Archive: February, 2009
Paul Domowitch, Daily News NFL Columnist
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL’s cost-cutting has impacted the scouting budgets of many of the league’s teams.
Some teams brought fewer people to the Scouting Combine, won’t cover as many pre-draft Pro Day workouts and are making scouts stay at cheaper hotels (goodbye J.W. Marriott, hello Tom Bodette).
But Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said the Eagles’ scouting budget has not been affected.
Paul Domowitch, Daily News NFL Columnist
For those of you fantasizing about Anquan Boldin playing for the Eagles next season, we bring you the latest in the saga of the talented Arizona Cardinals wide receiver:
First, there was the e-mail sent to NFL teams by
Anquan’s greasy agent, Drew Rosenhaus, announcing that Boldin
and two other wide receiver clients of his – Plaxico Burress
and Chad Johnson – were for sale, even though that came as
news to their teams.
Then, late last week, Rosenhaus talked to Cardinals general manager Rod Graves and told him that Anquan had softened the I-want-out-of-the-desert stance he’s had since last summer, and would be willing to sign a contract extension with the Cards if the money was right.
Then, Boldin went on a Phoenix talk-radio show Friday and said
there was a deadline that went with his willingness to sign an
extension – Tuesday. This Tuesday. If the Cards
didn’t fax Drewie an extension proposal by then, he would
return to his I-want-out stance.
Well, Graves, who is here in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine, didn’t sound like a guy who was going to be sending Drewie anything by Tuesday, except possibly a bag of doggie doo-doo.
Les Bowen, Daily News Staff Writer
The eighth-floor corner suite in the Eagles' team hotel seems a little snug for a guy Andy Reid's size, but the coach says he likes it, so much so that he asks for the same room every year at the NFL Scouting Combine. It has a decent view of a busy downtown Indianapolis street, but a visitor got the impression Reid spends a lot more time looking at the laptop screen perched on a coffee table, which at midday yesterday featured Oregon's defense against Arizona's offense.
Reid was chatty, even avuncular, but as is his wont, he had little to say that would generate headlines, in his first session with Philadelphia reporters since the day after the Eagles' season ended, in the NFC Championship Game.
Reporters from the Daily News and the Inquirer thought they might be getting a headline when Reid responded to a question about Donovan McNabb's desire for a sit-down with management by saying he has spoken with McNabb. But it quickly turned out that the coach was talking about, "Hi, how are you?" conversation, not the meeting McNabb envisions, which presumably would include team president Joe Banner and possibly chairman Jeffrey Lurie. Reid acknowledged that fact, while also maintaining that he does not especially need to clear the air with McNabb.
Les Bowen, Daily News Staff Writer
The are all sorts of shows, blogs and opinions out there concerning the NFL draft, but when Mike Mayock speaks, people around the league take notice.
Mayock, 50, is a Philadelphia native and former Giants safety who has slowly built a reputation as the most cogent of talent evaluators, working for the NFL Network. Yesterday he spoke to reporters covering the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Your Eagletarian wanted some detail on Mayock's views of the top of the offensive tackle class, since that seems a direction the Birds are likely to go with one of their two first-round picks, which are 21st and 28th overall. And Mayock provided it
There are four top o-tackles that nearly everyone has going in the first round -- Jason Smith of Baylor, Andre Smith of Alabama, Eugene Monroe of Virginia and Michael Oher of Mississippi. Oher is profiled in today's Daily News.
Les Bowen, Daily News Staff Writer
Fletcher Smith, agent for Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, said Thursday he has not yet begun discussions with the team about McNabb's contract, despite published reports to the contrary.
Smith said he expects to get to Indianapolis, site of the NFL Scouting Combine, tonight for tomorrow's meeting of player agents. Smith said he and Eagles president Joe Banner generally have lunch together after that meeting, and Smith said he expects that will be the case this year, as well. So the talks very well could start then, but Smith emphasized that nothing has been set up.
A source close to the situation suggested this week that McNabb would be willing to come to Indianapolis, if that was what it took to have the sitdown with team management McNabb has been seeking. Smith said that wasn't going to happen, with Indianapolis the center of the NFL world right now. "How much privacy would you have for that meeting?" he asked. "We will get to all that in due order."
Les Bowen, Daily News Staff WriterYour Eagletarian sends greetings from lovely Indianapolis. He hopes to update at least a few times today as the NFL Scouting Combine swings into action.
All we have to share so far is Eagles gossip. There is widespread talk that the Birds and Fletcher Smith, agent for Donovan McNabb, have been discussing a contract, though Eagletarian understands that McNabb has not had -- and is still seeking - a clear-the-air meeting with management. In fact, McNabb has even offered to come to Indianapolis to make that happen, a source close to the situation said. Smith definitely will be here Friday for the annual agents' meeting, so you would think at the very least he would exchange further pleasantries with Joe Banner.
The Eagles must be talking to Smith, because he suddenly is impossible to reach via phone, text or e-mail. Generally, when an agent wants to talk with a team about a high-profile client, and he isn't getting the response he wants, the agent isn't shy about letting that be known. A week or so ago, Smith was much easier to track down. Sudden silence generally means something is going on.
Along the same lines, you might have read the unsurprising news that the Eagles do not plan to use the franchise tag on anyone before the deadline passes at 4 this afternoon. They also do not plan to move the team to Guatemala or change the uniform colors to pink and orange. There was never any serious thought that the Eagles were going to tag anyone this year, but if they had been so inclined, the only real candidate would have been 34-year-old left offensive tackle Tra Thomas. I don't think the Eagles want to let Thomas walk into free agency. They definitely are talking contract with Thomas' agent, Peter Schaffer. As someone with knowledge of that situation observed this week, "you only use the franchise tag if it looks like you can't come to an agreement." I think an agreement with Thomas is likely.
