Bears quarterback Nick Foles isn’t participating in the team’s voluntary organized team activity practices this week because he’s “dealing with some personal things,” coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday.
Foles missed one day of work last week, Nagy said, and could return to practices at Halas Hall as early as next week. Regardless of when he comes back, it’s clear where he’ll be in the Bears’ pecking order.
Nagy reiterated Wednesday that Foles will be the third-string quarterback — behind starter Andy Dalton and first-round pick Justin Fields.
“Nick and I have talked, and he understands going into this that Justin is going to get the [No.] 2 reps,” Nagy said. “And Nick’s going to get the 3 reps.”
Which is to say: not many at all, particularly because the Bears have a plan to get Fields more snaps than an average backup.
“Nick is a true pro and understands it,” Nagy said. “[He] is still very competitive. And that’s why I say like in all these meetings, it’s just really special to see how [he and Dalton] are trying to help Justin out and teach him how to play quarterback and how to watch film and study this offense. But also Justin helping them, too, with what he sees. So it’s been really good.”
Maybe not for Foles. A year ago, the Bears traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars and restructured his contract, guaranteeing him $21 million over three years. Foles’ struggles last season led the Bears to sign Dalton, whom they consider an upgrade. When Fields became surprisingly available in the draft, Foles fell even further down the depth chart.
If the Bears enter the season with three quarterbacks, the sheer number of practice snaps means Fields — not Foles — would be the likely replacement if Dalton suffers an injury.
In terms of the salary cap, it’s actually cheaper for the Bears to keep Foles than it is for them to cut him. Foles’ 2021 salary — as well as $1 million of his 2022 salary and a $4 million roster 2022 bonus — is guaranteed.
There might not be a market for him outside of Halas Hall, either. Few teams in the NFL have a glaring need for a veteran backup mentor — with the possible exception of the Jets, who have no established quarterbacks behind first-round pick Zach Wilson.
Short of mentorship, it’s unclear what role Foles has on this year’s Bears. His skill set seems redundant with Dalton on board. Nagy said Foles has been “here the whole time” during the offseason program.
“As far as the quarterbacks, Andy and Justin and Nick, I’ve lived it,” Nagy said. “I’ve been a part of it in the meetings and the practice fields, with how it goes, the dynamics, and it’s very natural. Those guys have each others’ backs.”
Dalton has followed Foles’ career from afar as a fellow Texan.
“To finally get to be in the same room has been great,” Dalton said. “It’s a great room. Nick and I both are trying to share our experiences with Justin. Just trying to help him in any way.”
Foles was one of two prominent offensive players — alongside receiver Allen Robinson — who was not in attendance at Wednesday’s practice. For the last 1½ years, Robinson has been frustrated that he doesn’t have a long-term deal. The Bears have until July 15 to reach an extension with him or he’ll play 2021 on the one-year franchise tag. They both have been attending team meetings.