Would Eagles Proceed with Vick Beyond 2010?

Would Eagles Proceed with Vick Beyond 2010?

Some weeks there just isn't much to say about the game. The Eagles dominated a listless Jaguars squad in every phase of the game on Sunday. The defense limited Jacksonville's only legitimate weapon, allowing the front four to tee off on the quarterback, while Michael Vick played mistake-free football, only taking the big plays that were there to be made. The result was never in doubt.

We're not going to learn a whole lot about the Eagles from dissecting this one. The fact is they should have won with ease, and did. Vick is supposed perform against defenses that don't have the personnel to cover his array of weapons, much less pin him down. This week will serve as a better example of his progress as an NFL quarterback.

Until then, let's humor the Vick crowd.

Michael Vick just played, in my opinion, his best game of the season so far. His completion percentage wasn't as high this week as the previous two, which might be a warning he will regress closer to his career average in that department. However, he seemed much more decisive with the football. He got rid of the rock faster, and he was willing to turn it loose down the field when the match-ups dictated he take a shot. There were no turnovers, nor was he ever really in danger of coughing it up.

Again, this is the Jaguars we're talking about, so we probably shouldn't get too excited. Still, with the exception of a handful of harmless incompletions, Vick appeared to have come a long way as a passer in a relatively short timespan. If this trend continues—a big if—how does that impact the state of the Eagles' quarterback situation for the future?

It may seem like a stupid question, but even if Vick sustains a Pro Bowl level of production throughout the course of the season, there is an inherent risk in giving him a long term contract. For starters, the man remains on probation. As we witnessed during the off-season after a shooting took place at his birthday party, even the slightest involvement by Vick in criminal activity will prompt an investigation, and could easily land him back in prison, or at least suspended by the league.

Had his role in a despicable dog fighting ring been the extent of the quarterback's wrong-doing through the years, this might not be as much of a cause for concern. Unfortunately, Vick has turned up on the wrong side of the law with some frequency. There's no reason to draft a list in this space, but those incidents, although in the past and many of them alleged, can't be treated as irrelevant or like they never happened at all.

Do I believe Michael Vick is a changed man? That's not really important. The reality of his situation is it only takes one miscue before he has everything taken back: one drink too many before getting behind the wheel of a car; one joint or dime bag left lying around; one physical altercation. These are not a stretch for any professional athlete, much less Vick. The difference is he might not get another second chance.

What's the back-up plan then?

The Eagles are walking a thin line with Vick. Kevin Kolb was either going to be a good NFL quarterback, or he wasn't, and the front office would simply move forward as everything unfolded.

If Vick continues to shred opposing defenses the way he did in Detroit and Jacksonville, can the Eagles make a commitment to an athlete with a sordid past at one of the most important positions in professional sports?

Conventional wisdom seems to scream, "No," but I think we may be way beyond that.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.