It was reported by several sources early yesterday, including NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, that the St. Louis Rams are interested in locking up quarterback Nick Foles to an extension before the season gets under way. Foles, who was acquired early in the offseason from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford and a swap of draft picks, will hit the free agent market after this season.
Foles has seen bright spots throughout his career that shows he can be one of the better quarterbacks in the league, after being drafted in the 3rd round by the Eagles in the 2012 NFL Draft. He really has only one season in which he was the starting quarterback, which came in 2013, where he surpassed Tom Brady’s record of best TD-INT ratio with 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The 2014 season was cut short following a broken collarbone injury suffered in week 9 against the Houston Texans, but he had 6 wins in that time for the Eagles. He is still young, just 26 years old, and might be the most highly sought after quarterback in the free agent market next season, as most quarterbacks with his abilities and age are already locked up, including Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill.
Looking at next season’s free agent starting quarterbacks, there are a lot of big names who will be testing free agency. The class is not thin, by any means, with Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Russell Wilson, former Ram, Sam Bradford, and Matt Cassel all hitting the market as unrestricted free agents. Each player has shown they have been successful before and will undoubtedly have high levels of interest from several teams in the league.
Manning, 34, put up nice numbers for the Giants despite being centered behind a struggling starting offensive line last year and didn’t have his top notch receivers to throw to. He threw 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season, but the team struggles led to a 6-10 season. He put up a decent stat line last year with a 63 percent completion rate and over 4,400 yards. He is entering his 12th season as the quarterback for the Giants and each year has been a steady decline since winning the Super Bowl in 2011. You may hear of some interest from the Rams next offseason, but I cannot see them paying what Eli may want in free agency, and I have to believe his abilities and stats can’t continue to be decent given age and abilities. Ryan Nassib could be given the opportunity to be the next Giants starting quarterback once Eli hits free agency. I anticipate several teams to be interested, which could drive the money and years well beyond what the Rams should afford to offer.
Phillip Rivers, 33, is also another great quarterback name expected to hit the free agency market at seasons end. Like Manning, Rivers is also aging and expected to have a high price tag in free agency. Rivers did have a good season with the Chargers last season, going 9-7 and passing for 31 touchdowns. He had a QB rating of 93.8 last season, which could have been higher had he not led the league in interceptions. He has shown day in and day out that he is passionate about winning and brings intensity to his teams while showing consistency at the position. It was noted in the offseason that the Chargers were attempting to trade Phillip River’s, knowing his high price tag was coming in free agency this upcoming offseason, but have since decided to work out negotiations on a new contract with Rivers who has been a mainstay at the position since 2004 for the Chargers.
Russell Wilson and his party are currently attempting long term negotiations with the Seattle Seahawks, and I expect them to get a deal done either before the season or shortly after the season is over. Wilson has put his name in as one of the great quarterbacks currently playing in the league after being taken in the 3rd round by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012 out of Wisconsin. He has led the Seahawks to Super Bowl appearances twice already in his 4 year professional career and started every game since being drafted. Although he will be a free agent and the Rams would have interest should he hit the market, I am writing his name off as I expect a deal to get done with the Seahawks soon.
Bradford is in an interesting position after being traded away from the Rams this offseason. If he shows that he can stay healthy throughout the season with the Eagles and be the starter that we all expected him to be when he was drafted 1st overall by the Rams, a reunion shouldn’t be out of the question. There will be a lot of takers should he play to his potential and stay off the injured list for an entire season, but come at a reasonable price for starting quarterbacks given his injury history. I’m sure with rumors swirling at the draft that he would be traded to the Cleveland Browns, the Browns would be targeting him in free agency hard especially if the Johnny Manziel experiment fails this season.
Matt Cassel is the last starting quarterback that has seen his fair share of tries with the Chiefs, Vikings, and now the Bills. Cassel, 33, took over as the Vikings starting quarterback for the last 3 games of the 2014 season and had 3 touchdowns and 4 INT for the Vikings leading them to 1 win and 2 losses. He was acquired by the Buffalo Bills this offseason in hopes of competing with EJ Manuel in Rex Ryan’s first season with the Bills. It has been noted that Rex and front office staff do not have confidence in Manuel’s skills at the position, so Cassel should see opportunities as the starting quarterback in Buffalo. The Rams may have interest should he put up a good season, but I do not recommend it as he had his chances with a pretty talented Kansas City Chiefs team years ago and never lived up to the expectation.
Between the aging quarterbacks that will come with a hefty price and Russell Wilson more than likely to be locked up, the Rams would be smart to sign Nick Foles to a long term extension. At 26, his young age, skills, and potential is too great to have just one season in a Rams uniform. He is already taking the leadership role of one of the youngest teams in the league and running away with it. He has major fans throughout the organization, all poised to see what he can bring to a young and entertaining Rams offense. I would expect a 4 to 5 year deal to be in the works with the St. Louis Rams, hoping that he can lead the Rams to playoff appearances we haven’t seen in over a decade. I’m sure there is interest from Foles himself for staying as well, given the talent that is currently building on this roster and young age of all players. Putting together a solid core of players and successful season starts at the quarterback position, and Nick Foles at the helm with a contract extension for the St. Louis Rams could lead to a competitive team for many years to come.