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The Rams Shouldn’t Rush to Sign Nick Foles to a Long-Term Deal

Rams coach Jeff Fisher recently confirmed that the Rams were interested in signing quarterback Nick Foles to a long-term contract, which begs the question: Are Fisher and the Rams being proactive or putting the cart before the horse?

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Foles played in a QB-friendly offense with the Eagles.

Three years ago, Joe Flacco decided to bet on himself rather than signing a long-term extension with the Ravens in the 2012 offseason. After a rough first half, Flacco turned red-hot down the stretch and into the playoffs, leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory.

Flacco parlayed that success into a six-year, $120.6 million contract worth $52 million in guaranteed money.

If Foles doesn’t want to take a similar risk, he and his agent could “settle” for a deal in the range of $13-17 million, which is a realistic figure that ESPN’s Rams reporter Nick Wagoner has thrown out for Foles in recent weeks.

If the guaranteed money is low, then the risk is low and therefore signing Foles to a contract extension makes sense.

But, are Foles and his agent willing to accept peanuts, considering how much today’s quarterbacks are making?

It’s doubtful, and if the base salary and guarantees come anywhere close to what Chiefs QB Alex Smith signed for in 2014 (five years, $76 million with $45 million guaranteed), the risk outweighs the reward in my eyes.

Foles had a terrific 2013 season, throwing 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. But, he played in a “quarterback-friendly” offense equipped with packaged plays that allowed him to make reads quickly and distribute the ball based on how the defense reacted pre and post-snap.

Foles is a cerebral player and there’s no doubt that he’ll pick up Frank Cignetti’s playbook in St. Louis. And it’s not like he didn’t have to read defenses and cycle through his progressions under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia.

The challenge for Foles will be playing under center after taking the majority of his snaps from shotgun in Philadelphia. It’s not the physical act of taking a snap from under center that’s the problem: It’s the timing and anticipation that’s vital for a quarterback in a pro-style offense.

Accuracy in the NFL is vital on every attempt. Don’t hit the receiver in the right spot and, at best, it’s a minimal gain or an incompletion. At worst, it’s a turnover worth six points for the opposition.

In order to be accurate, quarterbacks must perfect their footwork. This is an area at which Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers excel. They know how to time their drop steps to match their receivers’ routes and throw in rhythm so that their release point is the same on every throw. This doesn’t come naturally. The great ones have worked at the technique.

Foles is already drawing praise for his leadership and there’s no doubt that he has the size and arm strength to succeed in St. Louis, just as he did in 2013 with Philadelphia.

But just assuming Foles will make a seamless transition from Kelly’s offense to a more traditional system is a risk.

So, why pay him even average money before he’s proven he can deliver in live games?

Also, many argue the Rams should sign Foles to a deal now in case he has a great season and costs more in the offseason.

But, the guy will be quarterbacking a run-first offense. What type of numbers do you think Foles is going to put up in a Rams offense that wants to run the ball the majority of the time

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The Rams’ pickup of Todd Gurley is another indicator the team will play a run-first offense in 2015.

Andy Dalton played in a run-first offense for the Bengals last year and threw for 19 touchdowns with 17 picks. Smith threw for 18 touchdowns and six picks with KC, while Colin Kaepernick finished with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Russell Wilson, who played in Seattle’s run-first system, put up 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

While we haven’t see the offense that Cignetti will run, it’s safe to assume, based on Fisher’s preferences and the moves the team made this offseason, the Rams are going to pound the ball on the ground.

It’s just a projection, but Foles’ ceiling is realistically 20-23 touchdowns with 10-15 interceptions. Those aren’t exactly Andrew Luck numbers.

The people suggesting the Rams pay Foles now are the same people that love to point out how Foles will have success because the Rams are going to run the ball effectively. Well, if the Rams aren’t going to require their quarterback to put the ball in the air 40 times a game, it will limit Foles’ opportunities to rack up big yardage and big touchdown totals. Thus, his asking price isn’t going to be high when he becomes a free agent.

I know the argument…”But, there won’t be better options than Foles!” Valid point, but the Rams can still make him prove his worth this season without handing him a new contract and thus blindly assuming he’ll exceed their expectations.

Again, if he’s not going to post elite quarterback numbers, why worry about having to pay him elite money at the end of the year? The Rams could always franchise him and then work on a deal that’s fair for both sides.

Don’t get it twisted: I’m excited to watch Foles this season. I loved the Sam Bradford trade when it went down and the Rams made the right decision to unburden themselves from Bradford’s contract and durability issues a year from now (regardless of how either Foles or Bradford performs in 2015).

If Foles is willing to accept a new deal for peanuts, by all means, sign him now with the risk being low.

But, when it comes to signing him for even average QB money, I’d rather the Rams risk having to pay Foles a little more a year from now if it means knowing that he can succeed in their system.

I’ll take that over regretting a long-term commitment if the production never comes.

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