Beating the Jets isn’t really a reason for huge celebration, but even so, it’s worth noting just how well Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew played in Jacksonville’s 29-15 victory. Minshew threw for 279 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, keeping his head and his composure throughout. Jacksonville is now 4-4, and at the moment of the victory was just half a game behind the Texans for the sixth and final playoff spot.
There’s a long, long way to go until January, and the Jaguars still have one date with Houston and two with Indianapolis ahead. Still, there are an awful lot of winnable games on the Jags’ slate — the Bucs and Falcons chief among those — and Minshew’s presence leading the Jags is giving rise to a once-insane, now-only-slightly-insane question:
Has Minshew made Nick Foles expendable? With the trade deadline coming up Oct. 29, could the Jaguars have something big to offer a desperate team?
Minshew, as you’ll recall, got the call-up when Foles broke his clavicle early in the first game of the season. But Foles returned to practice on Wednesday and, after the mandatory 21-day waiting period coming off injured reserve, could be eligible to return to the lineup Nov. 17 against Indianapolis.
Foles has served as a mentor to Minshew, and you can’t overestimate the value he brings to a locker room that’s young and getting younger, thanks to all the new draft picks acquired in the trade with the Rams for Jalen Ramsey.
By the numbers, Minshew’s held up his end of the bargain. Coming into this game, Minshew ranked 15th in passing yardage (1,697), 15th in touchdowns (10), and 14th in quarterback ranking (95.7) — numbers that put him literally right in the middle of the pack, but right in the range of bigger names like Carson Wentz and Matthew Stafford. That’s not to say he’ll stay in that spot — but it’s worth noting that teams now have several weeks’ worth of tape on him to scheme defenses.
Trading Foles, who signed a four-year deal with Jacksonville prior to the season, wouldn’t be an easy process. He’s due nearly $31 million this year and nearly $16 million next, at which point the contract has an out with $12.5 million in dead cap space. Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks don’t come cheap.
The Jaguars would need to find a trading partner with the proper combination of hope, desperation, roster availability and cap space, and that could be too much to ask inside 48 hours. If they do work a deal, they have needs at tight end and cornerback, moves that could fortify a team with still-very-much-alive playoff hopes.
The argument against trading Foles is that he gives the Jaguars something virtually no other team in the NFL has at the moment: dual-QB flexibility. While a situational two-QB offense probably isn’t in the cards, having two high-level quarterbacks on the roster gives the Jags phenomenal flexibility both on the field and going forward.
Still, the growth of Minshew, from Uncle Rico joke to legitimate starting quarterback, is going to make the Jaguars’ decision a little tougher in the days, weeks and months ahead.
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