As Eagles fan(atic)s, we tend to get stuck looking at our team in a hyper zoomed-in perspective at times; we get stuck staring at the proverbial tree as opposed to looking at the forest. In my humble opinion, a well balanced fan^ will not only be aware of this tendency, but learn when to alternate between the two to obtain clarity on what exactly is going on behind the scenes.
(^ Please note, I am NOT insinuating I am one of these, but I am certain they exist. Just like Bigfoot; rare but definitely real.)
With this very lengthy FanPost, I am going to take a broad overview of our current QB situation to try to determine where we stand in relation to the rest of the League while also trying to clarify the driving force behind re-structuring Vick, not trading Foles and signing Dennis Dixon to be our theoretical stable of QBs for 2013.
In a completely obvious statement, our current QB situation is not only the most divisive among the fanbase, but it is also the murkiest as far as what direction the Franchise really wants to go in. In yet another completely obvious statement, our top 2 QBs literally couldn't be more different from each other.
Let’s take a look.
One is an aging veteran and the other is a still wet behind the ears rookie and a half because he spent half of last year as the backup.
One is quite possibly the most athletic QB to have ever played the position (so far) while the other is a highly immobile, standard definition of a stand in the pocket QB.
One has accumulated a lot of wear and tear over the years with a significant injury history and the other has a relatively clear history with only one instance of injury, but in very limited time.
Both have shown the ability to come from behind to lead the team to victory, while both have also shown a problem with protecting the ball. (Granted, Vick's is a more extensive sample size, but if Foles' turnover trend is an indicator of things to come, he really isn't significantly more protective of the ball than Vick is.)
And this doesn't take into account the guy we just signed who was a legit Heisman candidate in his 1 year under center as QB for CK at Oregon, but hasn't been able to get on the field in the League. And it says something when a team decides to keep Charlie Batch and/or Byron Leftwich over you.
So, where does that leave us? Well, if you are like me, you are probably scratching your head wondering what CK wants to do with these three guys and have no clearer of a picture of what they want.
As with most businesses and their driving considerations, let’s take a look at the bottom line; salary commitments and years remaining on current contracts. As always, all of the Eagles salary information is from the wonderfully useful www.eaglescap.com.
Vick- Recently re-structured his contract from a 6 year, $100M dollar deal that wasn't really a 6 year, $100M dollar deal to a 1 year deal worth anywhere from $7M to $10M depending on what bonuses his play will qualify for. Most reports indicate that he would only receive the max amount if he plays the vast majority of eligible snaps AND the Eagles win the SB. (BTW, I am pretty sure that any true Eagles fan would be okay with paying him the full amount if he is personally responsible for putting the first Lombardi in Jeff Lurie's currently empty trophy case.) It should also be noted that Vick's deal makes him an exponentially more attractive trade candidate than he was on his last contract, although trades rarely happens in the NFL.
For the sake of our discussion, I think we can all agree that it would have been extremely expensive to keep Vick from this year forward with an AAV of around $17M for 2013, 2014 and 2015. In return for eliminating an extremely expensive future commitment, the Eagles doubled the guaranteed money Vick will receive this year. Rather shrewd business move by Howie if you ask me.
Foles- A third round pick in 2012, he signed a 4 year $2.7M deal and is still currently being paid under this agreement. His AAV moving forward is in the $600k to $800k range, an extremely affordable deal from the team’s perspective, thanks to the new CBA’s provisions regarding rookie contracts. While Foles did get a taste of playing as a QB last year, his 6 games started can hardly be considered enough to decipher exactly what kind of QB he will ultimately be in the League. It would be hard to envision a team valuing him higher than the buying cost he represents to the franchise (third round pick), let alone high enough to move him. It would probably take a mid second round pick to pry him away from CK and Howie, and it is highly unlikely that is going to happen.
Dixon- Signed a 2 year deal and for the life of me, I can’t find the exact details. If someone has details on it, please comment below and I will update this section. Needless to say, considering he was signed off of BALT.’s practice squad, I doubt it is consists of more than an AAV of $2M or so without a great deal of guaranteed money, if any at all.
Edwards- On the last year of a 2 year deal that will pay him $700k should he make the team. He is probably on the outside looking in, but that doesn't mean he won’t be on the roster next year. All 3 guys above have been injured at times in their careers, so the possibility that one of them could be injured before the start of the 2013 season is a legitimate concern and Edwards is a decent insurance policy that can be cut with no cost to the team should he not be needed or not outplay 1 of the other guys.
