Here's my take on a few newsy items that have surfaced in the past 24 to 48 hours:
1. I was surprised to see the reports out of Novacare yesterday that Jason Kelce will get all the first-team reps this week at center, leading up to the Browns game Thursday night. Jamaal Jackson played with the first team against the Steelers, but apparently, the competition is very much on.
Here's the case for Jackson: He's a veteran with 72 starts under his belt. The Eagles have no clue who they're starting at right tackle (more on that below), and they will be going with a rookie, Danny Watkins, at right guard. It's clear that opposing defenses are going to throw all kinds of different looks and different blitzes at Michael Vick this year. Wouldn't it be wise to go with a center who already has the trust of his fellow linemen and will know what he's looking at right away? It's not just experience though. Jackson has been playing well. I thought he was very good on Thursday night and seems poised for a healthy and productive season.
As for Kelce, he's played well too, although probably not as well as Jackson. The argument is he fits what Howard Mudd is looking for in a center. But do the Eagles really want two-fifths of their offensive line made up of two guys who have never played an NFL snap before? Especially considering the shortened offseason and reduced practice time? We'll find out the answer soon enough.
2. Sticking with the offensive line, guess who's back? Reggie Wells, ladies and gentlemen! Let's review here for a moment. Before the start of the 2010 season, the Birds acquired Wells from Arizona for a sixth-round pick. He played in one game (39 snaps) if you don't count Week 17 against Dallas. Here's what I wrote about Wells in Man Up after his Week 3 appearance vs. Jacksonville:
I'm not buying the argument that protection sured up when he was in the game. Wells was probably the Eagles' worst lineman after he entered. In fairness to him, Wells hasn't been here long and will probably need some time to get acclimated. He was beat by Kampman during the Eagles' final drive of the first half. And Knighton went right around Wells as another defender sacked Vick in the third. Knighton also went around Wells on a third down in the fourth. And he was driven back by rookie Tyson Alualu in the fourth on a McCoy run that went for no gain. Wells was also whistled for a holding penalty.
Apparently, the Eagles felt the same way because they rotated Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles in at right guard the rest of the season. Wells was inactive seven times.
And now he's going to get a shot at right tackle? Where he's had 12 career starts?
My initial thought was that Evan Mathis was going to get a serious look at tackle, and the Eagles wanted a body for depth at guard. Dallas Reynolds was running with the second team at left guard Thursday night, and Mike McGlynn's days appear to be numbered (he didn't play until the fourth quarter vs. the Steelers). I'm still not ready to rule out that possibility, but if Wells was really brought in to compete at right tackle, this move is a complete head-scratcher.
3. Moving to wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald got his huge payday yesterday. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, it's a monster, 8-year, $120M deal with $50M guaranteed.
Think DeSean Jackson took notice? Here's what he Tweeted:
Congrats to my Big bro @LarryFitzgerald!! Well deserved.. Wideouts ballin!!
Jackson is not Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has caught 90 or more balls five times and 100+ twice. He has five seasons of 1,000+ yards and three seasons of 1,400+. He's a five-time Pro Bowler, arguably the best receiver in the game and has a unique skill set. In other words, he set the highest of bars in the wide receiver market.
But there are now multiple contracts that have been handed out to big-time receivers in the past two years:
Miles Austin: 7 years, $57M ($18M guaranteed)
Santonio Holmes: 5 years, $50M ($24M guaranteed)
Larry Fitzgerald: 8 years, $120M ($50M guaranteed)
So the question is: What will Jackson want?
Contract length is a very interesting one here. Austin was 26 when he signed his deal. Holmes was 27. And Fitzgerald is 27 too.
Jackson is only 24. Do the Eagles want to make sure they lock him up through the prime of his career? Or do they prefer something slightly shorter and less risky?
Does Jackson want to be tied to the Eagles into his 30s? Or does he want another shot at a monster contract before he reaches that point?
Length and guaranteed money are the things to keep an eye on in negotiations.
While Jackson is not going to get Fitzgerald money, I made the argument a couple weeks ago that he can certainly push for a contract in the ballpark of Austin and Holmes.