Michael Vick remains an NFL pariah — but not for the reason you might think.
Vick’s dogfighting past is no longer keeping teams with a quarterback need from showing interest. It’s the present and future that are the problem.
As hard as Vick worked to better his post-prison image after last year’s NFL reinstatement, the same improvement wasn’t evident on the field in Philadelphia. This has created a tepid trade market for a player whose best days may be behind him.
Article continues below ...
I asked a friend who is an NFL scout for his evaluation of Vick in 2009 as a quarterback and trick-play decoy in Philadelphia’s Wildcat sets. Vick finished the season 6-of-13 passing for 86 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed 24 times for 95 yards and two scores out of the shotgun.
The scout watched all 64 snaps that Vick appeared. The results weren’t pretty.
“He can’t throw,” the scout said. “A guy could be open 20 yards downfield and he’ll throw it 25. He never could throw, but he was fast before. It’s not like he’s slow now but he doesn’t stick out like, ‘Wow, this guy is faster than everybody.’”
I then sent a text message to a top NFL personnel director asking whether the lack of trade buzz surrounding Vick stems from the fact he is no longer a special athletic talent. The response: “Right on.”
Vick’s contract further complicates matters. He is set to earn $3.75 million in 2010, with $1 million already guaranteed by the Eagles. Not only is that a high base salary considering last year’s performance, Vick is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2011. Unless considered only a short-term fix, any team willing to swing a trade must also extend Vick’s contract or risk a one-and-done scenario.
And even though he has proactively spoken against dog-fighting since his reinstatement, the franchise that acquires Vick will still have to deal with the negative publicity and fan reaction surrounding someone with such a heinous history. Only if a player is considered a difference-maker are the headaches worth it.
In his defense, Vick admitted from the start it would take time to regain the football skills that had eroded during a 21-month prison sentence. Vick, who turns 30 in June, now has an entire offseason to train. Vick also could potentially play better if able to get into the flow of a game rather than yo-yoed in and out of the lineup like in Philadelphia.
But if teams were convinced he could become the old Michael Vick, wouldn’t some of his former bosses have tried to acquire him by now? St. Louis general manager Billy Devaney worked in Atlanta’s front office when Vick rushed for 1,000 yards in 2006. Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert Jr. held that same position last year in Philadelphia, allowing him a day-to-day look at Vick in practice.
The Rams and Browns entered the offseason desperate for quarterbacking help but both went in a different direction. St. Louis signed A.J. Feeley, who has experience in offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s offense from the time both were with the Eagles. The Browns added free agent Jake Delhomme and traded with Seattle for Seneca Wallace, who has a similar skill-set to Vick.
Philadelphia figures a needy team will eventually step forward. That’s why the Eagles paid Vick a $1.5 million roster bonus last week even though he may not fit into their 2010 plans.
Vick is trying to keep a positive attitude. He recently told FOXSports.com NFL insider Jay Glazer that he “can’t be a disgruntled employee … I just have to let it all play out.”
Judging by his play last season, Vick could be waiting for a while.
Week in Preview
Wednesday (March 17): The University of Florida hosts a pro day that will impact the draft stock of two big-name prospects – QB Tim Tebow and CB Joe Haden. Tebow will unveil a new throwing motion, while Haden must improve upon his 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine.
Saturday (March 20): Ex-New Orleans LB Rickey Jackson celebrates his 52nd birthday – and first since being selected for the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
Sunday (March 21): The annual NFL owners meeting begins in Orlando. Hot topics include an update on labor talks with the NFL Players Association and potential changes to the overtime format in the playoffs.
Cause and Effect
Denver acquiring QB Brady Quinn from Cleveland for FB Peyton Hillis, a 2011 sixth-round draft choice and a 2012 conditional pick.
The Cause: Broncos coach Josh McDaniels had interest in Quinn last year before settling upon Kyle Orton as the replacement for Jay Cutler in a trade with Chicago.
At least someone has faith in Quinn, whose Browns departure is a damning indictment of his talent by both the old and new management regimes. Browns president Mike Holmgren and Heckert made their thumbs-down assessments after watching video of Quinn’s struggles last season under head coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, both of whom are back in 2010 and surely provided feedback to their new bosses. The Browns believed that a fading starter (Delhomme) and career backup (Wallace) were better options than a player who for a variety of reasons – some his own fault, some stemming from a lousy supporting cast — never fulfilled the hype as a championed 2007 first-round pick. Hillis also needed a change of scenery. After an impressive 2008 rookie season under former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, the bruising Hillis had his carries and playing time slashed by McDaniels.
