After a few weeks of closed-door meetings and private strategizing, the Eagles take to the road this week and hunker down in Indianapolis, the site of the NFL's Scouting Combine. It is, finally, a chance to dig in to the off-season just a little bit and gain some perspective on what the Eagles are planning for 2010.
They have a chance to interview up to 60 potential draft picks at the Combine, and knowing the way Andy Reid does business, the Eagles will take advantage of every one of those opportunities. As important as it is to see the Combine participants run and jump and go through all of the drills they go through, having a chance to know the players -- to really sit down and talk for 15 minutes, even if the players are completely rehearsed for the process -- is incredibly valuable for teams.
We are about to enter the real meat of the off-season, folks. The Combine is huge, obviously, and free agency opens on March 5. The Eagles have been, and will continue to be, remarkably quiet so they don't tip their hands or even come close to revealing their intentions.
What will we learn about the Eagles from the Combine as we peer in on NFL Network, as we read all of the blogs, as we discuss the rumors and reports? ...
**1. Are There Players The Eagles Are Targeting?
If I read another mock draft that says the Eagles are going to take safety Taylor Mays with the 24th pick in the first round of the April 22 draft, I may actually start thinking there is something real here (using the old "where there is smoke, there is fire" theory). Everything I read about Mays describes a big, physical, talented player who has no problems when the play is in front of him. But when he has to move sideline to sideline, or backpedal, the critics say, Mays has problems. So the Combine will be a perfect place for him to dispel those criticisms.
As far as the Eagles are concerned, they really aren't in position to fall in love with any single player. Holding the 24th pick in round one, the Eagles understand that they must prepare for every possibility. I don't think we are going to hear a lot about the Eagles and their draft targets in the next week, honestly. That doesn't mean we won't hear about the Eagles, of course.
**2 Any Good Trade Rumors?
Oh, we're going to hear more and more right until the Eagles do something, or until they do nothing. The Combine is a time to evaluate the draft prospects, but it's also a time when every NFL decision-maker is in the house. And they all talk. No question that foundations for moves are made at the Combine.
Hear any good ones lately? Not me. Just the usual throw-it-up-against-the-wall stuff that means nothing.
In a week's time, there is going to be more credence to the rumors as the time to make decisions becomes closer.
**3. What Is The Contract Tender Strategy For Eagles?
With players like Leonard Weaver, Jason Avant and Nick Cole scheduled to be restricted free agents, the Eagles have some key players they want to make sure don't get away. Don't be shocked if some players have their contracts extended, but at the very least the Eagles will announce the contract tender offers they have made, a telling time in an off-season.
The list of players on the free-agent list isn't particularly daunting, so expect the Eagles to be extremely decisive and to have no problem retaining the players they want to keep. I can't believe that a player like Weaver, or somebody like Avant, or even Cole, would be given a chance to leave.
*4. Miscellaneous (But Important) Contract Issues *
Two cases come to mind: Running back Brian Westbrook and offensive guard Stacy Andrews. Both are medical question marks after difficult 2009 seasons and the Eagles either have, or will have very shortly, an updated medical status on both players before committing reported roster bonuses soon due both players.
It would be great if both players returned, but not many folks out there think that will be the case. Westbrook, one of the great Eagles of all time, has expressed an interest in returning to the highest level in the NFL, and if he is healthy and spry, he is one of the best backs in the league.
Andrews, we've talked about. He had a bust of a year in his first season with the Eagles. Will the Eagles bring him back and give him a chance to win a starting job at right guard? We're closer to getting an answer. Once the Combine begins, an NFL off-season moves by very quickly.
We're nearly there, guys and girls. I can feel the action about to happen. The substantial moves the Eagles have made in the off-season -- and hiring special teams coordinator Bobby April and defensive backs coach Dick Jauron, along with promoting Howie Roseman to General Manger have been major moves --- have been of the off-the-field variety.
Soon, very soon, the roster takes shape. An off-season that seems to have gone on forever is about to gain some traction.