By Jeff McLane The Philadelphia Inquirer
Even though Michael Vick will start Sunday against the New York Giants in the Philadelphia Eagles’ season finale, many have closed the book on his tenure with the team. But the Eagles could decide to bring him back for 2013.
Vick is under contract through 2015. But he is due $15.5 million in base salary next season, and the Eagles are unlikely to retain him at that figure if he is to compete with Nick Foles for the starting quarterback job or be the emergency backup.
Would Vick be willing to renegotiate his contract? He declined to speculate on the idea earlier this week, but an NFL source familiar with the quarterback’s thinking said that Vick would not restructure his deal.
The Eagles have a decision to make on Vick by Feb. 6. If they release him before that date, they will be off the hook for a guaranteed $3 million that kicks in three days after the Super Bowl.
If they decide to keep Vick, they have several options. They could try to trade him, but if he was averse to reworking his contract, it would be difficult for the Eagles to find a team willing to pay such a hefty salary for a 32-year-old who has missed 11 games over three seasons because of injuries.
The Eagles could be content to keep Vick around through training camp just in case Foles does not develop. If they believe Foles is ready then, they could simply cut Vick before the season and pay the $3 million.
If the Eagles think Foles is not ready, they’ll have Vick to fall back on. The problem with that approach is that the team would be unlikely to keep Vick’s $15.5 million salary and remain under the salary cap unless they had significant space set aside or were willing to clear space just before the season.
Both scenarios are unlikely if Vick refuses to renegotiate his contract.
On Friday, Vick was asked if he wanted to return.
“I have to just sit back and think about what has transpired and look at the situation as a whole,” he said. “Of course, you would like to come back and play. I love the organization and I love what they’ve done for me. … But if not, it’s been wonderful and I understand the nature of this business. At some point, we’ve all got to move on.”
Why would the Eagles want to keep Vick?
For one, Foles is still an unknown. The rookie started six games, made some improvement, and showed that he was capable of competing. But he also displayed some bad tendencies during his 1-5 span as the starter.
Vick said he wants to be a starter next season.
“I can’t see myself not being a starter right now,” he said. “I just feel like I have too much talent and too much to offer.”
He will have the opportunity to make his case on Sunday. What if he performs well and leads the Eagles to victory? Could that strengthen the argument that he deserves another season here?
The Eagles don’t have many other options. They are likely to have a top-five pick, but the consensus is that there is not a bona fide franchise quarterback in the draft.
Perhaps West Virginia’s Geno Smith or Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley will make a strong push in the next few months of evaluations. Maybe the Eagles feel they can get a steal later in the draft. But right now, the draft is not considered the place to find the next Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.
There are a few starting-caliber quarterbacks who could be on the trade market, but San Francisco’s Alex Smith and Seattle’s Matt Flynn — the two most mentioned — are available for a reason.
There is only one big-name free agent, but Baltimore is expected to re-sign or place its franchise tag on Joe Flacco. Vick, if released by the Eagles, would be the next most attractive free agent despite the way his last two seasons have gone.
Several teams have done an effective job of installing the read option into their game plans. Vick could be appealing to a coach who wants to try it. If Oregon’s Chip Kelly is truly at the top of the Eagles’ list to replace Andy Reid, could he be enticed by Vick in his spread option?
More than likely, Vick’s last game with the Eagles will come Sunday. But it doesn’t have to.