If you add up all 4 of the QBs 2013 salaries, then you are looking at a total Franchise commitment of anywhere from a conservative $8M to a projected (and unlikely) max payout of $12M-$13M.
Just as important as the Franchise’s 2013 salary commitment is their commitment moving forward. Since Vick is on a 1 year deal and 2013 is the second year of Edwards’ 2 year deal, there is no commitment to either moving forward and the 2 other QBs currently under contract consist of a tiny sum of no more than a few Million, at the most.
As soon as next year, this Franchise will have the flexibility to do whatever it damn well pleases at the QB position. This cannot be understated and should probably be considered the major driving force behind getting Vick for 2013 on a reduced salary, 1 year contract.
What this means for the franchise on the field is just as significant as the flexibility that they will have in 2014. In Vick, they have a guy who is a perfect physical match to the type of QB a QB designer would design for the zone-read option*, aside from the pesky problem of not protecting the ball the way most mothers protect their child. Foles is a guy that CK loved in college when he played against him and showed enough last year to intrigue him into keeping him around to see what type of QB he can mold him into. Dixon, while anything but a success in the League, was a success under CK at Oregon and if nothing else, is a smart insurance plan should Vick and Foles get hurt and can also be a “player-coach” who helps explain exactly what it is CK wants from his QBs. Edwards is probably a camp body and nothing more, but he costs nothing against the cap if we cut him, so why not keep him around. They have 4 QBs who have either played in the League or played under CK, and it would be hard to argue that they aren't at least prepared for just about anything with this group.
*While I understand that it has not been explicitly made public that CK is going to run the zone read option, I think we can all agree on the fact that it was the main reason he was successful at Oregon and it would be beyond silly to not incorporate it in some fashion to his offensive scheme as the Eagles HC. It probably won’t be the primary focus like it was at Oregon, but it isn’t going to be moth-balled either.
As with most things in life, this information does not describe the entire situation when viewed in a vacuum, so let’s add some additional information that may assist us with quantifying what it truly means from a League wide perspective. Let’s look at the 2013 salary commitments for most of the 2012 playoff teams and compare them to where the Eagles currently reside. I am picking the 2012 playoff teams on a bit of a whim, but considering that the playoffs are the first step to the ultimate goal, examining what each team is going to commit to the QB position may help establish a trend among resources spent on QBs for teams that just made the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens: around $15M-$20M, depending on a few factors.
Joe Flacco has no contract for 2013 as of this posting, but he will at the very least be franchised at an estimated $14.46M, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rappaport. I am assuming that Baltimore will try to sign him long term, probably in the neighborhood of at least an estimated AAV of $15M on a contract that will be at least 5 years long. Suffice it to say, coming off a SB victory, Flacco is the most likely QB to sign the next massive contract. Tyrod Taylor is the only other QB on the roster right now with a contract worth $500k. Most franchises carry 3 QBs, however Baltimore may be the exception to the rule and may carry their third QB on their practice squad.
San Francisco 49ers: $8.79M as of today, but this is most likely to decrease and maybe significantly.
Colin Kaepernick is signed at $740k due to still being on his rookie contract, but will be extended in the near future and likely to a contract that will land him in the top 10 highest paid QBs in the League. In my opinion, he is the prototypical QB of the Future for the NFL and will soon be paid as such. Alex Smith is still under contract with SF and at a hefty $7M for a projected backup, but he will most likely be traded or cut long before Training Camp starts. Scott Tolzien is the third QB on the roster signed for $555k.
Atlanta Falcons: $10M but likely to increase to $12-$13M depending on who they sign as potential back-ups.
Per Sportscity.com, he is the only QB signed for 2013. Luke McCown and Dominique Davis were listed as being active for 2012 per NFL.com, so I would imagine at least one of them will be brought back into the fold for 2013 and a third string QB will also be added. Given the high dollar amount that is allotted to Matt Ryan and his absolute status as the starter, I would opine that additional QBs that are signed will be done so at a relatively minor amount.
New England Patriots: $10.4M with a slight increase likely.
