One option readers have brought up regarding Kevin Kolb's future with the Eagles is using the franchise tag on him after the 2011 season.
The argument for trading Kolb now (once the Eagles are allowed) is simple. Get something for him, or let him walk for nothing as a free agent after the 2011 season.
So let's examine one more potential option: Let him back up Michael Vick in 2011, slap him with the franchise tag after the season, and then trade him before 2012.
Albert Breer of NFL Network explained in a recent article why this would be a less than ideal option for the Birds.
Say the Eagles tagged Kolb after 2011 - what hurdles would they face then trying to trade him? Breer lays them out:
First, they'd need to pull off a trade quickly, ideally before the 2012 league year was to begin, to keep their cap in order for the start of free agency. And second, whatever team the Eagles planned to trade him to would be put in a hole from a negotiating standpoint (as the Chiefs were to a degree with Matt Cassel, with his tag number of $14.65 million in 2009) in trying to get a long-term deal, because of the heavy number on the front the quarterback would have to negotiate off of.
Breer's first point is simple enough. If the Eagles tagged Kolb, they'd be on the hook for an estimated $16M (at least). If they didn't trade him by the time free agency began, that number would limit them in terms of cap space.
And that's assuming the Eagles are even allowed to use the tag on Kolb. We don't know what the league rules will be, and we also do not know which other Eagles might potentially be in line for the franchise tag after 2011.
Breer's second point is a good one too. If a team trades for Kolb after he's been tagged, it would lose leverage in negotiating a long-term deal. From Kolb's perspective, he would be in line for a big payday in 2012. Following the year, the new team would have three options: let him walk as a free agent, tag him again or work out a long-term deal. The Chiefs signed Matt Cassel to a reported six-year, $63M deal ($28M guaranteed) before he had even played a down in Kansas City.
Because of these factors, going the franchise tag route could limit the market for Kolb. Kansas City dealt just a second-rounder for Cassel back in 2009.
Of course, this offseason presents its own set of hurdles for the Eagles. Several teams filled their QB needs during the draft, and the Birds will have to settle for 2012 picks or players as compensation. In terms of a contract, Kolb's camp will have less leverage than if he were due the franchise tag number. He's set to be paid $1.392M in 2011 as it currently stands.
KOLB AND THE CARDINALS
The Cardinals and Eagles were allowed to discuss a deal at various points this offseason, including the first day of the draft. Arizona had the chance to draft Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert in Round 1 -- and passed. That tells me that the Cardinals believe they can find a way to land Kolb once trades are allowed. And Philadelphia knows it has to trade Kolb for this reason: After this season, Kolb's contract is set to expire. The Eagles can't afford to pay both Michael Vick, whom they intend to re-sign to a long-term deal, and Kolb. So if Philadelphia wants to get back compensation for Kolb, this will be the time to do it. And if Arizona wants to compete in the NFC West, Kolb is the quarterback to lead the way. It's an ideal match. And I think eventually, ultimately, it will happen.
The note about discussion on the first day of the draft is obviously the most interesting one. It's worded a little strangely though. Schefter doesn't come out and say the two sides did discuss a deal on the first day of the draft, but he points out that they were allowed to.
Kent Somers, who covers the Cardinals for The Arizona Republic, reports that the two sides were not allowed to talk about a deal on the first day of the draft.
Somers also writes that Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill has always been a stickler for NFL rules, and he points out a potential issue with speculation that the two sides already have a deal in place.
It's what I wrote about in the first part of this post. Any team that deals for Kolb will either want to have a deal in place when it trades for him or be supremely confident that it can get a deal done.
The Cardinals and Kolb's camp would not have been able to negotiate a deal yet, so it raises some doubt about how far the Eagles and another team really could have gotten in terms of agreeing on a trade at this point.