UPDATED below with comments from Vick, Eagles president Joe Banner and Jerrold Colton, Akers' agent
The Eagles, as expected, placed the franchise tag on Michael Vick this morning, giving them the ability to retain the Pro Bowl quarterback for at least another year.
Vick said he was "happy."
"Happy to be an Eagle," he said, smiling as he left the team's NovaCare Complex Tuesday afternoon. He did not stop to answer further questions.
The team also placed the transition tag on Pro Bowl kicker David Akers, which would allow the Eagles to match any offers he receives if and when free agency begins.
Eagles president Joe Banner said the team has "interest in (Vick) long term" and is "very excited about his talent." He acknowledged that the quarterback would like a long-term deal, but said Vick likely views the tag as a "holding spot" that leads to a longer contract. Akers would prefer to hit the open market without restrictions.
As to whether or not the tags remain valid, Banner said no one can be sure, but that the Eagles are covering themselves and securing the rights to Vick andlong Akers in the event that the designations are in the next CBA. At the very least, they have followed the rules as they are laid out by the league.
Banner said the team was barred by the rules of the expiring collective bargaining agreement from giving extensions to Vick or Akers, due to their pay increases.
Asked about how the CBA might affect potential trades for backup quarterback Kevin Kolb, Banner said it could be difficult to trade players if a lockout lasts beyond the draft. At that point trading for 2012 draft picks would be "more complicated" than the typical deal, which, in a normal year, would bring the Eagles 2011 selections that could be used to help the team in the immediate future, Banner said. Players are usually dealt in exchange for draft picks. A player for player trade would be possible after the draft and a new CBA is done, but such deals are very rare in the NFL.
Both Vick and Akers would get significant raises under the tags, though they could each also work out long-term deals after a new collective bargaining agreement is signed. The franchise tag would pay Vick around $16 million, though the exact number is not yet clear. He made $5.2 million from his base salary and roster bonus last season and received a $1.9 million playing time bonus. (Note: the pay figures are updated from earlier; the NFL Network report on Vick's playing time bonus was confirmed by the Inquirer). The Eagles placed the "exclusive" franchise tag on Vick, meaning he can't talk to other teams at all, though it may entitle him to a larger contract.
Akers would make roughly $3 million under the transition tag, up from a $1.65 million base salary last season.
His agent, Jerrold Colton, said he was "disappointed" by the move.
"Our hope all along has been to come to a fair, long-term agreement for David to finish his career as a Philadelphia Eagle," Colton said. While the transition tag shows the team wants him back, Colton said, "it's not exactly the level of salary that we were looking to have."
Colton, like the NFL players union, challenged the idea that the tags can even be used, given the league's soon-to-expire CBA. He said he hopes Akers and the team can still reach an "amicable" resolution under a new CBA, but that the tag "doesn't necessarily help that."
Banner said the team "thinks highly" of Akers and wants him "to be part of the future."
Vick's agent, Joel Segal, could not be immediately reached for comment. While the quarterback said he was happy, and has often spoken of his loyalty to the team, he likely wants the security of a long-term contract, especially given his fearless style of play.
Neither player could be signed to long-term extensions once the season ended, due one of the quirks of the expiring CBA. Both players had pay increases of 30 percent or more from 2009 to 2010, preventing the team from offering long-term deals, under the current labor rules. Those same rules, due to the uncapped year, let the team use both the franchise and transition tag at once, instead of being limited to choosing only one.
The tags are both subject to dispute by the players' union, but will likely remain in effect in some way in a new labor agreement. By using the tags the Eagles are essentially protecting themselves and the rights to the two Pro Bowlers in the likely event that the designations survive the latest CBA negotiations.
Vick and Akers were among the best at their positions for much of 2010, but ended the season on sour notes. Vick, dominated through the middle of the season, putting on a historic Monday night performance against the Redskins and rallying the Eagles from a 21-point deficit to beat the Giants and help win the NFC East in a year when few expected such success. His elevated play earned Vick the Comeback Player of the Year award from the Associated Press. At his best, Vick's running and passing made him one of the most dangerous players in the NFL and the Eagles offense one of the most potent.
But Vick appeared to wear down as the season went on and he took more and more hits both in the pocket and as he ran. Defenses blitzed with increasing discipline and Vick's turnover numbers rose: he had six interceptions and three lost fumbles in his last six regular season games.
With the Eagles poised to make Vick the team's starter for another year, if not longer, his next test will be adjusting to the blitzing formula defenses employed late in the year, once teams had seen his improved style of play.
Akers, too, had an excellent season, hitting 84 percent of his kicks. He missed two critical field goals in the Eagles Wild Card loss to the Packers though. He played the game knowing his six-year-old daughter would soon need surgery to remove a cyst on her ovary. Afterward, Akers sounded like he did not expect to be back with the Eagles, the team he has played for in 188 of his 189 career regular season games. But he now appears likely to return.
Under the franchise tag, the Eagles must pay Vick the average of the top five quarterback salaries. Akers must be offered the average of the top 10 kickers. If he gets an offer from another team the Eagles have the right to match the contract, though they get no compensation if they let him walk.
"Michael Vick and David Akers were two of our most valuable players last year," Andy Reid said in a news release. "They were well deserving of their Pro Bowl berths and we're happy to take this step to ensure that they'll be back in Philadelphia next season."
Trent Cole has elbow surgery
Defensive end Trent Cole had arthroscopic surgery to debride tissue in his right elbow Monday, the team said. Debridement removes dead or damaged tissue. The surgery was performed by Dr. Michael Ciccotti of the Rothman Institute at the Thomas Jefferson Surgical Center at the Navy Yards in South Philadelphia.
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