How Eagles handle quarterback situation could affect entire league

It could be argued that no team in the NFL is in a better quarterbacking place than the Philadelphia Eagles.

That isn't to say that they have the best quarterback. The Indianapolis Colts (Peyton Manning) and New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees) are the obvious conversation-starters for that distinction, with the New England Patriots (Tom Brady) not far behind.

By quarterbacking place, we're talking about the Eagles having such exceptional depth at the position, something the Colts, Saints, Patriots, and pretty much every other team in the league don't have. They're positioned to potentially impact the quarterback futures of multiple clubs, beginning with their own.

It's hardly an exaggeration to say that how the Eagles address their Donovan McNabb/Kevin Kolb/Michael Vick quarterback glut is among the league's most anticipated decisions of the offseason. To what extent they do so is anyone's guess, but it's reasonable to assume that there will be movement of some kind. Such movement could quite possibly bring dramatic change to another team's fortunes while even affecting the competitive balance of one or more divisions.

Although coach Andy Reid said after the season that McNabb would return as the starting quarterback, the Eagles have not completely closed the door on parting ways with the long-time face of their franchise. Reid and club president Joe Banner have both mentioned that McNabb's status was part of their overall review and decision-making process for the future. A key topic in their discussions no doubt is the $6.2 million roster bonus that McNabb is due to receive by May 5.

But even more important than their words is their action, or lack thereof, regarding McNabb's contract. He is currently signed through 2010. There is sentiment among some team executives and NFL player agents that the longer the offseason goes without him receiving an extension, the greater the chances that he could be traded.

The Eagles are seemingly comfortable with turning the starting job over to Kolb, who also has one year left on his contract and figures to be in line for an extension. Kolb, who made franchise history by throwing for 300 yards in each of his first two career starts last season, was drafted in the second round in 2007 as an eventual replacement for McNabb. If McNabb's deal were to be extended, that could lead to Kolb being traded, although that wouldn't seem to make much sense given his youth and potential to become a premier player.

The list of logical landing spots for one or more of the Philadelphia quarterbacks includes the Cleveland Browns (who lack a consistently effective starter and whose new general manager, Tom Heckert, is the Eagles' former GM), Buffalo Bills (who don't have a proven starter) and the St. Louis Rams (who appear ready to turn the page on the Marc Bulger era).

Another club that is at least keeping an eye on the Eagles' quarterback situation is the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings hope that Brett Favre returns to them for a second season, but he could easily string them along through the summer, just as he did before emerging from another retirement to sign a two-year contract with them last August. That could very well stretch beyond the deadline for payment of McNabb's roster bonus, but the Eagles could see that as a worthwhile investment if they're able to get the price they would likely seek for an accomplished starting quarterback: A first-round draft pick.

New Bills coach Chan Gailey has made no secret about his desire to obtain a veteran quarterback, but sources close to the team say that the Bills are not interested in giving up a first-round pick to get one. That would figure to rule out McNabb. The price for Kolb and Vick is less certain, although there is no indication that any club is interested in trading a high pick for either.

There had been speculation that the Eagles would try to move Vick by the first week of the league's business year, which begins March 5, in order to avoid paying him a $1.5 million roster bonus. However, NFL sources say that because the Eagles have yet to receive anything more than an offer of a late-round draft pick, they appear willing to make the payment and then possibly deal Vick at a later date, perhaps as late as preseason when a desperate trading partner could emerge.

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For now, the hottest suitor for Vick seems to be the Rams. However, NFL sources say that, with no competition, they're not willing to offer anything more than a late-round choice.

The Eagles could do worse than keep McNabb, even though he is an easy target of a frustrated fan base for their back-to-back lopsided losses to the Dallas Cowboys, the second of which came in the playoffs.

But with McNabb approaching his 34th birthday, the Eagles have to be looking at their long-term future. Although going with Kolb is a risk, it does give them the chance to remain strong offensively while addressing other need areas from what they might get from trading McNabb and/or Vick.

Meanwhile, teams such as the Browns, Bills, and/or Rams could suddenly make a significant competitive leap. Or maybe the Vikings would have a more viable alternative should Favre finally decide to call it quits.

All of which reinforces the notion that the Eagles could very well have plenty to say about multiple quarterbacking situations beyond their own.

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