The career arc of Michael Dwayne Vick is akin to the scariest roller coaster of which you used to dream as a young girl or boy — a series of sky-scraping peaks, each followed by a calamitous crash back down to earth at rocket speeds.
Vick enters the 2014 offseason as a free agent, the second time in his career he’s held that designation. PFR’s Luke Adams lists Vick, along with Chad Henne, Matt Cassel and Josh McCown, as the only first tier free agent quarterbacks. Rarely does a franchise quarterback make it to free agency.
His story is well told. The No. 1 overall pick in 2001 from Virginia Tech, Vick transcended the quarterback position. While not the most efficient or accomplished passer, his athleticism forced defenses to scheme for both his arm and his legs. He made the Pro Bowl in three of his six years in Atlanta, becoming the first QB to rush for 1,000 yards in 2006, though the Falcons missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
Then, Vick became a convicted felon and spent 548 days in prison.
Upon his release, a number of teams came out and, for one reason or another, publicly stated their disinterest in signing Vick. But the Eagles, lobbied by then-starting QB Donovan McNabb and looking to add a dynamic element to their offense, signed Vick to a modest two-year contract.
Vick played sparingly in 2009 as McNabb’s backup, then looked to back up Kevin Kolb in 2010 until an injury Week One sidelined McNabb’s heir apparent. The next 15 weeks were the best football Vick has ever played, finally becoming the efficient passer that had eluded him during his days in Atlanta, setting career-bests in completion percentage and passer rating.
But, as has been the case so many times with Vick, it came down to his (in)ability to stay on the field. Injuries forced him to the bench in each of the following three seasons, and he was kept there in 2013 by the stellar play of second-year passer Nick Foles.
In Vick’s favor is the improvement he showed in Philadelphia, making strides in every passing metric. Now we’ll see how much the rest of the league thinks of him.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported last month that the Buccaneers and Jets are likely to have some level of interest in Vick. The Jets offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, worked with Vick in Philadelphia as the Eagles OC from 2009-’12.
However, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported that a reunion between Vick and Mornhinweg is not likely, despite the obvious connection. Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times says the Bucs need to take some chances and implores the team to sign Vick.
Vick, who turns 34 this summer, told Dan Handuz of NFL.com that he’ll “absolutely” be starting Week One next season. If his market isn’t what he thinks it will be, the Bengals would be a potential suitor — they offered Vick a two-year deal worth about $2.3MM in 2009, according to FOXSports.com.
At this stage in his career, Vick is likely still one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the world. But, teams will be wary of making a substantial financial investment in an aging veteran who has only played all 16 games once in his 11 season. Thanks to a weak free agent QB crop, though, he’ll likely get a shot to at least compete for the starting job, and we may get to watch the “Michael Vick Experience” once again.