Value for Vick?

On Monday, the Eagles signed Michael Vick to what was initially reported as a six-year, $100 million contract extension with $40 million guaranteed but later revealed to actually “only” be a five-year, $80 million extension with $35.5 million guaranteed.

Even when ignoring off-field risk, which is quite substantial given Vick’s past amorality (I think he fails to consciously grasp the differences between right and wrong as opposed to having acted in ways he understood to be wrong), is this a sound investment for the Eagles on the field?

Yesterday, The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk made a table which documented the successes and failures of relevant running quarterbacks once they hit age 30 (I highly recommend clicking through–Lisk does great research). Lisk concluded:

Obviously, including Elway and Favre will shoot up the averages. If we still include them, but instead look at medians, the median number of remaining starts for the above group was 50.5 games. If we’re looking at it from the team perspective, most of those quarterbacks got starts with organizations other than the one they were starring for at age 30 also. The median age the last time the quarterbacks were able to start at least 8 games in a year was 34.

If you gave me the option, given Michael Vick’s build, his injury history, how much he still ran at age 30 compared to these other guys, I would take the under on that 50.5 starts with the Eagles, and overall.

Lisk’s educated estimate, therefore, is that the Eagles will not get full value out of this deal because Vick will not stay healthy for its duration. Injury risk, however, must also be weighed with the chance that Vick is ineffective. With numbers this large, Vick does not have to be dismal to underperform expectations. If he is anything but elite, this deal will be judged harshly.

In the first half of last season, Vick performed better and more accurately than he had ever done previously in his career. Through Week 13 (in nine appearances), Vick completed 63.8% of his passes, throwing 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. In Vick’s final four games, including the playoff loss to the Packers, he completed 58.6% of his passes, throwing seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Part of this performance dip could plausibly be attributed to his being banged up but there was also chatter that opposing defenses had figured him out.

My buddy Dean, a die hard Eagles fan, doesn’t necessarily disagree with the decision to pay Vick, but he questions the timing. “I don’t understand why they had to do this now instead of waiting until, say, Week 6. At that point they could have better seen if his greatness is sustainable, if he got better at avoiding hits, and if defenses had figured him out.” At this point, the Eagles probably would not have had to pay Vick that much more than they just did but would have been more educated in what they were investing in.

There is something to be said for paying Vick now; he is the unquestioned leader of the team and there will be an unquantifiable effect that stems from the franchise’s extending its loyalty and support before it really had to. Inside the Eagles locker room and around the NFL, Vick is almost a deity. He is viewed as someone who was a victim of a media witch hunt that has rebounded and re-captured his former glory. His teammates will rally around him and if he stays healthy and effective, the Eagles have as good of a chance as any team to win the Super Bowl in the next two or three seasons.

That being said, I think the Eagles would have been wise to wait on Vick’s extension until the middle of this season. As Dean pointed out, in doing so the Eagles would have more effectively maximized their upside and limited their downside in this deal.

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