Tom Brady is signed at $9.75M and backup/eventual theoretical Tom Brady replacement Ryan Mallet is signed for $640k. This pecking order is pretty much set in stone and a third QB will likely be added, but at a bare minimum cost and likely through the draft with a later round pick.
Denver Broncos: $20M to around $22M.
Peyton Manning is signed to a League leading $20M for 2013 and after proving that he is back to his old performance levels and healthy, there is no reason to believe that the Broncos won’t pay him what he is owed. Brock Osweiler is also signed (figures not provided), but seeing how he was a recent mid round pick, he is probably making less than $1M and isn't going anywhere. Given Peyton's injury history and physical frailty as a result of multiple recent operations, I can’t imagine the Broncos not bringing in a veteran QB to compete with Osweiler to be Peyton’s backup and provide some semblance of insurance should Peyton go down and they need someone to step in on the spur of the moment and not embarrass themselves or the team. However, given the $20M being allocated to Peyton, they can’t really afford to spend a lot on this hypothetical guy, so figure an additional $1M.
Houston Texans: around $10M-$11M but maybe more.
I had trouble finding an exact 2013 salary amount for Schaub, so I am going off of his AAV of $8M listed below, but I think that is low and he is probably closer to $10M on his own. HoustonTexans.com listed his extension being worth $62M with $24.75M guaranteed as of 09/2012, but I imagine a lot of that is back-loaded with non guaranteed monies through bonuses and base contract amounts. TJ Yates is also under contract for $555k. Add a third string QB or competition with Yates to be the backup and it will probably add another $1M.
Green Bay Packers: around $10M with a slight increase expected to around $11M.
A-a-ron Rodgers is scheduled to make $9.25M and backup Graham Harrell is signed to $630k. Add in a third stringer at probably less than $1M.
Seattle Seahawks: ????
Trying to project an accurate monetary amount for QBs on their 2013 roster is difficult, for a few reasons. Russell Wilson is their starter, and since he was drafted a few slots before Foles, his salary is minimal at probably less than $1M. However, at some point in the near future the Seahawks will have to pay the proverbial Piper and extend him, significantly increasing his salary as he is quite possibly the most underpaid player in the League (along with Kaepernick), if not all of professional sports. When he is extended and by how much is yet to be determined, but it will definitely happen. Adding to the intrigue is Matt Flynn who is being paid $6.5M, starter’s money while being a backup, which is usually a recipe for being traded or cut. While he may be on their roster in 2013, it is far from certain. Lastly, when you account for Pete Carroll being the HC, a man who is notorious for marching to his own beat and especially so when it comes to the QB position (look no further than having Wilson, Flynn and Tavaris Jackson all battling to be the starting QB last year and then ultimately picking the rookie third round pick over the two higher priced veterans), it is hard to project what their QB situation will look like. Let’s just move on, shall we?
Indianapolis Colts: $8M neighborhood, maybe more if Grigson signs a higher priced veteran backup.
The only certainty here is Andrew Luck is going to be the starter and is signed to a 4 year, $22M dollar rookie contract. Curtis Painter was the backup last year, but apparently isn't signed for 2013. They will add at least 2 more QBs, probably a seasoned veteran and a guy in the draft, but I don’t envision them spending big on both.
Observations: Every team that made the playoffs will spend at least $8M on their QBs for 2013, with most of the teams spending anywhere from $10M to $20M. If I did the research on the non-playoff teams, I would figure that they would fall into line with this trend. So while this doesn't tell us much as far as QB salary amounts correlating with being in the playoffs, it does tell us that in 2013, the Eagles will be spending at the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to QBs. I don't believe this to be a coincidence.
That is, however, unless you are a team who relies on a rookie/second year player to be your starter and even then, the ability to have a cheap QB has a limited shelf life as each of the those QBs will soon be paid handsomely via an extension in the near future. I would also go on record that having multiple teams led by a rookie/second year player earning a visit to the playoffs is most definitely the exception to the rule and teams shouldn't rely on this happening more often than not.
It seems pretty obvious that paying for a QB who can lead your team to the playoffs is almost a certainty in today’s League. However, paying for that QB does not mean that a playoff birth is certain by any stretch of the imagination. Let's look at some additional information.
