The700Level

Loose Nick Foles is the best Nick Foles

usa-nick-foles-celebrate.jpg
USA Today Images

Loose Nick Foles is the best Nick Foles

Take a look at that smile. That might’ve been the first smile Nick Foles cracked on a football field since the Eagles' offense was moving up and down the field on the Giants in mid-December.

That smile may have been the turning point for the Eagles’ season — right after Foles threw what should have been a backbreaking interception, one that would’ve been the beginning of the end.

Foles’ struggles heading into the playoffs were well documented. Obsessed over, in fact. And the backup quarterback was off to another mediocre start in the Eagles’ divisional round game against the Falcons. After completing 46.9 percent of his passes for 4.1 yards per attempt with one touchdown and two interceptions in the final two regular-season games, Foles started 9 of 12 for a meager 66 yards.

The numbers didn’t quite capture how ineffective he looked. Two-thirds of the offensive production to that point had come from running backs or running the football. Worst of all, his team was losing.

Then, in the second quarter, another Foles pass sailed over the head of its intended target, as was becoming the norm, this time into the waiting arms of Falcons safety Keanu Neal. A pick likely would’ve put Atlanta in scoring range, possibly been returned for a touchdown. Either result would’ve been devastating.

Neal didn’t come down with the errant throw. The ball bounced off the defender’s knee, deflected back toward the line of scrimmage, some 10 yards through the air, into the hands of an alert Torrey Smith. The Eagles wideout turned a botched turnover into a 20-yard gain, which helped set up a field goal two plays later to cut the Falcons’ lead to one.

The points seemed big at the time. Vastly more important was the impact the play seemingly had on Foles.

For weeks, Foles was held under the microscope. First, his overall competency was the issue, which wasn’t unusual for a journeyman replacing an MVP-caliber signal caller on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. As Foles struggled, his confidence was questioned, and the concern became whether the pressure of the situation getting to him was a larger problem than his ability.

How much validity there was to the latter idea, we’ll never know. There were plenty of built-in excuses for Foles’ earlier performances. He didn’t have much work with the first-team offense. Game plans and practices were dialed back the final two weeks of the regular season. The elements — particularly strong winds — had been a factor for all quarterbacks at Lincoln Financial Field.

All we can say for certain, anecdotally, is Foles looked like a different player after Smith came up with that haphazard pass. The sixth-year veteran was 10 for 13 for 86 yards, including the near-interception, and led one scoring drive on his first four possessions. The rest of the game, he was 13 of 17 for 160 yards, with three scoring drives out of four possessions.

As disastrous as that play could’ve been, maybe it loosened Foles up. I mean, it was legitimately funny, as long as you weren’t so angry by the way things were transpiring for the Eagles, you could allow yourself to have a sense of humor about it. Maybe when the weight of the world felt like it was on his shoulders, he needed a good laugh.

A turnover there would've been hard to come back from, both in terms of Foles' mindset and on the scoreboard. Instead, the Immaculate Reception-like play had a reverse effect.

Foles finally loosened up, and loose Nick Foles is the best kind of Nick Foles. Look no further than 2013, the infamous 27-2 season that occurred when nobody expected him to be the Eagles’ starter, let alone decent. Compare that to 2014 and ’15, when the teams he was a part of were bad, but the expectations were rising with his profile.

By the end of his second career playoff game, he looked like he was having fun and ready to let the ball fly. That’s exactly the version of Foles the Eagles are going to need in the NFC Championship against the Vikings on Sunday.

Fans can only hope that version of Foles is here to stay, at least for one more week.

Eagles can create cap space and still keep Jason Peters

usa-jason-peters.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles can create cap space and still keep Jason Peters

Contrary to rumors the Eagles could try to trade Jason Peters, signing the 36-year-old left tackle to a contract extension might make more sense.

The Eagles are well over the projected NFL salary cap for 2018, and Peters’ money looks like an easy target. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection is scheduled to cost more than $10 million next season after suffering a torn ACL in October. Since then, the team went on to win a Super Bowl with Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle.

Peters is aging, expensive, recovering from a serious injury, and a young alternative would earn a fraction of his salary — all sound reasons for the Eagles to explore a trade.

