The hurdles to signing Vick
Upon the conditional reinstatement of Michael Vick by Commissioner Roger Goodell this week, the former Falcons quarterback is now free to sign with any team in the NFL. However, much like the process when Terrell Owens was set free by the Dallas Cowboys earlier this offseason, many teams have already stepped up to announce they have no interest. This bizarre process of teams stating their lack of interest is emblematic of all the moving parts involved in the signing of a player who resonates as Vick does.
Vick is an electrifying talent; there is little debate about that. He would also help a team’s offense in a limited role, if for no other reason than the threat he would give them as a decoy to run or pass. Those traits, however, are certainly not enough for a team to add him. If they were, there would be teams lining up to sign Vick rather than lining up not to sign him, which is what’s happening now. More than anything else, this is an organizational decision with many layers. They are:
Prior to a team showing interest in Vick, ownership would have to buy in. This is a large hurdle since many owners or their families own dogs. That emotional and visceral reaction to the treatment of a dog will be paramount. And do not underestimate the reaction of owners’ wives and close friends in this matter.
Even if ownership were not deterred by Vick’s involvement in dogfighting, it would have to deal with the prospect of demonstrations, picketing and a public relations battle with animal rights groups – certainly an unattractive prospect.
And, of course, the bottom line is the bottom line. Signing Vick could cause harsh reactions from partners of all types, affecting revenue in a slumping economy.
For many, if not most, teams, the discussion on Vick ends with ownership. In the event it does not, the next discussion will be…
It’s easy to say that Vick is a talent and can help a team win. The more difficult question is whether Vick is a talent who can fit the scheme that a team runs and actually help it win. It is, in many ways, like a draft discussion. Scouts may identify a player as a first-round talent, but the tougher question is, “Would you take this player as OUR first-round pick?”
In the event the personnel department agrees that Vick is not only a talent worth signing but also a talent worth signing for its team, the next discussion will be…
Calls will be placed to former Vick coaches such as Dan Reeves, Jim Mora and others from any coach interested in having him on the team. There were concerns about Vick’s partying lifestyle even before he signed a $100-million contract. There were rumors that his first stop after his house arrest ended was a strip club. The key question from the coaching staff will be coachability. Will he listen? Will he assimilate and be part of the team? Will he be a positive or negative in the locker room?
Additionally, Vick will take practice reps and game plays away from other players. How will that affect things? Vick will cause coaches to develop new schemes, new plays and new wrinkles to an offense that has been painstakingly planned for the past six months.
In the event the coaching staff agrees that Vick can be coached and will not negatively affect the team, the next discussion will be…
I’ve talked about this many times before. There are obvious risks. Any front office is going to want a contract that’s as risk-free as possible. Translation: In the event the team decides to release Vick, it has not put any guaranteed or unearned money into him. The team essentially would want a pay-for-play model with potential upside while protecting the downside.
Can a team get this type of contract? It depends entirely on leverage and whether Vick has options. If he has more than one bidder, he can probably extract a better contract. If he is negotiating with only one team, the team can mine more favorable terms.
In the end, this may be the most important aspect in signing Vick. He was once the highest-paid player in the history of the sport. Now he might be looking at a minimum contract.
And, if the contract is on board, the next discussion will circle back to…
Community Relations/Corporate Sales
The signing will cause a stir. There are those who believe any publicity is good publicity, but this will not necessarily be the case here. Vick is a lightning rod; he will draw attention to the franchise and the community. Some will be positive, a lot will be negative. The community relations/public relations/external affairs/corporate sales departments – or whatever names they are called – should be prepared for a backlash and ready with responses.
After all of that, we will see if there’s a team or teams left standing to sign Michael Vick. Stay tuned.
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