Below is the AAV (average annual value) of the 32 projected NFL starting Quarterbacks going into 2012 and ranked simply according to their annual salary (in millions). This list is from 06/2012 and does not account for any changes in salary since then, but I think for the sake of this discussion, looking at the salaries entering the year is more pertinent to establishing any relationship between starting QB’s AAV and the team’s ability to reach the playoffs than looking at their current salaries for 2013.
1. Peyton Manning, Broncos - $19.2
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers - $17
3. Michael Vick, Eagles - $16
4. Tom Brady, Patriots - $15.7
5. Eli Manning, Giants - $15.27
6. Drew Brees, Saints - $14.4 (Franchise Tagged in 2012)
7. Phillip Rivers, Chargers - $14.04
8. Sam Bradford, Rams - $13
9. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals - $12.6
10. Matthew Stafford, Lions - $12
11. Matt Ryan, Falcons - $12
12. Mark Sanchez, Jets - $11.64
13. Tony Romo, Cowboys - $11.17
14. Aaron Rodgers, Packers - $10.83
15. Carson Palmer, Raiders - $10.75
16. Matt Cassel, Chiefs - $10.5
17. Jay Cutler, Bears - $10
18. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills - $9.8
19. Matt Schaub, Texans - $8
20. Alex Smith, 49ers - $8 (new contract for 2012)
21. Matt Hasselbeck, Titans - $6.67
22. Matt Flynn, Seahawks - $6.5
23. Joe Flacco, Ravens - $6
24. *Andrew Luck, Colts - $5.9
25. Cam Newton, Panthers - $5.5
26. *Robert Griffin, Redskins - $5.4
27. Josh Freeman, Bucs - $5.2
28. Chad Henne, Jaguars - $3.38
29. David Garrard, Dolphins - $3.35
30. *Brandon Weeden, Browns - $2.8
31. Christian Ponder, Vikings - $2.54
32. Andy Dalton, Bengals - $1.3
(Per BuffaloBills.com and dated 06/2012, so it contains some information that is no longer accurate and needs to be updated to reflect current salaries.)
Observations: 7 of the top 10 highest paid QBs did not make the playoffs and to take it even further, paying handsomely for QBs doesn't even mean that they are going to be the starter. I think this speaks greatly to the need for team’s who are intent on making the playoffs to build around their QB and not solely rely on just the QB. In a sport where a salary cap exists, paying less on the QB position can provide additional resources that can be used to bolster the other areas of the team and theoretically increase the likelihood of making the playoffs.
So, what exactly does all of this mean for the Eagles.
Here is my deduction; the desire to have as much salary flexibility as possible as soon as possible at the QB position coupled with the desire to be as competitive as possible as soon as possible led the powers to be to determine that they needed to get out from under Vick's previous contract, but also led them to believe that he could possibly be the best route among potentially available alternatives to immediately being competitive.
I think they see a guy in Vick who could be the ideal candidate for the zone read aspect of CK’s offense, but with some obvious warts that are legitimate concerns (turnovers, tendency to get hurt through reckless playing habits, trouble with reading defense’s pre-snap and a tendency of throwing into double or triple coverage at times). I think they also realize that Vick would represent, at best, a short term solution at QB who may have no more than a few more years in him, if that.
I think they see a guy in Foles who flashed at times last year with potential and has many of the intangibles that coaches fall in love with but is highly immobile for a QB in a zone read option and doesn't have other physical abilities that would be considered off the charts and make him an “untouchable” from a trade perspective. I think they see him as a guy who has enough to intrigue CK but isn't an automatic as far as becoming a bona fide NFL QB.
Dixon is a guy who has experienced success under CK in a somewhat limited fashion and it was in college and not the League, but has never broken through as a legit NFL QB. If nothing else, they have an insurance policy for Vick and Foles and a guy who can help coach up the other QBs on what CK wants from his QBs.
All in all, in what will most likely be a transition year anyway that is sure to result in some growing pains from introducing a new HC and coaching staff, the Eagles have:
1- bought salary flexibility in 2014 at the QB position,
2- have a pair QBs who are now viable trade candidates should the right offer present itself,
3- freed up both immediate and significant future salary space for the transition to a new Defensive scheme and also
4- have a QB stable that gives them the best chance to be competitive right away.
I don’t know about you, but that is pretty damn impressive and should give everyone a reason to believe that better times should be right around the corner.
As always, thank's for reading. Time's yours. Have a great day and a better tomorrow.