The two transactions on Monday, one to start the day and one to end the evening, further define the Eagles’ quarterback picture, one that has taken a full 12 months to take shape. It’s been a “Merry Go Round,” as Howie Roseman puts it, and he’s right: The Eagles have continually addressed the game’s most important position to get it just the way they want it.
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What a wild ride it’s been, starting last March with the pre-emptive strike to sign unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Sam Bradford to a two-year contract and then days later adding Daniel in free agency. Wentz was drafted in April and then became the starter for the 2016 season when the Eagles traded Bradford to Minnesota in September.
“It all starts with the starter,” Roseman said. “Last year at this time we had a lot of balls in the air and we were considering a lot of things. We go back to the picture that Seattle presented years ago when they had Matt Flynn, who they had just signed in free agency, and Tarvaris Jackson, the starter the season before, and they felt good about those two and all of a sudden they take a shot and draft Russell Wilson in 2012. They kept addressing quarterback until they had the right guys there.
“You have to take shots in this league and we think that, 12 months later, we have it the way we want it at quarterback. We were able to go out and get Carson and we see what he did in his rookie season. We are so excited to build around him. And then you have a guy like Nick who is experienced and who played so well when he had the chance last season. At the same time, we’re always going to look at young quarterbacks to develop. We’re going to keep our eyes open.”
Daniel did his job in his single season as an Eagle. He was a positive influence in the locker room and on Wentz. Daniel helped head coach Doug Pederson introduce the verbiage and the nuances of Pederson’s version of the West Coast offense to the team. And when called upon – for six plays in the late-season game against the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field when Wentz was taken into the locker room for evaluation of a potential head injury – Daniel took the offense to the 1-yard line, completing a 16-yard shovel pass on a second-and-12 play along the way, where a fourth-down handoff to
Wentz returned to the game and helped the Eagles beat New York, 24-19, and Daniel did what he did the rest of the season – serve as a steady hand as the No. 2 quarterback.
But as the Eagles wanted to push the position and upgrade, Daniel wanted a chance to compete for a starting job. Daniel spoke of competing with Bradford upon signing with the Eagles in free agency last year. While Bradford was anointed the starter, the idea was that the two would bring out the best in each other.
Then the Eagles drafted Wentz and, upon trading Bradford for a first-round pick in April’s draft, elevated him to the starting spot as a rookie. Clearly, the Eagles liked the upside of Wentz and preferred that direction for 2016.
“From our perspective, a lot has changed in the last 12 months. When we signed Chase here, what Coach (Pederson) was looking for, and where we were, Chase had an opportunity to come in here and compete for a job with Sam. When we went and made the trade and drafted Carson, circumstances changed and Chase didn’t have that opportunity.
“Nick is someone we are very comfortable with, someone we’ve won games with. He brings some stability to that position going forward. To have Nick under contract for the next two years is appealing to us. We didn’t want him going anywhere else.”
It’s no secret that Daniel wanted more of an opportunity, and he made that clear to Roseman. The Eagles kept the phone lines open and the conversations fluid around the league and couldn’t move Daniel in a trade, so the release on Monday was the next step.
“Chase just wanted to be in a situation, at this point in his career, where he was in a position to legitimately compete for a starting role or at least see that the window was open for that opportunity,” Roseman said. “That wasn’t going to be the case here. We think the backup quarterback role is an extremely important one, and we’re glad to have Nick here in our room. We didn’t feel we were in position to wait on this. In a matter of days, we might not have been in the position to have Nick in this role, so we felt this was the right time to improve our football team.”
Foles, drafted by the Eagles in 2012, had his Pro Bowl season in 2013, and then started eight games with 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 2014 before the Eagles, in a stunning move on the first business day of 2015, sent him to the Rams and acquired Bradford. Foles took his lumps in 2015 with St. Louis, and then got his game back on track with head coach Andy Reid and Kansas City last season.
In three games (including mop-up duty in the regular season finale against San Diego), Foles completed 36-of-55 passes (65.5 percent) for 410 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, compiling a passer rating of 105.9. He started against Jacksonville and won that game.
The Eagles liked very much what they saw from their former third-round draft pick.
“When you look back at how Nick played for Coach Reid against the Colts and the Jaguars, he looked like the Nick that was here previously,” Roseman said. “They won both of those games, he protected the football very well. He’s still got an arm to make all the throws. He’s got the big body. We feel like if he is on the field, and we want to do everything we can to keep Carson healthy and on the field, but if Nick is out there we feel that, with this offensive line and with these playmakers we’re putting together, he can win games for us. We have full confidence in that.”
Daniel signed a lucrative three-year contract last year as the Eagles competed for his services in free agency. Mindful of the circumstances for the Eagles with relation to the salary cap, Roseman explained what the deals on Monday meant for the team looking ahead.
“The cap is tight for 2017, as we’ve discussed, and it’s our job to do what we can to improve our roster and at the same time not put ourselves in bad situations moving forward. That’s what we’re doing on a daily basis,” he said. “As far as this is concerned, this doesn’t have a huge effect. Chase was due to make $7 million this year, so it was important in making these moves to be as close as possible to keep what Chase had left on his contract and what Nick was going to make from a cap and cash perspective.”