First, the NFL's Scouting Combine. General Manager Howie Roseman, head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles' football operations staff spends the week in Indianapolis measuring heights, weights, 40-yard dash times and the number of times a young man bench presses 225 pounds.
The most important and revealing part of the Combine, though, is the interview process and, then, the ability to see through the rehearsed answers to find out what a prospective employee is really like and how much he really wants to play football in the NFL.
We've seen the Eagles fall in love with Combine stars. The 1995 selection of Boston College defensive end Mike Mamula is the classic Exhibit A, but there have been others. DeSean Jackson, for example, carried with him a highly questionable character following his career at Cal, but won over the Eagles and earned a second-round draft pick slot because he starred at the Combine, interviewed well, and convinced the Eagles he was a worthy pick even when other teams passed him by.
Along with the evaluation process, the Eagles have other pieces of the puzzle to put in place for 2012. Let's discuss ...
ANY UPDATE ON DeSEAN JACKSON?
Not at the moment. The Eagles did not use the franchise tag on Jackson on Monday, knowing they have until March 5 to do so if they choose. Between now and then, wouldn't it make sense to huddle up with Jackson's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and have a conversation? Is there a chance the Eagles could get a long-term deal done with Jackson, a player Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie has said he would like to have back in 2012, if the terms are right?
Doesn't it make sense to talk to Rosenhaus and discuss all options and find out how Jackson feels about A) A long-term deal; B) The franchise tag, if it applied; C) The idea of becoming an unrestricted free agent.
The smart thing here is to consider all strategies. The common thinking in the media is that it is a "done deal" that the Eagles are going to use the franchise tag on Jackson and retain his rights for 2012. That isn't the case. It may happen, but the deal is far from done, I think.
There is no need to rush into anything, and both sides know it. Again, the gut feeling here is that Jackson will be an Eagle in 2012, but things can change. Nothing is done here. There are a lot of factors on the table here, including a jam-packed group of players eligible to become unrestricted free agents on March 13.
Stay tuned. Nothing has been decided, once and for all, on the Jackson situation.
ASANTE SAMUEL: WHAT HAPPENS WITH HIM?
For whatever reason, cornerback Asante Samuel asked his Twitter family over the weekend where they would like to see him traded, should it happen. That Tweet, of course, made headlines and caused a stir.
The Eagles are going to pick up the phone when teams call about trades in the weeks ahead whether those inquiries concern Samuel or any player. That's just how business is done in the NFL, and the Eagles wheel and deal with the best of them in the league.
Will Samuel be an Eagle in 2012? It's probably fair to say his chances are split right down the middle, as they are with many players. Samuel is an extremely gifted player at a position where playmakers are rare. Samuel makes plays. He gets his hands on the football. His sense of anticipation is tremendous.
We also know that the Eagles have a talent-laden situation at cornerback, so something has to give somewhere.
As much as we all like to assume things are going to happen, I'm going to use some restraint here. Samuel is here until further notice. The Eagles are in the business of keeping as many great players as they can keep, and Samuel is a great player.
INJURY UPDATES AND WHAT THEY MEAN
The NovaCare Complex has been buzzing since the end of the 2011 season as injured players have spent their mornings with the athletic training staff preparing for 2012. There are some serious injuries to consider. Special teams ace Colt Anderson is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Linebacker Moise Fokou had a nasty ankle injury that landed him on Injured Reserve. Center Jason Kelce banged up his ankle in the season finale against Washington.
Linebacker Jamar Chaney underwent neck surgery after the season and defensive tackle Mike Patterson had a procedure to remedy the reason he suffered a seizure in training camp.
All are making strong progress. The Eagles begin their offseason conditioning program in mid-April and then have time after that before Organized Team Activities and the June full-team mini-camp comes around.
ANY HINTS ON THE DRAFT PLANS?
The Eagles, of course, have a draft board and they have a long way to go before the 2012 NFL draft. All of the speculation, the mock drafts, they mean nothing other than to give us all some fodder to carry through the days between now and late April.
I don't buy any of the names, not yet. I know Boston College inside linebacker Luke Kuechly is the name you see most associated with the 15th pick in the first round, but who knows how the first round will change between now and April?
Nobody knows, is the answer.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE REST OF THE POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS?
There are 11 in all, including restricted defensive tackle Antonio Dixon. Not all of the players are going to return, and there are going to be holes to fill. Among the group is starting offensive guard Evan Mathis, starting fullback Owen Schmitt and defensive end Juqua Parker.
The Eagles reportedly have some room within the salary cap and they are going to use it. How many of the free agents will they keep from the 2011 roster? Probably only a handful at the onset of free agency, if that many.
While there isn't a great roster turnover expected, there are going to be some changes. The start of shaping the roster is about to begin, just in time after a long offseason slumber.