Michael Vick: Will Soon-to-Be Free Agent QB Get a Long-Term Deal from Philly?

Adam WaldmanContributor IJanuary 10, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts after a touchdown in the thrid quarter against the Green Bay Packers during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Michael Vick began the season as the backup quarterback to Kevin Kolb. At the age of 30, after spending 18 months in prison, Vick knew that he was lucky just to be back in the NFL.

He was only elevated into the backup role when the Eagles surprisingly traded Donovan McNabb to the division-rival Washington Redskins in the offseason.

In the NFL, every backup quarterback is one hit away from being thrust into a starting role. With the violent hits that quarterbacks are subjected to, it is almost expected that the backup QB will be called upon at some point during the season.

When Kolb suffered a concussion in the first game of the season, Vick was given an opportunity to prove that he had returned to his pre-prison form, and he made the most of his second chance.

With the Eagles trailing the Green Bay Packers by a score of 20-3 in the third quarter, Vick delivered the kind of performance that was commonplace when he was with the Atlanta Falcons.

The Eagles ended up losing 27-20 to the Packers that day, but the spark that Vick gave to the team could not be ignored.

The following week, the Eagles went into Detroit and defeated the Lions 35-32 with Vick as the starter. His last start before that game was in 2006, but it looked as though he had never left.

Andy Reid had said all along that Kolb would return to his starting role once he was healthy enough to play. However, Vick’s eye-opening performances left him no choice but to stay with the hot hand. After the Lions game, Vick was named the starter for the rest of the season.

In his first game as the permanent starter, Vick torched the Jaguars defense through the air and on the ground as the Eagles rolled to a 28-3 victory.

The following week, McNabb came back to Philly for the first time as a Redskin. When Vick went out of the game in the first quarter with chest and rib injuries, Kolb took over.  The Eagles ended up losing that game to Redskins 17-12.

Kolb was 2-1 in his three games as the starter while Vick recovered from his injuries. He performed well but did nothing out of the ordinary to cause another quarterback controversy to arise.

Vick’s magical season continued after he returned from injury, as he led the Eagles to a 6-2 record down the stretch. 

Reid rested him in the last game of the season in a meaningless game against the Cowboys. He needed it after the abuse that he suffered at the hands of the Vikings the week before.

Yesterday, Vick’s season ended as it began: with a home loss to the Green Bay Packers. His last pass of the game was intended for Riley Cooper in the back of the end zone but was picked off by a leaping Tramon Williams.

The loss to the Packers ended Vick’s dream season in a crushing fashion.

The Eagles are now at a crossroads with their quarterback situation and face a difficult decision.

Vick is going to be a free agent, and Kolb has one year remaining on his deal. Kolb wants to remain in Philly but does not want to return as a backup.

The simple answer would be to trade Kolb, sign Vick to a long-term deal and find a backup QB in free agency or the draft.

However, signing Vick to a long-term deal does not come without risk.

Even if his off-the-field-issues are behind him, and all indications seem to point in that direction, Reid and the Eagles must still decide if Vick gives them the best chance to win a Super Bowl going forward.

Looking back at the season as a whole, it would seem to be a no-brainer.

Vick will probably come in second place to Tom Brady in the MVP voting. He will only be 31 when the 2011 season starts, which is still relatively young for a quarterback. He is also still one of the fastest, most dynamic playmakers in the NFL today.

However, there is a trend in Vick’s performance that cannot be ignored when evaluating whether or not to give him a long-term contract.

Early on in the season, teams were simply baffled by Vick. His cannon arm and lightning-quick feet forced defensive coordinators to choose their poison in defending him. Some of this can be attributed to Vick’s incredible athleticism, but not all of it.

When Vick became the starter, there was very little recent game tape on him for defensive coordinators to evaluate. This made it difficult to game plan for Vick.

However, as the season progressed, defensive coordinators started to figure him out. While it is impossible to game-plan against all of Vick’s improvising, astute coordinators can limit his ability to do so—and they did.

Over the last six games (including the playoffs), Vick threw eight TDs and six INTs and was sacked 20 times. The hits that he took towards the end of the season have clearly made an impact on his game.

Vick takes more hits than any other quarterback in the NFL. 

Even though he will only be 31 when the 2011 season starts, he is not young by running back standards. His 676 rushing yards place him in the top 35 of all NFL rushers for the season, so it is fair to evaluate him both as a quarterback and a as running back.

Running is a large part of what makes Vick special. While his arm is as strong as any other QB in the NFL, he is not the type of quarterback who will ever be a dominating pocket passer.

As great as Vick’s season was, the bottom line is that the Eagles were still eliminated at home in a Wild Card game. One of the main reasons why so many people picked the Packers to beat the Eagles yesterday is because defenses have started to figure out how to contain Vick.

Sal Paolantonio of ESPN is reporting that the Eagles are likely to place the franchise tag on Vick rather than sign him to a long-term deal. 

If the Eagles do in fact use the franchise tag on Vick, they will have to decide what to do with Kolb. With his contract expiring after next season, if the Eagles don’t trade him, they run the risk of losing him to free agency in 2012 and getting nothing in return.

In all of the uncertainty surrounding the Eagles, one thing is for sure: This is going to be an interesting offseason as they decide who their quarterback of the future is going to be.