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Jerry Sullivan: Eagles face big question on MVP Foles

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The toughest question came last. On the morning after his team won its first Super Bowl, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked who would be his starting quarterback next season, and how the game's most valuable player, Nick Foles, could return to being a backup.

"I knew I couldn't get off this stage without that question," Pederson said with a laugh at the traditional MVP presser. "You know what? We're just going to enjoy this moment. We're going to get on the plane and go back to Philadelphia and celebrate with our fans back in Philly."

There will be time for rejoicing. But soon enough, Philadelphia will have to determine what to do with Sunday night's hero. There was speculation even before the game about Foles, who can get out of his contract after one more season and whose value will never be higher after his magical Super Bowl run.

Carson Wentz, who was having an MVP season before tearing his left ACL in December, will be back as the starter, though there are no guarantees that he'll be fully recovered by the start of the 2018 season next September.

So what do the Eagles do? Keep Foles around as insurance for one more year, in case Wentz is slow to return to full strength from the knee injury? Or shop him around the NFL to take advantage of his soaring market value?

Foles completed 73 percent of his passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns in Philly's three-game run to the title. He threw for 373 yards and three TDs and even caught a TD pass in Sunday night's astonishing 41-33 victory over the Patriots.

So he understands what this did for his value in the NFL market, and that his five-year contract at $5.5 million a year is a relative bargain. But he wasn't in a mood to look ahead just 10 hours after winning the Bowl. Standing beside the MVP trophy, he said he hadn't considered how his fortunes might have changed.

"No, I haven't," Foles said. "I'm not really worried about my future right now. I'm grateful to be part of the Philadelphia Eagles. I'm grateful and content in this moment. I'm staying in the moment. I'm not worried about the future right now. There'll be a time and a place to handle all that.

"I take a lot of pride in wearing the Philadelphia Eagles jersey," he said. "I enjoy being here. It's such a great team. I'm excited for Carson Wentz, coming back healthy. I get to work with him every day. Dude's a stud. I'm just living in the moment, not looking ahead."

The moment will quickly fade, though, and both sides will have some serious thinking to do. Foles said before the Super Bowl that he was content to return to a backup role. But considering his contract, and his rising value, the chance of the Eagles shopping him seem pretty high.

Last March, Philly signed Foles to a five-year, $27.5 million contract, with some $11 million in incentives. But it had a provision that if he was still on the roster 23 days before the league year began in 2019, the last three years of the deal would void and he'd become a free agent.

So the Eagles have a strong incentive to trade him and maximize his value in the short term, rather than see him walk for nothing next winter. And his value will never be higher than it is after the events of Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

There's justification for the Eagles to keep him. Wentz is only 25, a rising superstar. He's the future in Philly and they don't want to rush him back from the ACL injury. They're projected to be only 19th in quarterback spending next season, even with Foles on the roster, so they're not breaking the bank at the position.

Still, it'll be hard to have a Super Bowl hero holding a clipboard at a low salary. Like most teams, the Eagles want to build roster depth through the draft. The prevailing wisdom says Foles could fetch a second-round pick in a trade.

Foles, 29, has been inconsistent in his career, but he proved over the last month that he's one of the top 32 pure passers in the league – better than, say, Tyrod Taylor. Last week, Washington gave up a third-rounder and a top young cornerback for Alex Smith, who is five years older.

"I'm not perfect," Foles said. "I'm not Superman. I'm in the NFL and we just won the Super Bowl. But we all have daily struggles. Without failing, who would you be? I wouldn't be up here if I hadn't fallen thousands of times, made mistakes. We're all human, we all have weaknesses."

Some Bills fans, no doubt, are wondering if Foles could wind up in Buffalo. I don't see it. The Bills will probably need a bridge quarterback, someone to man the position until their new franchise QB is ready to be an NFL starter – in the likely event that they take one high in April's draft.

But Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott don't strike me as the sort of leaders who overreact to one great run by a quarterback. The process is more careful and calculating. The Bills need a short-term answer, but I doubt they'd move precious draft assets for Foles, who would warrant a contract extension.

Someone is going to overpay for Foles after his MVP performance. He has it coming. But the Bills would be wise to let someone else do it.

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