NFC East Issues/Answers-Philadelphia Eagles

Should Donovan McNabb receive a contract extension from the Philadelphia Eagles?...How does the team feel about Kevin Kolb?...Who will be Brian Westbrook's backup this season?...Will LeSean McCoy win that job?...These questions and more answered inside.

Philadelphia Eagles

Issue No. 1: Should the front office offer Donovan McNabb a contract extension?

Answer: This has been an ongoing issue since late last season and there seems to be no resolution forthcoming in the immediate future. While the front office seems to be open to doing something, there doesn't seem be a sense of urgency, either.

McNabb's issue is that he wants some kind of assurance that he'll be able to at least finish his current contract. He signed an eight-year extension in 2002 which brought his contract through 2013, but he can void the final three years (2011-2013) if he gets 35 percent playing time in any season, which he's already achieved, and he's on the roster for the last game of the 2010 season.

McNabb is essentially guaranteed to be on the roster for 2009 since head coach Andy Reid isn't making the quarterback job an open competition. He'll make $9.2 million in base salary, but has only just over $1.1 in bonus proration left on his contract, which will be paid this season. So if they cut him, Philadelphia would save just over $8 million in cap space--not that they need it. They're $25 million under. But again, it seems that McNabb is concerned that if he gets hurt or struggles, the team can't easily cut him.

So does he deserve an extension?

McNabb was pulled from a game last season for the first time in his 10 seasons of play. It seemed very clear that McNabb should have been pulled during the tie at Cincinnati where he went 28 for 58, yes, 30 incompletions. He was pulled the next week at Baltimore, where he also struggled mightily. But he was able to right the ship after that and finished the season fairly well. However, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had beaten the Oakland Raiders during their Week 17 game, Philadelphia would have not made the playoffs. Many believed that had Philadelphia not made the playoffs, McNabb would have made his last start for the team in Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys. Reid denied this recently, but does anyone believe Reid would say anything otherwise publicly?

It should be noted that the coaching staff remains very high on former second-round pick Kevin Kolb. The former University of Houston signal caller has yet to start a game for Philadelphia, but he's impressed practice observers with his knowledge of the offense in his two years with the team. League sources believe they have McNabb's heir apparent in Kolb, so don't expect a major extension for McNabb with a lot of bonus money.

If the decision was up to me, I'd guarantee his base salary for this season and give him a roster bonus for next season. If he plays well in 2009, he'll earn the roster bonus for 2010, which would essentially guarantee his base salary. Teams rarely pay big roster bonuses then cut the player in the same season.

Issue No. 2: Can LeSean McCoy become a capable backup for Brian Westbrook this season?

Answer: We've seen in the past that younger backs for this team have struggled to make any kind of impact or to gain a significant role. Former third-round picks Tony Hunt and Ryan Moats never were able to win the role of Westbrook's backup and Lorenzo Booker, who the team gave up a fourth-round pick for last year, only had 20 carries last season.

So, why would McCoy have any better luck? That seems to be a huge issue. One of the problems Moats and Booker had was that neither back could prove they handle blocking on third down or passing situations. McCoy wasn't asked to block much at the University of Pittsburgh, so he'll have to show the coaches in training camp that he's not only a willing blocker, but that he can handle doing it when called upon. If he can, he'll win the No. 2 job easily. If he can't, you'll see the front office sign a veteran back. McCoy is probably the most skilled rookie back of this year's class, so the talent is there. He just has to show that he can handle any role that's thrown at him.

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