Why Eagles can't renegotiate Nick Foles' contract

Why Eagles can't renegotiate Nick Foles' contract

Is Nick Foles underrated?

January 26, 2014, 1:00 pm
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In 13 regular-season games this season (10 starts), Nick Foles threw for 2,891 yards and 27 touchdowns and was picked off just twice. (AP)

Jordan Palmer has the lowest passer rating of any active NFL quarterback. He’s played for three teams and has never thrown a touchdown pass. His last completion over seven yards came in 2008.

He makes more money than Nick Foles.

Dennis Dixon spent the preseason with the Eagles, one of his four teams in the last three years. He threw his only career touchdown pass in 2009.

He makes more money than Nick Foles.

Jimmy Clausen has a career record of 1-9 with three times as many interceptions (nine) as touchdowns (three). He has the lowest career passer rating of any active quarterback who's started at least 10 games.

He makes more money than Nick Foles.

Trent Edwards, Tarvaris Jackson, Dan Orlovsky, David Garrard, Derek Anderson, Brian Hoyer and 51 other quarterbacks also have a higher average annual salary than Foles.

One of the most frequent questions Eagles fans ask these days is why haven’t the Eagles renegotiated the contract of Foles, who had a record-setting year and will play in the Pro Bowl today in Hawaii.

Simply, they can’t.

Contract inequities such as Foles earning less than Clausen, who has fewer than half as many touchdown passes in 10 NFL starts (three) as Foles had against the Raiders, are a product of the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement.

That deal, which ended the lockout in August 2011, was agreed to by the NFL Players Association, representing the players, and the NFL management council, representing the owners, and includes a revamped rookie wage scale that essentially slots drafted players into specific salaries based on where they were drafted.

Along with a rookie wage scale comes an air-tight mechanism that prevents teams from circumventing the wage scale by re-signing those draft picks to more lucrative deals.

That can be found in Article 7, Section 3 of the CBA, entitled, “Rookie Contracts,” under section (k), which states: “A Rookie Contract for a Drafted Rookie may not be renegotiated, amended or altered in any way until after the final regular season game of the player’s third contract year.”

For Foles, a 2012 draft pick, that means the Eagles can’t touch Foles’ contract until after next year.

The full CBA can be found here. The applicable section is on page 28.

Because of the rookie wage scale, Foles’ rookie salary was essentially predetermined when the Eagles made him the 88th pick in the 2012 draft.

Foles’ deal paid him a modest $543,520 signing bonus and minimum-wage base salaries of $390,000 in 2012, $500,000 in 2013, $615,000 in 2014 and $660,000 in 2015 with small workout bonuses of $25,600 in 2013 and $20,000 in both 2014 and 2015.

Total four-year salary is $2,767,238, or $692,130 per year.

For the sake of perspective, that places him 60th in average annual salary among active NFL quarterbacks, 32nd on the Eagles and somewhere around 1,000th in the entire NFL.

Including the postseason loss to the Saints, Foles threw 29 touchdown passes and two interceptions and won eight of 11 starts after replacing injured Michael Vick in 2013. He led the NFL in passer rating with the third-highest figure in NFL history and was named to the Pro Bowl despite not being named permanent starter until November.

He’s in Honolulu this weekend for the Pro Bowl, along with teammates DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis -- who are scheduled to earn a combined $23.5 million in 2014, or about $23 million more than Foles.

Among the other Eagles who earned more than Foles in 2013 were Jason Phillips, a special teamer who was hurt all year; Arrelious Benn, a reserve wide out who also spent the year on injured reserve; situational pass rusher Vinny Curry; and backup offensive tackle Allen Barbre.

Because of Foles’ low cap figure -- $770,880 in 2014 -- the Eagles have more cap space available than a team ordinarily would with a Pro Bowl quarterback.

Most Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks count anywhere from $10 to $15 million against the cap, so for the Eagles -- at least for one more year -- that’s a huge amount of cap space they can use to sign free agents or re-sign young players like Jason Kelce who are now eligible for renegotiations.

The CBA restriction on re-signing players before their third year also buys the Eagles another full year to more accurately measure Foles’ true value.

Is he really this good? Foles, who turned 25 last week, set an NFL record this year for greatest ratio of touchdowns to interceptions, led the NFL with 9.1 yards per attempt, set a franchise record by completing 64 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 100 or higher in 10 of 12 games in which he played at least a half.

If Foles has another Pro Bowl season, he’d likely want to be paid like a top-10 or top-15 quarterback, which means an average annual salary in the $13 million range.

Guys like Matt Schaub ($15.5 million per year), Mark Sanchez ($13.491667 million per year) and Eli Manning ($16.25 million per year) earn that sort of money, so why not Foles?

But thanks to the CBA, the Eagles are protected from signing Foles to a huge deal now and the possibility that he comes back down to earth in 2014 and has a mediocre season, and then getting stuck with an enormous long-term contract and the massive cap hits it brings.

By the end of next year, when the Eagles can open talks with Foles, they should have a much better idea exactly what they have in the former Arizona Wildcat.

And if he is indeed what he looked like this year -- an elite franchise quarterback -- they’ll be glad to pay him what he’s worth.