The New York Giants have a decision to make at the quarterback position this offseason.
That doesn’t mean that veteran Eli Manning won’t be the New York Giants starting signal-caller in September. It does mean that for the first time, in a long time, Big Blue will have made a conscious decision to put him under center.
One of the names floated as an option for general manager Dave Gettleman is Philadelphia Eagles erstwhile starter Nick Foles. Foles took over for an injured Carson Wentz and led the Birds to their first Supper Bowl title last year.
He also brought the Eagles back into the NFL playoff fold this season, after a back injury felled Wentz. In a quarterback-driven league, Foles surely remains a valuable commodity. The Eagles realize this, but because of NFL realities, it’s doubtful that Foles returns to the City of Brotherly Love for the 2019 NFL season.
Now, let’s get this out of the way right away: Foles is/will be an upgrade over Manning. Both Foles and Manning are January babies, and he just turned 30-years old. That’s an eight-year age upgrade over Manning, which is significant.
A 30-year old quarterback who can play is flat out a better option than a 21-year old question mark. In that respect, Foles should command a four to five year contract on the open market. Even if it falls in the Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings deal, that’s fair range for the quarterback position.
Per Spotrac, Cousins signed a three-year, $84 million, guaranteed deal with Minnesota last offseason. That’s $28 million per season, but the concession by Cousins was the length of the deal. Most quarterbacks in a similar situation would have negotiated what would likely to be their final big contract with a five-year pact.
That’s often the best case scenario for the player and team.
After the Cousins deal is completed after the 2020 season, he’ll have another big money deal available to him, since he’ll be only 32-years old. Cousins is also immune from being released by the Vikings, since his is a fully guaranteed deal. The guaranteed contract was the only reason left tackle Ereck Flowers stayed around as long as he did.
To use another example, back in 2012, Brees and the New Orleans Saints agreed upon a five -year, $100 million extension. By 2016, when Brees was 38-years old, he completed the terms of that contract, and both he and the team should have been happy with the results.
But Brees was and is still productive, so he and the Saints have cobbled together a couple more deals to kick the can down the road so to speak. In the meantime, New Orleans also traded for Teddy Bridgewater and are cultivating Taysom Hill at the position.
They realize that Brees cannot play forever.
For anyone laughing off the Cousins deal as a bust, consider this: the Minnesota quarterback had 30 (count them) touchdown passes, with only 10 interceptions in 2018. His completion percentage was 70.1 percent, which was third in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Cousins trailed only Drew Brees and Foles in completion percentage for players with over 100 attempts. Cousins threw for more passing yards than Brees (4,298 yards vs. 3,992 yards).
Now, Foles has a team option for next season, which he can buy out, according NBC Sports Philadelphia. For this discussion, those details are not important, except to emphasize that Foles coming to the New York Giants would likely happen only in unrestricted free agency.
Out of loyalty to the Birds, Foles may not even want to come to the Big Apple.
If it’s in the cards, here’s how it happens. According to Spotrac, the Giants owe Manning a $5 million roster bonus on March 17, 2019. That date is critical because it provides a window in which to get Foles signed and then decline the Manning option. The league office indicates that free agency officially starts at 4:00 p.m. on March 13.
Real competition for Foles will likely come from one of two places: the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Miami Dolphins. The Jaguars are $7.6 million over the salary cap already, and the Dolphins have a little more than $14 million in cap money.
Importantly, both teams are in worse financial shape than the New York Giants right now, although the ‘Phins can and probably will release Tannehill and free up another $13 million.
Would you rather play with running back Saquon Barkley and wideout Odell Beckham, or be part of the Miami Dolphins next best rebuilding project?
Signing Foles represents a gamble, but not more of a risk than drafting one-year college starter Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) or 5-8 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray. It also has the additional benefit of allowing Gettleman to focus on a right tackle, edge rushers and a safety in the NFL Draft.
Two quarterbacks helped set the market last season: Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) and the aformentioned Kirk Cousins. Garoppolo averages $27.5 million per season, and that was on a five-year, $137.5 million contract.
It makes sense that to get Foles under contract, it will take a New York Giants offer in the range of four-years and $110 million. To some, that may seems risky, but at this point, there aren’t any risk-free propositions out there. Conversely, if the G-Men keep Manning and draft a quarterback, they will be allocating more than $30 million to one position in 2019.
In addition, Gettleman won’t be able to use the No. 6 overall selection to fix the pass rush or right tackle positions. This year’s conundrum gets highlighted by Sam Darnold’s $7.5 million cap hit, and the idea the team is still searching for a bona fide answer under center a year later. Is it any wonder that the Darnold vs. Barkley debates still burn hot?