Where McNabb Will Go: The Breakdown

Donovan McNabb Flex

The speculation about where various Eagles QBs could end up never ends. Of course, that’s what we’re doing here. But ultimately some of the rumors make a lot more sense than others. There are certain scenarios where a player like Donovan McNabb is a great fit. There are places where Michael Vick fits. Mostly, however, those two groups of teams are completely separate. A team calling about McNabb isn’t looking for Vick, and vice versa — because they offer completely different things.

I will do another post on the situation for Vick in the next couple days, but there’s been some buzzing on the McNabb front, so we’ll start there — with what kind of team will be inquiring about Donovan, and then what specific teams fit that mold.

A team interested in #5 has to have these characteristics:

  1. A Contender: No rebuilding team will want a 33-year-old quarterback with one year left on his contract. They’d much rather draft a prospect and rebuild in the next 2-3 years. Acquiring Donovan is a move made for next year — sacrificing a relatively high draft pick for immediate performance.
  2. Have a Definite QB Need: If there’s still a large chance that the quarterback position will be fine, the team might inquire, but won’t really pursue McNabb.
  3. QB Must be the Last Piece of the Puzzle: A GM would have to be convinced that all the team is lacking for a playoff/Super Bowl run is a good QB calling the shots. No reason to go after McNabb if the rest of the team isn’t there. Think Vikings’ pursuit of Favre. Everything else was in place, and waiting for Tavaris to mature took too long.
  4. West Coast Offense: Unclear how much this is a factor. Adam Caplan and others have argued extensively that McNabb’s familiarity with the WCO limits his desirability, because he’ll have difficulty transitioning to any other system. I personally find it hard to believe, but certainly for any team that runs a WCO, this is a huge plus if they can get a guy like McNabb.
  5. Willing to Offer Extension: McNabb is looking for job security. He won’t be happy to play for a one year rental somewhere. And the team that trades a high pick for McNabb probably won’t want to risk losing him after a year either.
  6. Not a Definite Eagles Competitor: Andy Reid is quite simply going to ask a lot more from teams who the Eagles have to compete with. The game is all about relative gains, and trading McNabb a rival won’t help the Eagles’ chances. For example, McNabb’s not going to Washington. And while he could go to another NFC team, it would be much more expensive.

Okay, so let’s look at the teams McNabb’s been linked to, and how they fit this mold:

  • Minnesota Vikings: Certainly the Vikings are major contenders for McNabb after their performance this year with Brett Favre. If Favre were to retire Brad Childress would have to give his buddy Andy a call. The biggest question is though, when will Childress know that? If he’s content to sit back and wait for Favre’s answer, it probably won’t come until at least the start of training camp. That’s not going to be conducive to a trade. Plus, I’m sure Andy would rather not trade him to a big NFC competitor. This would have to be at least a #1 pick, and Childress would have to decide he doesn’t want to wait for Favre.
  • Arizona Cardinals: Similar situation to Minnesota, except they know that Warner is gone. That begs the question, is Lienart ready? Other than the West Coast Offense thing, McNabb looks like he’d fit right into the lineup with Fitz and Boldin. Again, there is the NFC contender issue to be sorted out.
  • San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers fit this mold very well. You’re talking about a team with good skill players, good defense, but hasn’t had a quarterback in about 7 or 8 years. Their pursuit of Kurt Warner last year shows you how close they think they are to contending. And with their flop with Alex Smith still haunting them, I doubt they want to try another spin of the prospect  wheel. I think Andy would also find this more palatable than sending him to an already Super Bowl-contending team. They might even take something less than a #1 from San Fran.
  • Oakland Raiders: All of this must be premised with the fact that Al Davis is a nut and could do anything. But I think Vick is much more likely here. McNabb could not overnight turn Oakland into a contender. There are still too many holes in that team. And there’s not a chance in hell Donovan will stick around to try to rebuild the black and silver. Also not sure Andy will feel comfortable shipping his QB off to someplace so crappy. That doesn’t seem like something you’d wish on a guy you mentored and owe so much to.
  • St. Louis Rams: This team is not a contender. They need all the draft picks they can get.
  • Cleveland Browns: See above.
  • Chicago Bears: Stop people. They are wedded to Jay Cutler.
  • Carolina Panthers: Not sure this is such a clear-cut rebuilding project as Rams or Browns. While starting over might be a good idea, John Fox won’t be the one doing it. To save his job and postpone that process he’s going to need a better season — not wait for some rookie to mature. McNabb could provide that (better than Matt Moore), chucking it to Steve Smith aka DeSean Jackson Sr.
  • Buffalo Bills: Similar to Panthers. Might be better to blow stuff up. Not sure they will.
  • [Updated] Denver Broncos: Not sure why I left the Broncos off this list. Josh McDaniels has already traded for one veteran QB, why not try again? If he could get a rookie, I think he’d prefer that though.

What all of this adds up to is that if I had to put money on McNabb’s final destination, it would be the 49ers. Their willingness to already pursue a similar solution in Warner makes sense. Meanwhile, Minnesota will wait for Favre and Arizona will give Lienart a chance. That’s just my analysis based on these criteria — and of course he might not get traded at all.  Feel free to sound off about what you agree or disagree about.