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How long can Michael Vick stick with Eagles?

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 06:17 AM


How long can Michael Vick stick with Eagles?

Bob Ford, Inquirer Sports Columnist

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013, 1:53 AM

The Eagles took responsibility for $3 million of whatever is left of quarterback Michael Vick on Wednesday when they let pass the deadline for releasing him and getting away without a nickel's obligation for the 2013 season.

Everyone agrees it was the smart play and allows another month for new coach Chip Kelly to figure out his battle plan for the quarterback position. When the NFL calendar actually flips on March 12 with the opening of the free-agent season, Vick could be jettisoned then, with the Eagles only liable for any portion of the $3 million that he doesn't make elsewhere.

Coaches and front-office personnel may come and go, but the Eagles still lead the league in reading contracts. They might not be able to beat you, but they can clause you to death.

There is an overwhelming number of reasons to believe that Vick will not be on the roster when the season opens in September. Some of those are the obvious: He gets hurt all the time, he gives away the football too often, and he has lost that spark in the open field that once made up for his deficiencies.

From an intangible standpoint, he doesn't represent the new beginning the Eagles are seeking, and he probably made no friends by calling his teammates a bunch of quitters at the end of last season. If anyone can recognize a dog when he sees one, it is Vick, but nevertheless.

Then there is the fact that, if he is around and unwilling to renegotiate, Vick will make $15.5 million, which is a lot for a guy whose luggage is well over the checked-bag limit. As stated before, the Eagles can flat-out read a contract.

Still, if it were all that certain, all that etched in stone, why bother to keep him on the roster even for a little while? There is the possibility he could be traded, but Vick's market value is next to nothing. There is the possibility he will eventually agree to a reworked contract if the Eagles keep him on the string. There is the possibility that it was merely a clever procedural move for a front office that is always enchanted by its own cleverness.

And there is one more possibility: Despite all the logic, all the financial drawbacks, and all the intangibles, Michael Vick has not played his last football game for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Before getting into how that could possibly happen, let's check out the alternatives at quarterback, as far as we can speculate about them:

Nick Foles. Foles played well enough in a short sample, if not overwhelmingly well enough, to get another chance to be a starter for a team dedicated to a traditional pocket-passer approach to offense. Kelly has said he is willing to adapt his up-tempo, zone-read option philosophy to the personnel at hand, which is the right thing to say.

It is hard to believe, however, that Kelly won't want to use his offense eventually and, if that is the case, what's the point of coaching everyone else on the offense to a style of play that is going to be phased out? Foles is young, inexpensive, and talented enough to draw trade interest around the league.

Alex Smith. The 49ers aren't going to give away the quarterback who was replaced by Colin Kaepernick, but their bargaining position is hurt by the fact that everyone knows he has to go. On the free-agent market, if he landed there, Smith would incite a bidding war. The Eagles might get him by either means, but it would be costly, and Smith is coming off a season in which he suffered a concussion and lost his job. Among established NFL quarterbacks who might be available, he's the best option out there, though.

Draft a quarterback. Sure, and because what Kelly is looking for is not necessarily what all other teams are looking for, there are some guys who might be around well after the first round who could turn into something. There has been speculation about Florida State's E.J. Manuel, among others, including Matt Scott, who succeeded Foles at Arizona and ran the spread offense exceptionally well. The trick, as with Kelly himself, is transferring success at the college level to the pros. It's not an exact science.

Find an overlooked QB. Is that what the Eagles are doing in negotiating with Baltimore for practice team quarterback Dennis Dixon, who hasn't made a dent in the NFL in five seasons? Dixon, before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament, played part of his 2007 senior season under Kelly, who was in his first year as offensive coordinator for Oregon, so there's some familiarity there. Also on the Kelly radar is Darron Thomas, who took the Ducks to the BCS championship game and the Rose Bowl in consecutive seasons, and signed last season with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.

In broad terms, those are the options. All of them present huge risks as well as potential rewards. Is that any different from what Vick brings to the table? Coaches like to believe they can be the key that unlocks the player. Vick, who will be 33 next season, is a veteran with intriguing possibilities.

Logic still says he won't be around when the season begins, but, given a chance Wednesday to make a clean break, the Eagles elected to hold on a little longer. Maybe it was more than just the fine print of the contract talking.

Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @bobfordsports. Read his blog, "Post Patterns," at www.philly.com/postpatterns

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