PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles want Jim McMahon back next season, and pony-tailed No. 9 wants to continue playing in Philadelphia.
That doesn't necessarily mean Jimmy Mac will be back.
According to Steve Zucker, the quarterback's agent, a healthier McMahon will also have to be made a whole lot wealthier if he is to remain an Eagle.
Zucker said McMahon, whose one-year contract expires Feb. 1, would be seeking both "starter's money" and "an opportunity to be the starter" in his upcoming negotiations with the Eagles front office.
"If Jim signs," Zucker said, "Jim wants to be given an opportunity to be the starter. Don't get me wrong. There's not going to be any quarterback controversy. Jim just wants to be able to compete for the job. He's a competitor, that's all."
Signing McMahon tops the team's January list of priorities. There is no larger unsettled area on the roster right now, heading into the off-season maneuvering, than the quarterback position.
"His desire would be to stay with Philadelphia," Zucker said. "He really likes playing for Philly, he likes the coaches, and his decision would be to stay there.
"The Eagles have been good to him, and what he's done for them speaks for itself. And we think he's earned the right to be paid like a No. 1 starter."
Team president Harry Gamble said Thursday that he hoped to sign McMahon before the Plan B free-agency period began Feb. 1. McMahon's contract calls for him to be excluded from the Eagles' 37-man protected list and become a free agent if unsigned.
Zucker confirmed Thursday that McMahon, sidelined with a rib injury, had decided to undergo minor elbow surgery to maximize his arm strength and durability next season.
"It's obviously premature to talk about next year to a point, in the fact that we still have the Redskins to play and our major thrust is in that direction," Gamble said, echoing coach Rich Kotite's feelings. "But we would like to make an effort to sign McMahon before the Plan B deadline. Everything has been on a preliminary basis. But we're definitely going to make an effort to sign him.
"I think at this point in time, Jim McMahon gave us such a great year, despite his injuries, that you feel that with [several months] off, he can get healthy again."
McMahon is earning $575,000 in base salary this season, not including per-start and per-games bonuses, as well as performance bonuses that sources said will push his total earnings to more than $850,000.
It might take at least $1 million to sign McMahon and make him a happy insurance policy for Randall Cunningham next season. Most starting NFL quarterbacks command a minimum base salary in the $1.2 million to $1.3 million range.
Who is No. 2? Jim McMahon or someone on another roster right now? After living day-to-day with the brittle, always-injured McMahon after the loss of Cunningham, are they willing to go through it again if Cunningham goes down and McMahon, a proven winner and leader, is the backup?
"Obviously," Gamble said, "you have to be concerned with a Jim McMahon, who has had injury problems. But I think it's premature to say what we have to do and what we should do until the season's over and we sit down and discuss it."