Andrew Perna. 30th August, 2011 - 1:05 pm
No matter where you stand on the reclamation of Michael Vick, his return to the NFL has been both inspiring and exceptional. During his 18 months in a federal prison on dogfighting charges, his football career was laid to rest countless times by an endless number of people.
After spending a 2009 season as a rarely-used quarterback in Philadelphia, Vick led the Eagles to the NFC East title last season, while also earning MVP consideration and a Pro Bowl nod.
Once in financial ruin because of his legal woes, Vick is now comfortably wealthy once again. The Eagles gave him a six-year, $100 million contract on Monday, making him the first player in NFL history to sign a pair of nine-digit deals.
In the future, that distinction will not belong to Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but rather a quarterback that for a majority of his career has been called a running back behind center, a murderer of dogs and the embodiment of all that is wrong with America.
While I absolutely do not condone anything Vick did in his dark past and it still makes me sick to think about his transgressions, he has been a good citizen since his release from prison and when a person has served his penance who are we to keep him from earning a living?
Breaking down the contract, it is important to realize that the headline-grabbing $100 million is not a sure thing. Multiple reports have the guaranteed value of the contract around $40 million.
From the perspective of Philadelphia, Vick was due to make more than $16 million this season after he was designated as their franchise player in February. His cap hit for 2011 is thought to be somewhere around $14.5 million, which gives the Eagles a little more breathing room following an expensive, abbreviated offseason.
The belief is that wide receiver DeSean Jackson will benefit from the created cap room as he seeks a new contract.
The last time Vick signed a mega-deal, when the Falcons gave him a 10-year, $130 million contract in 2004, he earned $37 million in guaranteed money and only played two seasons before his legal woes began.
Andy Reid, Howie Roseman and Co. are hoping for more than two more years out of Vick, but the nature of NFL contracts makes it unlikely that he will be wearing green six years from now.
It is remarkable to consider where Vick is today, not only because he was in prison a little more than two years ago, but because less than a year ago he was the No. 2 quarterback behind Kevin Kolb.
Now, Kolb is with the Arizona Cardinals and players are flocking to the Eagles for the chance to play in a Super Bowl. Vick is directly responsible for both developments. He made Kolb dispensable, allowing the team to get a nice haul in return for the quarterback. The lefty also made it sexy to play for the Eagles because of the esteem young players hold him in.
Vick, 31, was the most popular player in the NFL before it all came crashing down, making him the childhood hero of many of the younger players of the league.
The deal is a no-brainer for Vick. He admitted recently that he did not want to sign with the Eagles when attempting a comeback two summers ago, but the decision has turned out to be a perfect one. He has become a franchise player once again, a Super Bowl is within grasp and his bankruptcy is now a distant memory.
Grade for Vick: A
All the risk in this deal is carried by the Eagles.
How many games will Vick play in?
Vick has played in 16 games just once in his eight seasons because of his bruising style of play. The impressive numbers he posted in 2010 -- 3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns against six interceptions, a 62.6 completion percentage and 100.2 quarterback rating -- came in just 12 games.
Realistically, the Eagles would probably be happy getting 14 games out of Vick, figuring he will miss at least a game with a nagging injury and perhaps another towards the end of the season in preparation for the playoffs.
It is imperative that he remain healthy this season more than any other because Philadelphia would be forced to rely on Vince Young. Last year, the Eagles had Kolb and during his time in Atlanta there was Matt Schaub waiting in the wings. He has more than enough playmakers to rely on rather than put himself in danger. Still, he will likely feel the need to prove critics wrong once again and live up to his $100 million price tag.
This deal is a win for the Eagles if he averages 14 regular season games over his remaining time as the starter.
Can he sustain his level of play?
After his breakout season, teams have had time to prepare for Vick and are no longer waiting for him to make bad decisions to doom himself. Sure, his late-game attempt against the Packers cost the Eagles a chance to advance in the playoffs, but he clearly made better reads and took fewer chances in the system of Reid.
As many improvements as the Eagles have made this offseason, their offensive line is still questionable. There have been shifts along the line as the team shuffles to find the right combination of their returning players and rookie Danny Watkins.
Protecting Vick will be paramount this season, not only to protect the $100 million investment, but also their chances of playoff success. There are only so many bullets in the storybook gun, making it unlikely that Young will be able to step in and be much better than he was in Tennessee.
There is also more pressure on Vick now that he has entrenched himself as the cornerstone and leader of the team. If he reverts to his old form, both he and the Eagles will be in trouble.
The public relations fallout
Two years after the fact, there are still many in Philadelphia that are upset the Eagles were the team that gave Vick a chance to play in the NFL again. In a city critical of anything their teams do, giving $100 million to a convicted felon is sure to raise eyebrows.
Luckily for Vick and the Eagles, winning quickly cures all.
Grade for the Eagles: B
The Eagles could not lock Vick up with an affordable contract as they did when he first joined the team. He is a hot commodity and his play last season put him among the best quarterbacks and playmakers of the NFL.
The six-year, $100 million contract reflects that standing.
With that said, there is much more risk giving this deal to Vick, for the reasons mentioned above, than another elite quarterback like Brady, Manning or even Drew Brees, Philip Rivers or Aaron Rodgers.