Key Questions Surround Potential Foles Trade

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.While the NFL Combine is technically a draft event, it’s also another meeting of the different arms of the league: coaches, GMs, scouts, reporters and agents.

So you can expect to hear some some non-draft related buzz in the coming days. And that buzz could very well include Nick Foles‘ future.

We last talked about Foles when a USA Today report suggested that Andy Reid and the Chiefs would be interested in acquiring him. Soon thereafter, reports surfaced that the Eagles had no plans to trade Foles.

Ahh, the games teams play in February.

To get a firmer grasp on the potential of Foles being dealt, let’s answer some key questions.

What will the market be like?

This is always the No. 1 question when it comes to trades. If you can get two teams seriously interested, you’re in great shape. And sometimes, it only takes one.

Franchises looking for quarterbacks don’t have a lot of options this offseason. Quarterbacks are graded differently based on scheme and coaching. But this is not a QB-rich draft. West Virginia’s Geno Smith is probably going to be the top signal-caller taken, but Mike Mayock said earlier this week that he sees Smith as a “20 to 32” pick in the first round. A team will almost definitely take him higher, but the point is there’s no QB considered to be a top-five no-brainer selection.

And then there’s free agency. Take a look at this list. Assuming Joe Flacco isn’t going anywhere, you’ve got Matt MooreJason CampbellDavid Garrard and others of that ilk. Not an impressive group, to say the least.

Alex Smith will probably be the most-coveted QB on the market. But teams wanting Smith will have to match the 49ers’ asking price (and pay him a reported $8.5 million in 2013).

KC Joyner of ESPN.com (Insider) makes the case for three teams – the Chiefs, Bills and Cardinals – to go after Foles. Here’s what he writes about the Chiefs:

Since the Chiefs are evidently not sold on any of the rookie quarterbacks in this year’s draft and Andy Reid is highly familiar with Foles’ talents, paying a somewhat inflated price to the Eagles might be the Chiefs’ best quarterback option.

What will the Eagles want in return?

This is probably the most difficult question to answer.

On one hand, Foles’ numbers were rather pedestrian. He completed 60.8 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged 6.4 yards per attempt, which ranked 29th in the NFL. Foles had accuracy issues and had trouble hitting receivers downfield.

On the other hand, he was playing with a banged-up supporting cast and one of the worst offensive lines in the league. He showed the ability to escape pressure and complete throws on the move. Foles also demonstrated toughness, standing in the pocket and taking hit after hit.

Friend of the blog Sam Lynch made an excellent point about Foles’ contract. According to EaglesCap.com, he’s due base salaries of $500,000 in 2013, $615,000 in 2014 and $660,000 in 2015. In other words, he’s a cheap investment. Teams looking to acquire Foles are taking on pretty much no financial risk. And at the very least, they’re getting themselves a competent quarterback who can compete for a starting spot or be a good backup.

That’s what makes this situation different than the Kevin Kolb deal. When the Cardinals traded for Kolb, they had to sign him to a new deal, which ended up being worth $63.5 million over six years ($12 million guaranteed). Acquiring Foles requires no such commitment.

Foles was taken in the third round with the 88th overall pick. Considering the Eagles spent a year developing him, you’d think they would want more than that draft slot in return.

What is Foles’ value to the Eagles?

The answer to this goes hand-in-hand with one other question: How much value does Chip Kelly put in a quarterback’s mobility?

An interesting note from Greg Cosell recently in a Yahoo Sports column about the read option:

What other NFL teams could make effective use of the read option? Tennessee with Jake Locker? Minnesota with Christian Ponder? Miami with Ryan Tannehill, the former college wide receiver? There’s no doubt in my mind Chip Kelly will run it in Philadelphia now that the Eagles brought Michael Vick back. I have studied Oregon’s offense, and it is evident it was structured on the quarterback’s threat as a runner. To believe otherwise is to not understand the schematic underpinnings of that offense.

In the past, Kelly has pointed out statistics detailing how his quarterbacks at Oregon haven’t always put up gaudy rushing numbers. And that’s true. But the key phrase in the above passage is “threat as a runner.” Some of Kelly’s core offensive philosophies seem to be rooted in how many players the defense positions in the box. As he’s said in the past, it’s simple math. But that math is based on the idea that the quarterback can pose a threat to run the ball.

Could Kelly design an offense with Foles at quarterback? Sure. But does he want to? It doesn’t seem that way.

And that’s really what it comes down to. 2013 is not about the Eagles making a Super Bowl run. It’s about Kelly getting his system in place. That’s why the Eagles re-structured Michael Vick‘s deal and (to a lesser degree) signed Dennis Dixon.

This is not to say Foles is worthless to Kelly. As I mentioned above, at the very least, he’s an inexpensive backup. Maybe Vick will struggle in the offseason, and Kelly will decide he’s better off going with Foles. That seems unlikely, but it’s possible.

The point is, to assume the Eagles have to trade Foles would be incorrect. It all depends on the market and the offers.

The bottom line

The way I see it, Reid is the key figure in this equation. No one knows Foles as intimately as the former Eagles’ head coach. The Chiefs are in need of a quarterback, Reid has invested time in Foles, and by all accounts, he and Howie Roseman/Kelly maintain a good relationship.

If Reid sees legitimate upside in Foles, he could be willing to make a serious play for the 24-year-old quarterback.

It’s possible that other teams could join the fray, but that’s probably less likely, especially when you consider how disastrous trading for Eagles quarterbacks has proven to be in the past.

We’ll hear from the key players – Kelly, Roseman and Reid – later today. But don’t expect the Foles trade buzz to die down any time soon.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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