“The offense operated well without Peters, and he'd have some value,” an anonymous league executive told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. “The kid who filled in is nothing special, but the offensive line as a whole was fine without Peters.”

La Canfora expects the Eagles to be “proactive” in their effort to move Peters.

I’m not so sure. Entering the final year of his contract, Peters and the Eagles agreed to a new contract last June — a deal fueled in part by Peters’ desire for financial security beyond the 2017 season. Though the pact does not explicitly prohibit a trade, it certainly disincentivizes the Eagles from going down that route.

According to estimates, trading Peters creates only $4.3 million in cap savings for 2018. The Eagles would be on the hook for another $6.3 million, for a player who will no longer be on the roster.

At that point, why not just pay him?

Peters is still the best left tackle on the team. He was well on his way to another Pro Bowl before injury struck. He’s probably the most respected player in the locker room. As long as the stated goal is to repeat as world champions, this is somebody the Eagles should want around.

If money is the motivating factor, extending Peters may prove more helpful. The Eagles can pick up his team option for 2019, perhaps even add a year in 2020, and structure a new contract similar to the deal reached last summer, pushing bonus money into future years to lower his cap hit in '18.

Obviously, there is risk involved. Restructuring kicks the can down the road, so the Eagles will have to deal with the financial consequences next offseason rather than now. 

There aren’t many better options, either. Peters reportedly declined to take a pay cut last offseason — he’s not just going to give the money back. And while the Eagles could recoup some draft picks in a swap, it would come at the expense of their O-line depth, with minimal financial benefit.

Peters was dominant last season. He’s bounced back after major surgery before, returning to form after a torn Achilles in 2012. In fact, every time there’s been concern about Peters’ ability or future, he seems to respond better than ever.

Maybe it’s about time we have some faith in an eventual Hall of Famer and quit trying to ship him out of town.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018

Lane Johnson
Age: 28
2018 cap hit: $12.484 million

How good was Johnson last season? Just look at the names of pass rushers he silenced over the course of the year. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson surrendered three sacks all season while blocking the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence, Olivier Vernon, Ryan Kerrigan, Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Chandler Jones, to name a handful.

Jason Peters
Age: 36
2018 cap hit: $10.666 million

News flash: Peters isn’t even the highest-paid tackle on his own team anymore. In fact, his cap hit is third among Eagles O-linemen, behind Johnson and right guard Brandon Brooks. Peters currently ranks 13th among all NFL left tackles, as well, so his contract is hardly some out-of-control cost.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Age: 25
2018 cap hit: $686,000

Is Vaitai the left tackle of the future? Maybe. Analytics haven’t been very kind to 'Big V,' but whether filling in for Peters or Johnson over the past two seasons, he got the job done. Fortunately for the Eagles, Vaitai isn’t a free agent for another two years, so there’s no need to rush to conclusions.

Will Beatty
Age: 33
Free agent

Signed as an insurance policy after the injury to Peters, Beatty’s only action came in the Eagles’ meaningless Week 17 clash against the Cowboys. The club will no doubt look to the draft and continue developing Taylor Hart — re-signed to a futures contract last week — for tackle depth in 2018.

Leather Eagles Super Bowl jacket is amazing, crazy expensive

beau-allen-leather.jpg
NFL Shop

Leather Eagles Super Bowl jacket is amazing, crazy expensive

Philadelphia fans aren't the only ones who can't get their fill of Super Bowl championship memorabilia. The Eagles' players want in on the surfeit of champs gear as well.

Take Beau Allen for example. A true man of the people, Allen tweeted his desire for this absolutely beautiful leather jacket commemorating the Eagles victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Allen tweeted aloud, wondering why the Birds' players hadn't been issued one of these leather jackets yet?

One guess? They retail for a cool $3,000. Totally worth it. 

You can pick one up right here for a low $2,999.99. It's listed as a "Men's NFL Pro Line by Fanatics Branded Black/Green Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII Champions Full-Button Leather Jacket."

You'll be happy to know it's an officially licensed NFL product and is made in the USA. Just like Beau.