The Jacksonville Jaguars seem ready to give up on Blake Bortles as their quarterback of the future, and there’s plenty of smoke connecting them to former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.
When he’s at his best, impending free agent Nick Foles looks like a star at the quarterback position. Not only did he win a Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2017 season, but he once threw 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions with an average of 9.1 yards per pass attempt in a 2013 “breakout” season that nobody saw coming.
Foles’s Super Bowl-winning pedigree and more recent success in 2018, when he led the Eagles to the playoffs after another unfortunate injury to franchise passer Carson Wentz, make him the most coveted quarterback available.
Thus, it makes sense for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are in the market for a quarterback upgrade after an abysmal season from former No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles, to have significant interest in Foles.
Yesterday, Bleacher Report senior writer Master Tesfatsion tweeted that the two most likely quarterbacks for the Jaguars in 2019 are Foles and Oakland Raiders starter Derek Carr, who could be available for trade if Jon Gruden’s rebuild includes a new quarterback in this year’s draft.
Today, sources told Philly.com’s Les Bowen, a veteran Eagles reporter, that the Jaguars “absolutely expect” to sign Foles, whose market isn’t robust beyond Jacksonville. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport essentially corroborated this report on a recent NFL Total Access hit, and it seems like the Miami Dolphins would be the only dark horse that could swipe Foles away from the apparently highly-interested Jaguars.
Last season, Foles averaged 282.5 passing yards per game with 7.2 yards per pass attempt, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7:4 was better than Bortles’s 13:11. Furthermore, Bortles didn’t even average 210 passing yards per game and had a yards-per-attempt average of just 6.7.
Statistically, Foles would be a big upgrade over Bortles, but the Jaguars have to be careful with how much they commit to the former Eagles signal-caller. Foles won’t come cheap on a per-year basis, as Rapoport notes he’ll command upwards of $20 million per year despite the relatively barren market for his services. This isn’t too surprising, though, because it’s the going rate for starting quarterbacks, even questionably effective 30-year-olds like Foles.
That said, 30 isn’t old for a quarterback, and Foles’ recent production is promising. He’s also familiar with Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo from their days together in Philadelphia, and if the Jaguars add an impact receiver to go with Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook, perhaps at tight end (Foles’s favorite position to target), then Foles could be in a great spot.
Despite the positives Foles could provide if he’s able to continue his postseason form in Philadelphia, the Jaguars have the No. 7 overall pick after a disappointing 2018 campaign. That would put them in a prime position to either swoop Dwayne Haskins, should the Ohio State prospect slip, or trade up for a passer they love.
It seems like the Jaguars don’t have a top quarterback prospect in mind, either because they don’t like Kyler Murray or Haskins (unlikely) or because they don’t think they’ll be able to draft either. If it’s the latter, then they may not be interested in hedging their bets on the quarterback prospects beyond those two, such as Drew Lock and Will Grier.
However, if the Jaguars are iffy about grooming someone like Lock or Grier as a franchise quarterback, putting all their eggs in one basket like they did in Bortles, there may be a Day 2 prospect they do like. If that’s the case, then it would be wise for the Jaguars to draft a quarterback in addition to targeting Foles, if the heavy smoke linking them to the veteran passer is to be believed.
Besides Bortles, the only other quarterback on the Jaguars’ roster is Cody Kessler, who profiles as a career backup. As for Bortles, it’s possible he works himself back in the mix one day, but if the Jaguars go after Foles, he’s likely played his last snap in Jacksonville.
Signing Foles to a $20 million deal only makes sense if it’s a low-risk, prove-it deal that is essentially a one-year-and-cut-bait (or re-sign, if Foles impresses) deal. It would be a nightmare for the Jaguars to be locked into a bad contract with Foles, because it would also prevent them from moving on as easily if they do groom a younger quarterback they prefer.
Jacksonville’s interest in Foles is understandable in the sense that they could be a strong, veteran quarterback away from contending again in the AFC. However, it’s also quizzical, because he doesn’t have any physical or mental traits that stand out, making him a risky investment beyond a short-term dice roll.
For the Jaguars, finding a quarterback that can lead this franchise for years to come would be ideal, and it’d be a much cheaper option than locking themselves into a long-term deal. Another disappointing season from the Jaguars could cause Tom Coughlin and the current brass to lose their jobs, so the interest in a short-term fix makes sense. Maybe trading for a younger, more gifted passer in Teddy Bridgewater was too risky, so if Jacksonville wants to go in the Foles direction, they need to make sure they aren’t backing themselves into a corner.