In a swift, merciful, and expensive end to the Blake Bortles era, the Jacksonville Jaguars have reportedly agreed to sign Nick Foles to a four-year deal worth $88 million with more than $50 million guaranteed in exchange for not being Blake Bortles.
Like Julius Caesar or Ricky Bobby, Nick Foles is a winner. Three years ago, he considered retiring from football after being released by the Rams. Since then, he’s been named Super Bowl MVP and had a statue erected outside of Lincoln Financial Field in his honor. The Jaguars are hoping he will lead them to the same glory he led Philadelphia (only God knows what a Super Bowl parade would look like in Jacksonville). Behold Northern Florida’s Lululemon king.
Anyone else feel the tension in the air or is that just me? This isn’t that news. But it’s big news. I’m @lululemonmen’s new elite ambassador. Like me, they’re all about community, mindfulness and #thesweatlife. Excited for what’s ahead. Stay tuned for that other announcement. pic.twitter.com/XYUT0xDMNf— Nick Foles (@NickFoles) March 11, 2019
The main question we’ve had about the Jaguars since their 2017 run to the AFC championship game is how good they could be if they had any NFL quarterback—seriously, anybody—other than Bortles. Now they have someone who, to quote Ricky Bobby, wakes up in the morning and pisses excellence. For the price Jacksonville is paying, it better hope Foles can deliver. His average annual salary of $22 million is more than some of the best quarterbacks in football.
Nick Foles is getting a 4-year $88M deal with the Jaguars. He'll be making more per-year ($22M) than:— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) March 11, 2019
-- Russell Wilson ($21.9M)
-- Ben Roethlisberger ($21.9M)
-- Philip Rivers ($20.8M)
-- Cam Newton ($20.8M)
-- Tom Brady ($20.5M)
While the dollar amount is a bit surprising, Foles’s destination is not. In the NFL’s game of quarterback musical chairs, Foles ended up with one place to sit if he wanted to be a starting quarterback. The Broncos traded for Joe Flacco and sent Case Keenum to Washington, eliminating two potential destinations, and while the Dolphins and Giants may want to move on from their starters soon, they seem to be looking at the draft, not free agency. That left Jacksonville as the only team truly in contention, and it promptly Marie Kondo’d its roster to create necessary salary cap space, getting rid of defensive tackle Malik Jackson, running back Carlos Hyde, and safety Tashaun Gipson this month. However, despite being the primary bidder for Foles, the Jaguars might not have gotten a discount since they’ll likely cut Bortles. The $16.5 million in dead money they’ll be on the hook for would be the financial facepalm of this offseason had the Steelers not eaten so much money by trading receiver Antonio Brown to the Raiders.
Foles joins a team that has an elite defense even with the departure of some key players like Gipson and Jackson. Jacksonville’s offensive players have largely been shielded from criticism because of Bortles’s terrible play. His pending departure means we can now look at running back Leonard Fournette, who has not been dynamic enough as a receiver. At times, the offense seemed smoother with T.J. Yeldon, which is mind-boggling considering the Jaguars drafted Fournette no. 4 overall in 2017. Jacksonville’s receivers include Keelan Cole, who displayed flashes of brilliance but fell out of favor as the season wore on; Donte Moncrief, who played more than 12 games in 2018 for the first time since 2015; and Dede Westbrook, who managed just 717 yards on 101 targets.
Jacksonville’s offensive line, which added Andrew Norwell to a record-breaking contract last year, ranked 27th in pass protection per Football Outsiders, not exactly living up to vice president Tom Coughlin’s vows to strengthen the unit. Bortles has been Jacksonville’s biggest problem, but this offense is not even close to the level of the supporting cast Foles had when he led either of Philly’s playoff runs in 2017 or 2018.
Foles could not have a lower bar to clear than trying to replace Bortles. However, Foles has almost nowhere to go but down in terms of his status among the American public as a playoff football deity. With him onboard, the Jaguars can set their sights on the Super Bowl without being a punch line.