What Draft Pick Makes the Michael Vick Project a Success?

Michael Vick running

Go read BountyBowl’s piece up on Igglesblog. It details the organizational benefits the Eagles got out of the Michael Vick experiment in grandiose fashion.

Bounty chronicles how the Eagles earned some goodwill from the league office, NFL players, and… ok, maybe not PETA. These are all positive, if less-than-concrete benefits. But the question he never addressed was one which is a little more bottom line: how much can the Eagles get in return for Vick? And what kind of draft pick makes taking him on worth it? Without knowing that, it is hard to say that taking the jailed QB in was the right move.

I suppose the first thing to acknowledge is that getting anything for Vick is good. It would be stupid for the Eagles to just drop him before his roster bonus is due March 5th and get no compensation — especially since he clearly has some value for a number of teams. Even a 6th rounder is better than nothing.

But just a late round pick isn’t worth very much. Keep in mind the most production a 6th or 7th rounder has given the Eagles is Joe Mays. Not exactly a high ceiling.

But the Eagles aren’t going to get some high pick for Vick. A guy who hasn’t started in 3 years isn’t worth very much — especially when everyone knows the team has to dump him soon.

The most logical asking price for a risky proposition like Vick is a conditional mid-round pick in 2011 that is contingent on his play next year. Let’s look at some recent conditional deals:

  • Brett Favre, Green Bay to NY Jets: This conditional pick started with a 4th rounder, became a 3rd if Favre played over 50% of the snaps (he did), a 2nd if he played 70% of the time and the Jets made the playoffs, and a 1st if he was in 80% and the Jets won it all.
  • Lito Sheppard, Philadelphia to NY Jets: Details are a little hazy on this one, but the Eagles got a 5th round pick last year, plus a 4th in this coming draft, conditional on Lito making certain playing time requirements (he did). It could have bumped up to a 2nd had he played more and received a contract extension.
  • Jonathan Vilma, NY Jets to New Orleans: Similar to Lito’s trade in that it required picks over multiple years. The Saints traded NY their 2008 4th round pick up front, and another conditional 4th in 2009. Based on playing time again, the pick was bumped up to a 3rd in 2009 — it could have been a 2nd if he resigned with the Saints before free agency began. However, with the bump up to a 3rd, the Jets traded a 4th in 2009 back to the New Orleans — essentially offsetting the first 2008 4th NY got for Vilma.
  • Trent Green, Miami to Kansas City: Conditional 5th to the Dolphins in 2008 could have been a 4th if he had reached certain playing time and performance levels.

This short list hopefully gives you some idea of the various structures involved in conditional picks trades. The escalators almost always involve some combination of playing time, performance goals, and a new contract.

It is impossible to figure out what the Eagles might be able to get for Vick, because it all depends on the level of interst. I’d be surprised if they had to drop him, but pretty much anything else is possible.

However, if I was going to construct the “most likely” trade scenario (which is mostly a shot in the dark) it would look something like a combination of the previous examples:

  • 5th round pick in 2010 NFL draft.
  • Conditional pick in 2011. 5th if Vick takes at least 50% of starts. 4th if at least 70% of starts. 3rd if 80% of starts and Vick is resigned before free agency begins.

Again this is largely a stab in the dark. Criticisms (too much, too little) are welcome. Maybe there’s only a conditional pick and nothing for this year. Maybe the conditional will be better or worse. But I think a deal like this makes sense, and would ultimately be the final piece in earning the Vick experiment a successful grade.