Nate Sudfeld

Eagles can afford both Nick Foles and Carson Wentz

Eagles can afford both Nick Foles and Carson Wentz

Finally world champions, the Eagles find themselves in the world’s most enviable predicament: What to do with the MVP of the Super Bowl?

Doug Pederson squashed any notion of a quarterback controversy postgame. As long as he’s healthy, the job belongs to 25-year-old All-Pro Carson Wentz.

“I told him that hopefully, we'll be back in this game with him leading the way,” Pederson said.

That means Nick Foles — the man who guided the Eagles through the playoffs and over the Patriots in the Super Bowl — becomes trade bait this offseason. At least, that’s the natural conclusion to draw.

There is another option. Theoretically, the Eagles can also hold on to both Wentz and Foles for 2018.

From a purely financial standpoint, it’s a viable plan. Between the two of them, Wentz and Foles are scheduled to make less than $15 million in salary cap terms in '18. That figure would easily land the Eagles in the bottom half of the NFL for quarterback spending.

The Eagles currently rank 21st in cap space allocated to quarterbacks after new contracts around the league for Jimmy Garoppolo and Alex Smith (pending). Enormous paydays are anticipated for free-agents Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees as well.

Though reports indicate Wentz could be recovered from a torn ACL in time to play Week 1, that’s far from a certainty. Even if he is 100 percent by September, that doesn’t mean he’ll be healthy come January, as the Eagles recently learned.

As long as Foles is on the roster, the Eagles are prepared in the event Wentz’s injury lingers or he gets hurt again.

Not the worst idea for a team that has designs on repeating.

Naturally, there are other factors involved with the decision at quarterback. Money is tight, and the Eagles currently possess one pick in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL draft. Trading Foles aids with both dilemmas.

There’s a potential moral imperative to do right by Foles, too. If he can be a starting quarterback and sign an expensive, long-term contract someplace else, the Eagles may not want to delay his opportunity, provided they receive a fair offer.

Then again, Foles chose to return to the Eagles and doesn’t seem like the type to let ego get in the way. He may be OK with waiting until 2019 when he can become a free agent.

Given everything Foles did for the Eagles this past season, and everything the organization is trying to accomplish in the year ahead, it’s certainly an avenue worth exploring.

*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018

Nick Foles
Age: 29
2018 cap hit: $7.6 million

The question becomes what is Foles worth in a trade? As remarkable as his postseason run with the Eagles was, there’s a reason it was equally improbable. The six-year veteran is incredibly streaky. Foles’ successes, or failures, appear tied to the quality of his supporting casts, so he won’t necessarily appeal to just any quarterback-needy team. An established playoff contender would be the most logical landing spot, maybe the Bills, Cardinals or Vikings. Whatever his value, if a move is coming, expect it to happen quickly — Foles has a roster bonus worth $3 million due March 18.

Carson Wentz
Age: 25
2018 cap hit: $7.275 million

In case you’re wondering why the Eagles don’t have a legitimate quarterback controversy on their hands, the answer is simple. Wentz is younger, he’s under contract through 2019 with a team option for 2020, and he possesses physical abilities that most quarterbacks — including Foles — simply cannot replicate. The injury is a concern for the immediate future, but most professional athletes make full comebacks at that age. Regardless of who was at the helm for the Eagles in the playoffs and Super Bowl, Wentz is the unquestioned leader of this franchise.

Nate Sudfeld
Age: 24
2018 cap hit: $630,000

If the Eagles trade Foles, are they comfortable with Sudfeld as the backup? That seems like a gamble for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Sudfeld did OK in his first NFL action, mopping up the final three quarters of a meaningless Week 17 game against the Cowboys. He made safe decisions with the football, completing 82.6 percent of his passes with zero turnovers, and demonstrated functional mobility with a 22-yard scramble. It was a promising debut, though probably not enough for the Eagles to stay completely idle at quarterback if Foles is out of the picture.

Nick Foles, Eagles have 'heck of a practice'

Nick Foles, Eagles have 'heck of a practice'

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he expects ailing defensive tackle Tim Jernigan to play in Super Bowl LII Sunday.

Jernigan missed practice back in Philadelphia last Friday and has missed both practices in Minnesota since the Eagles arrived here. The Eagles are scheduled to practice again on Friday.

“Because of the position and he’s one of our veteran guys, I do feel comfortable that he’ll be ready,” Pederson told NFL-designated pool reporter Kimberley A. Martin of the Washington Post.

Jernigan was not present during the hour-long media availability earlier in the day. Cornerback Ronald Darby was also missing and is also sick, but he was a full participant at practice. 

The pool report said the Eagles plan to keep Jernigan “as hydrated as possible.”

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (calf), running back Jay Ajayi (ankle) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe were also full participants.

