Jaguars have no easy escape from $88 million Nick Foles problem

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Sunday can be summed up in one word: Yikes.

During a deflating 28-11 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles went 7 for 14 with 93 yards, and turned the ball over on each of his first three possessions. Foles fumbled twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and threw an interception into the arms of Buccaneers rookie Devin White.

At halftime, the Jaguars had zero points on the board, and Foles was benched in the second half for rookie Gardner Minshew. And all of this was against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, which even after Sunday is allowing 281 air yards per game.

Foles was booed off the field in the first half and Minshew cheered in the second, making certain that the rookie is the fans’ preferred option. He might be the better option for the team going forward, too. Minshew managed to move the ball in the second half, and provided a spark with both his arm and his legs, escaping pressure multiple times in a way Foles seems unable to do.

Head coach Doug Marrone named Minshew the starter on Monday, which under most circumstances would seem like the obvious move. The problem is that Foles signed a mammoth four-year, $88 million dollar contract in the offseason, with $45 million of guaranteed money. He then suffered a broken collarbone in the first week of the season, allowing Minshew to come in and steal America’s heart.

He has lost his first three starts since returning, leaving the Jaguars with a lost season and a fractured locker room. The Associated Press reported that there was a heated exchange in the locker room between center Brandon Linder and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue after Sunday’s defeat.

The reality is that Foles has never been very good outside of his two stints in Philadelphia — one that included a Super Bowl win over the Patriots that seems more stunning with each pass he throws in Jacksonville. In 18 games played for the Rams, Chiefs and Jaguars, Foles threw for 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a 59% completion rate. It’s a reality that seems to be staring Jacksonville in the face as it sinks to the bottom of the standings, and the contract is already looking like a mistake.

It also leaves the Jaguars in a nearly impossible situation moving forward. Foles is scheduled to make upwards of $22 million next year, which is astronomical for a backup quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater is the highest-paid QB who began the season as a backup, employed at less than a third of that price ($7.25 million).

The Jaguars could cut Foles in 2020, but they would eat almost $34 million in dead cap if they do – over $11 million more than if they kept him on the roster. It would severely limit what the team can do in free agency, especially with Ngakoue making it clear he wants an extension (he held out of training camp).

Their best option would likely be a trade. The Jaguars would only be on the hook for $18.5 million of dead money if they can move him. But with Foles looking brutal in his three games since returning from injury, any value may now be gone. Had they kept Minshew in the starter’s role, they might have gotten a solid return.

Maybe a quarterback-needy team such as the Bears or Chargers would consider taking a chance on the former Super Bowl MVP. Or a rebuilding team like the Dolphins, Bengals or Redskins could bring him in to mentor a young quarterback. But in order to make it happen, Jacksonville would likely have to do a salary dump, giving up a draft pick in a similar way the Texans did with Brock Osweiler’s contract.

Either way, the Jaguars have backed themselves into a corner, and are going to have to give something up regardless of what they decide.

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