He may not think highly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Dennis Dixon owes them for the longevity his career has seen so far, and whatever his future may hold in store for him.
After refusing to re-sign with Pittsburgh after becoming a free agent because he wanted an opportunity to start, Dixon found no suitors. The Baltimore Ravens later signed him to their practice squad, where he has remained ever since. According to CSNPhilly.com, Dixon's career may be about to get a reboot with the Philadelphia Eagles, including the chance to start he had always wanted.
The Steelers selected Dixon, the former quarterback of the Oregon Ducks under new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, in the fifth-round of the 2008 draft with the 156th overall pick. Dixon excelled in Kelly's offensive system due to his athleticism and passing accuracy. He was a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender in 2007, before blowing out his knee and deflating his draft stock.
Dixon intended to become a starting quarterback, the same goal of every passer given the opportunity to play in the NFL. Bursting his bubble was big Ben Roethlisberger, the franchise Super-Bowl winning QB welded to the top spot on the depth chart. Dixon had impressed the coaches enough to lock down a backup role beside Charlie Batch; however, he became claustrophobic trapped inside the vacuum created by a future Hall-of-Fame passer.
When Dixon finally became a free agent, he found out he had no better shot with any other team. In September of 2012, the Baltimore Ravens offered him a spot on their practice squad, which he accepted. He was released on the seventh of November, but re-signed to the practice squad again on the 13th - coincidentally the day after Roethlisberger suffered his unique injury against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10.
Rumors speculated Pittsburgh might have wanted to sign him away from Baltimore to help fill the void, but Dixon shot down any such notions declaring he was happy with the Ravens and had no interest in returning to the Steelers.
Even though he continued to act like a tool toward the Steelers organization, he actually became a valuable tool for the Ravens. With the emergence of offensive success behind athletically-based quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Super Bowl XLVII contestant Colin Kaepernick, Dixon became the crash-test-dummy for Baltimore's defense as they prepared to face such opponents. As teams around the league contemplate participating in this latest trend, Dixon's name has begun to resurface as the modern option schemes play to his skill set, as he has exhibited in Ravens practices.
Philadelphia had already been working on a similar transformation for the past few seasons, after jettisoning former QB Donovan McNabb for Michael Vick, who had signed with the Eagles as a backup after serving jail time for dog fighting charges. Vick has always been a unique individual among a myriad of prototypical passers, and Andy Reid saw potential for his personal brand of the West Coast offense modified toward Vick's strong suits.
The Vick experiment did not achieve the desired results Philadelphia's imagination had advertised, nor did most of their free-agent free-for-all as they attempted to assemble a dream team which turned out more like a nightmare. Offensively, turnovers and injuries suffocated any chance for progress. After winning only four games in 2012, Eagles ownership felt it was time to head in a new direction, firing Reid - who has since landed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
To replace Reid, the Eagles made the necessary moves to eventually land Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who intends to run a form of his collegiate offense in the pros. The organization is dissatisfied with Vick as their starter, and may be looking to sever ties following the Super Bowl. Rookie Nick Foles could become trade bait after displaying proper progress in relief of an injured Vick. Should the Eagles find themselves in need of new QBs this off-season, Dixon's name is likely to be at the top of the list.
Practice squad players under contract with playoff teams are prohibited from signing with other clubs until their current team has been eliminated. Dixon is assuredly getting plenty of action now as the Ravens prepare to take on Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers for the NFL championship; however, Baltimore is expected to retain their starter Joe Flacco should they be able to reach an agreement during contract negotiations, leaving little hope for any promotions higher than a backup for Dixon.
If Kelly reaches out for Dixon immediately following the Super Bowl, he is virtually guaranteed an opportunity to compete for the starting gig. Kelly has no ties to Vick or Foles, as did Reid. If Kelly truly wishes to run his own scheme, a guy with proven experience in its operation would have a definite advantage over any incumbents or other free-agency acquisitions.
Dixon may have chosen to stay with a bitter rival to spite his former employer, but had he not been involved with the Ravens playoff run his name may not be as prevalent as it currently is. While his damaged knee injured his chances of being considered a first-round talent, the strand of damaged pride which Dixon's career has held on by this long, may be the very thing which elevates him to a level few expected he would ever reach in his career.