Stay tuned for riveting Combine updates.
Daily News staffWhen it comes to the Carolina Panthers, the player whom many Eagles fans are talking about is offensive tackle Jordan Gross, the only high-profile young offensive tackle eligible for free agency. The Panthers reportedly are trying to lock him up before the Feb. 27 start of the signing period.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end Julius Peppers wants out of Carolina, but he will only accept a trade to four teams, according to multiple reports.
The Associated Press, citing a person close to Peppers, said the player would only agree to go to Dallas or three other teams, two in the NFC. The Charlotte Observer reports that those two other NFC teams are teams that the Panthers would not trade Peppers to, implying both are in the NFC South.
Accoding to the Observer, "The source also says that there are issues that could impede a trade to the other two teams such as compensation for the Panthers and potential contract problems for Peppers. In other words, the teams might not have a high first-round pick to offer Carolina, and might not have the money to pay Peppers."
Teams have until 4 p.m. Thursday to apply the franchise tag, something Peppers clearly does not want because it binds him to Carolina for another year. The Panthers also could apply the tag to Gross if they cannot sign him.
Could be an interesting day in Charlotte ...
Les Bowen, Daily News Staff WriterThis week, your Eagletarian is preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine and his annual visit to lovely Indianapolis, a city whose most memorable downtown feature is a labyrinth-like shopping mall, and whose better restaurants tend to be chain franchises. The forecast is for temps that never rise above freezing at any point between Thursday and Sunday. (Hey, Roger Goodell -- you're moving the Pro Bowl out of Hawaii ...why not give Honolulu a consolation prize? I think running the 40 on the beach might get more prospects in the mood to showcase their wares. Think about it.)
But since you, the loyal reader, don't have to go to Indianapolis, you probably don't care all that much, except as the combine relates to the Eagles and their two first-round selections in the April 25 entry draft.
That's what we're hoping to get a little better fix on in Indianapolis. Our assumption is that the Birds' focus will be offensive, given that their No. 3-ranked defense is young and should be improving, and that of the team's unrestricted free agents, free safety Brian Dawkins seems the most likely to return.
That's what the mock draft world seems to anticipate as well-- I've looked at about a dozen so far, and every one of them has the Birds taking offensive players at 21st and 28th overall in the first round. I have no idea what the team's brain trust is thinking right now, but if it were up to me, the top priority would be offensive tackle, with Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan both about to hit the free agent market, Thomas at 34 and Runyan at 35. Runyan also is rehabbing after microfracture surgery on is right knee, which is what they do when you don't have any cartilage left.
Many mocks have the Birds getting an OT either 21st or 28th. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., for example, has them getting Ole Miss OT Michael Oher 28th, after picking up Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells at 21. But right now, it's hard to see how Oher would last until 28th. I was on a conference call with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock last week. Mayock thinks there are four elite O-tackles in this draft, including Oher, and he thinks all of them will go in the top 15.
That would create a situation where the Birds, assuming they feel they need an elite OT in the draft, might need to burn that 28th pick to move up from 21. (No, I don't see any way they trade out of the first round again. That doesn't make sense.)
Losing even one of the first-round picks would be unfortunate, because the Eagles have other strong needs. Though Brent Celek finished strong as a pass-catcher, he is a poor blocker at tight end, and with L.J. Smith assumed to be leaving in free agency, tight end ought to be a draft priority. The problem there, as Paul Domowitch noted in the Daily News last week, is that Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew is the only really elite traditional tight end available in this draft. The Eagles would have to spend one of their picks on Pettigrew, or just handle shoring up that position in free agency.
Lots of mocks, including the one rendered by NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang, have the Eagles drafting Pettigrew. Rang has Pettigrew going at 21 and the Birds getting Arizona offensive tackle Eben Britton at 28. I'm not sure I like that -- the reports I've seen on Britton indicate he's more of a run-game mauler and less of an agile pass blocker. We all know what sort of offense the Eagles run.
Rang's colleague, Chad Reuter, has the Eagles getting Oher at 21 and Wells at 28, switching the order forecast by Kiper. Again, this would be nice -- Wells (6-1, 235) is the big back fans have long coveted. But he seems to get hurt a lot, and even if the Eagles go for a bigger back to help out/eventually succeed Brian Westbrook, they're likely to look for one who can catch a pass here and there. That isn't Wells.
There are other backs who might better fit what the Eagles do, if they take a runner in the first round, something that hasn't happened since Keith Byars in 1986. Georgia's Knowshon Moreno is 5-11, 207, and an excellent receiver. Scout.com's Chris Steuber has the Eagles selecting Pitt running back LeSean McCoy at 28, after getting Pettigrew at 21 (no offensive line help early from him.) McCoy (5-11, 205) is an intriguing player, who can run and catch. SI.com's Bucky Brooks feels he is the best back in the draft.
Traditionally, the Eagles have said this week is more about the interviews with the draft prospects than the drills and tests. Teams have plenty of chances to put players through their paces, and the Birds say they value what players show on game film more than what they do in shorts, anyway. But Indianapolis affords an opportunity to put a player in front of a chalkboard, with the coaching staff present, and hash out the team's offense or defense with him. You get a sense of what sort of person you are dealing with, and you should get a sense of whether the guy gets what you're showing him, or is totally overwhelmed. (See Ryan Moats, third round, 2005.)
Then, as the Combine ends, free agency starts, on Feb. 27. That's another post.