Almost three months to the date of signing quarterback Nick Foles to a two year contract extension that contained over $13 million guaranteed the Rams have pulled the plug after a sluggish start in which he is completing less than 57% of his passes and has made critical mistakes to help put the Rams at 4-5 despite a strong defense and running game. There have been a few conflicting opinions on the guarantees in his contract, but Field Yates had the same info I had on the contract so I am working under the assumption that this info is accurate as I look at what may lie ahead for the Rams with Foles.
Foles carries a moderate $8.75 million cap charge next year of which $7.75 million will be paid in cash. Most of that salary is already fully guaranteed. Foles will earn a $6 million roster bonus next March regardless of whether or not he is on the Rams roster. The roster bonus is already fully guaranteed and contains no offsets meaning if released he collects that money plus whatever other money he earns from another team if released. So in terms of releasing Foles that bonus is a sunk cost. His $1.75 million base salary is currently guaranteed for injury only and becomes fully guaranteed on the 5th day of the league year. That salary does contain offsets so the Rams don’t really have to rush to make a decision on Foles because of that guarantee since the salary is low.
The reason the guarantees contain no offset is because the Rams opted to not use a big signing bonus when they signed Foles to an extension. The impact is virtually the same either way on the salary cap if released, but the fact that it hasnt been paid yet and Foles has been benched makes it look much worse than it really is. Generally when teams operate on more of a cash basis than cap basis (essentially reducing or not using signing bonuses) to make a player whole in a contract negotiation guaranteed salaries with no offset clauses have to be used to get the player to sign the contract on the terms the team desires.
If the Rams have decided that getting Foles off the roster is needed then they have a few options to try to avoid the $6 million roster bonus. One way is to release Foles in the next week or two hoping a QB hungry team is willing to claim his contract. At this point in the season all players, including veterans, are subject to waivers so a QB thin team that may see themselves as a contender would be willing to pick up his salary for this year (which is only a few hundred thousand left to pay) and next.
The risk in this strategy is if he goes unclaimed the $6 million guarantee from next year immeditely accelerates onto the Rams salary cap. The Rams do not currently have the cap space to do that, so they would need to modify another contract on the team to create anther $3-4 million in space to make it work.
The Rams could simply hold on to Foles through the offseason and attempt to trade him prior to the date his roster bonus is paid, which is the 3rd day of the League Year. While I dont believe a team would pick up the full roster bonus the Rams would simply restructure the contract to probably eat between $3 and $4 million of the bonus to facilitate the trade. That would put Foles salary in line with his market value and its better to eat $4 million than $6 million for a player you do not want.
All things considered his salary is not incredibly high and slots much closer to “open competition starter”(think Brian Hoyer) than low level starter (think Andy Dalton) on the contract scale. This is where annual values of contracts can be misleading. Because Foles contract was so low prior to the extension, the Rams virtually split up the first years “new money” salary in two equal parts across two seasons. So for a team acquiring him (or even for the Rams) we are really looking at a contract worth around $8 million, not $12 million.
Given his salary is not high I dont think it is a given the Rams move him unless they just see no purpose in having him on the roster. The cost of a reasonable backup quarterback would likely cost the team $2-3 million and the cost of a higher level backup/open competition starter is around $5 million. If they were to release him their spend at the QB position would be anywhere from $8 million to $11 million in cash and likely more on the cap if they brought in a replacement who likely would be no better or worse than Foles.
The contract will come under a lot of scrutiny because Foles went from earning $1.54 million to nearly $14 million without taking a snap for the Rams. As I said when the contract was signed this was the risk of the contract, but if Foles had a pulse there was a reward for the Rams in the relative low cost of the contract. They could have made things much more complicated by signing a long term contract such as the 49ers did with Colin Kaepernick. It was a proactive approach to a position that does not look like it will pay off.