Thursday, February 11, 2010

Will the Eagles Capitalize On QB Riches?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles

Now that the Saints have partied on Bourbon Street and paraded through New Orleans to celebrate Sunday's Super Bowl triumph, media and fan attention quickly turns to key offseason issues throughout the rest of the country. One of the biggest story lines in the NFL, which has been brewing over the past month, involves the Philadelphia Eagles three headed quarterback quandary.

The airwaves and Internet are filled with opinions and speculation about the possibilities and ultimately what the Eagles should do with their three starting-caliber quarterbacks. With so many teams in desperate need of a face lift at this most critical and impactful position, several of them should be looking for the Eagles to share the wealth.

Philadelphia clearly seems to be in a very enviable position, and if handled correctly, it could help propel them towards that ever elusive Super Bowl championship. But, the key question now is whether Andy Reid and company will do just that, or will they bungle a golden opportunity?

I staked my opinion a couple weeks ago in a post ("The Philadelphia Eagles: Seven Semi-Controversial Steps to a Super Bowl Title") regarding Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick. With the situation continuing to evolve, it now appears the Eagles best course of action might be to wrap their arms around one of their QB's and aid their efforts to fortify their team by trading the other two.

Initial trade rumors primarily revolved around McNabb and Vick, but now speculation has also turned towards Kevin Kolb. Perhaps this is because teams contacting the Eagles are getting a message that Donovan is not going anywhere?

Or, maybe it is a matter of teams setting their sights on a player that best fits their particular scenario. Not ready for prime time clubs could be looking to rebuild around a young quarterback such as Kolb. Conversely, teams such as the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers or possibly the Minnesota Vikings feel they have all the pieces to go with an established veteran such as McNabb or Vick.

Although going young would likely be their first choice, rebuilding organizations like the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins might be willing to take a shot with any of the three players due to their dire need for a quality signal caller to propel them in the right direction.

In terms of economic theory, the Eagles are clearly in a great position due to overall demand outstripping supply throughout the league. In fact, they might hold the only attractive excess supply of projected starting quarterbacks currently in the NFL.

Of course, in a free market system, capitalizing on the excess inventory comes down to the decisions, actions and tactics deployed by the supplier. How the Eagles brass play their cards has the potential to make a huge difference in the team's near-term and future success.

And, its not just who they decide to keep, move or let walk– it is going to be all about the art of the negotiation and the deal.

The most pressing situation involves Vick as the clock continues to tick towards Philadelphia's early March option expiration date. Because they would be obligated to pay Vick $5.25 million for his services if they exercise that option, many believe they have a short window to trade him and otherwise will have to let him walk.

My perspective is substantially different. By now it is clear that teams around the league are interested, so the Eagles should not be bound by this trigger date. If they can work out a deal of commensurate value prior to then, fine. If not, they need to pony up and keep him– for the time being.

General Managers around the NFL are not inquiring about Vick to make him a back-up. Clearly the whole Wildcat thing was a bust. They would want Vick as a starter– and wouldn't shy away from those financial terms, particularly since both sides would be willing to renegotiate a longer deal.

The Eagles need to lock him up (pun intended) if need be, and use the abundance of potential suitors to extract a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Anything less than that will signal a serious organizational weakness in negotiating skill. And, surely, they can't let him walk for nothing.

Its no secret, the most controversial and critical aspect comes down to the whole McNabb versus Kolb debate. Who will Reid clutch in a bear hug and who will he tender a parting handshake?

Since the post playoff meltdown press conference in Dallas, the signals have been noticeably mixed. The weak organizational vote of confidence for McNabb has been conspicuous. While McNabb has clearly stated his desire to finish his career in midnight green, black and silver– the team has played things straight down the middle.

Perhaps this is to avoid tipping their hand and maximize negotiating strength? Or, perhaps Reid and the team had not reached a conclusion or are ambivalent until they assess market value of each player?

Retaining both McNabb and Kolb is certainly a viable option– as long as the plan is to have the latter carrying the clipboard. A training camp competition is a bad idea on several fronts, but if Reid were inclined that way, he should just go ahead and trade McNabb for a high draft pick.

The conditions seem to be right, though, to trade Kolb now and invest the spoils in shoring up the current team weaknesses. Would swapping Kolb to the Rams and former Eagles coach Steve Spagnuolo for free safety O.J. Atogwe be a possibility?

In the absence of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the door is open to creative deals. For the other teams in the hunt for a new quarterback, it would certainly seem that each would possess a safety, linebacker, offensive lineman or defensive end that would fancy the Eagles' interest.

My point of view has been abundantly clear that the best choice to lead the Eagles is McNabb, but how the Eagles brass capitalizes on their current embarrassment of riches at this valued position can have profound impact on the team's prospects over the next three years.

Shrewd decision making and handling right now could re-position the Eagles as a true Super Bowl contender– starting this coming season. Certainly, a good portion of it will be about the "who" and the "what, but the "how" will be critically important, too.

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