The Eagles must commit to one QB, and Vick is the only one that makes sense.
Imagine the pressure on Kolb if they let Vick walk. Reid has made it clear that he believes Vick is better. How do you sell your fans and other players the idea that Kolb has surpassed him? Having forced Vick on the fans when no one wanted him, it would be idiotic to deprive them of him now that he's won most of them over.
There is a risk to committing to Vick beyond the one-year franchise tag, but that's just part of what the Eagles got themselves into. All that lofty talk about redemption and second chances and the American way? It is time to back that up with a market offer for a Pro Bowl quarterback. If a gun goes off during the off-season, or if a random airport screening goes awry, well, that's the risk of doing business with Vick.
Do not underestimate how much players (and, significantly, agents) despise the franchise tag. It is an anachronism from the early days of free agency and is used essentially to punish a handful of players per year. The Eagles' experiences with it - Jeremiah Trotter, Corey Simon, L.J. Smith - have ranged from disastrous to ruinous to simply mystifying.
Vick does not have much of an argument if the Eagles decide to tag him. They gave him a second career. But Vick's bankruptcy issues, coupled with his dangerously reckless style of play, make a long-term commitment even more urgent for him.
It is the one position where the Eagles have avoided acrimony. They always made sure McNabb was well taken care of financially. When they decided to move on, they handed Kolb a rather enormous bonus before turning the reins over to him.
Having torn those reins right back out of his hands, the Eagles may be fooling themselves if they expect that $11.5 million to buy another season of cheerful patience from Kolb. He will be 27 when the 2011 season, his fifth in the NFL, begins (assuming it begins at all, of course).
By that age and service time, McNabb was taking the Eagles to their third consecutive conference championship game. Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick forced into action when Drew Bledsoe got hurt, already had won two Super Bowls. Brett Favre won a Super Bowl. Eli Manning won a Super Bowl.
This is the prime of Kolb's career. If he spends another season in dry dock, he runs a very real risk of becoming a career backup. That's fine if you're Jim Sorgi, who signed on to back up Eli Manning after five seasons behind his brother Peyton. It's fine if your ambition is to make a nice living without having to prove yourself one way or another as a football player.
Kolb handled his demotion as well as the Eagles could have hoped. The least they can do in return is give him an opportunity elsewhere. Given the market for QBs, and probable No. 1 pick Andrew Luck's decision to stay at Stanford, the Eagles should be able to get decent value for Kolb.
They need a QB in Carolina and Minnesota, where former Reid assistants Ron Rivera and Leslie Frazier just became head coaches. They need one in Cleveland, where Reid acolyte Pat Shurmur is a candidate. They need one in a half-dozen other places.
Trade Kolb. Find a veteran QB to serve as Vick's backup. There should be a bunch of them available in free agency. When there aren't enough No. 1 quarterbacks around, there are usually way too many No. 2s. Matt Moore, Alex Smith, Marc Bulger, Tarvaris Jackson, maybe even Matt Hasselbeck or Matt Leinart. Those names would make you cringe if your team needed a starter (hence the value of Kolb), but they're not bad if you're looking for a backup.
That's what the Eagles need to do: Name Vick the starter, find a new backup, and get started on the real work of fixing their defense.
Follow columnist Phil Sheridan on Twitter: @SheridanScribe. Read his blog at http:// go.philly.com/philabuster or his recent columns at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.