While the Philadelphia Eagles' brass made it clear how much they value Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles, they also did not shut the door on a potential trade when speaking at the combine this week.
"We'll see where it goes," said coach Doug Pederson, moments after executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman described the current Eagles quarterback room as "exactly what we're looking for."
"Howie just mentioned, we'd love to have everybody back, but we know the nature of the business."
If there was a message to glean, it's that the Eagles sleep well at night knowing Foles is there to back up Carson Wentz but are willing to listen should any quarterback-starved teams come calling with a serious offer, especially given that they are short on both cap space and draft picks.
What are the chances something goes down? Let's take a look at the moving parts:
Teams that need a quarterback
It's all about supply and demand, right? There are just about always more teams than there are quality quarterbacks, which is why QBs have so much leverage in this league and executives are forced to overspend in their pursuit of one. By our count, there are seven teams that seem like obvious candidates to actively pursue a quarterback this offseason: the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals.
The free-agent quarterback crop is more robust than normal. It's rare to have a QB of Kirk Cousins' caliber on the street. Behind him are the Minnesota three -- Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford -- as well as the likes of AJ McCarron. When you factor in teams that will be looking to address their quarterback situation through the draft -- the Bills and Giants spring to mind -- this is a rare game of quarterback musical chairs where every team can find a seat, even if it's not exactly the one they were gunning for. This could impact Foles' market.
The Kirk Cousins factor
Cousins is the top free-agent prize. There have been reports linking him to the Broncos, Vikings and Jets. It makes sense that there won't be a ton of activity on the quarterback front until Cousins chooses his destination, at which point the runners-up will move on to Plan B, which could include Foles.
Foles holds some cards
Foles doesn't have a no-trade clause in his contract, but he does have some say in whether a deal is consummated. Consider: The Eagles will move Foles only if they're getting good value in return, and a team would theoretically give good value only if Foles, whose contract expires after the 2018 season, is open to signing a new deal with that team. The Eagles, therefore, probably will have to involve Foles in the discussions. This potentially shrinks the pool of trade partners further. Foles almost retired after a bad experience with the St. Louis Rams and will be in no rush to uproot his young family to enter a situation in which he feels uncomfortable.
Beyond that, the Eagles want to do right by Foles. He helped deliver them their first Super Bowl championship, after all. Pederson already has stated that there will be open communication "if and when the time comes."
Cardinals make some sense
The Cardinals do not have a single quarterback under contract for 2018 at the moment, and rightly plan to be "very aggressive" when it comes to finding a signal-caller, according to new coach Steve Wilks. Both general manager Steve Keim and Wilks have signaled that trading for a quarterback is an option. Keim added that they'd like to add both someone with experience as well as a prospect to develop.
Could Foles be their bridge quarterback? He carries a manageable cap number of $7.6 million in 2018 and would be a more affordable option than, say, Cousins, even if they extended him. The Cards currently have around $22 million in cap space and have an extra third-rounder in the April draft after being awarded a compensatory pick. The Eagles are about $9 million over the cap and lack both a second- and third-round pick in the upcoming draft.
For what it's worth, Foles and his wife, Tori, both attended the University of Arizona in Tucson.
There are some dots to connect but also a lot of variables to account for -- whether you're talking about a deal with the Cardinals or any other team out there.
With a good number of free agent and draft options, the chances of a bidding war developing for Foles' services aren't great. Given the up-and-down nature of his career, teams will have to weigh the risk and reward of committing to Foles and determine if it's worth sacrificing picks to acquire him rather than simply signing one of the quarterbacks in free agency.
The Eagles, meanwhile, know there's a chance Wentz won't be ready for the start of the season, despite their optimism. They value quarterback depth -- who can blame them given how 2017 unfolded -- and this is less than an ideal time to part with their Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
But as we saw with the Bradford trade to Minnesota in 2016, it only takes one motivated team to change the dynamics, which is why a Foles deal can't be discounted.