Don't look for Michael Vick to be among this year's unrestricted free agents. The Philadelphia Eagles not only aren't going to release him, they're willing to take him -- along with Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb -- into the season again as their quarterbacks.
|Eagles coach Andy Reid holds Michael Vick at a higher value than expected. (Getty Images)|
Contrary to widespread opinion, the club is not looking to trade Vick unless someone offers what the Eagles consider to be fair-market value in return -- and, according to general managers and coaches I consulted at the NFL Scouting Combine, they have set the price at nothing less than a second-round draft pick.
"They think he can still start in this league," one player personnel director said of Vick, "and they're not going to trade him just to get rid of him."
From what I can gather, there have been talks with interested parties, but nothing substantive. And if there is no progress on that front between now and the opening of training camps look for the improbable: Vick to show up as the Eagles' third quarterback.
I know that contradicts everything that was supposed to happen. The club was not going to pay Vick his $1.5 million roster bonus this month and would trade or release him before the March 10 due date -- or, at least, that's what we thought. But what I discovered at the scouting combine was that the Eagles not only are in no rush to peddle Vick, they're operating under the assumption he will be with them this season.
Vick said last year that he wants to go where he can start, and he recently told a radio station he would like to play in Carolina because -- well, because he'd like to wear the Panthers uniform and play Atlanta twice a year. That's great, except Vick isn't calling the shots here. The Eagles are, and as long as they put up the $1.5 million to keep him, he's theirs for another season.
That means they can keep him. They can trade him. They can play him. They can bench him. In short, they can do whatever they want with him.
The danger here, of course, is that Vick could pose a distraction to McNabb, who might question his security as a starter with two potential replacements -- Vick and Kolb -- sitting behind him. But McNabb handled the situation without stumbling a year ago, and the feeling is that he can handle it again if the Eagles don't change their plans between now and July.
And that's where the plot thickens. While the club is willing to part with Vick at the right price, it seems unlikely that it will find a buyer based on Vick's performance in his return to football last season. It's not that he didn't play well. It's that he rarely played, period, throwing 13 passes -- one for a touchdown -- and carrying 24 times.
"I'm not sure what they learned about him last season," said one GM.
Apparently, they learned that they want him back.
People in and around the Eagles say that Vick got along well with Reid and McNabb and that the Eagles were happy with the progress he made learning their system and with the work he put in to get there. According to those close to the club, Vick was a positive addition to the locker room, something that seems to be reinforced by the Eagles' interest in having him back.
But that doesn't necessarily mean he plays again in Philadelphia. What it does mean is that if the Eagles give him up, they do it on their terms.
So now the question: Who's ready to play ball with them? There hasn't been a lot of talk on the Vick front lately, and there may not be for another month, but I know one general manager who is convinced the Eagles will move Vick. And maybe he's right. But they sure don't act like it now.