First, a disclaimer: These are my answers to questions I know you have. Quite honestly, it's difficult to be conclusive about anything at this point. More than 100 days into the work stoppage, the Owners and players are at a critical point in their negotiations. I'm taking the positive side here thinking that a deal is not far away from being done.
1. Will The Eagles Hold Training Camp At Lehigh University?
It all depends on when a deal is finalized, of course, but my sense is that Andy Reid would love to get his players away for some crucial team building and intense learning in a training camp environment. From an operational standpoint, the training camp staff would be hard pressed to put together every detail of a usual Eagles training camp, but the efforts of an excellent staff and those at Lehigh who know the routine could make it work.
A deal would have to be in place by, I'm guessing, July 15 or so, to make it happen a week or two later. Clearly, the days are melting away. The window of opportunity is shrinking. A deal must get done quickly.
If there is no training camp, Reid would likely hold two-a-day practices at the NovaCare Complex, closed to the public. It benefits everyone for the Eagles to have a camp at Lehigh.
2. Are All Of These Player Rumors True?
No, they aren't. There is no way for a team to have an absolute plan in place. There are too many moving pieces. Certainly the Eagles have a game plan they have put together, complete with a lot of variables, but they can't predict all of their player moves before the market opens, before the rules are established.
I think this, though: The Eagles want to make an impact. They are in fine shape from a salary standpoint with their roster, they know there are going to be a lot of players on the streets and they know that the Eagles are a prime destination for players around the league. Players see a winning organization, a great and passionate fan base, terrific facilities and a coaching staff that knows how to bring out the best in players.
Now, can I sit here and tell you that the Eagles are going to sign this player or that player? No, I can't. I have my wish list, which is all about impact players. I want difference makers, particularly for the defense. I want players who can come right in and help. I want veterans who have had success and who have a familiarity with the way the Eagles do things.
But there is no way Reid and general manager Howie Roseman know how it is all going to play out. They can only be ready to strike when the doors open and be as resilient as possible when their plans take a left turn.
4. Will David Akers, Stewart Bradley, etc. Remain Eagles?
Again, this is very difficult to predict. Will the transition tag the Eagles applied to Akers be valid for the team to use? If it is, then his chances of returning become a whole lot greater. If not, well, Akers would be an unrestricted free agent. Same with Bradley, who has played four seasons. Will he be an unrestricted free agent?
We know that Quintin Mikell is going to be an unrestricted free agent and is, it appears, headed toward the open market. Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole are headed in the same direction.
The Eagles are likely to have a period of time to address their own players and their contract status' before player movement is permitted. That will be a very important period of time for the Eagles' negotiating team.
5. How Hard Will It Be To Sign Draft Picks?
It's going to be done quickly, that's for sure. Any agent who holds out a player this year is nuts. Any team that doesn't sign its draft picks prior to camp is going to risk losing that player for the season.
There are two components to the rookies, actually. The first phase is signing the non-drafted players, which is going to be a frenzied sprint. There are a lot of players who weren't drafted who had draft-round grades on them. The second piece is signing the draft picks. In the case of the Eagles, there are 11 players to sign in what likely will be only a matter of days.
6. Will There Be A Full NFL Season?
I believe so, yeah. For what it's worth, yeah, I think so. The Hall of Fame Game on August 7 could be in some jeopardy, so we shall see on that one. The Eagles host Baltimore during the weekend of August 11, meaning Reid wants to get his players into camp around July 23 or so.
So while there is likely to be a mad scramble early and some definite chaos through the remainder of the summer, but mid-August you should see things as you normally do. That's the guess here. Internally, there will be a lot of things done differently -- there just isn't enough time to have everything go as it has in the past -- but the fans are not likely to feel that change of operations.
All of the above, of course, is based on the belief that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is on the way very, very soon. It's early July. It's time to go. It's time to get football back on course in 2011.