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McNabb looks forward to staying with Eagles

Donovan McNabb is closer to being an elite quarterback again than moving to another team.

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb is closer to being an elite quarterback again than moving to another team.

The uncertainty surrounding the five-time Pro Bowler's future with the Philadelphia Eagles seemingly was put to rest earlier this month when team president Joe Banner said he expected McNabb to be the starter next year.

Then McNabb started playing like his old self, making it nearly impossible for the Eagles not to bring him back for another season.

"I look forward to being here again next year," McNabb said Wednesday. "They can talk about where I may go, or whatever may happen, but until something is final I'm still here in Philadelphia and that's how I'm going to treat it."

Speculation about McNabb's future initially started when he sustained a season-ending knee injury last November. After Jeff Garcia stepped in and led the Eagles to a division championship and a playoff victory, critics wondered for the first time if McNabb was the best quarterback for Philadelphia.

Management made sure there would be no QB controversy for this season by not re-signing Garcia. But the team raised obvious questions about McNabb's future by selecting Kevin Kolb with its first pick in the draft.

McNabb returned ahead of schedule following major knee surgery, but struggled for much of the season. That only fueled talk that his days in Philadelphia were numbered.

But Banner made it clear McNabb was still in the Eagles' plans for next year during an interview on WIP-AM radio on Dec. 6.

"I can't envision a situation in which (McNabb) is not our quarterback next year," Banner said. "My expectation and I can't even picture a different scenario is that he'll be our quarterback next year."

Of course, if a team were to make a trade offer that included multiple first-round picks, all bets are off.

Philadelphia coach Andy Reid has said repeatedly since Banner's comments that McNabb is the team's QB for 2008. McNabb, despite a contrary television report two weeks ago, has said all along he wants to be back.

"Every time I was asked the question, I have always said the same thing," he said. "When Joe came out and said it, it took pressure off of everyone else who may have been thinking about it. For some, I'm sure it didn't stop them from saying whether I'd be here or not. I try not to even focus on that. The only thing I can really focus on is the present time. Anything that may happen later on down the road, it's really out of my control."

McNabb is scheduled to make $6.3 million next season, which isn't a cap-busting number in this era. He's shown in recent weeks that he's gotten healthier and looks more like the guy who led the Eagles to four straight NFC championship games from 2001-04.

The Eagles (7-8) aren't going to the playoffs, but they might be playing better than any team in the NFC right now after winning at Dallas and New Orleans.

If Philadelphia hopes to make a run next year, McNabb is the best option at quarterback. Backup A.J. Feeley proved he isn't the answer by throwing eight interceptions in 2 1/2 games, including two crucial picks late in the fourth quarter that cost the Eagles consecutive games.

"I like the improvement he's made," Reid said about McNabb. "I think he's playing confident football. I think it's great for him to finish up the season that way. Like I said before, he's coming off an injury that he's been way ahead of the other cases that have had the same injury, production-wise. Just to carry that over in the offseason is a real positive for him."

McNabb has thrown for 2,979 yards, 18 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His passer rating of 89.5 is the third-highest in his nine-year career and his completion percentage of 60.6 is his second-highest.

"It's important for me to have Donovan back," Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook said. "I think he's done a great job these last few weeks just picking it up where he left off before. Of course, he's getting his mobility back and he's playing a lot better. He continues to be a leader in the locker room and on this team. He's someone that people on this team look to when they need help, as well as when they need to be productive in the game."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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