SOMETIMES it's hard to remember that 2 years ago, as the Eagles prepared to play their final preseason game at the New York Jets, just as they are doing now, scout-team quarterback Michael Vick was looking forward to meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about Vick's official reinstatement.
Quite a bit has happened in the 24 months since. Today, the team will hold a news conference to celebrate a 6-year Vick contract, which a source close to the situation said will earn the QB $100 million, with $40 million guaranteed. Vick's average of $16.67 million a year places him just behind the NFL's two highest-paid quarterbacks, the Patriots' Tom Brady and the Colts' Peyton Manning, who make about $18 million a year. This is the biggest per-year contract in Eagles history, and the biggest story of redemption, perhaps, in the history of sports.
In a statement last night, Eagles coach Andy Reid called the deal "a product of all the hard work Michael has done to better himself over the last couple of years, both on and off the field" since Vick was released from federal prison, where he served 18 months for dogfighting.
"I'm very proud that he has been able to achieve success again in this league, but he'll be the first one to tell you that there is a lot of work yet to be done by him and this team as a whole. And there's no doubt in my mind that he will continue on that path," Reid said. "I give a lot of credit to [team president] Joe Banner and [agent] Joel Segal for getting this deal done."
Segal did not respond to a request for comment.
The deal sets in concrete what has been apparent since the Eagles traded Kevin Kolb to Arizona a month ago yesterday - the franchise whose owner, Jeffrey Lurie, needed to have a heart-to-heart talk with Vick before agreeing to give him a second chance 2 years ago now is tying itself to Vick, for the foreseeable future. Vick will be 37 when the contract expires.
Behind Vick, the Eagles have another reclamation project, Vince Young, who is here on a 1-year deal and fully intends to take his talents elsewhere following the 2011 season, and 2010 fourth-round draft choice Mike Kafka, who has yet to appear in a regular-season game. There is no Plan B, as there was last season, when Reid spent 5 months building up Kolb as the franchise's future, then reversed field after Kolb suffered a concussion in the season opener and Vick played very well that week and the next.
Earlier yesterday, Reid was asked in an interview with the Daily News about tying his future to Vick.
"I don't go in that area," Reid said. "But I know he's a good football player. I have confidence in him. I'm not worried about myself, I'm worried about our football team, [with] any decision that we make. I know Michael's a good football player."
Reid said Vick has worked hard to correct the problems that surfaced down the stretch last season, as teams pressured him more, behind a struggling offensive line, a line that might not be much better in the early going this year.
The Eagles franchised Vick this season for $16 million. Had they not reached agreement on a longer-term deal by Sept. 20, the sides could not have talked again until after the season. Rumors that a Vick deal was near have circulated for about a week, but neither Eagles sources nor sources close to Vick would confirm them. Former Eagles contract negotiator Andrew Brandt, now with the National Football Post, broke the news last night.
Vick's teammates immediately began tweeting their congratulations. "Congrats my guy," said defensive end Darryl Tapp, like Vick a Virginia Tech alum from the coastal area of Virginia.
Though Vick remains controversial to many fans, one of the interesting aspects of last week's ESPN The Magazine story was a player poll that showed what was apparent when Vick's Eagles teammates voted him the Eagles' Ed Block Courage Award in 2009 - NFL players like Vick, and have a great deal of respect for his talents.
It is unclear if there are any stipulations in the contract about off-the-field conduct, beyond the ordinary. Vick, who signed a $130 million, 10-year contract with the Falcons in 2005, declared bankruptcy during his prison term.
Does Vick's deal mean agreement with disgruntled wideout DeSean Jackson will come soon? Maybe.
Apparently, with Vick's deal lowering his cap number this year from $16 million to about $14.4 million, the Eagles have about $4 million in cap room, a figure that should grow as they shed a few veterans in the cut down to 53. But right now, the biggest effect for Jackson is that the team knows it will not have to franchise Vick again next season. That tag will be available to use on Jackson in 2012, if needed.
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