Football / Sports

Foles settling in as a team leader for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- After the Philadelphia Eagles' practice concluded on Monday, most players scurried off the field. Quarterback Nick Foles stayed behind, where he held a conversation for nearly 10 minutes. He spoke with team owner Jeffrey Lurie.

The conversation was innocent enough -- Foles said they discussed the practice they just concluded, which opened the team's third week of organized team activities. Lurie's presence is not a surprise at Eagles practices, even in the offseason. But the relationship between quarterback and owner is an important one, because Foles might soon merit a significant sum of Lurie's money.

Foles, who was a Pro Bowler in 2013, is not eligible for a contract extension until after this season. The Eagles could even allow him to play out his rookie deal, which expires after the 2015 season.

But teams with young franchise quarterbacks often like to lock them up, as the San Francisco 49ers did last week when they gave Colin Kaepernick a complicated six-year, $126 million deal that includes as much as $61 million guaranteed.

"You get a contract like that because you play well and you show them you can be that guy for the franchise," Foles said. "I have to continue to prove that, each and every day. ... When I'm playing out there, there's no dollar sign on me when I throw a ball."

Foles said he was "happy" for Kaepernick, whom Foles has followed since college. Foles did not put much thought into Kaepernick setting the market, which will be tested in the coming months with Carolina's Cam Newton already eligible for an extension, and Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, Washington's Robert Griffin III, and Seattle's Russell Wilson all able to negotiate their second contracts after the 2014 season.

"I've always said, how I play, how our team is, how I am as a leader, that will all take care of (the contract) when the time comes," Foles said. "I'm really just having fun out here. I'm having fun with my teammates."

Asked if he pays attention to the deals from a business perspective, Foles said he does not.

In his first spring as the unquestioned starter, Foles has worked on moving more efficiently in the pocket, improving his downfield throwing, and understanding the different checks in the offense. He has also made it a priority to help younger players.

When second-round pick Jordan Matthews was asked his impression of Foles, Matthews immediately said "leader." Foles is now one of the team's top players, and he takes his leadership responsibilities seriously. That's all part of the package the team looks for when determining whether to make a long-term investment in a quarterback.

When Lurie became an owner, he kept a bedside list of ingredients he believed were necessary for a winning franchise. One of them was a franchise quarterback. In Lurie's 20 years as owner, he has not been hesitant to pay top dollar to quarterbacks who fit that description. Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick both received big contracts from the Eagles.

Foles might be next in line. He needs a strong 2014 campaign to help his case. He laughed when asked if the contract came up in the post-practice conversation with his boss.

"No, he's just a good dude, we were talking about practice," Foles said. "That will all take care of itself later."

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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