At this point in the 2021 offseason, only one backup quarterback option makes sense for the New York Jets, veteran Nick Foles.
What’s left of the free-agent market is a barren wasteland that might be marginally better than James Morgan or Mike White, and that’s if they manage to learn the system. Unless there’s a preseason injury to a backup, it’s unlikely Joe Douglas goes this route.
Younger trade candidates like Gardner Minshew or Marcus Mariota don’t really make much sense either. These players are looking to compete for a starting job, especially Mariota and his no-trade clause. Bringing in someone like this may just add pressure for rookie Zach Wilson.
Head coach Robert Saleh explained that a move for a veteran QB has to click: “There’s a match that has to happen, there’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”
Another issue for a Minshew-type might be timing. The Jets may not be in the market for a backup quarterback until after the first week or so of the preseason.
From hearing Saleh and quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp speak on the situation, they would prefer to get their current backups “game reps” before bringing in a more comforting veteran.
If that’s the case, Foles may be the only sound option that’s still available during the preseason.
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What Makes Foles a ‘Match’?
Saleh may not be ready to admit it but Foles is a perfect fit for the Jets.
Yes, Foles has a big contract and the Jets are a franchise that may be willing to pay a portion of it. Yes, he’s third on the Chicago Bears quarterback depth chart. And yes the former Super Bowl champion could make a great mentor for Wilson. There’s more.
Douglas has “Saint Nick” to thank for his Philadelphia Eagles championship ring, as most will famously remember. Foles took over for injured MVP candidate Carson Wentz and let’s just say he was up to the task.
The Jets GM has a level of trust with Foles. If the feeling is mutual, the veteran might encourage a move to New York. For clarity, he does not have a no-trade clause but was supposedly unhappy about a possible return to Philly, which took the Eagles out of the running back in May.
Douglas has another connection to this deal, Bears general manager Ryan Pace. The Jets GM worked for Pace during his time in Chicago, which could cement this agreement.
Foles is an intelligent leader that should have no problem picking up Mike LaFleur’s scheme. He is also known to be a high-character locker room guy and should easily fulfill the new Jets standard for free-agent additions.
One last unique tidbit that could mesh. Foles is a devout Christian, Wilson has a background in faith as a Mormon who has studied Christ. Not saying there will be bible study before games on Sunday, but those built-in values could forge a bond.
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What It Might Cost for the Jets to Acquire Foles
So, we know that Foles is the top candidate left and we think that the Jets could provide a mutually beneficial fit for the quarterback. Now, what would it cost?
If the Bears can trade Foles, they actually save $4 million in cap space now that we are past June 1. If they were to release him, they’d lose more in dead cap than it would cost to keep him.
That means Foles will either be traded or play out his days as a third-string quarterback in 2021.
The Jets have compiled 13 draft picks in 2022, a hefty number for Douglas to work with.
On the flip side, unloading that $4 million in cap space would be huge for Chicago, who’s hoping to contend this season. Here’s a deal involving a contract restructure that could help both sides.
- NYJ receives Nick Foles and takes on $5 million of $6.67 million hit in 2021.
- CHI receives conditional sixth-rounder in 2022, frees up $4 million in cap space and also agrees to pay final $1.67 million.
The Jets have three sixth-rounders in 2022 and this valuation fits for a player the Bears would love to get off their hands. The only conditions would rely on Foles dressing for games with the team, meaning he cannot retire or miss time with injury.
This would also clear the books for Chicago in 2022 and give the Jets a more than competent backup that they can afford for Wilson’s first two seasons in the NFL.