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McNabb to be Traded?

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Recent NFL insider reports have the Buffalo Bills in pursuit of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb…and the Oakland Raiders in hotter pursuit.

The interest in McNabb is the top story of the NFL offseason.  Surprising?  Hardly.  Jay Cutler’s insubordination and subsequent trade was surprising.  McNabb has little value to the Philadelphia Eagles offense, and whatever value he does have is negated by the fact that he’s blocking Kevin Kolb from getting onto the field.  A McNabb deal was inevitable.  Still, there are elements of this deal that are surprising:

1) The Eagles are still trying to leverage McNabb’s name brand into a relatively high draft choice compensation.  2) Teams are biting, despite the fact that this next year plus of McNabb’s career can’t be worth too much more than a fourth round pick.  3)  These teams are nowhere near the kind of teams that could use McNabb’s services.

Of course, the “team that is only a quarterback away from the Super Bowl” is usually a strawman.  The 2008 Panthers were a good example of this kind of team, but no one realized it until it was too late.  Everyone thought the 2008 Vikings just needed a quarterback, but they also needed a competent receiving corps and someone who could block for this quarterback and Adrian Peterson.  Minnesota added Brett Favre, and even got a breakout from Sidney Rice (some would argue this was because of Favre, but I believe it was primarily coincidental), still couldn’t protect the passer, and only won one playoff game.  At least they didn’t go backwards.

So yeah, the team that could use Donovan McNabb likely has no idea yet that they need him.  Which is why his top suitors, the ones that will meet the Eagles asking price, are organizations that haven’t a clue what they are doing.

In an optimal situation, 34 year old quarterbacks aren’t finished.  Steve McNair proved as much by having a great 2006 season on a Ravens team that went 13-3.  But sub-optimal organizations can age their players at a much higher rate.  This means that, there’s almost no point to acquiring McNabb in a trade–and only a few teams would benefit from making a play on him if he was relased.

It’s always tough to realize the exact point at which a once great player loses his value and becomes just another guy, but credit the Eagles for internally researching the problem that they will obviously have with McNabb in the future and trying to get value for him while they still can.  With that said, the least they should do for McNabb is giving him the dignity of not being traded to Oakland (or, really, Buffalo) and going from being a staple of an organization to kind of a punch line in his last few years.  The Eagles are clearly doing right by themselves, but now they need to do right by McNabb in these trade talks.

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