One man's insult is another man's extra cash.
That's what I take from the fact that when details of Donovan McNabb's reworked contract emerged, it turned out that part of the pact is a $500,000 per year bonus to be paid in $31,250 increments each week of the regular season that McNabb is on the 45-man active roster. If he's inactive that week -- in other words, injured -- he doesn't get that week's $31,250.
When I heard about that clause, I flashed back a few months to Brian Dawkins' messy, confusing departure from Philadelphia. It's indisputable that Dawk got more money and more guaranteed money from the Broncos than he would have gotten by taking the Eagles' offer. The difference seems to be about $2 million over two years, total, but the disparity in the guarantees isn't known and might be more significant. A big difference is that the Eagles' offer was presented as essentially, two one-year contracts, instead of a multiyear deal.
Here's my point, though -- when Dawkins left, we heard from teammates and other sources that one of the reasons he felt "insulted" by the Birds' offer was that he felt they wanted him to "give back money" if he got hurt. I've confirmed from a source close to the situation that the giving back of money perception had to do with the same clause that's in the McNabb contract, and that is in a lot of other NFL contracts. This strengthens my feeling that one of the main reasons Dawkins is gone is that he and the Eagles didn't communicate very clearly during the bargaining.
I'm reminded of something team president Joe Banner said during his appearance on Howard Eskin's radio show in March, right after Dawk left. A caller lamented the fact that negotiations with a franchise icon boiled down to "just business."
"I can't disagree with anything you said. I feel terrible about the way this ended," Banner told the caller. "I go back and forth in my mind about what we could have said differently or done differently to produce a different outcome … I am really comfortable that we really wanted to keep Brian and we made a reasonable, I think more than reasonable effort to keep him. The one regret that I have, if I could roll back the clock, was that my personal contact to Brian was through his agent (Jim Steiner). I wish at some point, I'd had an opportunity to speak to Brian directly," to underscore how much the team appreciated Dawkins. "Somewhere, that got lost in translation," Banner concluded.
BTW, Comcast SportsNet caught up with Dawk at a charity golf tournament in the Bethlehem area. He called McNabb's contract reworking "a huge blessing and well-deserved."
The past few weeks have underscored my feeling that in 2009, after a decade of Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia, anything you say about No. 5 acts as a Rorschach test for many readers. The wingnut McNabb haters see excuses for the inexcusable bristling from any sort of positive reference. The group at the other end of the spectrum, which views Donovan as a Christ-like victim of Philadelphia Pharisees, reads vitriol and insult into every question.
I would suggest gathering the groups in a confined space, furnishing weapons and locking the doors, except we probably couldn't withstand the resulting readership decline.
In the meantime, Iggles Blog makes the excellent point today that the way the reworking of McNabb's contract is structured, if 2009 does not go well, a $3.5 million McNabb guarantee for 2010 (right now an uncapped year, by the way) would not be that big an obstacle to switching to Kevin Kolb as the starter. I would say we'll certainly know by next May 5 whether Donovan is the 2010 QB -- that's the date a $6.2 million roster bonus is due.
I also have to thank Iggles Blog for several days ago digging up something we wrote here back on Feb. 10. In part, it lays out your Eagletarian's views on McNabb and his contract very clearly, so I'm going to post part of it again, for the haters and the apologists:
Of course, if the Eagles don't like what McNabb has in mind, they can just tell him he's under contract and that's that. If he wants to assure his role as the starter, all he needs to do is outplay Kolb in training camp and perform consistently well once the season starts.
This approach has worked so well in the past, with Terrell Owens and Lito Sheppard, among others. It has seemed to me that over the past few years, one of the problems with McNabb during these "lulls" he has experienced, such as the one that led to his benching, is a lack of genuine excitement on his part. This might have had something to do with the weapons he has been given. I think it also has had to do with the permanent change in McNabb's relationship with Andy Reid that took place two years ago, when Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to the playoffs, and then Reid used his first draft pick on Kolb.
We'll lay it all out again, one more time. Bottom line, from Eagletarian's perspective, is this: McNabb has been healthy pretty much the last two seasons now. It seems much more likely than it did two years ago that he can be an effective quarterback into his mid-30s. He seems to need reassurance, seems to function best when he feels everyone in the organization is behind him. We can debate all day whether this is optimal, whether he should care so much, but the fact seems to be that he does.
With an improving young defense, it sure seems the Eagles' best chance to win a Super Bowl next season is with a happy, secure McNabb. No, I'm not saying he will lead a bunch of game-winning touchdown drives in the final minutes, or never again throw an off-target pass, or become an expert on the arcane rules of overtime. But if you think you can get to Super Bowl XLIV, is that more likely with (A) McNabb or (B) Kolb?
I think Kolb has gotten a bad rap from being stuck in some unfortunate situations, but I don't see how anybody can say the answer is (B). You can watch tape of practices and preseason games until your retinas implode, and still not have enough information to make that leap, with a team that seems to be an offensive line tweak and an added running threat away from being as good as any.