Foles new Bears quarterback
CHICAGO - If he only followed the numbers, Nick Foles would not be a Bear. The former Super Bowl MVP trusted his instinct, however, and that's what led to his arrival last week after the trade with the Jaguars became official.
The numbers Foles agreed to in a "crazy" restructuring of his contract might not be ideal, but the new deal gives the 31-year-old upside and freedom if he leads the Bears to heights they believe are achievable in the near future.
Without reworking his contract to facilitate the trade, in which the Bears sent the Jaguars a fourth-round draft pick, Foles would have remained in Jacksonville, possibly as the backup to Gardner Minshew.
Instead he's using video to learn nuances of an offense he's familiar with as he prepares for what Bears coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace termed an open competition between Foles and Mitch Trubisky for the starting job.
Thirteen months ago, Foles signed the NFL's largest contract during 2019 free agency: $88 million over four years. He pocketed $31 million from the Jaguars last year, leaving $57 million in base value remaining. That figure has been slashed to $24 million.
What's unchanged is the fully guaranteed amount remaining that Foles would receive in the event he's cut: $21 million, which the Bears have spread over three years.
"If I don't agree to a restructure, I'm not traded, so therefore I'm back in Jacksonville," Foles said during a conference call Friday. "This situation works best for the Jaguars and for the Bears and for me. This is ultimately what I thought was best, based on a lot of information from this last season, to where agreeing to a crazy restructure was necessary to allow me to go play for Coach Nagy and the Bears.
"It's probably not the logistical move if you're looking at numbers and contracts and moving and all that stuff. But it was necessary based on my heart and a lot of prayer and thinking."
Complicating matters for Foles is having to move his family with his wife, Tori, due in June with the couple's second child. They put down roots in Jacksonville and were excited about the latest phase of his career.
Then Foles suffered a broken collarbone on the second series of the season opener when Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones hit him just after he released a 35-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark. When Foles returned from injured reserve in November, he made three starts before coach Doug Marrone replaced him with Minshew, effectively turning the page for the franchise.
"It was obviously a struggle," Foles said. "We went to Jacksonville with a lot of hopes. I will say this: I don't have any regrets. We gave it every single thing we had the entire year. My wife and I, we gave everything we had and we made a lot of amazing relationships in Jacksonville and we learned a lot. We grew a lot as human beings by the trials we faced there. But ultimately it was time to make a change.
"It really worked best for both parties because I love Gardner. Jacksonville can build around Gardner and now I have an opportunity to play for a team that I played a couple of years ago (in the Eagles' playoff victory over the Bears) that was honestly one of the best teams I've played against. To be with a coach that was there for me from the beginning like Doug Pederson was, I got Matt Nagy. ... Everything about that was intriguing to where the restructure was a necessary move to make it happen."
The restructured contract lowers Foles' 2020 base salary from $15.125 million to $4 million, giving him a considerably smaller salary-cap hit of $5.33 million.
If Foles wins the starting job, there is considerable room for more earnings with incentives and escalators, according to a source with knowledge of the parameters. Foles can earn an additional $6 million annually for reaching playing-time thresholds combined with factors such as passer rating, postseason appearances and awards such as Pro Bowl, All-Pro, MVP and Super Bowl MVP.
Besides the appeal of reuniting with Nagy, what else did Foles receive in exchange for reducing the base value of his contract by more than half? He can become a free agent as soon as next March if the Bears make the kind of playoff run they believe was cut short when Foles and the Eagles defeated them 16-15 in the wild-card round after the 2018 season.
The final two years of the contract would automatically void if Foles is on the field for at least half of the Bears' offensive plays during the regular season and postseason and they reach the NFC championship game. The deal can be voided after two years if similar provisions are met in 2021.
Foles will boost his pay if he plays well, and he stands to become a free agent if he plays well and the team is very successful. The Bears aren't on the hook for much more than the $21 million in guarantees that remained in Foles' contract with the Jaguars if things don't materialize, so the contract wouldn't hamstring the team moving forward. Both sides have protection, and in that sense, it's not so crazy if he was determined to be in Chicago.
"Ultimately, it came down to the restructure," Foles said. "But it took every single party to be on the same page and allowing this to happen. So I'm very excited about this opportunity. There is a lot that had to happen."