The effect: Quinn’s departure isn’t the only housekeeping under Holmgren’s watch. As first reported by Scout.com’s Adam Caplan, linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was traded to Oakland on Sunday for a third-round selection. Along with the recent release of quarterback Derek Anderson, Cleveland has nine starters left from the squad that began the 2008 season with so much promise coming off a 10-6 campaign the previous year. Only three remain on offense – left tackle Joe Thomas, left guard Eric Steinbach and wide receiver Syndric Steptoe. It’s now obvious the Browns are targeting a quarterback in April’s draft, perhaps as early as the No. 7 overall pick.
Quinn, 25, is still young enough to salvage his career and will benefit from the tutelage of an outstanding quarterbacks guru like McDaniels. Quinn also is an upgrade to current backup Chris Simms, who was dreadful in his lone 2009 start replacing an injured Orton against San Diego. Quinn, though, has a long ways to go before he can be considered a viable contender for Orton’s starting spot.
The University of South Florida’s Carlton Mitchell is receiving some valuable tutelage from fellow wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth, who is trying to re-launch his career with the Baltimore Ravens after being suspended all of last season. Mitchell and Stallworth are training together in North Miami under the tutelage of Pete Bommarito.
“I remember we were talking and (Stallworth) said about 10 years ago at the Combine he ran something like a 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash),” Mitchell recently told me and co-host Jim Miller on Sirius NFL Radio. “Watching him run routes and do cone drills, he still has speed. It’s pretty amazing.”
The 29-year-old Stallworth, who reportedly timed at 4.4 seconds during his Ravens workout, also is still affected by the drunk-driving accident that killed a pedestrian on a Miami Beach causeway last March.
“You could tell he’s a very strong-minded person,” Mitchell said. “He’s not letting the stuff that happened to him affect him training-wise. He’s going through some things right now. He said he’s praying a lot.”
Mitchell, who turned pro after a strong junior season, is projected as a second- or third-round pick by NFLdraftscout.com.
Week in Review
Biggest winner: Old running backs. Even some of the best players at this position are known to slump by the age of 30. But that history didn’t keep the Chiefs, Redskins and Jets from signing graybeards Thomas Jones, Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson respectively.
Jones, 31, is the only of those three players coming off a strong season, but his postseason dip and $5.8 million salary in 2010 led to his Jets release. New York hopes Tomlinson can assume a complementary role with Shonn Greene. L.T. is a future Hall of Fame selection, but the Vikings weren’t devastated when the 30-year-old accepted a larger contract (a reported two-year, $5.1 million deal) from New York.
While playing for Kansas City between 2004 and 2008, Johnson had five games with at least 126 rushing yards against the Shanahan-coached Broncos. Shanahan now has to help the 30-year-old Johnson recapture the magic that made him arguably the NFL’s best RB in 2005 and 2006. Johnson will be paired with another back trying to regain his mojo in Clinton Portis.
Biggest loser: Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant. A hamstring injury that kept him from participating at the NFL Scouting Combine also sidelined Bryant for Oklahoma State’s pro day workout.
Bryant’s off-field character – he was suspended last September for an NCAA rules violation – also continues to raise red flags with teams. The latest blow came in an ESPN the Magazine article that describes Bryant as “notoriously unreliable … Getting him to focus on even simple tasks like attending class was a daily struggle.” He should be a Top 10 pick based on physical skill and potential, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryant slips out of the first round entirely.
Under-the-radar move: Detroit acquiring QB Shaun Hill from San Francisco for a 2010 seventh-round pick.
Matthew Stafford should be thrilled. The young Lions starter now has a much better mentor than former backup Daunte Culpepper, who won’t be re-signed. While he isn’t as physically gifted as most quarterbacks, Hill’s smarts and leadership skills have helped him post a 10-6 career record as a starter. David Carr, a washout as the first player selected in the 2002 draft, will replace Hill as Alex Smith’s backup in San Francisco.