Everyone is back at ground zero and zero. The agony of the last month is over, and instead of looking back, we all, and I mean everybody in the NFL, now looks ahead on even ground. And, yeah, I'm dreaming of having Eagles Live! during Super Bowl week next year right in the center of Cowboys Stadium and the idea of the Eagles winning the Super Bowl there is, indeed, the goal of a lifetime.
But I digress ...
There is a lot of work to be done. The Eagles have been on top of things since the 2009 season ended, and have bolstered the coaching staff, have overhauled the personnel department and have signed a few young prospects to add to the camp level of competition.
What is ahead is the meat of the off-season, so let's talk about some of the agenda-list items waiting ...
**WHAT IS RUMOR, AND WHAT IS REAL?
Which teams are calling the Eagles about their quarterbacks? To whom are the Eagles listening? What is really happening behind closed doors? We aren't going to know until March, at least, but if you believe that where there is smoke, then you believe the Eagles are going to do something, maybe more than one thing, with their quarterbacks.
I wish I knew the plan. To me, the rumors are just rumors, but I'm enjoying them all the same. Something is going to happen at quarterback. Either the Eagles are going to extend some contracts, make some trades or juggle things around in some way. My feeling, once again: I just can't see a scenario where all three quarterbacks enter the final year of their contracts together. That is not the way the Eagles have historically done business.
How does it all end? Stay tuned.
**THE SCOUTING COMBINE
The real crux of the draft preparation comes in a few weeks when the NFL convenes in Indianapolis for the Combine. The Eagles will interview more than two dozen draft candidates, measure their physical skills in the apples-to-apples running and jumping and strength displays and then return to the NovaCare Complex to cross check the results with what they see on film.
What does the Combine really mean? I've always been told that the opportunity to sit and talk to the kids means more than the actual 40-yard-dash times. Players vault up or drop down on draft boards based on how they present themselves during those interviews.
We also hear a whole lot of rumors during the time the teams are at the Combine, but how many of those rumors actually become truth? Were the Eagles ever linked, even once, to Jeremy Maclin before the team was on the clock last April in the draft? Teams have to be ready for everything and anything on draft weekend, and much of that legwork is accomplished during the time in Indianapolis.
**FREE AGENCY AND WHAT IT MEANS
It could be that free agency is a giant dud this year with the pool of unrestricted free agents expected to be down, down, down if there is no new collective bargaining agreement. Players won't be unrestricted free agents until after their sixth NFL season, reducing the pool dramatically.
Really, the few days before the start of the March 5 free agency could be every bit as interesting as the weeks after. During those days, teams announce their tender offers to restricted free agents, and every team has key players on that list. The Eagles have some, too, like fullback Leonard Weaver, wide receiver Jason Avant and offensive guard/center Nick Cole.
Once free agency begins, and assuming there is no salary cap, who knows how much teams are going to pay for the elite of the elite free agents? If defensive end Julius Peppers leaves Carolina, what happens? Who breaks the bank for Peppers? Or do teams wade carefully into the waters to see how the market settles?
This is truly going to be an historic off-season for the NFL. The Eagles have always been as prepared as any team when it comes to predicting a market and moving at the right time. It's hard to say, at this point, what the climate will be in the free-agency world now, though.
**THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER THING
You know something is going to come completely out of left field in the off-season. It always does. The Eagles will make a signing nobody expected, or they will pull off a trade nobody saw coming, or they will address a need that we didn't think *really *needed to be addressed.
The Eagles are putting their off-season blueprint together in the next few weeks, and then they will fine tune things just prior to free agency. Understand that the team is in a constant state of evaluation and that the picture changes day to day. Here are some other storylines to consider ...
- What happens with Brian Westbrook? Obviously, a major story. Does he return in 2010? Westbrook should have a healthy off-season to prepare for next season, but he is due a reported $5.2 million bonus in the spring.
Where do rehabbing players like linebacker Stewart Bradley, linebacker Omar Gaither, tight end Cornelius Ingram, cornerback Ellis Hobbs, offensive lineman Shawn Andrews and center Jamaal Jackson fit into the equation for 2010? The Eagles have to make early calls on these players and then move to fill needs before the post-draft mini-camp, as I see it.
I'm really interested to see where Stacy Andrews factors into the offensive line puzzle.