Fran­chise tag awaits Vick

Ea­gles won’t let him go to free agency; nei­ther side fret­ting yet about con­tract


PHILADEL­PHIA — The sub­ject of Michael Vick’s ex­pir­ing con­tract came up last week, as it in­vari­ably will con­tinue to do as he stock­piles touch­downs and vic­to­ries. Andy Reid said he hasn’t “ talked con­tract” with Vick, a fact Vick con­firmed.

Here is why: Reid doesn’t have to. The plan is al­ready in place. Vick will be back next year as long as he doesn’t do some­thing stupid off the field. The Ea­gles are not go­ing to let him reach free agency. They aren’t go­ing to al­low their in­vest­ment to ben­e­fit any other team in the NFL.

Best-laid plans The best-laid plans can change, of course, es­pe­cially in a league that is brac­ing for a pos­si­ble work stop­page and in re­gard to a player who has a his­tory of mak­ing bad choices. But if things re­main sta­tus quo — Vick stays healthy and out of trou­ble, keeps play­ing well, and the Ea­gles keep win­ning — and the NFL and play­ers’ union agree to a new col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment that in­cludes, as ex­pected, a fran­chise tag, the Ea­gles will fran­chise Vick. It likely will be their best op­tion to keep a player who has ex­ceeded even their most op­ti­mistic ex­pec­ta­tions with his stel­lar play this sea­son.

In 2010, the fran­chise-tag value for quar­ter­backs, de­ter­mined by the av­er­age of the top five quar­ter­backs’ salaries, was $ 16.4 mil­lion, a num­ber that, ac­cord­ing to ESPN. com, will be closer to $ 15.4 mil­lion in 2011.

Surely Vick would pre­fer a long-term con­tract with a sig­nif­i­cant sign­ing bonus, but af­ter mak­ing $ 1.6 mil­lion in 2009 and $ 5.2 mil­lion this sea­son, $ 15 mil­lion wouldn’t be bad. And that could be just the be­gin­ning. Un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, teams can ne­go­ti­ate a con­tract ex­ten­sion with a player they have fran­chised. The New York Giants did that with Bran­don Ja­cobs last year.

“ There will be a time and a place when that needs to be ad­dressed, and we’ll ad­dress it,” Reid said last week when asked if the lack of a col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment be­tween the NFL and the play­ers’ union was af­fect­ing the Ea­gles’ abil­ity to re-sign Vick. “ It’s a crazy deal with the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment and so on. We re­ally haven’t done any­thing with any­body. It’s just a dif­fer­ent year...

“ It is not be­cause of Michael’s sit­u­a­tion or his past. He’s mak­ing pretty good money this year. It’s not like he’s not mak­ing good money right now. It’s about the way the league is go­ing right now, and so it’s hard to make those types of plans for the fu­ture.”

That is true. All teams and play­ers are caught in a vor­tex caused by the labour un­rest. Will the play­ers strike? Will the own­ers lock out the play­ers? Or will both sides re­al­ize they have too much to lose for there to be a work stop­page and come to an agree­ment?

The ex­pec­ta­tion is that a new agree­ment will give teams the op­tion of fran­chis­ing one player per sea­son. The Ea­gles last used the fran­chise tag in 2008 to pre­vent L. J. Smith from be­com­ing a free agent.

Vick claimed last week that he was not concerned about his ex­pir­ing con­tract or his fu­ture.

“ I’m not re­ally wor­ried about that right now,” he said. “ I think it’s all go­ing to take care of it­self at the ap­pro­pri­ate time. I to­tally un­der­stand, but I’m go­ing to keep play­ing and try to put my­self in the best po­si­tion that I can pos­si­bly be in and let it take care of it­self.”

That is the right ap­proach, as long as Vick is sin­cere. We found out last week, cour­tesy of Sports Il­lus­trated, that he had not re­ally ded­i­cated him­self to be­ing a true pro­fes­sional un­til last sum­mer, af­ter he hosted a birth­day party for him­self and got into a heated ar­gu­ment with a co-de­fen­dant in his dog­fight­ing trial. Qua­nis Phillips was shot in the leg af­ter the party, but au­thor­i­ties never de­ter­mined who pulled the trig­ger.

Vick wasn’t there at the time, but nev­er­the­less he was ter­ri­fied he had blown his chance with the Ea­gles. He told SI, and re­it­er­ated last week, that that was the turn­ing point for him to be 100 per cent ded­i­cated and to end any fool­ish­ness.

Turn­ing point You would have thought sit­ting in prison for 18 months would have pro­vided the turn­ing point, but ap­par­ently not.

Re­gard­less, Vick is play­ing at a ridicu­lously high level. With a come­from-be­hind win over the Giants last Sun­day, Vick im­proved to 5-0 in games he has started and fin­ished this sea­son. He will get an­other tough test to­day against the Chicago Bears, whose de­fence is al­low­ing the fewest points in the league.

Five games re­main af­ter that, in­clud­ing two against the Dal­las Cow­boys, and then, pos­si­bly, the play­offs.

And then the fran­chise that gave Vick a chance will, in all like­li­hood, tag him as their fran­chise player.

— The Philadel­phia Inquirer


Michael Vick cel­e­brates af­ter lead­ing the Ea­gles to a come-from-be­hind win over the New York Giants last Sun­day, mov­ing him to a 5-0 record in games he started for Philly this year.

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