At the quarterback position, the issues are real. The story that is being discussed on Philadelphia radio and in the media? That's not the one that holds water. The true quarterback story is one, several really, that the Eagles are going to have to address in the months to come. Let's start the conversation here.
The first decision the Eagles are going to have to make is on Nick Foles, who has an option year remaining on a contract that is scheduled to pay him $20 million for the 2019 season. The team must decide by 30 days before the new league year begins (on or around February 12) whether to exercise the $20 million option. If the Eagles exercise the option, Foles has five days to pay $2 million to void the contract and become an unrestricted free agent. If Foles does not void the option, the $20 million becomes guaranteed five days after the new League Year begins (4 p.m., March 13).
If the contract is voided, the Eagles can then either place the franchise tag on Foles, at approximately $25 million – will be official once the league finalizes the salary cap for the 2019 season just before the new league year, and either keep him on the roster or try to trade him. Or, of course, the Eagles can allow Foles to be an unrestricted free agent and receive a compensatory pick in 2020.
That's the outline with Foles. The Eagles say they haven't made any concrete decisions except that they are committed to Carson Wentz as the quarterback moving forward. It would be very, very difficult to envision Foles remaining an Eagle as a backup at $20 million or $25 million for 2019. So, what do the Eagles do if they trade Foles or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent?
This is where it becomes more layered. Wentz has a lot of work to do in the offseason. He needs to get healthy. He needs to step back and get some downtime, because he hasn't had any since prior to the 2017 season. He's been grinding since then, and it's been mentally and physically exhausting as he's come back from a knee injury and now a back injury. It will be good for Wentz to have some weeks in the offseason to relax and then return to the NovaCare Complex and have a full offseason conditioning program during which he will develop chemistry with what could be a significantly changed locker room – more on that in the weeks ahead – and further his bond with the players returning. A fresh start, if you will, will do everyone good.
Anyway, Wentz is the starter. That's the plan and it's a good one. Backing up Wentz, should Foles move to another team, would be Nate Sudfeld. This is a little bit complicated, in that Sudfeld is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in March and the Eagles, who want to keep him, are going to have to make him a tender offer that is high enough to make it difficult for another team to swoop in and sign him to a longer-term contract. There are four levels of tender offers for restricted free agents. Let's explore them.
- First-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but the original team has option to match any deal and will receive a first-round selection if it opts not to match the deal. The 2018 first-round tender level was $4.149 million (2019 levels have not yet been determined).
- Second-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but the original team has option to match any deal and will receive a second-round selection if it opts not to match the deal. The 2018 second-round tender level was $2.914 million.
- Original-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but the original team has option to match any deal and will receive a selection equal to the round the player was originally selected in if it opts not to match the deal. Sudfeld, a sixth-round draft pick by Washington, was signed to the Eagles' practice squad in 2017 after being waived by the Redskins. The 2018 original-round tender offer was $1.907 million.
- Right of first refusal: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but the original team has option to match any deal. The team will not receive any compensation if it opts not to match another deal. This tender was also worth $1.907 million in 2018.
It's a bit more complicated with Sudfeld, then. What happens if another team wants him as their developmental quarterback of the future? He's a valuable commodity to the Eagles as a backup.
In any event, the Eagles could very well be in the market for a quarterback in the NFL Draft. The quarterback depth chart – three deep, at least – has to be near the top of the list for the team as it makes their plans for 2019 and beyond. That's the real story with the quarterback picture for the Eagles – making sure Carson Wentz is right for 2019, deciding on what to do with Nick Foles, handling the Nate Sudfeld next step properly, and keeping all eyes and options open for developmental quarterbacks to bring on board for the future.
Those are the issues facing the Eagles at quarterback with free agency fast approaching. The rest of the talk is just that – talk.