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Over The Cap’s Brad Spielberger explains the Nick Foles contract

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To help us understand the Nick Foles contract, we got an assist from one of the best salary capologists around in Over The Cap’s Brad Spielberger.

NFL: DEC 01 Buccaneers at Jaguars Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Some of the contract details for new Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles were revealed today from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, but that only sparked some social media confusion from Bears fans, so I had to reach out to Over The Cap’s Brad Spielberger to get the real nitty gritty.

By now you guys all know Brad from his outstanding work with Over The Cap, his local radio hits with 670 The Score, the great nuggets of information he shares on Twitter (@BradOTC), or his thoughtful responses to our WCG Salary Cap Roundtable, so it was natural to ask him to clear things up on the reported deal.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here’s how Rapoport reported it...

  • $24M over 3 years with $21M still fully guaranteed.
  • $6M available in incentives per year.
  • Every $1 earned of incentives also escalates the next year’s salary
  • He can void ‘21 & ‘22 based on performance

... and here’s how Brad broke it all down for us.

The original contract Nick Foles signed with the Jaguars had about $57 million remaining (after the trade) over three years, with the vast majority of that number comprised of $50 million in base salary and a $5 million fully guaranteed roster bonus for 2021. All told, the remaining guarantees on the deal were $20.125M in total. That same guarantee amount is still coming along to Chicago. However, the total value not including incentives (more on that later) will be just $24 million instead of $57 million.

The restructured contract is reportedly a 3 year / $24 million contract, with a very simple $8 million base salary in each year. One can assume that the first two years are fully guaranteed, and $4.125 million is guaranteed in Year 3.

There are also up to $6 million in incentives in each year of the deal. An interesting wrinkle with the incentives is that for every dollar earned, that exact amount will be added to the following year’s base salary. So, for example, if Foles earns $3M in incentives in 2020, his 2021 base salary will escalate from $8 million to $11 million.

We don’t know for certain just yet, but my best guess for the incentives is that $1 million is for making the Pro Bowl (original ballot), $1 million is for being named an All-Pro, and then there are various amounts for Passing Yards/TDs, Starts, and Wins. Finally, I’d bet there are incentives tied to making the playoffs, advancing in the playoffs, and making/winning the Super Bowl (LET’S HOPE THAT INCENTIVE GETS PAID IN FULL, AMIRITE?!).

So, if hypothetically Nick Foles hits every incentive in 2020, his 2020 cap hit would be the $8 million base salary + $6 million in incentives, for a total of $14 million. His 2021 base salary would then become $14 million, and he would have the same opportunity to earn $6 million in incentives again. However, here is where the void provisions come into play.

Based on certain performance thresholds that we will likely never know, Nick Foles has the opportunity to void the remaining years on his deal. Voiding simply means that Foles would opt out of his contractual obligation with the Bears and become a free agent. If he did play so well as to earn all $6 million in incentives in 2020, the overwhelming odds are that he would void 2021 and 2022 and hit the open market for a new contract.

First and foremost, because the guarantees are all tied to base salary, if Foles did void the remaining two years after 2020, that $12.125 million ($20.125 million total guaranteed - $8 million guaranteed 2020 base salary) would disappear. So, the Bears likely wouldn’t be on the hook beyond 2020… but they also wouldn’t have a quarterback on the roster.

In that scenario, the Bears would probably try to work out an extension with Foles. Even though Foles would be the one voiding the contract, Foles would NOT be eligible to return the Bears a compensatory pick were he to leave.

After all the speculation surrounding the restructured deal, in my opinion this is a good contract for the Bears. It definitely has the potential to leave the Bears in a precarious position at QB after 2020, but in that hypothetical Nick Foles plays so well that he earned more than what was left on the deal. If Nick Foles plays very well in 2020, the Bears will likely make a deep playoff run.

The contract does leave the door open for a QB competition, and that has to be mentioned when discussing this new deal. But personally, I’d be shocked if Nick Foles isn’t under center in Week 1 (if the NFL season happens… but that’s a story for a different day).

The structure of the contract certainly makes this a more palatable acquisition, but even had the two sides not come to an agreement on the money, the Bears bouncing back in 2020 with better quarterback play is all that truly matters. If Foles hits some, if not all, of his incentives, then that likely means the Bears are winning and if they’re winning no one will gripe about that fourth-round pick.

Thanks again to Brad for breaking the deal down in such an easy to understand way, and all you guys that do the Twitter thing make sure you give him a follow @BradOTC.