Free agency moves will begin when the labor situation is officially resolved. The Eagles will be players. They have money to spend and some holes to fill. Expect the team to be aggressive, but also keep in mind that this is the Eagles and not the Redskins. There will be moves, but it won't be an over-the-top spending spree. The Eagles are still a draft-first type of team.
Free agents will want to come to the Eagles for a variety of reasons. The team is very talented and ready for a Super Bowl run. That is very helpful. Andy Reid is a draw. He's a winning coach. Players like playing for him. He's in control, but isn't a bully-type coach that will micro-manage players to death. Money is always a major factor and the Eagles will pay big money when they want a player. Jon Runyan and Jevon Kearse signed record-setting contracts when they came here. Asante Samuel and Jason Peters inked lucrative deals upon joining the Eagles.
There is another important selling point for the Eagles - Michael Vick. Players love Vick. We had a similar situation with Donovan McNabb, but not to the same extent. Vick is special, for some reason. It goes beyond him being a good quarterback. I think part of the attraction is that Vick is both style and substance.
Think about Vick's running. When he takes off, it looks different than any quarterback since probably Randall Cunningham. Vick doesn't just scramble for a few yards. His runs are almost works of art. Fran Tarkenton is one of the great scramblers of all time, but it was rarely pretty. It was more like the Keystone Cops than anything artistic. Cunningham was the first player that I think was able to be a runner with style. He did things that just took your breath away. McNabb showed the potential to be this kind of player early in his career, but focused more on being a pocket passer so his running skills were somewhat ignored.
Steve Young was a terrific athlete, but he wasn't necessarily a graceful runner. His classic run against the Vikings was more about toughness than anything else. Steve McNair was the same way. He was like a bull. We haven't seen much of Tim Tebow, but he looks to be in the same vein - a guy who can make some defenders miss, but is just as likely to break tackles with strength.
NFL players face good opponents all the time. They usually aren't going to make a big deal out of it. There are a couple of exceptions. Players sometimes love special rivals. Brett Favre and Warren Sapp loved playing each other when they were both in the NFC Central (remember that division?). Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice loved going head-to-head in the old NFC West.
Players also get excited when they see "special" players. Plenty of guys loved watching Favre over the years. He was one of a kind. Players loved Barry Sanders. Again, he was such a uniquely gifted athlete. Emmitt Smith might have posted similar numbers, but Barry did it in a way that was impossible to duplicate. I think all defensive backs are legally required to love Sanders. Would they all wear number 21 if allowed? Deion was a great player, but also did plenty of wild things and brought a lot of personality to the field. If Deion got the ball, you knew something magical could happen. Even his 10-yard interception returns were going to be fun to watch. The man was never short on style.
Vick fits into this category of special players. He's truly unique. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are both great, great quarterbacks. They have led their teams to Super Bowl titles. They've won all kinds of awards. Still, what they do isn't original. Otto Graham was a great quarterback in his day. Joe Namath did some amazing things. Johnny Unitas might still be the greatest quarterback in NFL history. If not him, Joe Montana might be the choice. Or John Elway. Dan Marino is best quarterback to never win a Super Bowl. Or is that Dan Fouts? And so on. There are lots of great passers in NFL history. There is only one Michael Vick.
He would have been more of a sideshow in NFL history were it not for Reid and the Eagles. Vick would have been Kordell Stewart or Bobby Douglass. Instead, he was brought to Philadelphia and revived his career. Vick is still a dynamic runner who can do amazing things, but now we're beginning to see him as a special passer. He's the most feared running quarterback in the league and is now among the most feared passers. That's an amazing accomplishment when you consider where he was a couple of years ago.
Any skill player will want to play with Vick. He can make every throw in the book In essence, a receiver is almost always open. Vick has the explosive arm to put the ball anywhere he wants. He's got the accuracy to put it in tight spaces. He's also got good touch. Vick is still working on being a more consistent passer and that's the biggest challenge for him in the Eagles' pass-happy offense.
Runners want to play with Vick because they know defenses will have to pay special attention to him. Vick is such a special runner that defenses have to gameplan for how to deal with him on standard handoffs and fakes. He must be accounted for. This can free the backside end or linebacker and open up extra running lanes for the back. Shady McCoy definitely benefited from Vick's presence in 2010. McCoy's two worst games in terms of yards per carry were when Kevin Kolb started.
I'm not sure that offensive linemen would be all that excited about playing with Vick. You never know where he is or what he's going to do and that puts a lot of pressure on blockers. This isn't a big deal for us since I don't anticipate the Eagles pursuing any offensive linemen in free agency.
Vick's transformation off the field is also pretty amazing. He's still got that superstar vibe, but he isn't the same idiot kid that he was in Atlanta, more worried about jewelry and friends than football and family. Vick has grown up, but didn't forget how to be cool. His teammates see that. Players around the league also see that. It is one of the reasons they'll want to come here. Remember when Dallas running back Tashard Choice came over and got Vick's autograph after we beat the Cowboys in December? That should tell you all you need to know about what players think of Vick.
We used to hear stories about players selling each other on their teams at the Pro Bowl. That's where McNabb and Terrell Owens first became friends. Because of the lockout situation it is hard to know if any of that stuff went on at this year's Pro Bowl. We do know that players share agents and also are sometimes friends away from the field. Vick has talked to Plaxico Burress about post-prison life. You wonder if Vick also asked about getting together on the field?
Once free agency does start, I hope the Eagles take full advantage of Vick. They should have him meet free agents who come to visit or even have him call some guys. Some of these guys are going to have a man-crush on Vick and would have a hard time saying no to coming to Philly to play alongside a player they like so much. Heck, we know Vick is an idol to some younger guys. How could you say no to your idol?
In order to help Vick with any potential sales pitches, I think we should offer him a quick course on sales. ABC. Always Be Closing. Never take no for an answer. Sell the sizzle, not the steak. And finally, coffee is for closers. Go get 'em, Mike.