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With Dalton aboard, Nick Foles another miss for Ryan Pace

And a costly one at that. After signing Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract, the Bears cut two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller on Saturday. That looks like a net loss for the Bears.

Nick Foles (9, under siege against the Titans on Nov. 8 in Nashville) had an 80.8 passer rating in nine games (seven starts) with the Bears in 2020, including a victory over the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
Nick Foles (9, under siege against the Titans on Nov. 8 in Nashville) had an 80.8 passer rating in nine games (seven starts) with the Bears in 2020, including a victory over the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.

So much for the notion that quarterback Nick Foles was not defined by his 2020 performance — that he was a victim of bad timing more than anything else.

After replacing Mitch Trubisky as the starter, Foles faced four defenses ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in his first five starts (the Colts, Buccaneers, Rams and Saints). By the time he faced the 25th-ranked Titans in Week 9, his offensive line was a mess — seventh-round rookie Arlington Hambright was starting at left guard in his first NFL appearance, former undrafted free agent Alex Bars was playing center for the first time at any level and former defensive tackle Rashaad Coward was starting at right tackle for the first time.

After throwing three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to beat the Falcons in Week 3, Foles never got a chance to get his feet on the ground. Coach Matt Nagy gave up play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in Week 10 against the Vikings, and when Foles suffered a hip injury in the final minute of that game, he was done — replaced by Trubisky, who flourished with a revamped offensive line against weaker defenses. Another tough break for Foles, whose 80.8 passer rating (79.6 in his seven starts) seemed a bit specious.

I knew I was on an island with that take, but didn’t realize just how alone I was — not even the Bears were buying that idea. With few options outside of the dream scenarios of trading for the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson or the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, they could have at least tried to sell Foles as a place-holder for a rookie quarterback — perhaps even a touted first-round pick if things worked out in the draft.

The Bears could have argued that Foles would be better with a fresh start as the No. 1 quarterback from Day 1 and with a rejuvenated offensive line bolstered by the return of guard James Daniels, plus internal upgrades at tight end and wide receiver with expected second-year improvement from Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney off promising rookie seasons.

It’s not the best argument in the world, but it’s not the worst. And if it meant keeping two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller, it would have been that much more palatable.

Instead, the Bears signed Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract as the place-holder. On paper, Dalton is an upgrade over Foles, but even that’s debatable. If anything, the Bears’ signing of Dalton stamps the Foles acquisition as yet another quarterback error by general manager Ryan Pace. The Bears traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for Foles, and even a restructuring of his four-year, $88 million contract left the Bears on the hook for $21 million in guaranteed money.

They didn’t get their money’s worth and now have invested another $10 million on Dalton. That’s salary-cap money ($5.3 million for 2021) they literally didn’t have, which forced them to cut Fuller, who quickly agreed to a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Broncos on Saturday. The Bears can mitigate the damage of Foles’ contract by trading him — a deal that likely would net the Bears a late-round pick. But as Pace acquisitions go, Foles is in the “miss” category.

So would you rather have Foles and Fuller or Andy Dalton and former Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant? As with so many issues involving the Bears these days, there doesn’t appear to be a right answer.