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Philadelphia not Vick’s first choice — did the NFL push him that way?

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After he served 18 months in a Kansas federal prison for the dogfighting we referenced in a post Wednesday evening, current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick(notes) was reinstated to the NFL by commissioner Roger Goodell in July of 2009.

One month later, Vick signed a one-year deal with an option for a second year with the Eagles. He sat most of the 2009 season, getting back into the swing of things in 2010 when he became a new, better version of the scattershot Vick he had been with the Atlanta Falcons. Head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg did a brilliant job of merging Vick's read-option tendencies with their own preferences for a vertical West Coast offense. He was the Comeback Player of the Year in 2010 after completing 233 passes in 372 attempts for 3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in just 12 games.

However, as it turns out, Vick didn't see Philly as the most exciting choice. Turns out he had a little help in the decision-making process, and he talked about it in the same controversial GQ article that had his quotes about his dogfighting past:

"I think I can say this now, because it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings, and it's the truth... I didn't want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options."

Those two teams wanted him and would've allowed him to start, but after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and other reps from the NFL, Vick was convinced—and granted league approval—to sign with Philly. "And I commend and thank them, because they put me in the right situation [emphasis ours]."

Well, isn't THAT a fine howdy-do. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello sent this statement to Pro Football Talk on Thursday afternoon:

Michael Vick's decision on where to play to put himself in the best position to succeed was entirely his own. Commissioner Goodell obviously met and spoke to Michael and his representatives as part of his decision on whether to reinstate Michael and on what terms.  But the Commissioner would never steer players to or away from particular teams and did not do so in this case.

Vick offered his own clarification Thursday morning:

I felt it was necessary to put out a statement today clarifying the article in GQ Magazine. I did speak with many people, but the decision to sign in Philadelphia was based on my discussions with my agent, my family and with Coach Reid. And after those discussions, it became clear to me that this was the place I wanted to play and resume my NFL career. The Commissioner never told me to sign or not sign with particular teams. Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that this was a decision I made and, as I have said numerous times before, I'm very happy with the way it has worked out for me and my family.

Goodell had better hope it's as clean as it's portrayed. I'm pretty sure there are some people at the NFLPA who might be interested in a little concept known as "collusion." Former first-tier star gets a one-year deal with a club option? It would be very interesting to know what the Bengals or Bills might have offered. Cincinnati actually did offer a two-year, $2.3 million deal, and what the Eagles gave was more incentive-laden -- $1.6 million with that second-year option at $5.2. The Eagles got a huge bargain for Vick's productivity in 2010, and they placed the franchise tag on him for the 2011 season — a move that guarantees Vick $15.975 million.

That's all well and good, but the fact that Vick is now making so much really isn't the point. The point is that free agency, and the elimination of collusion and the reserve clause, is supposed to guarantee the right of any player not under contract to a current team to seek the best situation — and, if applicable, the highest bidder — of his own volition.

It still looks as if Goodell, Vick's mentor Tony Dungy, and the Eagles organization were involved in a bit of a tag-team. On Thursday morning's "Dan Patrick Show," Dungy came right out and said that he told Vick to go to Philadelphia. That would have been all well and good if Dungy was just a friend or informal advisor. But as Dungy was asked by the league to act in an advisory capacity, and understanding that there was a pull toward a certain team, the lines begin to blur.

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