If you really want to get under the skin of Eagles management, call them cheap.
Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie will admit they don’t always make the right calls on their transactions. Sometimes they might draft the wrong guy or sign a dud. But, they’ll argue, their shortcomings are not for a lack of trying. The one accusation that really bothers them is the perception among some that they are too tight-fisted or content to really spend and go big to try to win a Super Bowl.
After this summer's big spending, capped by signing Michael Vick to a massive deal, Banner said those criticisms should be finished.
“I hope that if there’s any question about our commitment to winning, which I think everybody knows we never thought was a fair question, that this kind of puts that to rest,” Banner told reporters Tuesday.
Banner also touched on the risk involving signing Vick – or any major player – to such a significant deal, the question of whether the Eagles have enough money left to hypothetically extend another Pro Bowler (cough, cough, DeSean Jackson) and the odd twists that led to making Vick the face of the team. More on that below. But Banner was most forceful when talking about the Eagles’ spending and intentions of winning.
“Whether we get it right or wrong, time will tell, but I hope that people are clear that this organization is trying to win a Super Bowl – Super Bowls, eventually – and that’s what drove all of these activities,” Banner said.
The team has given out contracts worth more than $200 million since free agency began at the end of July, including deals for Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Vince Young and others, and picked up the contract of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie by trade.
As with most NFL deals, some of that money will never actually be paid out. The sixth year of Vick’s deal, for example, will almost certainly be voided to bring the contract down to five years, $80 million, not the six year, $100 million headline. But the Vick contract, and the other signings, were still major financial commitments to bring in star power – most of whom were available for other teams to try to grab as well. That they are all Eagles, Banner believes, should count for something.
Here's the team president on other key issues:
Banner would not be drawn into specifics about DeSean Jackson. He said any talks that are or are not happening would be best kept behind closed doors. But we asked him if, after singing all these players and Vick, the team had the flexibility to pay a contract extension for another Pro Bowl player.
“It is possible,” Banner said. “You’re asking me a mathematical question, I say yes.”
Banner had an interesting response when asked about the risk in signing Vick. Despite paying much more this time around, Banner said this deal carries less risk than the first one Vick signed in Philly, because now the team knows him better.
“At that point (when Vick first signed) there was a lot less we knew. There was some knowledge and some leap of faith, to be candid,” he said. “At this point we’ve lived with Michael everyday for a couple of years, we know what kind of person he is today, we know what kind of work ethic, we even have a better sense of his talent on the field … this is probably less risky than when we took the first signing.”
Banner said there is concern whenever a team makes such a large commitment to a player – not because of who Vick is, but because failure or random events can be so damaging.
“You don’t give out contracts this size and have no fear – there are too many things in life … (he mentioned a car accident, for example, as something that can go wrong). Banner continued, “There’s always fear when you give out contracts of this magnitude because the impact of being wrong are so huge. As far as Michael being who he is, I think we’re very confident.”
With Vick, there is particular concern because of his style of play.
“The nature of his play certainly does create an extra few holding of your breaths when he plays, but that’s both the best part of him and the scary part of him,” Banner said. “When we looked at the pluses and minuses for us, this was a clear person that we wanted to commit to that we feel comfortable as the leader of the team and the organization and feel this is someone who wants to be here too.”
When the Eagles first signed Vick, Banner said the team was just hoping to add another good player who could possibly help for a couple years.
“This, standing here today, and having Michael where he’s at as a person as a player, him being the face of the organization, that wasn’t what we were picturing at the time,” Banner said. “To be honest, not until Kevin (Kolb) got hurt and Michael went on the field and you saw what happened,” did the team see Vick as a potential franchise quarterback in Philadelphia.
“From a character perspective we were starting to see that, but from an actual taking charge and handling all the pressure and everything that comes with it and sustaining the performance at that level, I think he had to actually get on the field and handle all the things that come with that,” for the team to see the possibility, Banner said. “If Kevin hadn’t gotten hurt we might not be standing here today.”
The Eagles, Banner said, were “extremely nervous” when news first came out last summer about a shooting at Vick’s birthday party in Virginia, but the incident, and Vick’s handling of it, actually gave the team more faith in the quarterback.
“We fairly quickly were able to zero in on what really happened and actually I think we walked away feeling like Michael handled a very difficult situation well,” Banner said. “We actually walked away kind of re-affirming our sense of his growth and maturation. But when we first got the reports of the incident we were extremely concerned.”