With the Philadelphia Eagles' season effectively over, lots of questions surround the makeup of a team designed to win right now.
One of those major questions is about Michael Vick. After an incredible 2010, he has reverted to his inaccurate, turnover-prone ways this season.
The defense has played its part, to be sure. The play-calling has also been at fault at times. But even if Vick is just a small part of the problem, he is an undeniable part. If, as the numbers suggest, he's reached his peak, then the Eagles need to do what's possible to move in another direction.
It probably seems like a rash move, and would need to wait til after the season, but a trade could be the right course of action given the following reasons.
Vick's ineffectiveness is the No. 1 reason he ought to be traded.
Eagles fans and management were blinded by a career year from Vick in 2010 that far outstripped any kind of statistics he'd put up earlier in his career.
Last year, despite playing in only 11 games, Vick set career highs in touchdown passes, passing yards, completion percentage, quarterback rating, yards per attempt and rushing touchdowns. The percentage of passes on which Vick threw interceptions was a minuscule 1.6 percent.
This year, Vick has regressed badly. His completion percentage is in the bottom half of the league, and after throwing just six interceptions in 11 games last year, he's been picked off 11 times in just nine games so far this season. He has zero rushing touchdowns, but has fumbled the ball eight times.
The truth is that the 2011 numbers are much closer to Vick's career averages; 2010 is looking more and more like an aberration.
At no point in Vick's six seasons as a Falcon did he look like a complete quarterback who could effectively and consistently make the right decisions at game speed. This year, that trend has continued.
Vick's injury history is no secret. This season alone, he suffered a concussion against the Falcons, left the Giants game with a bruised hand and most recently suffered broken ribs against the Cardinals.
Vick has suffered prior concussions and other injuries. Vick has played a full 16-game season just once in his eight NFL seasons.
Vick's running ability is what makes him such a dangerous playmaker. It's also what leaves him prone to so many injuries.
It's unlikely the Eagles will ever get a full season out of Vick, and as he gets older, years of concussions and other injuries may begin to take their toll.
Mike Vick, at 31, is the oldest skill player on the Eagles roster.
LeSean McCoy is 23. Ditto Jeremy Maclin. DeSean Jackson, if the Eagles choose to bring him back, is 25. Brent Celek is 26, and Jason Avant is 28.
Along the offensive line, no starter is older than 29, and center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins are both rookies.
The point is, the Eagles can afford to bring in a younger, less experienced quarterback with a higher ceiling. That quarterback could grow and develop with the benefit of one of the NFL's best collections of skill players, and the offensive players could hit their prime together.
Though the team has been tagged with a "win-now" label, the offense is built to excel for a long time.
The Cincinnati Bengals recently received two first-round picks, among other considerations, for Carson Palmer.
Palmer is a year older than Vick, has battled knee and shoulder surgeries in his career, hasn't completed more than 62 percent of his passes since 2007 and had been out of football since the end of last season at the time of the trade.
Needless to say, Vick would command a handsome price on the open market. He would likely bring at least one first-round pick plus additional pieces.
The Eagles could use those picks to restock a defense that, for all its front-line talent, is extremely thin and rapidly aging. They would also provide the means to take advantage of the next reason to trade Vick.
At first blush, a number of teams are in the market for a new starter: The Redskins, Seahawks, Dolphins, Browns, Colts, Broncos and possibly Niners could all be looking for upgrades at the quarterback position. There aren't enough rookies to go around.
The 2012 draft class is significantly more well regarded than the 2011 class that saw four quarterbacks go in the first 12 picks.
Stanford's Andrew Luck is the obvious prize and probable top pick, and the Eagles are extremely unlikely to be in a position to draft him.
However, USC's Matt Barkley and Oklahoma's Landry Jones are top-10 prospects in their own right, and Baylor's Robert Griffin has joined that conversation as well.
The Eagles' current 3-6 record would place them in the top 10 selections, if the current draft order held. They could use that pick on one of the quarterbacks listed above, or even package that selection with some of the picks obtained in any Vick deal if they felt the need to move up to get the player they wanted.
No rookie quarterback is a sure thing; that much is a fact. But Vick has proven throughout his career that he doesn't belong in the echelon of quarterbacks that can lead a team to a Super Bowl. One of those players might, and that's a chance worth taking.
This is a little confusing, but bear with the numbers. Mike Vick's contract, widely reported at six years and $100 million, is really for five years and $80 million. Of that money, $35.5 million is guaranteed.
His cap number over the years of the contract never dips below $13.9 million.
In past years, a top pick would have commanded a lot more money. 2009 top pick Sam Bradford received $50 million in guaranteed money and a six-year contract.
However, a new rookie wage scale agreed to under the new CBA makes rookie contracts much more manageable.
2010 top pick Cam Newton received a four-year deal with just $22 million guaranteed.
The Eagles wouldn't be picking first overall, so any quarterback they drafted would receive even less and have an even smaller cap hit.
Though trading Vick would still result in a penalty against the Eagles' cap, the money saved by replacing him with a player on a rookie deal could be used to fill other holes in the roster.
Mike Vick is an exciting quarterback who's fun to watch. On a good day, he can confuse defenses and pick them apart with both his electric speed and his cannon of an arm.
However, he's shown throughout his career that he lacks the accuracy of an elite NFL quarterback, and has shown a chronic inability to protect the football. This year, those turnovers have repeatedly cost the Eagles points.
The Eagles will likely never see another year from Vick like they saw in 2010, and every season is a risk to end in injury.
Luckily, the offense is young enough that it could easily mesh around another young quarterback and help him develop. The money saved on that new quarterback's deal compared to Vick's, and the draft picks a Vick trade would bring could help fill in significant holes in the roster.
It's a gamble, to be sure. But seven years of Vick under center ought to be enough that the Eagles can accurately identify what kind of quarterback he is. And that, unfortunately, is not a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.