Howie: I can talk, but not about DeSean
It was nice of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman to talk to reporters for more than half an hour Monday at the NFL Meetings. It would've been nicer if he hadn't refused to discuss what's going on with DeSean Jackson.
Howie: I can talk, but not about DeSean
ORLANDO, Fla., -- Howie Roseman's session with Philadelphia-area reporters at lunchtime of the first day of the NFL meetings ran about 33 minutes, which is a very long time for such a thing to last; at one point, an Eagles spokesman moved to cut off the questioning, only to have the general manager wave him away.
This was wonderful if you had a lot of lingering questions about Malcolm Jenkins or Darren Sproles, or if you wanted to know more about the upcoming draft, if you had questions about Jeremy Maclin's ACL recovery, wanted to plumb the details of how Roseman and Chip Kelly decide on which free agency targets to pursue, or just enjoyed being outdoors on a covered terrace at a Ritz Carlton hotel on a mild spring day in Florida.
If you were interested in what is going on with DeSean Jackson -- the main topic of interest to Eagles fans, and the drama that enthralls the whole NFL right now -- you were out of luck.
Roseman sent word through the spokesman before agreeing to speak that he was not going to talk about the Eagles' widely reported efforts to trade their star wideout, and he stuck to that.
"He's still under contract. For us, until there's anything to report on our players, that's where we are right now," Roseman said.
Does Roseman envision Jackson still being one of his players when OTAs start, April 21?
"I respect that you guys are here and you have a job to do. That's why I'm here. But I also have a job to do," Roseman said.
Is the rampant Jackson speculation harmful to the Eagles? (Might it make it difficult to bring him back, if a suitable deal can't be struck?)
"I don't know how we can answer this any more," Roseman said. "But I'm happy to talk about the players we've acquired here. We've acquired a lot of players. If you guys don't want to talk about that, I understand."
Later in the session, asked whether he considered Jets owner Woody Johnson's admission Sunday that his team was interested in Jackson to be tampering, Roseman said he wasn't sure exactly what Johnson said and that he was keeping his "head down."
When the handful of reporters tried to gently swing the discussion topic back toward Jackson, Roseman said that not discussing whether you're trying to trade a player is important in establishing trust with the locker room. (This might come as a surprise to Jackson; sources close to DJax have said he would like to know what this is all about and hasn't talked to the front office about being traded.) When Roseman was asked if he has talked to Jackson, he demurred, saying it was important to keep communication private. (Also important to keep private whether there has been any communication, apparently.)
"I've always been open and willing to talk to you guys and our fans," Roseman said. "If it's appropriate, other than speculation, I'm happy to do that. Obviously, the only thing we care about is winning. We want to win. We're very fortunate that we have an owner who gives us the resources to do it ... For us, it's about building the team. We're just starting; for us, it's the first year in this program."
There might have been hints about the Eagles' leanings to be gleaned from other things Roseman said, though. He talked extensively about the importance of adding Sproles, a 5-6 running back who is an explosive weapon in the passing game. He reiterated that the Eagles think the wide receiver position is the richest in a very strong draft, and opined that historically, top wideouts tend to drop, as teams move to fill other needs.
There has been speculation that Jackson, who tends to go his own way and who said after the season that he wouldn't mind a contract adjustment, isn't the type of personality Kelly wants as a building block of his team. Asked if the Eagles' locker room culture was where he wanted it to be last season, Roseman said: "It's going to be a constant commitment to us, to have the right culture and the right chemistry. When we looked at last year, really, it was the first year in that process. It was a great learning experience for us about what we had, what we needed. You'd like to get all of that right away. Certainly, that takes time. That's the most important thing that we're trying to do is develop that and develop a core group of players that we can go with for a period of time."
On Sproles, Roseman said: "For us, it was all the things he brought to the table. You talk about his ability in space, to be a dynamic space player ... and then really, we've had a churning of the return position. When we went back and looked at his returns (in 2013), looked back in the past, saw what we think he can do -- we still think he's a dynamic returner and every time he's got the ball in his hands, defensive coordinators, special teams coaches have to gameplan for it. We've seen that firsthand on more than one occasion. Then you add that to the leadership he brings. We have a young offensive skill position set. (Sproles has) off-the-charts leadership, off-the-charts work ethic, off-the-charts character. He's certainly a fit in our scheme offensively and special teams."
Asked about how Kelly intends to use Sproles, Roseman said: "It's hard not to get excited when you see his ability to play in space, you see his ability to catch the football, run the football and return. Then you add obviously the off-the-field character and the chemistry we're looking for. We're excited about having him."
*As Kelly has done, Roseman talked about Jenkins becoming the quarterback of the secondary, and about finding the right fit for Bill Davis's scheme. "We felt like Malcolm was a really good fit," Roseman said. "It's such a team game that one player isn't going to put you over the top in any way ... we have to find fits. We have to find guys that we utilize in our scheme and are right fits in our scheme ... we're trying to build a culture, we're trying to build a team. When you're at this moment in time sometimes it's hard to see the complete picture, but we have a plan that we're trying to execute."
*The Eagles' safety signings -- adding Jenkins, bringing back Nate Allen -- "allows us to draft when it makes sense ... as opposed to having anxiety about who's there at that position."
*Asked if his pass rush was where he wanted it -- the Eagles haven't signed an edge rusher in free agency -- Roseman said: "It's hard to find pass rushers. It's hard to find pass rushers, certainly, on the open market; teams aren't letting them go. You go in the draft and where do those guys go? They go high."
*Asked if the Eagles considered bringing back Michael Vick, before the QB signed with the Jets, Roseman said: "It was about the opportunity (to start) and what he wanted to do. We couldn't compete with that."
*Roseman said he would like to have more than the six draft picks the Eagles currently have.