Lots of factors for Foles and Eagles when it comes to contract

Posted: June 09, 2014

The pressure Nick Foles will shoulder this coming season has virtually nothing to do with his contract situation and almost everything to do with being a starting NFL quarterback.

While it is true that players at other positions have folded under the weight of a contract year, the weekly in-season demands placed on quarterbacks are so grand that playing for a new deal is just a natural part of the process.

If Foles - under contract through 2015 but eligible to renegotiate after 2014 - isn't as spectacular as he was last season, or if he takes a significant step back, thus clouding the Eagles' long-term plans, it will likely be for reasons related to his ability to play the position. If he allows the contract to affect his performance, then he was never suited to be a franchise quarterback in the first place.

"If you try to think about all that," Foles said at the start of organized team activities two weeks ago, "it's hard to play."

Foles has done little to suggest he doesn't have the mental fortitude to handle such a burden. And he should benefit from the financial security few in his situation - including the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, who signed a long-term contract last week - are lucky enough to have.

Foles' father, Larry, sold his chain of Texas-based restaurants for $59 million in 2011. While Larry Foles had a partner in the transaction, no one from his immediate family will ever have to work another day of their lives, if they so choose.

Nick Foles is his own man and will want to forge his own path. He signed a four-year, $2.7 million contract after the Eagles drafted him in the third round of the 2012 draft. He'll make $615,000 in base salary this season.

But Foles has always insisted that his reasons for playing football aren't financially motivated. He has millions of reasons to subconsciously feel that way, but if two seasons of Foles in Philadelphia have taught us anything, it is that he doesn't have an insincere bone in his 6-foot-6 body.

Foles is more likely after a long-term deal because it would signify a commitment from the Eagles. But if Kaepernick's contract becomes the template for non-first-round quarterbacks entering the fourth year of their rookie deals, then Foles may not get the "long-term commitment," per se, that he seeks.

Kaepernick's contract was originally reported as six years, $126 million with $61 million guaranteed. But when Pro Football Talk got hold of the true numbers, it became clear the 49ers quarterback signed a team-friendly deal.

Only $13.073 million of $61 million was fully guaranteed at signing. Most of the remaining guarantees switch from injury-only (if he suffers a major injury) to fully guaranteed on April 1 of each year, meaning the 49ers have the option to part ways with Kaepernick before the start of each season.

It is unlikely San Francisco will have to seriously weigh that choice in the near future. Kaepernick may have his throwing flaws, but he is well-suited to Jim Harbaugh's run-based offense, and the 49ers' continued success with him at quarterback speaks for itself.

Foles proved Chip Kelly's pre-2013 theory that an immobile quarterback could thrive in his zone-read-heavy scheme, but doubt remains around the NFL that he is the coach's ideal.

Whether Kelly can get that ideal quarterback is another question for another time. However, the 49ers' pay-yearly-as-you-go contract could give the Eagles a one-year out if Foles does enough to warrant an extension next season but the Eagles still aren't 100 percent convinced he's the guy.

General manager Howie Roseman and his negotiators are likely examining every detail of Kaepernick's contract. But will Foles meet such demands? Kaepernick has said he agreed to such a deal so that the 49ers would have enough cap flexibility to sign other high-priced players.

Foles would seem willing to make such concessions, but his agent will look out for his client's best interests and push for market value. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be in line for extensions next offseason, but it will be Russell Wilson - another 2012 third-round pick - who should set the bar for Foles.

The Seahawks will use Wilson's low base salary for 2015 as leverage, like the 49ers did with Kaepernick. Foles, who is slated to make $660,000 in 2015, faces the same likelihood. Wilson and Foles, though, have agents (Bus Cook and David Dunn) who have negotiated deals for franchise quarterbacks, unlike Kaepernick's representation.

If Foles struggles, the Eagles could simply have him play out his rookie contract like the Bengals are doing with Andy Dalton, another non-first-round quarterback. They hold most of the cards because Foles' draft position has allowed them to play with house money.

But Kelly and Roseman don't want to make a large financial commitment to a second-tier quarterback like the Cowboys, Bears, and Lions have with Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, and Matthew Stafford. When it comes to quarterback contracts, there is hardly a middle class.

If Foles were to sign a deal like Kaepernick's, it could be a happy medium.

But he probably hasn't thought that far ahead.


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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