According to the pool report, defensive end Vinny Curry left practice briefly and was examined by trainers after getting several fingers on his left hand caught in a teammate’s facemask.

“He’s fine,” Pederson said. “He shook it off. He’s good.” 

The Eagles practiced indoors Thursday  at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex on the campus of the University of Minnesota, about 12 miles from their hotel in Bloomington.

“Had a heck of a practice today,” Pederson said. “Guys were flying around. Definitely picked it up. We had three days off before we got on the field [Wednesday], so this is what typically we would see in practice.”

The Eagles worked on short yardage, goal line and third down during the one-hour, 45-minute practice, according to the pool report. 

According to the pool report, quarterback Nick Foles “was in a groove, firing off intermediate passes and deep balls downfield with confidence and ease.”

Foles, Carson Wentz’s backup most of the year, will start at quarterback for the Eagles in Super Bowl LII Sunday against the Patriots.

“Nick was really sharp again,” Pederson said. “Real sharp. He was accurate with his passes, smart in the run game. 

“And Nate just seems to sort of always impress. Every day he comes out here, he’s ready to work. I know it’s service team stuff, but he makes our defense work.”

Pederson also singled out cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Darby.

“They really focused in on their assignments,” Pederson said. “They’ve got a tough task with the Patriots, some of these small, quicker receivers. But they both had really good days today.”

Mike Holmgren, Pederson’s coach with the Packers from 1996 through 1998, attended practice. The Packers won Super Bowl XXXI after the 1996 season with Pederson backing up Brett Favre. Favre is scheduled to speak to the Eagles Saturday morning (see story).

“It’s fun to have him out there,” Pederson said.

The forgotten play that put Eagles in Super Bowl LII

USA Today Images

The forgotten play that put Eagles in Super Bowl LII

It was actually Nate Sudfeld, Nick Foles' backup, who threw the longest pass Sunday night.

It just didn't count.

After Sudfeld took the final snap in victory formation with 36 seconds left in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, he took one step to his left and launched the football into the stands.

He wasn't supposed to throw it.

"I don't think so," Sudfeld said in the locker room. "I wasn't really thinking. I was kind of just excited. It's been a crazy year. I think that was the furthest I've thrown it in a game. Actually, it was after the clock."

Then he started thinking …

"Oh, did that count as a …"

No, it was after the knee.

"I was going to say, that was an incompletion," Sudfeld said, relieved that his final stat line just includes three rushing attempts for minus-4 yards. "I launched it."

Sudfeld, who spent most of the season on the practice squad, wasn't even added to the active roster until November. He became the backup after Wentz's injury. He played in his in his first NFL game in the regular-season finale.

Even though his job was simply to take a knee three times, he got into his first playoff game Sunday night. No wonder he was so excited that he tossed the ball into the stands, almost reaching the second level.

After Sudfeld threw the ball — he admitted it came out of his hand nicely — he spun around before turning back to admire how far it traveled.

"Our equipment guy was like, 'I was coming out to get the game ball and I saw you launch it. I was like, 'Ah it's a good launch, it's all right.' I launched it," Sudfeld said again. "Pre-snap I wasn't even thinking about doing it. It was really exciting."

The forgotten play
Patrick Robinson's pick-six was undoubtedly the biggest play of the Eagles' 38-7 beatdown Sunday over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. It was such a huge play it has overshadowed another play that needs to get its due.

Rookie Derek Barnett might have saved the game too.

“I don’t even know what to say," Barnett said. "It was a big play [and] I was there at the right time. As a defense, we were just happy to get off the field in that moment because they were trying to get seven. We were happy to get off the field."

In the second quarter, down 14-7, the Vikings had gotten the ball all the way down to the Eagles' 16-yard line. On 3rd-and-5, Barnett beat tight end David Morgan to get to Case Keenum and knock the ball away. The Vikings' 61-yard drive ended without points.

“It was huge," Chris Long said. "Those are big swings in points. We didn’t get any turnovers last week, and we knew that turnovers would be a big part of this thing. We needed to stop the run and get turnovers, and we did both."

No memory
Of course, the biggest play of Sunday's NFC Championship Game was that pick-6 from Robinson. First, Chris Long forced the pressure and then Robinson picked off a wobbly pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.

The building went nuts. It was so loud the press box shook.

And Jim Schwartz doesn't have a clue how he reacted.

"I have no idea," the defensive coordinator said Tuesday. "I hate to be mic'd up or a camera on me because I have no idea what I look like, sounds like, things I say. People say that I say things during the game and I have no recollection. I'm probably speaking in tongues a little bit.

"I might have been still, I might have been jumping up and down. I was just glad we scored a touchdown. That was a play, we didn't start off real good and we just had that penalty on special teams, they had good field position. There were a lot of things that went into that and obviously that changed the game for us. After that, wasn't much else to it."