If you followed the Eagles this year, you know that the QB position has been an extremely hot topic with the Birds all season long. First, this was Kevin Kolb’s team. He went through OTAs and all of training camp as the undisputed starter. This was supposed to be the beginning of a new era in Eagles football after the Easter Sunday trade of QB Donovan McNabb to the Redskins.
Kolb was drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft to be groomed behind McNabb, and to one day take over as the future of this team. Once McNabb was traded, it seemed that his time had come. He started the season opener against Green Bay, and the Kevin Kolb Era was underway. But then, after all the buildup of the offseason, Kolb suffered a concussion at the hands of our favorite USC linebacker, Clay Matthews, and the Eagles’ season and future at the QB position changed in the blink of an eye.
Enter the “Wildcat”, gimmick QB from a season ago, Michael Vick. In his first season with the Birds in 2009, he looked nothing like the electrifying QB we saw in Atlanta. He was used infrequently and was almost never asked to pass, while running mostly option draws and off-tackle runs. These proved to be ineffective for most of the year, as he had seemingly lost two steps after his eighteen month incarceration. He looked sluggish and wasn’t reading the option correctly, let alone a secondary.
Yet, from the first play of the second half against the Packers in the opener, you saw something was different. He was flushed out of the pocket to his left and scampered for 23 yards, showing that the burst he had in Atlanta was back. He left a handful of Packers in his wake, and from that play on, even watching him on TV felt different.
You already know what happened next. After beating the Lions in his first game as a starter since 2007, Andy Reid named Vick the starter for the rest of the year, and he never looked back. He had his best season in the NFL to date, throwing for 3,018 yards, 21 TDs, a 62.6% completion rate, a 100.2 QB rating (4th in the NFL), and only 6 INTs. He also added 676 yards rushing with 9 TDs, which was a career high. He was voted by the fans as the NFC starter at QB in the Pro Bowl next week, and was second overall in voting behind only Tom Brady.
Kolb did get to start a few games in 2010, as Vick missed 3.5 games with broken ribs and was rested in the final game of the season against the Cowboys with the Birds’ playoff seed already locked up. Overall, he looked above average, but not great. He completed a respectable 60.8% of his passes while passing for 1,197 yards and 7 TDs. But, he also threw 7 INTs, had a below average 76.1 passer rating, and had one costly fumble that essentially cost the Eagles the game against Tennessee. He proved himself as a very serviceable backup in this league, and his stock is still very high around the league as a possible starter. But, this was definitely not the season Kolb had in mind when McNabb was traded back in April.
On the surface, the Eagles look to be in very good shape at the most important position on the field going forward. They have the Pro Bowl starter on one hand, and a QB who could probably start for over half of the teams in the league on the other. Oh, if it were only that simple. After his spectacular renaissance season, Vick is an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with whichever team he chooses. Kolb is under contract for next season at a bargain basement price of only $1.4 million. And this collective bargaining agreement situation is only going to make it more complicated. So, what should the Eagles do?
First, RESIGN MICHAEL VICK BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE. I don’t care how much it takes. 5 years, $100 million? I say do it. (I’m exaggerating to make a point, as I don’t believe he’d get that much on the market.) The guy was already a phenomenal athlete in Atlanta. Add in the fact that he finally put it together in understanding the passing game this year, and you have yourself a freak at the QB position with a combination of skills that no one else in the entire league has. He absolutely needs to be retained as this team’s starter, as he is the present and future at QB.
He gives you a great chance to win a lot of football games (and the Super Bowl) in the next 5-6 years. The other players on this team absolutely love him and respond to him, and he has become the undeniable leader in the locker room. He is a top 5 QB in the NFL, and I don’t say that lightly. You CANNOT afford to lose a guy like this, and management knows it.
No matter what they say about Kolb in public, this front office is in awe of Vick’s abilities, and they don’t want him running past their own defensive linemen next season. As a fan, I don’t want to see that either, so they better do everything they can to keep him. Due to the language written in his contract, the Eagles will actually have to use the franchise tag on him before they can negotiate a long-term deal to avoid letting him hit free agency, so expect that to be the course of action going forward.
Next, TRADE KEVIN KOLB. (This is assuming there is a CBA in place by the draft so they could get 2011 draft picks in return. If there is not one, no one can be traded for draft picks.) By opening day 2011, he will be 27-years old with good physical tools who looks to be your prototypical West Coast QB. He throws a very crisp football with a quick release, and has the arm strength to throw the deep pattern on occasion. As stated above, he is making an unbelievably low salary next season.
His stock will only begin to slide as he gets another year older and another year closer to free agency. There are more than a handful of teams who need a QB in this league, and they would love to have a quality starter on a one-year contract for less than their current backups. This contract is perfect for any team trading for Kolb, as they would get a year at almost zero risk to assess him and decide if they want to resign him after they see him play first-hand. As usual, this was an absolute genius contract written by the Eagles front office, and it should provide them the opportunity to get one or two high draft picks in return for their young QB.
Keep in mind that Kolb stated after the season that if he wasn’t going to be the starter in Philadelphia next season, he would like to be traded. He isn’t one to cause a disturbance in the locker room, as he took his demotion this year with unparalleled grace and class, but this has to be something the Eagles consider. This will not make or break their decision, but I think it’s going to be a consideration of the front office to help the kid out a little bit as well.
Overall, the QB position looks to be in great hands if some expected pieces fall into place going into next season and beyond. But, with the current contracts of Vick and Kolb, along with the uncertainty of the CBA situation, those pieces could take a little longer to fall than most fans would like, which could lead to some anxious moments this offseason.