With few options at quarterback remaining, Chip Kelly and the Eagles give Michael Vick a restructured contract
Eagles coach Chip Kelly decided to bring back Michael Vick for another season with a restructured contract, but buried beneath his praise for Vick was his admission that the "landscape for other quarterbacks" wasn't very promising.
And that essentially summed up Kelly's decision to keep Vick, even though a majority of Eagles fans seem ready to move on to the next phase the new coach represented.
"I agree there is a change of scenery going on here," Kelly said Monday at the NovaCare Complex. "For Michael Vick, there is a change of scenery, but not a change of address."
Kelly has other options - Nick Foles, the draft, free agency, a trade - and he could ultimately find his starter via that route. But Vick is the most accomplished of his present options, and the new deal gives the Eagles some flexibility for this season and beyond.
The contract is still for three years, but the final two years will be voided on March 15, three days after the start of the NFL calendar. So, in essence, Vick signed a one-year contract. It is worth $7 million - $3.5 million of which is guaranteed - and could be worth up to $10 million if he meets a number of performance-based incentives, according to an NFL source.
"I am grateful and proud to be a Philadelphia Eagle," Vick said in a statement. "My heart is in Philly, and this community is important to me."
Vick said at the end of last season that he wanted to be the starter in 2013. He will have that opportunity here. He may not have had as good an opportunity elsewhere, so he agreed to a deal that will pay him less.
Vick was slated to earn $15.5 million in 2013, but only $3 million was guaranteed. The Eagles opted to keep Vick on the roster beyond a deadline last Tuesday when the guaranteed figure would have kicked in. But according to Vick's contract, the Eagles wouldn't have had to pay the $3 million if he was eventually picked up by another team and paid more than that.
Still, the fact that the Eagles bought more time suggested that Kelly, who was named coach on Jan. 16, was considering keeping Vick after evaluating the 32-year-old quarterback.
"I think in terms of Michael, we look at everything," Kelly said. "What I look at is skill set, first and foremost. What he can do, how he can throw the football, how he can beat people with his feet. There are a lot of different factors he has."
Kelly did not name Vick his starter, although Vick's return doesn't likely bode well for Foles. Kelly said there would be "an open competition" between the two quarterbacks.
"Michael knows that. Nick knows that," Kelly said. "Nick knew every step of the way what we were doing. I wanted to make sure Nick was included in the plans, and I think both of them have outstanding qualities in terms of being quarterbacks in this league."
Vick has a 56-44-1 record in 101 career NFL starts. The Eagles, though, went 10-13 in his 23 starts over the last two seasons. Vick missed 11 games in the last three seasons with injuries - five games in 2012 because of his second concussion in two years.
Foles started six games when Vick was sidelined and compiled a 1-5 mark as a rookie. He was thrust into a difficult situation. The Eagles offensive line was battered, there were injuries at the skill positions, and the team as a whole was sinking under a lame duck coach in Andy Reid.
"There is a skill set that Nick has that really excites me about him," said Kelly, who coached against Foles when Foles was at Arizona.
Kelly did not rule out the possibility of a trade. Foles would be easy to move because of his contract, but how much could the Eagles get in return? Foles, a traditional pocket quarterback, would not seem to suit Kelly's offense, or at least one that resembles the fastbreak spread scheme he had at Oregon.
Vick could have been an ideal fit when he was younger and more moldable. Kelly places great emphasis on a quarterback's decision-making and getting the ball out quickly, areas in which Vick has struggled.
"Some of the systems that they run, they don't ask him to get the ball out quick," Kelly said. "Do I think he can get the ball out quick? I think he's got an unbelievable release. It's up and out and it's quick."
Kelly praised Vick's toughness - which has never been questioned - the velocity of his throws, and his ability to take off and run. He would not be the first coach to be enamored of Vick's raw skills.
Vick will be 33 by the start of next season. He does not have the explosiveness he once possessed. Kelly pointed out that the New York Giants' Eli Manning and the Cowboys' Tony Romo are the same age.
Still, the length of Vick's deal suggests that he will be a one-year stopgap unless Kelly gets the best out of him.
Contact Jeff McLane at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.