The stats. The Pro Bowl. The pending contract situation. Especially the pending contract situation. Nick Foles said he doesn’t think about any of it. You wouldn’t expect anything else. It is how Foles operates. He spins carefully packaged talking points as regularly as he fires footballs.
“You try to think about that and go out there and play,” Foles said. “It’s hard to do that.”
He’s in a different situation now, a better situation. A year ago he was competing for the starting gig. Now the job is his. A year ago he remained an unknown. Now he's a Pro Bowler. Even if the sample size of his work remains relatively small, he had enough time under center to put up quality numbers -- the kind of numbers that made people notice.
“Stats? You know, whatever,” Foles said, shrugging off his own accomplishments yet again. “I like winning the game and having a good time with my teammates.”
And then: “Last year’s stats don’t mean anything.”
Fine. We’ll stipulate the point for now. Let’s allow that last year’s stats don’t mean anything. But this year’s stats will. This year’s stats could very well turn his quarterback rating into cash. Lots of it.
Foles knows it, even if he won’t acknowledge it. And he won’t. Neither will Chip Kelly. The head coach said he hopes all his players make a lot of money, but he was also sure to employ the usual lines about how Foles, like everyone else, needs to get better. Better footwork. Better reads. Better everything.
“The great thing about Nick is, and what you love about him -- and it’s the same thing that we preach -- he knows he’s never going to arrive,” Kelly said. “It’s a great trait to have. Some guys get to where they’ve won a job and they kick their feet up and they go on cruise control. That’s not him.”
Fine. We’ll stipulate that point, too. Foles can get better. But Foles had a pretty good year last season. If he has another year like that -- another year that’s even close -- he’s going to command a large sum. But how much?
Foles completed 203 of his 317 passes (64 percent) for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. Even though he wasn’t a full-time starter until later in the year, Foles was eighth in the NFL in touchdown passes. He was eighth in completion percentage. And he was first in quarterback rating at 119.2.
Even if you allow for increased interceptions -- and possibly decreased completion percentage -- over a full 16-game campaign, he still would have ended up with a solid season. And that’s if you think his numbers would have suffered by playing more. What if he played at or close to that level over 16 games? His stats would have been (even more) eye-popping.
That’s what this year is about for Foles. We will see what kind of numbers he can post now that he’s the full-time starter. And then we will see what kind of numbers the Eagles have to write onto his next contract. That is the big thing now -- potentially the very big thing.
Foles is in his third season. Because of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the Eagles can’t renegotiate his contract until after the final regular season game of 2014. That means that the Eagles have Foles for a serious bargain for at least this year.
Foles has a base salary of $615,000 this season. Next year it goes up modestly to $660,000. The cap figures for this season ($770,880) and next ($815,880) are also really sweet for the Eagles.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (still in the league!) has a base salary of $3.75 million with the Texans. Michael Vick -- whom Foles supplanted as the starting quarterback in Philadelphia, banishing the poor guy to the post-apocalyptic hellscape known as northern New Jersey -- will get $4 million from the Jets. Josh McCown ($5 million), Matt Cassel ($5.25 million) and Matt Schaub ($6.75 million) are all scheduled to make more than Foles, unless they get cut.
But those aren’t the guys Foles will be compared with if he has another season like he did last year. If he puts up numbers on par with 2013, Foles will be in line to make serious money when this year is over.
For reference, here are just a few base salaries as they currently stand for 2015:
• Matt Stafford ($9.5 million)
• Matt Ryan ($11.5 million)
• Ben Roethlisberger ($11.6 million)
• Cam Newton ($14.6 million)
• Jay Cutler ($15.5 million)
• Eli Manning ($17 million)
• Tony Romo ($17 million)
Quarterbacks -- even marginal talents like Cutler -- tend to make a lot of money if they can remain upright and complete some passes. They certainly make more than what the Eagles will pay Foles this season.
Foles is 25. So is Newton. Stafford is 26. Everyone else on the aforementioned list is in his 30s. That’s a good spot for Foles. He’s young, and his numbers were as good or better than those guys in several important metrics despite considerably fewer pass attempts. His agent is no doubt salivating over all those numbers on behalf of Foles.
At the low end, Foles should be headed for a base salary of at least $10 million. At the high end? If he puts up a QB rating north of 100 again? You could easily make the case that the then 26-year-old would be worth closer to Newton money -- something in the $14 million range.
The big questions about the contract: How many years and how much guaranteed money? Would the Eagles -- an organization that has been rightfully reluctant to dole out long-term, big-dollar contracts -- be willing to invest that kind of time and money if it means significantly shrinking the team’s cap flexibility?
It’s a big year for Foles. Those stats he said he doesn’t pay attention to could change everything -- for him and the Eagles.