Vick decision came from the top

The long wait is over. Michael Vick has agreed to terms on a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles which, assuming he passes a physical today, he will sign before participating in all team activities starting Saturday. Here are a few questions I’m getting in my email and my answers:

As a consultant with the Eagles the past several months, did you negotiate this deal?

I did not. This was a matter handled at the highest levels of the organization (which certainly did not include the consultant) – ownership, head coach/general manager and team president. As I wrote in a general piece on the potential signing of Vick, it was an organizational decision that needed buy-in from the top of the franchise on down, from ownership to personnel to coaching to contract management to community and public relations.

In the case of the Eagles, having the same person, Andy Reid, hold the titles of head coach and general manager allowed for a more streamlined decision to take place. Of course, this was only possible after ownership bought into the concept of having Vick represent the Eagles. The Luries gave their consent, and the process was set in motion.

Are you surprised by this?

Not really. Andy Reid is an offensive coach at heart; offensive coaches like to have weapons. The more, the merrier. The dream of every offensive coordinator and coach is to have multiple ways of attacking defenses to keep defensive coordinators from focusing on one or two options. The Eagles’ offense now is one that will keep defensive coaches working late into the nights the week before they play the Eagles.

After solidifying the offensive line in free agency with pieces like Stacy Andrews and Jason Peters, Reid was able to draft a couple of nice weapons in LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. Having been actively involved in the deals of these four players, I knew how important they would be in the present and future of the team.

Now comes another piece, one that has the potential to be as fancy as any out there. Vick is an electrifying talent; there’s no debate there. It will be interesting to see what he’ll eventually bring to an offense that can be an offensive coordinator’s dream. Lots of toys to play with.

What do you think of this signing beyond its impact on the field?

A couple of things. First, I believe there was no greater favor Commissioner Roger Goodell could have done for Vick than “assign” Tony Dungy to be his mentor and liaison with potential NFL employers. Dungy has the utmost respect among coaches and management in the NFL, Andy Reid included. Without the endorsement and approval of Dungy, I’m not sure the Eagles or anyone else signs Vick as easily. Whatever words or actions Vick has said or shown to him, Dungy has come away a believer. That was good enough for Reid.

On the other side of the fence, however, I learned long ago that it really doesn’t matter what people say; it only matters what they do. Vick has clearly said the right things, to the commissioner, Dungy, Reid and others. Now he has to do the right things.

The part that always concerned me was not Vick but what I always refer to as the “herd” that surrounds him, a large group that includes friends, family and other enablers. It is this crew that seems to always be there for Vick to tell him what he wants to hear rather than what he needs to hear. Vick even admits in his “60 Minutes” interview, to be televised Sunday, that he should have taken more control of what was going on around him with his friends and dogfighting. Hopefully, Dungy – and now Donovan McNabb and other Eagles – will offset the enabling herd. That will be something to watch.

What kind of contract did Vick sign?

I can’t comment directly on the contract, but I know that risk management is very important to the Eagles and all teams that considered signing Vick.

It has been reported that Vick signed a deal for this season with a club option for next year. In order to have Vick under contract for 2010, a potential uncapped year with a year under his belt to prove to the league that any lingering character questions have subsided, the Eagles had to provide some upside in the form of bonus money going into the uncapped year. That, however, is 2010.

In 2009, the Eagles certainly protected themselves from giving Vick at-risk money in the form of guarantees. With the reported amount being $1.6 million, that amount suggests a $100,000 sum for every game played by Vick. The key is that Vick must be on the roster to make that money. Thus, all of the money paid to Vick this year will be “earned,” not given to him simply for signing his name.

The Eagles likely have a play-for-performance method of compensation in exchange for some potential upside in 2010. That represents a win for the Eagles in the short term and a potential win for agent Joel Segal and Vick next year, as the amount of the option is likely large enough to cause the Eagles to think twice about keeping Vick for a limited role.

In other words, Vick and Segal can reasonably conclude that they’ll be well compensated in 2010 for a solid performance in 2009, whether by the Eagles or another team as a free agent.

What does this mean for McNabb?

Nothing, other than he has another talent playing alongside him. The Eagles did not invest $6 million of no-strings-attached money in McNabb to have him in any kind of reduced role. McNabb remains the focal point of the Eagles. Vick is a new item added to the shopping cart.

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