Yesterday, Philadelphia Sports Daily had an interesting interview with Quintin Mikell, in which the veteran safety and Eagles defensive leader spoke about the uncertain position the team has left him in as a free agent. Mikell hopes to resign with Philadelphia, but isn't sure if the team wants him back.
If the Eagles don't lock up a player long-term prior to them hitting the market, the player typically doesn't return. This is especially true of players on the wrong side of 30, who the team would rather replace with younger, less expensive talent. Given that the Eagles already have two young safeties who played admirably in 2010 -- soon-to-be second year players Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman -- and apparently haven't talked to Mikell about an extension already, fans should assume the worst.
Yet not all older free agents are equal, and a number of factors suggest that letting Mikell walk would be a mistake. I talked about some of these issues last August when I predicted that the Eagles would probably negotiate a contract extension with Mikell. Although those reasons clearly weren't enough to convince the Eagles during the season, I still think they should bring their starting strong safety back.
First of all, Mikell's only 30 years old, which isn't bad, at least for a safety. While he's one of the elder statesmen on the team, plenty of defensive backs around the league have productive seasons after the age of 30. Last year, for example, 23 such cornerbacks and safeties started at least 10 games for their teams. It will be tough for him to still be playing when he's Brian Dawkins's age (37), but Mikell should have at least two more good seasons left in him -- especially since he didn't become a starter until he was 27.
I also mentioned last year that Mikell likely won't need to be given a big-time contract extension. Mikell's recent quotes suggest that he's willing to take a hometown discount out of loyalty. Plus, despite his one Pro Bowl selection, he isn't considered a star by anyone around the league.
Finally, while Mikell may not be absolutely necessary anymore with the emergence of the younger players, he would provide a important stability to the defensive backfield. Allen is coming off a season-ending torn patellar tendon injury and Coleman has only three career starts under his belt. You can't count on either of them to step up as bona fide starters for 2011 and beyond. With that in mind, why not solidify that spot for the next two years with a relatively inexpensive Pro Bowler?
As I said at the beginning, I think the signs pointing to Mikell starting in a different uniform next year are too strong to overcome. His age doesn't fit with general youth movement on the defense, which is getting retooled schematically anyway. And if Joe Banner and company haven't reached out to Mikell by now, they probably never will.
Still, there's always hope.