Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trading Kolb would tip Eagles' hand

Trading Kolb would tip Eagles' hand
Reid never would say that, especially not as the Eagles are trying to inflate the trade market for the athlete who went from face of the franchise to Michael Vick's caddie in the time it took Clay Matthews to burst into the Philadelphia backfield during the 2010 season opener.

But if the Eagles trade Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals, that's exactly what their head coach will be saying.

Trading Kolb to the Cardinals for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second- or third-round pick makes sense for the Eagles on a couple of levels. They would address one of their biggest needs on defense with a talented, experienced veteran - although the light-hitting combination of Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel might work a lot better in 7-on-7 drills than in tackle football - while adding a chip for future play in a high draft choice.

But it makes no sense if Kolb is on the brink of becoming a terrific NFL quarterback.

If Kolb is the next Jake Delhomme or Jay Cutler, OK.

If Kolb is the next Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, not OK.

Obviously, there's no way for the Eagles to know for sure. But after drafting Kolb in 2007, after watching him during minicamps and training camps and breaking down his performance in several starting assignments, Reid is the world's foremost expert on the young quarterback's capabilities.

Think back to April 4, 2010. Remember when the Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins and anointed Kolb as their starting quarterback?

They were saying a couple of things that day, at least one of which turned out to be true.

One was that Kolb was their quarterback of the present and the future. All right, so they kind of changed their mind on that.

But the other thing they were saying was that McNabb was done.

Why else trade him within the division? Why else ask your defense to contain him twice a season? Why risk the repercussions?

Fast forward to today and speculation that the Eagles' first order of business upon the end of the NFL lockout will be to trade Kolb.

Arizona isn't an NFC East team, but the Cardinals are an NFC rival. The Cardinals beat the Eagles in the NFC title game after the 2008 season, and won another playoff game after the 2009 season.

Yes, Ken Whisenhunt's team slumped badly in 2010. Yes, they were 5-11 in a wretched division.

But that was mainly because of injuries and the struggles of Derek Anderson, whose 65.9 passer rating was worse than every NFL starting quarterback not named Jimmy Clausen.

Put a talented, charismatic young quarterback in charge of that team - you know, precisely the Eagles' description of Kevin Kolb 11 months ago - and maybe that's another serious Super Bowl contender in a conference with the last two defending champions in the Packers and Saints as well as rising young powers such as the Falcons and Bucs.

The Eagles have to trade Kolb. They're all-in with Vick - at their own considerable risk, given the quarterback's steep second-half decline last season - and it makes zero sense to let Kolb walk away as a free agent in 2012.

But there are AFC teams - Tennessee, Cleveland, maybe Cincinnati - who could be in the market for a quarterback. There are ways to keep from strengthening conference rivals.

The real question is whether the Eagles will be trading the exciting young quarterback whose promise was featured in those back-to-back, 300-yard games in his first two career starts in 2009 and that clinically precise performance - 23 for 29, 326 yards, three TDs in that rout of the Falcons last season - or the future middle-of-the-pack guy who labored in the last season's opener before Matthews' concussive sack and looked shaky again in losses to Tennessee and Dallas.

Nobody is better prepared to answer that question than Reid, and he's not saying.

But he'll provide a big hint: Kolb's destination.

If the Eagles trade a 26-year-old quarterback to Arizona, they're saying he's just another guy. They're saying they don't believe he'll be back to bite them. And they're saying it loud and clear.

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