JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- New quarterback Nick Foles solves the Jacksonville Jaguars’ biggest issue, but the former Super Bowl MVP should not be viewed as the franchise’s savior -- even though the team is paying him like one.
Per reporting from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Jaguars are signing Foles to a four-year deal worth up to $102 million, with $50.125 million guaranteed. That’s the most guaranteed money for one player in franchise history and a significant jump from the $42 million they guaranteed to defensive tackle Malik Jackson in 2016. Jackson was one of the players released last week, in part to make room for Foles' contract.
The Jaguars aren’t getting an elite quarterback, though. Foles’ body of work shows an above-average quarterback who has put up pretty good numbers when he has had a good supporting cast. That has been the case in his two stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, when he had LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin and Alshon Jeffery, among others.
Foles has started more than 10 games during the regular season just twice in his seven-year career (10 in 2013 with the Eagles, and 11 in 2015 with the St. Louis Rams). He has thrown 68 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions, but that included his career year in 2013, when he threw 27 TD passes and only two interceptions. In his other six seasons, Foles has 41 touchdown passes and 31 interceptions in 41 games (34 starts).
According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Foles also ranks 20th in passer rating and 22nd in Total QBR out of 30 quarterbacks who have at least 1,500 pass attempts since Foles entered the league in 2012 -- and he ranks behind Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton in each category. That’s still better than Blake Bortles, who ranked last in both categories, but it’s nowhere near elite.
Foles certainly has raised his level of play in the postseason, however. He is 5-1 with 11 touchdown passes and five interceptions, and per ESPN Stats & Information data, his Total QBR of 79.1 is the highest in the postseason among 15 QBs with 200 attempts since the stat was first calculated in 2006. That's better than that of Aaron Rodgers (78.7), Drew Brees (75.2) and Tom Brady (74.1).
In Jacksonville, Foles clearly won't have as strong a supporting cast as he did in his five seasons with the Eagles. Marqise Lee, the Jaguars’ top receiver, is coming off a torn ACL. Running back Leonard Fournette, drafted fourth overall in 2017, is coming off a season in which he missed seven games because of injury; he was suspended for another game, admittedly slacked off on his conditioning and got ripped by management for his demeanor on the sideline in the season finale.
Plus, there’s only one tight end on the current Jacksonville roster who has caught a pass in an NFL game. Ben Koyack has 23 receptions for 199 yards and a touchdown, though he did catch the game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down in the Jaguars’ 10-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card game after the 2017 season.
Three starters -- left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell and center Brandon Linder -- are returning from injuries that shortened their 2018 seasons. The Jaguars also are in the market for starters at right guard and right tackle.
That might be why the Jaguars had to guarantee Foles more than $50 million. In addition to the lack of playmakers and questions on offense, it’s not exactly an ideal situation in Jacksonville for coach Doug Marrone, general manager Dave Caldwell and executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin. They’re under a mandate from owner Shad Khan to win in 2019, and adding the veteran quarterback instead of going with a rookie was the safest move to put them in a position to do so.
Though there didn’t appear to be much of a market for Foles, he clearly bargained from a position of power, because the Jaguars did nothing to hide their need and desire for him. They absolutely did not want to stick with Bortles for another year or rely on a bridge quarterback, such as Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater, until a rookie was ready to play.
So that left them in must-get mode with Foles, and they are paying top dollar to get him. He is an upgrade from what they’ve had, but he’s not an elite quarterback, and nobody should expect him to be one.