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Thursday, March 25, 2010
Did Reid make the right pitch?

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Donovan McNabb
Might quarterback Donovan McNabb be on the move? The Eagles are said to be entertaining offers.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- If you were hoping the Donovan McNabb era would officially end in Philadelphia, Tuesday and Wednesday provided watershed moments. Andy Reid, perhaps McNabb’s biggest defender, said he’s all ears if someone wants to trade for the veteran quarterback.

Reid’s statement after the season that McNabb would be his starting quarterback in 2010 was left dangling in the wind, although we’re reviewing tapes to see if his fingers were crossed. I’ve had the sense for the past two months that club president Joe Banner and new general manager Howie Roseman were leaning toward moving McNabb, but it was hard to imagine Reid getting on board.

On Tuesday in a Ritz-Carlton restaurant, Reid sounded the retreat. He told a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist the Eagles were “entertaining” offers on all three quarterbacks, but McNabb was obviously the headliner. Despite the infamous ’08 benching in Baltimore, Reid and McNabb have remained close over the past decade. But apparently someone in the building has convinced Reid that he should at least be open to the idea of moving McNabb while he still holds some trade value.

On Tuesday afternoon, while other head coaches rushed off to tee times, I saw Reid, owner Jeff Lurie, Banner and Roseman huddle for several minutes in a breezeway outside the hotel. About 30 minutes later, Reid was uncharacteristically spilling his guts to a Philadelphia newspaper. At 7 o'clock the next morning, Reid attempted to temper some of his remarks.

“I'm listening," said Reid. "I'm not saying I'm doing anything, but I'm keeping my ears open, which we do on every player. This is no different. ... I mean, Donovan's our No. 1 quarterback, and Kevin [Kolb]'s our No. 2 quarterback, and Michael [Vick]'s our No. 3 quarterback. That's how I feel.”

So this is no different than, say, trading for linebacker Will Witherspoon during the regular season? No, this is way different than any trade Reid’s been involved with. He’s openly admitting that the one player his coaching career is most intertwined with is being shopped. And the point that some folks are missing is that Reid’s also showing immense trust that the 25-year-old Kolb can hit the ground running as the franchise quarterback. (Try not to think about the fact the Eagles will enter 2010 with major questions at center and right guard, Kevin.)

According to the Inquirer’s report Tuesday, the Eagles have lowered their asking price for McNabb and are now willing to settle for a second-round pick for the veteran quarterback. At least one report surfaced Wednesday that the Rams had offered the No. 33 overall pick in next month’s draft for McNabb, but St. Louis immediately denied it was true.

With the draft approaching, obviously the Eagles’ intention was to let teams know they’re serious about dealing McNabb. On the surface, it seems like all this eagerness on the part of the Eagles might actually drive down McNabb’s value. If the man who's viewed as McNabb’s biggest ally in the organization is suddenly listening to offers, teams have to wonder why he made that leap.

Kevin Kolb
Kevin Kolb has completed 79 passes for 885 yards and four touchdowns since entering the league in 2007.
Reid, a believer in the Tommy Bahama spring collection, is the opposite of the trimmed-down Rex Ryan when it comes to providing memorable quotes. But the Eagles' coach emerged as perhaps the most compelling figure of the owners meetings. I’m sure he didn’t particularly enjoy delivering the message that his quarterback was available, but he was the right man for the job. Reid would’ve come across as incredibly weak had this task been left up to Joe Banner C.P.A. or the young Roseman.

In a high-stakes poker game like this, Reid can’t afford to let his affection for McNabb to get in the way. The Eagles have never been shy about saying goodbye to veterans, but McNabb’s in a different category. If the Eagles are truly thinking about turning the page at quarterback, there’s not a moment to waste.

They believe Kolb is the future of the franchise -- and they don’t want to wait until he’s in his 30s to hand over the keys. To those of us from other locales, it’s hard to grasp the fatigue that Philadelphia fans have with McNabb. But the reality is that Eagles fans would probably prefer to take their lumps for one or two seasons with Kolb rather than knock on the door of another Super Bowl with McNabb.

So now we must figure out possible landing spots for McNabb. Until Reid made his comments this week, that seemed like a waste of time. Now there’s a real sense a trade could take place. The Rams could offer a high second-round pick. It would be a much safer (and less expensive) decision than taking Sam Bradford at No. 1 overall and guaranteeing him somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million. With McNabb in the fold, the Rams could select one of the top two defensive tackles in the draft.

Of course, McNabb would have to agree to an extension for a deal like that to make sense. The Eagles aren’t going to land a second-round pick in a one-year rental trade. I’m sure they’re hoping that a team such as the 49ers or Cardinals will make a play for McNabb.

With so many players leaving or being traded from the Cardinals, a trade for McNabb probably would lift the spirits of fans. The Eagles probably hoped to handle this behind closed doors, but they realized this week that a more aggressive approach was in order.

Now we’ll see if the strategy works.