Less than a week after being released by the New York Jets, to make space for their first big signing of the offseason—former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick—Mark Sanchez has a home… In Philadelphia. The two quarterbacks essentially trade places, with Vick fighting for a starting job against Geno Smith in New York, and Sanchez apparently cemented at number two in Philadelphia, backing up Nick Foles. Who wins, and who loses in this trade? Join me as we take a look.
Winners: The Philadelphia Eagles.
Nick Foles is the guy in Philly. He will be the starter in 2014, and Sanchez is no threat to that. Vick wasn’t really a threat either, but the sort of money he was due to receive would have always put pressure on the team to start Vick if Foles suffered even a small dip in form.
In Sanchez, the Eagles get a dependable backup, at a fraction of the cost Vick would have cost them. And a dependable backup is something they very much need.
Foles has somewhat of a history of injury, including a concussion in 2013. Foles has missed time in every NFL season so far, due to injury, in spite starting his first two seasons as a backup in the first place. He also missed time during his college career due to injury too.
It would be unfair to call Foles injury prone—his injuries have been unrelated, and largely freak accidents—but knowing that the team have a recent NFL starter in reserve will certainly help.
In spite of his recent struggles in New York, Sanchez does have a winning pedigree. Sanchez ended his time in New York with a 33-29 win/loss record, and a 4-2 record in the playoffs—all four wins coming on the road.
The Jets certainly win here.
Loser: Mark Sanchez
While the Jets may have won by landing Sanchez, it’s hard to consider Sanchez a real winner here.
He goes from at least competing for a starting job in New York, to a definite backup behind a “franchise” guy in Nick Foles. For his career to be reignited he is relying on a young, promising quarterback to go down with a season ending injury—hardly an ideal situation.
Worse, he finds himself playing in one of the least forgiving environments in America. The Eagles fans are notoriously fickle, and harsh to players who don’t live up to expectations. Even if he gets his shot due to injury, he will need to perform at a high level from the moment he takes the field or else face their wrath. Unfortunately, Sanchez has never been the picture of consistency, and has regularly shown an inability to keep focused in the face of criticism and negativity.
It’s hard to say for sure if he would have got better money elsewhere—there simply aren’t that many teams looking to pay top dollar for a borderline starting QB with a slightly better than .500 record, and his Eagles contract is potentially worth $4 million—but several teams may have presented better opportunities to restart his career.
Both the Cleveland Browns and Saint Louis Rams expressed some level of interest in Sanchez. In Cleveland, Sanchez would have likely entered at the top of their depth chart, playing for a young, first year head coach, and new GM with a lot to prove. While far from guaranteed, a solid performance from Sanchez early on could have cemented himself as their QB for years to come.
In St. Louis, Sanchez would have backed up Sam Bradford, a quarterback who has missed 15 games due to injury in just four years playing. Of course, he would once again be pinning his hopes on a young and promising QB going down to injury, but in Bradford, this seems to be somewhat of a possibility, and he would certainly be coming into a more forgiving environment if and when it happened.
Perhaps things will work out well for Sanchez, but we’re not too hopeful.
Winner: Michael Vick.
Michael Vick still believes he has what it takes to be an NFL starter. In New York, he has the best possible chance to prove it.
Vick knew he was not going to get a shot to start in Philly. He knew that not too many teams were interested in an aging quarterback with a history of injury and a criminal record. The Jets, by far, represent his best chance of starting in 2014.
Geno Smith was patchy at best during his first season under center in 2013, and, in spite of public support for him from the team, they still seem unconvinced in their young signal caller.
There will be a quarterback position battle in New York, and his salary has led many to believe that Vick is their expected victor—few teams carry a $4 million backup QB if they can avoid it.
Vick knows he is on the downward slide of his career. He knows that at this point, whether he plays at all will be a season-to-season decision, so having a younger player waiting in the wings isn’t such an issue—indeed, in some ways it gives him the freedom to go out there and play the type of football which has been so successful for him in the past.
He also gets the opportunity to mentor a young quarterback, very much in his own mold, which will help him no end if he transitions to coaching after the conclusion of his NFL career.
Plus, of course, there is the fact that his contract is worth $4 million, fully guaranteed. While the deal is worth only a fraction of the $10 million he took home 2013, and the $100 million his Eagles contract was initially valued at, 2014 is the first season Vick has been debt free following his bankruptcy. The money he actually takes home in 2014 is a big increase over previous years.
Few expected that Vick would receive anywhere near that amount of guaranteed money this season, and some even suspected he may be forced into retirement so this represents a major win for the player.
Losers:New York Jets.
It’s no secret that the Jets are somewhat in a tailspin. Their free agency period started as nothing short of disastrous. In a recent piece, we speculated that GM John Idzik may be on borrowed time, and proposed that the Vick signing may be a way to kick-start their offseason, and save his career, so why is this marked down in the looser column?
In a word—desperation.
The issue is not so much that they signed Vick, it is the contract they signed him to, and it’s a move that smells suspiciously of desperation.
For a one year deal, $4 million, fully guaranteed is a steep overpayment for a backup quarterback, equaling that of the top paid backup, Matt Moore, in 2013, and way above the $1.6 million average for the position. This says, in no uncertain terms, that the team expect Vick not Geno Smith to be the starting quarterback for the team in 2014.
This effectively kills any camp competition before it even begins.
It tells Smith that they don’t think he’s got what it takes yet, it tells Vick that the job is his to lose, and gives him permission to take his foot off the gas.
His $4 million contract is guaranteed, even if he never takes a snap this season, so there is even the possibility that he deliberately loses the job in training camp. Although Vick doesn’t seem to be that sort of player, and he strongly voiced his opinion that he wanted to start, now the money is in his bank account, he may change his tune.
A one year deal to a veteran, especially one coming off a down season, should be a “prove it” deal. It should be stacked with achievable, but not guaranteed, performance related goals. It should keep players on their toes, giving their all to earn their money, and their next contract.
Alternatively, $4 million in guaranteed money should have been spread over a two or more year contract, with more in incentives each season, even if the total possible salary per season is $4 million or even more.
The fact that Vick could earn $4 million per season is not the issue, the fact that he will, no matter how well or poorly he plays certainly is.
Worse, it potentially stalls the career of a promising young quarterback, and one who the Jets pinned a lot of hope on when they selected him with their second round pick.
A year or so under a veteran quarterback can do wonders for some young players, but a season or more off the field can end the careers of others. Handing the reins to Vick is a gamble, without a doubt. At $1.5 to $2 million, it’s a gamble that can be justified. But at $4 million it becomes a very expensive all in bet, especially if it also means the team need to spend another early round pick on a QB in coming years, if it does hurt Smith’s development irreparably.
Perhaps Vick can turn the team around, but given the money spent on him, and the lack of improvement in other areas, it’s really hard to consider the move a win for the team.