That decision won't come till summer, but if Vick, who is nearing the end of a 23-month prison sentence in connection with dog-fighting, is allowed to return to the league, he'll almost certainly have suitors. And the Oakland Tribune's Jerry McDonald thinks that, under the right circumstances, he could be a good fit for the Raiders.
This isn't the first time I've heard this suggestion; last November, the Tribune's Monte Poole put forth the idea. And I promptly skewered him for it. Maybe time and the realization that Vick -- not yet 30 -- should be afforded the opportunity to right past wrongs have caused me to soften my stance.
Or maybe it's something much less philosophical: McDonald, in making his case, leads with this sobering reminder: "Unless you're comfortable with the idea of Bruce Gradkowski and Andrew Walter battling it out on the depth chart behind JaMarcus Russell, the Raiders should pursue Vick..."
McDonald immediately qualifies the circumstances under which Vick could work in Oakland, but by that point it's too late; you're already thinking about how an inept Raiders offense could become even more so if, God forbid, Russell suffered an injury. And maybe that's why the front office is currently negotiating with Jeff Garcia.
Whether Garcia is signed doesn't change Vick's potential role with the team, at least as McDonald explains it.
1: That Vick agrees to a one- or two-year contract at a salary near the NFL minimum.I don't disagree with any of this, although I wonder if there will be sufficient competition for Vick's services that precludes a team from landing him on the cheap. That aside, Vick's NFL future -- assuming it exists -- will have to be as an Antwaan Randle El or Devin Hester type; the only way he'll consistently line up under center is if the starter (and maybe the backup) are injured, or if he's running the scout team. But as the Wildcat grows in popularity -- and until some clever defensive coach devises a scheme to render it ineffective -- Vick will have value.
2: That Vick understands he has no chance to be the starting quarterback in 2009 unless Russell is injured.
3: That Vick is agreeable to being used creatively on offense in any way the offensive braintrust of Tom Cable, Ted Tollner and Paul Hackett sees fit.
Ultimately, though, his future rests with Goodell. If the NFL commissioner who has taken a hard line on player misconduct in the past -- and has worked feverishly to avoid any negative press (with varying degrees of success, it should be noted) -- decides to give Vick another chance to earn millions, there will be a public outcry.
But as McDonald writes, "As sick and disgusting as Vick's dogfighting enterprise was, he has served 23 months in prison. If Leonard Little can play in the NFL and Pacman Jones can get repeated chances, it's hard to make a case for keeping out Vick."
It's a fair point (Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin sounded a similar tone), although the brutality of Vick's crimes will make it hard for most people to get past them. Most people without something to gain, anyway.