixth round of 2018 as a project, and Alex McGough, who spent time on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad up until last month. However, neither player has more than one preseason tenure to their names.
So yeah, they have a big-time need at the quarterback position and perhaps the need for a serviceable backup, too.
BM: Would the Jaguars front office be more inclined to draft a guy at 7 overall, or sign/trade for a veteran?
JJ: I think they’re open to all options, but we’ll probably have a better understanding after the NFL Combine because that’s when agents and teams begin to discuss who will be retained and who won’t. Also, it will be key to watch how Dwayne Haskins interviews, because if the Jags like him as much as many believe, they’ll probably have to start concocting a trade to move up and ensure they will land him. To a lesser extent, it will be interesting to see how Kyler Murray does in Indianapolis, too, although I have a hard time seeing Tom Coughlin pull the trigger on him because of his measurables, which aren’t of the mold of a traditional quarterback. That said, if they want to draft a starter it’s likely Haskins or bust.
Regardless of whether they take Haskins, they will definitely be on the market for a veteran quarterback come free agency. If Haskins is truly who they want, they’ll likely target less expensive options than Nick Foles like Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill or Case Keenum. If they haven’t traded up and take one of the aforementioned veterans not named Foles, I think there’s a strong possibility they want Haskins and will do what’s necessary to get him from that point.
BM: What are you hearing about potential interest in Nick Foles?
JJ: If he hits the open market it seems there will be some interest from Jacksonville, however, I personally don’t believe they want to give up draft picks to get him. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said it best this week: When healthy, the Jags were the league’s No. 6 offense in 2017 — and that was with Bortles behind center. Additionally, they still have one of the league’s best defenses to carry them. For those reasons, they may feel that giving up picks for Foles on top of having to pay him the franchise contract or commit to him long-term isn’t the way to go.
So, again, his best chance to be a Jag is probably through free agency, and even then they may feel they can get by with a cheaper veteran option or through the draft.
BM: Are there any potential hurdles preventing the Jags from acquiring Foles?
JJ: Some believe their salary cap could get in the way, but that’s not necessarily the case because they could theoretically clear out the space to get him or any other marquee names they like. The question is how much would acquiring him cost them in terms of removing some veterans off their current books, and how much acquiring him would limit them in terms of addressing their other offensive needs.
Simply put, no quarterback (especially Foles) will be able to do much with the Jags’ current group. There isn’t a Zach Ertz or Alshon Jeffery on their roster, which could be a big problem for Foles. And while they have an ascending offensive line on the left side and at center, and a good rushing attack when healthy, they do have a need for a lineman on the right side and skill guys, most notably at tight end and receiver as previously mentioned.
Another potential roadblock worth mentioning is the fact that the Jags need to seriously consider locking up their franchise pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, or franchise player, Jalen Ramsey, this off-season. There is time to get a deal done for Ramsey, but Ngakoue will enter 2019 on the last year of his rookie deal.
BM: Why wouldn’t they want a SB MVP? And wouldn’t it make more sense to trade for him now rather than wait for free agency?
JJ: Well first, I don’t think they’re looking at him solely by his Super Bowl MVP title, and rightfully so. For some players a Super Bowl MVP title doesn’t necessarily define the entirety of their career. While I certainly won’t discredit what Foles has done in the past few years, especially in 2017, Foles’ body of work as a whole is questionable and his work outside the Eagles organization could scare some teams away. After all, they have Foles’ former quarterbacks coach to gauge his value and may feel that a top-3 round selection isn’t worth it (if that’s what Philly wants).
Also, I don’t know that the Jags want to commit to a veteran quarterback long-term, which is what Foles would want. It’s possible they would rely heavily on the knowledge of his former positions coach and current Jags coordinator, John DeFilippo, to have a say about whether Foles is worth the long-term contract he’d want. They may strongly feel their defense could carry a rookie quarterback in 2019, but their third-round selections would probably be needed to trade up to get the signal-caller they want within the top-5 picks. But again, that’s just me speculating.
Lastly, I don’t know that the market is large enough for Foles. If the Jags are truly interested, they may believe they can force the Eagles to let Foles hit the market by not investing a draft pick into him. Why? Well, if they don’t, it’s possible nobody else will and the Eagles will have no choice but to let him hit free agency, where Jacksonville could get him without losing draft compensation. If there is another team willing to give up a draft pick for Foles, the Jags probably would be fine with that and begin looking to the draft for an option..
BM: Obviously it’s very early in the process, but if you had to guess, who do you believe will be under center for the Jaguars week one?
JJ: My gut tells me it will be a Tyrod Taylor type option back there behind center, though I’d say Foles has a good (but not great) chance, too. I’ll stick with my prediction from earlier in the off-season and say Taylor, with Haskins behind him and perhaps McGough or another rookie as the project/practice squad guy.
Feature image: WSJ.com