Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff participated in a Q&A session with staffers from the team's official site (AtlantaFalcons.com), and in addition to questions about the team's approach to free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft, Dimitroff addressed the Michael Vick situation.
"With regards to Michael Vick, we've decided to seek a trade of his contractual rights to another NFL club," Dimitroff said. "We took a number of steps in the 2008 season, including using our first pick to draft a quarterback. We feel a trade is the best move for the Falcons, and it's also in the best interest of Michael."
Now that the Falcons have stated their intentions concerning Vick, the two questions that come next are:
- What can the Falcons expect in return for Vick's contractual rights?
- Which team(s) would seek to acquire those rights?
The best way to gauge what the Falcons can reasonably expect in exchange for Vick's contractual rights is to state what the team trading for him is acquiring.
In Vick, they'd be getting an immensely talented athlete, who was a below-average NFL quarterback. They would also be acquiring a player who has spent two years out of football, including one year spent in prison on charges that will make him the biggest public relations nightmare their staff could possibly imagine, and whose reinstatement to the National Football League is far from guaranteed.
Therefore, any trade involving Vick would involve conditional draft choices only.
For example, to acquire Pacman Jones last April, the Dallas Cowboys traded a 2008 fourth-round pick and a 2009 sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans, but since Jones was such a risky acquisition, Dallas was to receive a 2009 fourth or fifth-round pick back from the Titans if Jones wasn't reinstated or was reinstated but suspended again. (Dallas will receive a fifth-round pick, since Jones was suspended again. Jones is currently a free agent.)
A better example may be the Packers trading Brett Favre to the New York Jets last August for a conditional draft pick, which was to be determined by Favre's 2008 playing time and whether or not the Jets made the playoffs. Because the Jets failed to qualify for the post-season, their third-round pick in this year's draft will go to the Packers, who will send a 2010 seventh-round pick to the Jets because Favre retired after one season.
Some variation of those deals is what the Falcons can reasonably expect to receive in exchange for Vick's contractual rights.
Assessing Potential Trade Partners
From a public relations standpoint, acquiring Michael Vick will be like acquiring a circus. There will be calls to boycott the franchise from animal rights advocates, who will stage protests outside team headquarters during training camp and beyond. Additional security will be needed on Game Day, both at home and on the road.
Whether that's fair or not is irrelevant. It's the reality of the situation, and some teams, even those who could use a quarterback, aren't equipped to deal with that sort of media crush.
That's why the team best-suited to acquire Vick will:
- Be located in a major metropolitan area amongst several sports teams. The more options there are to deflect the spotlight away from Vick, the better.
- Have a head coach and/or general manager with a strong track record of success in the NFL. Previous experience with controversial players is required.
That eliminates St. Louis and Detroit, who despite operating in large U.S. cities and having a need for a quarterback, also have first-year head coaches and general managers who could probably do without the hoopla trading for Vick would bring.
Other teams that can be eliminated are those that have a franchise quarterback, are developing a franchise quarterback, those whose headquarters are simply too close to PETA headquarters to risk it, or whose stadiums have a section called "The Dawg Pound".
Those teams include New England, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Houston, Jacksonville, Denver, San Diego, Kansas City, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, Green Bay and Arizona.
The Falcons presumably wouldn't trade Vick to a division opponent, either, so Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay can be crossed off the list
Furthermore, the teams that that will be "rumored" to be interested in Vick, but in all likelihood won't be, include:
San Francisco 49ers/Oakland Raiders – The 49ers have a need for a quarterback and have a disciplinarian for a head coach, which could be enough to ignite a rumor of interest. And because Vick is getting out of prison, and it involves acquiring a name instead of developing one, the Raiders will be rumored to be interested in Vick, as well. However, both teams are seeking public funds to build a new stadium in the Bay Area, and acquiring Vick would be counterproductive to those efforts.
Seattle Seahawks – Vick's connections to new Seahawks head coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will fuel the rumors of Seattle being interested in acquiring him, but doing so would contradict Seahawks president Tim Ruskell's emphasis on building the roster with high-character players. If the Seahawks don't franchise linebacker Leroy Hill after his arrest for misdemeanor possession of marijuana last month, you can assume they won't attempt to acquire Michael Vick.
Minnesota Vikings – With Tarvaris Jackson and his career passer rating of 76.5, one could argue that the Vikings already have a younger, less-mobile but scandal-free version of Vick (career passer rating: 75.7) on their roster. Besides, the Vikings are still dealing with fallout from the "Love Boat" incident in 2005 and are seeking public funds for a new stadium.
That leaves four teams that could trade for the right to renegotiate the five years and $57.5 million dollars remaining on Michael Vick's contract. They are:
Chicago Bears – The Windy City's perpetual search for a franchise quarterback continues, and general manager Jerry Angelo could be prepared to make Vick the proverbial "kitchen sink".
New York Jets – Now that Brett Favre has retired, the Jets could be in the market for a veteran quarterback. Between the Favre and Jonathan Vilma-to-New Orleans trade, general manager Mike Tannenbaum has experience in the conditional draft pick trade market.
Miami Dolphins – Every article about Vick's return to the NFL mentions how he'd look in a "Wildcat" offense, so it would only be fitting for him to be traded to the Dolphins. Plus, Bill Parcells is one of the few personnel executives in the NFL who could pull off such a trade. The other being...
Dallas Cowboys - Jerry Jones. The Cowboys have their franchise quarterback in Tony Romo, but Vick's athleticism could inject some life into an offense that Jones' own players have referred to as stale and predictable this off-season.