JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Even though Nick Foles loved the city of Philadelphia and the Eagles organization, he knew he was ready for a different path.
To do that, though, he had to pay the Eagles $2 million to buy out the final year of his contract so he could become a free agent. That’s a significant chunk of money to spend at once, even for a professional athlete, but Foles never hesitated.
“When you look at the monetary value, absolutely, yes, that is a lot of money, for my family and for the different things we can do in the community, but at the same time it was a no-brainer,” Foles said. “It was the best $2 million investment I could ever do.”
He got a pretty good return on his money. That $2 million turned into a guaranteed $50.125 million on Thursday when he signed a four-year contract worth $88 million to become the starting quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s a job he’s wanted since a disappointing 2015 season in St. Louis caused him to lose his zeal for the game.
“It was nothing against Philly. I love Philadelphia,” Foles said. “They know how much I love them and I always will love Philadelphia no matter what, just like I love the University of Arizona, just like I love Westlake High School [in Texas], but life changes, things move on, you go to a different part of your life. But to be a free agent, to have an opportunity to ultimately go into a locker room and help lead a team and help change the environment is what intrigued me.
“That’s why it was paid back so quickly. It had nothing to do with, ‘I want out of here.’ It’s just my time. I’ve ran my race in Philadelphia. I did everything I could and I’m proud of that. I’ve been around amazing people but I look forward to going somewhere else and helping another team and ultimately I hope it’s my last.”
So do the Jaguars, who have been searching for a franchise quarterback since Mark Brunell led them to a pair of AFC Championship game appearances in the franchise’s first five years of existence. The Jaguars tried Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, Blaine Gabbert and, most recently, Blake Bortles, but none have been the answer, though Garrard and Bortles had some success in the playoffs.
Foles is here now because of what he did in the postseason, taking over for an injured Carson Wentz and leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl LII championship after the 2017 season. He out-dueled Tom Brady and was the game’s MVP. Foles was forced into the same role again last season and nearly led the Eagles to a comeback victory over New Orleans in a Divisional game.
One of the most important things Foles brings to the Jaguars is consistency. One of Bortles’ biggest problems – after turnovers – was the fact that the Jaguars were never quite sure what they were going to get each week.
“I like it that you know what you’re getting,” coach Doug Marrone said. “The consistency, nothing really rattles him. I think that’s what I’ve taken [from his research on Foles]. You talk to coaches that have been around him and they say nothing ever really rattles him. He takes information. He’s smart. He knows where he wants to go with the ball. He knows coverages. Those things were the things that jumped off to me outside of what you can see on the tape and playing on the big stage.”
The Jaguars gave Foles a $25 million signing bonus and his cap number in 2019 will be $12 million (it jumps to $21 million in 2020) roughly 13 months after they signed Bortles to a three-year contract extension. That deal included $16.5 million in dead money if the Jaguars were to release Bortles this year, which they did on Wednesday.
That means the Jaguars have a $28.5 million combined cap figure with Foles and Bortles. That would rank third behind Matthew Stafford ($29.5 million) and Kirk Cousins ($29 million) in terms of quarterback cap his, yet executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin said he doesn’t regret signing Bortles to the extension.
“It was the right thing to do,” Coughlin said Thursday in his first media opportunity since the 2018 draft. “The guy took us to the AFC championship game. There wouldn’t have been anybody that would have disputed the fact that he deserved the opportunity and we played well behind and our defense played well. So what we did at that point in time is try to fortify our team around him. Obviously, we wish it was better but I have no regrets about that.”
And he certainly doesn’t have any about giving Foles the most guaranteed money in franchise history, either. Especially if he can turn in the kind of performance he did in an early-November game five seasons ago.
“I do have one request of Nick,” Coughlin said. “I hope every game in 2019 is like the Oakland game of 2013, where he threw seven touchdowns, no interceptions, and had a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.”