As I settled in to write a column about the Eagles trading Sheldon Brown — a player I got to know last year while dealing with his contract frustrations — I heard the Eagles had made another trade. I’ll comment on Sheldon in a couple days.
Similar to Packers and Rodgers, trade about Kolb
The trade of Donovan McNabb was less about McNabb than it was about Kevin Kolb (and Jason Campbell). The Eagles’ future was in their building for three years, and it was time to move to him.
As with the Packers two years ago – although entirely different circumstances – the reason the team is confident in its ability to move on from its signature player is due to the alternative. The Packers and Eagles were not going to rely on a stopgap veteran quarterback while developing a younger player. They had both seen their future quarterbacks in practice, meetings, minicamps, training camps and the locker room for three years and were ready to make the organizational decision to evolve.
Did the Packers know that Rodgers would develop the way he did? No one can predict the future, but as someone who was there for those three years, we certainly thought he would. Aaron had natural leadership skills, off-the-chart smarts, a strong arm and good mobility. The Eagles have seen similar positives in Kolb.
While consulting with the Eagles last year, during a team event painting a local middle school, I painted next to and talked to Kolb the entire event. The conversation was similar to ones I used to have with Aaron Rodgers. It was about the required patience and answering the continued media questions about playing. Rodgers and Kolb had to walk a fine line of acknowledging that they wanted to play without treading into the dangerous turf of the superstar in front of them.
Rodgers and Kolb have said and done all the right things in preparing for the moment. Although one is Northern Californian cool and the other is a laid-back Texan, both have been entrusted with the future of storied franchises far from their homes with extremely passionate fan bases. In Rodgers’ case, the proof is already clear that he was ready. Now it’s Kolb’s turn.
Although the change was made just last night, the Eagles are not a franchise that does anything without a lot of thought and planning. This change was coming, and coming for a while.
The McNabb low-risk contract restructure
McNabb’s contract restructure last June was just that; it was not an extension, and we now know why. It was simply a gesture to McNabb to raise his compensation in the existing two years remaining on the deal, the latter of which would be unclear whether he remained an Eagle.
The total amount of money that McNabb received from the Eagle per that contract is $3.3 million, in the form of a $2.8-million roster bonus paid last June and $500,000 ($31,250 per game) in 45-man active-roster bonuses paid throughout last season.
The Redskins will now assume a $6.2M roster bonus due May 5 (the late roster bonus date was key in the Eagles’ ability to move him) and $500,000 of 45-man active roster bonuses. The Redskins will also assume McNabb’s $5M salary, $3M of which is guaranteed. This, of course, is assuming that the Redskins do not take the further step of tearing up the existing year of the contract and replacing it with the first year of a more substantial contract, something that certainly could happen.
The Eagles will now focus their contract negotiations on Kolb. The Packers rewarded Rodgers seven games into his career as a starter with a six-year, $60M contract. The Eagles may well reward Kolb prior to the season, depending on the deal they can make. After shedding McNabb, Brown, Brian Westbrook, Shawn Andrews, Kevin Curtis, Darren Howard, Chris Gocong, Reggie Brown, Will Witherspoon and Chris Clemons, the team has dramatically reduced its payroll and may be in the mood to spend soon.
Redskins back to the future
Having grown up a die-hard Redskins fan, I remember the old “The Future is Now” way of doing business from head coach George Allen in the pre-free agency days. That strategy continued even into free agency with owner Dan Snyder’s penchant for high-priced veteran talent.
Now with George’s son Bruce Allen as general manager, I thought the winds were changing there, as he purged many of those veterans prior to free agency this year and had showed considerable restraint. With the McNabb trade and recent signings of running backs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, they appear to be buying name-brand talent that may be past its prime, albeit for reduced prices from years past.
What about Jason?
Jason Campbell was picked immediately after Rodgers and signed virtually the same contract Rodgers did — although, unlike Rodgers, he has not had his contract extended despite starting many more games.
Through different regimes, Campbell has always been accepted yet not embraced. He was offered to Denver last year for Jay Cutler, but the Broncos preferred Kyle Orton. He is now pushed to the bench as a restricted free agent sure to move on after this season (if not before).
Yes, the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb. The business of football moves inexorably and mercilessly forward. Joe Montana was traded; Brett Favre was traded; Steve McNair was traded; Troy Aikman was released.
And yes, the Eagles wanted so much to move him – and provide him a team he felt good about — that they traded him within the ultra-competitive NFC East (something the Packers were unwilling to do with Favre, no matter what the offer from the Vikings). Yet this trade was not really about McNabb. It’s about a team bullish on Kevin Kolb and another bearish on Jason Campbell.
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For more on the McNabb deal, check out this article from Bleacher Report.