By Paul Wanecski
If you are alright with the Buffalo Bills moving on from Tyrod Taylor, then you need to be alright with whoever they bring in to compete for a starting job. Let me tell you, the market – and draft for that matter – is slim picking. Given the current roster, the only quarterback outside of Taylor is Cardale Jones, so if Taylor is going to be released you will need to bring in other options. While certainly not endorsing this idea, it should be discussed. Brace yourself: Nick Foles rumors are coming.
The perfect team to examine for quarterbacks are those falling from the Andy Reid tree in Kansas City. Under contract they currently have Alex Smith, Tyler Bray, and Nick Foles. With only an estimated $4 million under the salary cap (not figuring the money they will need under the cap for the upcoming NFL Draft), the Chiefs will need to make a little room. The combined salary cap figure for both Smith and Foles is over $27 million so it is obvious someone has got to go. While it is subject to debate which quarterback they will select, we are going to focus solely as if Nick Foles were to become available.
The Chiefs will, of course, try to get anything they can for Foles, who has a $10.75 million cap number this season. Unlike typical trades, Kansas City would incur no salary cap penalty for dealing Foles, as he has no pending bonus money to account for; he literally is all profit for the team if they were to find a trade partner. 2017 will be the final year of his contract which is another reason why Kansas City will look to trade him if they can. He could be acquired for practically nothing.
If the Chiefs are unable to trade him, expect him to be released. After a pretty disastrous 2015 in St. Louis, he joined the Chiefs where he played two games (credited with three on Pro-football-reference.com, although one game was a single snap), making one start. Truth be told, he looked pretty solid given what was asked of him. Foles made a name for himself in 2013 when he threw for 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions in 13 games with the Philadelphia Eagles. 2014 didn’t go nearly as well, tossing 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in eight games. 2015, after the Rams acquired him via trade, was equally as forgettable. 11 games, 7 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and that was all it took for the Rams to trade up in 2016’s NFL Draft to acquire Jared Goff.
So why would he interest the Buffalo Bills since they would be his 4th team in 5 seasons? First off, he will be much more affordable than retaining Tyrod Taylor (don’t forget unused salary cap money can rollover from year to year) and if you really think Cardale Jones is going to be your starting quarterback, you need to create some competition and provide a counterpart that will guide in the film room and with a clipboard on the sidelines. Looking at Foles 2016 season, he wasn’t asked to do a whole lot. He played in 2 games, completed 65% of his passes for 410 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. What is hidden from those numbers is the amount of yardage he gained through the air. Yes, throwing for 410 yards on 55 attempts doesn’t sound all that bad, the truth is 52% of his yards came after the catch. The screen game was used constantly, exactly the way it is when starter Alex Smith was under center (54.9% of his yardage came after the catch too). By comparison, the Bills were last in the league, meaning that only 38% of the yardage that Taylor threw for was gained after the catch. That’s a huge difference. Where the Bills rarely used wide receiver screens, it is an integral part of the Chief’s offensive game plan. Foles did do a lot of really nice things in his two games last year that I don’t want to downplay. He felt the rush off the edge from the defenders very well, moving up in the pocket when needed with a pretty poor Kansas City offensive line. He did not lock on to his targets, instead reading the defense reasonably well. He clearly understood the playbook and his role. He definitely has the arm to compete with the weather in Buffalo. He is not exactly a play-action threat. While I didn’t love some of the decision that he made in the pocket, he was able to stay alive and get the pass off. It is clear he trusts his accuracy, as some of this throws were trying to clear the shoulder of his intended target in tight coverage; He was on-point, in stride and did not leave the receiver in a vulnerable position.
Don’t let anything you hear fool you, Nick Foles is definitely available. It is possible that the Chiefs will release Foles only to try and resign him to a smaller salary, but if the Bills were to make him an offer to come in and compete at 3 years, $18 million, he would be suiting up in the Red, White and Blue. Given the history of quarterbacks brought in previously to do that same thing (Kyle Orton, Kevin Kolb), this doesn’t really feel to be too much of a stretch.