Michael Vick is a free man.
So if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell allows him to play again, what do teams have to consider before signing him?
1. How Good Is Vick?
This is obviously the first question.
You’d assume the 29-year-old Vick would be a bit rusty having not played in two seasons, but an interested team has to figure out how soon he can possibly be a starter. This is important because, given all the stir Vick will cause, he has to start in order to be worth the investment.
2. How long will the suspension be?
If a team thinks he can play right away, realize that right away could mean after he serves some sort of suspension that could go for say, four to six games. The suspension itself might go too far into the season for a team to want to take the chance. Keep in mind that if no team commits by the beginning of September, Vick himself might have to jump to the new UFL, whose season starts Oct. 8. Vick’s rights are already assigned to the Orlando team.
3. Will Vick pay for himself?
Vick has played six seasons, so a team could pay him as low as the league minimum, which would be $620,000. That’s a pretty low starting point considering that the last time he played in the league in 2006 he was pulling in $875,000 per game. Vick can potentially pay for himself if he plays and plays well. The biggest effect Vick will have would be at the gate. Assuming that a team that will take him is most likely a struggling team and most likely not among the league’s best in attendance, Vick could have a chance to be worth it from a financial standpoint. I also don’t want to overplay Vick’s potential impact. If he’s not good and the team isn’t good, there’s really no appeal in him.
4. What’s the economic downside of taking Vick?
Plenty has been mentioned about the fact that signing Vick would lead to lost season ticket holders and sponsorship revenue. The amount of fans who will give up their football in protest would be small when compared to the amount of people who would come to the game out of curiosity –- at least for the first couple weeks if Vick starts. Losing sponsors isn’t a given. I’m betting that Vick will be required by both the NFL and the team that signs him to perform a massive schedule of mandatory community outreach programs that will befriend every possible group that could protest. Some of these appearances could probably be tied in with sponsors should they choose to associate themselves with the outreach to give the appearance that they are not avoiding the issue. The bottom line is that if Vick isn’t seen as genuinely repentant about what he did, the backlash will continue no matter what measures are taken.
5. Is there a natural market for Vick to land?
That’s like asking if there’s a natural market where people are more lenient to dog abuse. Teams that have the most upside from this perspective are the teams that have the most tickets to sell –- Buffalo, New Orleans, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa Bay and San Francisco, to name a few. But ESPN’s John Clayton said on ESPN Radio this morning that the Saints, Seahawks, Buccaneers and 49ers won’t take him. Clayton also mentioned the Rams, Patriots and the Raiders wouldn’t take Vick. Meanwhile, the Giants and Jets also said they wouldn’t be in the market and the Falcons sure aren’t going to come back. Take out all the teams that are secure in the QB situation and you can see why Vick might have a problem. The new UFL is obviously the natural place for Vick to stop since he’s almost a no-risk proposition for them. They will likely pay Vick $60,000 for a six-week season and don’t really have much brand equity to lose.
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