McLANE: Eagles try to erase Chase Daniels mistake
- Nick Foles has returned to the Philadelphia Eagles as a backup quarterback.
- The Eagles released QB Chase Daniels after just one season.
- Second-year QB Carson Wentz is again expected to start for Philly next season.
By acquiring Nick Foles and releasing Chase Daniel on Monday, the Eagles upgraded at backup quarterback and (slightly) improved their salary-cap situation, which Howie Roseman has somehow kept perilously under the maximum limit.
But like most moves in NFL free agency, the return of Foles is an attempt to wash away an original sin — in this case, signing Daniel to a three-year, $21 million contract last offseason.
"After a healthy discussion with Chase," Roseman said in a statement, "we both felt like it was best to move forward in a different direction as circumstances have changed since he originally signed."
In other words, Oops.
When the Eagles signed Daniel last March, they did so just a week after they decided to bring Sam Bradford back. There was nothing wrong with adding the veteran who had worked under new coach Doug Pederson for three seasons. But what had Daniel done to become the highest-paid backup quarterback in the league?
He had only two career starts and had thrown only 78 passes in seven seasons.
The Eagles, at the same time, were executing their plan to move up in the draft to select Carson Wentz, but they continued to prepare in case they failed. Daniel signed under the assurance that he would be given the opportunity to start, and there were incentives built into his deal based on that possibility.
But Pederson made it clear from the get-go that Bradford was the starter, and when Roseman pulled off his Wentz gamble, Daniel was the odd man out. In just one month, his already-extravagant contract had become irrational.
Collateral damage: There was always going to be collateral damage in obtaining Wentz. The Eagles escaped further harm when they were gifted the Bradford trade to the Vikings, thus accelerating Wentz's career and recouping the lost 2017 first-round pick. But the Daniel signing made little sense in the first place, and will potentially have salary-cap repercussions through 2018.
The Eagles will save at least $1 million by waiving him, but they could be on the hook for as much as $7 million in dead money in 2017. Daniel may have agreed to restructure his contract to facilitate his release. And there is offset language in his deal that would allow the Eagles to recoup some of his base salary, but he isn't likely to get a large contract from a new team, and the relief may not come until 2018.
Once again: Oops.
Blame falls to Roseman: Roseman ultimately shoulders responsibility for the Daniel signing. The offseason is his domain. But Pederson authored the initial decision to have the quarterback follow him from Kansas City. He often compared Daniel to his circumstances as Donovan McNabb's placeholder, especially after Wentz was drafted.
But even Pederson was able to hold off McNabb for nine starts in his rookie season. Wentz was clearly ahead of Daniel already by the preseason and the latter's ultimate contribution on the field consisted of just six plays and one pass against the New York Giants in the penultimate game of last season.
The Eagles failed to score on the drive, but Daniel completed his lone pass for 16 yards. So there's that.
Daniel was a loyal teammate through Bradford's spring holdout and Pederson's decision to start Wentz. And he aided the rookie in his development within the offense and the constraints of learning how to play on the job. But to suggest that Wentz's first season was even partly because of Daniel would be a gross overstatement.
Eagles couldn't afford to wait: The 30-year-old asked the Eagles for his release, an NFL source said, so that he could find a team willing to let him compete for a starting job. If that was a reality, Roseman would have been able to find a trade partner. But after weeks on the block and several days into the new league year, the Eagles couldn't wait any longer.
They moved on Foles, signing him to a two-year, $11 million deal with $7 million guaranteed, outbidding his former team, the Chiefs. There weren't likely any more serious pursuers. Foles' flameout with the Rams hurt his stock, and while he won his only start in Kansas City last year, his days as a legitimate starting option are over.
But he's a reasonable backup who knows Pederson's system, having played in the Andy Reid-version with the Eagles in 2012 and last year with the Chiefs. Foles should have comfort in Philadelphia, particularly in a lesser role, and he did have a period of success - great success even if his performance in 2013 benefited from the shock and awe of Chip Kelly's first year in the NFL.
Foles has thrown 1,207 more NFL passes than Daniel and is two years younger. He'll also come cheaper, although with Daniel's likely cap hit of around $7 million, the Eagles are still on the books for an unseemly amount for the backup quarterback position.
Insurance policy: It's an insurance policy role and one the Eagles would rather not have to open. Wentz's second season will obviously be as important as his first. Foles should be a supportive No. 2. He is, if anything, deferential.
Who knows if he would have ever left had Roseman remained general manager in 2015? Trading Foles was probably the best evaluation Kelly made that offseason, although packaging a second-rounder in the trade for Bradford seemed excessive.
Kelly's year in charge of personnel resulted in unprecedented spending for the Eagles, but it's not as if Roseman had alligator arms last offseason. He deserves credit for imaginatively working around the cap constraints this year, but contracts like the one he originally handed to Daniel helped create budget woes.
It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul.