Setting up to trade quarterback Nick Foles by applying the franchise tag to him could technically be a violation of the collective bargaining agreement by the Philadelphia Eagles, as has been widely reported.
The problem is proving intent in light of the comments executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman made immediately after Foles led them on a playoff run for a second straight season.
Asked last month if it was possible to keep Foles and Carson Wentz on the same roster for another year, Roseman said: “We would love to keep Nick Foles. You talk about a guy who we drafted here and we’ve grown incredibly close with. I don’t know a team that wouldn’t want to have Nick Foles on their roster. Certainly, as we go into the substance of those discussions — we haven’t had them yet — but there is no question we love having Nick Foles as an Eagle in Philadelphia and we would love to keep him.”
According to the CBA, “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.”
Good luck to any suit trying to prove the Eagles have done anything to violate that directive.
Regardless of whatever the actual intent may be, the team has said or done nothing to indicate anything but good faith in intending to keep Foles for 2019.
First, it exercised the one-year mutual option to renew his contract for one extra year at the cost of $20 million in 2019.
Foles promptly opted out with a $2 million buyout, as per terms of the original extension he signed after the 2017 season.That has him headed for free agency unless the Eagles now turn around and apply the franchise tag, which would theoretically allow them to keep him from landing with a team they might have to face more than once a season or in the NFC playoffs.
Even if a trade does go down with a perceived preferred business partner — say the Jacksonville Jaguars — proving that was their intent the whole time will be next to impossible, especially if Foles and his agent were in on it from the start, which they almost certainly would have to be for this thing to work.
That said, it’s unclear how something like that can be pulled off because everybody in the NFL knows the Eagles can’t come close to being able to pay the franchise-tag money (approximately $25 million) that Foles would be due in 2019.
Heck, they couldn’t afford the $20 million on the original option, either, which means they had to have an assurance beforehand that he would opt out.
But again, nothing they’ve said or done indicates anything but their willingness to keep him.
Even though everyone knows they can’t keep him even if they wanted.
In the meantime, the Eagles have to feel they’re in a no-lose situation.
If they apply the tag, they and Foles can listen to offers before actually signing it and get together on a trade if they find one to their liking — probably a third-round draft pick this year. That would help the Eagles because they don’t have a third-round pick at the moment.
If they don’t, they can remove the tag and just let him walk, in which case they’ll get a compensatory pick (probably also in the third round) in next year’s draft.
The only real risk here is that Foles calls their bluff and promptly grabs the paperwork and signs the franchise tender in 3.1 seconds, like tight end L.J. Smith did after the Eagles inexplicably tagged him in 2008. Smith almost hurt himself signing the thing so fast before they could change their minds.
He was out of the league by 2010.
Anyway, Foles won’t do that because it not only would hurt the team he loves so much but would hurt himself more.
Because the Eagles are reported by overthecap.com to be around $16 million over the estimated 2019 salary cap heading into the new league year, they would be in no position to put a good team around Foles or Wentz or anyone else if they have to pay Foles $20 million-plus this year.
So what’s next for Foles is a big payday from some other team, and what’s next for the Eagles is a decent extra draft pick.
The only questions are what round and what year.
Either way, they can’t lose.