PHILADELPHIA (94 WIP) -- The Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Nick Foles have reportedly taken the first steps toward separating.
Now the question is whether the Eagles will try one last time to hold on.
The Eagles picked up their end of the 2019 mutual option in place for Foles on Tuesday night, according to ESPN.
The quarterback then quickly informed the team he would be declining his end of the mutual option. That means after he pays the Eagles $2 million, Foles will become a free agent.
The decision has a big impact on the Eagles’ salary cap.
OverTheCap.com had the Eagles at around $18 million over the salary cap prior to Foles declining his option, but that doesn’t take into account the roughly $7 million the team saved by re-doing Rodney McLeod’s deal. That put the Eagles at around $10 million over the salary cap. Now that Foles’ $21 million salary in 2019 has come off the books by him declining his option, the Eagles have around $11 million in salary cap space.
There has been some specualtion and reporting that the Eagles might decide to place the franchise tag on Foles in an attempt to trade him. To trade Foles, the Eagles will have to place the franchise tag on him and he will have to sign it. The franchise tag for a quarterback in 2019 is expected to carry a salary of around $25 million.
That means if the Eagles do indeed plan on using the franchise tag on Foles, the Eagles need to clear another $15 million or so in salary to fit Foles' $25 million salary under the cap. If they want to do it right away at the start of the new league year, they will need to have his $25 million salary under the cap prior to March 13th at 4 p.m. EST.
The Eagles can free up the roughly $15 million in salary cap space needed to do that in a few ways.
They could release left tackle Jason Peters, a move that would free up $8 million. They could release defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, a move that would free up an additional $7 million. Those two moves give the Eagles a fairly easy path to the $15 million they would need right there.
The Eagles could also re-structure contracts to get under the cap. Two players that would make a ton of sense to restructure are center Jason Kelce and wide receiver Nelson Agholor, two players who don’t have any guaranteed money remaining in their contracts. Lowering the cap hits of Kelce ($6.5 million) and Agholor ($9 million) could also free up space fairly easily.
If the Eagles did place the franchise tag on Foles and then find a team willing to trade for him on the tag, the Eagles would free up the $25 million in salary cap space once the deal was done.
So if the front office is able to pull it off, they could find a deal for Foles under the table before the new league year, execute the trade right away, and then have (at least) $25 million to spend on free agents, with an asset in hand from the trade. It is going to be tough to pull off, but financially, it is far easier for the Eagles to pull off than many think.
The tough part will be finding a team willing to trade for Foles and commit at least $25 million to him as part of the franchise tag.
By Eliot Shorr-Parks