It's late March, training camp still is 4 months away, and everybody involved in the LeSean McCoy contract negotiations is relatively optimistic that an extension will get done before the Eagles report to Lehigh in July for two-a-days.
McCoy's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is hopeful. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, is hopeful. Coach Andy Reid, is hopeful. Even yours truly, who has regularly been accused by more than one emailer of always painting sky-is-falling scenarios, thinks McCoy probably will have a contract extension before he breaks his first training-camp sweat.
But what if he doesn't? What if this thing drags on for a while? What if McCoy feels he deserves an Adrian Peterson contract (7 years/$100 million, $36 million guaranteed) and the Eagles feel he deserves one closer to Arian Foster (5 years /$43.5M, $20.7M guaranteed) or Marshawn Lynch (4 years/$31M, $18M guaranteed), and the next thing you know, it's Week 1 and McCoy still has his rookie contract?
Would McCoy let that affect him the same way DeSean Jackson let his contract situation affect his attitude and performance last season?
My sense is no. My sense is McCoy is better equipped emotionally than Jackson to keep contract matters from consuming him. It's Todd Herremans' sense as well, and who knows a running back better than the guys who open holes for him?
"Who knows how it's going to work out down the road, but I don't even know if Shady would be that type of player," Herremans said a couple of weeks ago in an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic with Mike Missanelli.
"He loves being in the locker room. He loves hanging around the guys. He's going to take care of what he needs to do."
The Eagles don't want to push the envelope here. As I mentioned last week, they don't want to risk having another key to their success come down with Unhappy Player Syndrome. They know McCoy is one of the league's best running backs and they want to be fair to him. But it still could take a while to get a deal done.
"Everybody is different, all guys are different," Reid said the other day at the league meetings in Florida. "You guys deal with [McCoy] and you know he comes to work every day with a smile on his face. He's excited to play the game.
"We like LeSean and we think he's good for our organization, both on the field and off of it. And so, we'll work something out there as we go. But listen, these things take a little bit of time. That's how it works. But it'll work out."
Offensive tackle options
Now that the Eagles are going to be without All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters for all, or at least most, of the 2012 season, what are their replacement options?
Well, the best of the free agent lot is Demetrius Bell (Bills) and Marcus McNeill (Chargers). But the 6-5, 311-pound Bell, who would be a good athletic fit for a Howard Mudd line, is looking for a lot of money, which is why he hasn't re-signed with the Bills. And McNeill, a former Pro Bowler, is an injury risk. He suffered a season-ending neck injury in November and has a history of spinal issues.
A possible stop-gap measure would be 32-year-old former Giant Kareem McKenzie. He's a right tackle, which would require moving Todd Herremans over to the left side, a switch he could make without much trouble. But then you're leaving Michael Vick's blindside in the hands of a guy without much tread left on his tires.
The draft? They're picking 15th and don't really have the ammo to go up and get the draft's top tackle, USC's Matt Kalil. The second-rated tackle, Riley Reiff, of Iowa, figures to go around 10 or 12, which would be within the Eagles' trade-up reach. Whether he would be able to step in and start in Week 1 remains to be seen, though. And they're trying to get away from the whole draft-for-need approach anyway.
"Riley's a good player, but not at the level of, say, Tyron Smith [who went ninth to the Cowboys last year] in terms of athleticism," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. "I think he's just kind of consistent and solid across the board. There's nothing wrong with that. I think he's going to come in and be a good player. I just don't know that he's going to be an elite left tackle in the NFL, which is what you're hoping for when you draft one that high."
LeSean's shelf life
Andy Reid acknowledged this week that he and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg probably need to lighten LeSean McCoy's workload a bit this season. McCoy had 321 touches last season, including 273 rushing attempts. His touch total was the fourth highest in the league behind Maurice Jones-Drew (386), Ray Rice (367) and Arian Foster (331).
McCoy is young - he'll turn 24 in July - and healthy, but the Eagles don't want to press their luck. They need him on the field, but they also don't want to use him up, particularly if they're going to invest a lot of money in him.
When they signed Ronnie Brown last summer, they intended to give him more than the 42 carries he ended up with. But they didn't realize how much explosiveness he had lost. Rookie Dion Lewis' problems in learning pass-protection kept him off the field. He had just 23 rushing attempts and 12 of those came in the Eagles' meaningless Week 17 win over the Redskins.
"We probably [used him] a little bit too much last year," Reid said of McCoy. "Now, it worked out because of his youth and he was able to stay healthy. But as we go here, we need to spot him."
The Eagles will add a third running back at some point. But it probably will be in the draft. While they like a couple of veteran running backs, including former Colt Joseph Addai, who is well acquainted with Howard Mudd's blocking scheme, they also are wary of overspending for a guy who could wind up with just 40-to-50 touches.
The problem with drafting a running back is the same as it was with Lewis. There's a good chance it's going to take time for him to learn how to pass-protect. Which means you either keep him on the bench or put him out there and risk having him miss a block that gets Vick hurt. That becomes an even bigger issue in light of Peters' injury.
This and that
* This isn't a particularly good time to be Derek Landri or Trevor Laws or Owen Schmitt or any of the other 350-plus still-unsigned free agents out there. Less than 3 weeks into the free agency signing period, the big-money payouts have dissipated. With the prospect of a flat salary cap for the next few years and rookies to draft and eventually sign, teams have closed the door to their vaults. Look for a lot of 1-year, veteran-minimum deals from here on in. "I think it's going to be this way for a couple of years," Eagles GM Howie Roseman said. "I think the middle market is going to struggle a little bit. The quicker the agents figure it out, the better they'll be."
* LeSean McCoy is proof that you don't need to be a 235-pound back to be an effective short-yardage runner. On his way to an All-Pro season last year, McCoy converted 39 of 51 situations of 2 yards or less into first downs or touchdowns, including 14 of 17 in the last four games and 29 of 36 in the last 10. Nine of his NFL-best 17 rushing touchdowns were 2 yards or less. "You wouldn't be able to perceive him to be able to do that," Reid said of his 5-10, 205-pound running back. "People always equate size with short-yardage and goal-line [success]. That's really not the case. I've studied that aggressively, and that's not the case. Patience and then seeing small daylight and hitting it [are the keys]."
* With the NFL expanding its Thursday night schedule this season, the league has asked its schedule-maker, Howard Katz, to limit travel for Thursday night road teams and eliminate travesties like the ones last season when the Eagles and 49ers had to travel cross-country on a short week for Thursday night games. It is expected that no team will be required to cross more than one time zone for Thursday night games this season.
* The Eagles are hopeful that, with an offseason of field and classroom work, second-year safety Jaiquawn Jarrett won't be the deer-in-headlights player he was as a rookie. "I think things were way too fast for him last year," Reid said. "He was thinking way too much. He'd probably be the first to admit that." The reason the Eagles liked Jarrett enough to take him in the second round last season, even though many teams had a fourth-round grade on him, was his hitting and tackling ability. Jarrett is a whisker under 6-foot and weighed 198 pounds at last year's scouting combine. But the Eagles felt he was one of the soundest tacklers in the draft. "A lot of times, when you think about a big hitter, sometimes it suggests he's not a solid tackler," Howie Roseman said. "You think about a guy going for the knockout shot. [Jarrett] was one of the soundest tacklers we've seen come out in the draft in a long time. And tackling has become a lost art in the NFL. The reason you see a lot of long runs is because guys aren't wrapping up."
* Asante Samuel's agent, Alonzo Shavers, has put the word out that his client is willing to restructure his contract to facilitate a trade. The question, though, is how low is he willing to go? Samuel, who turned 31 in January, is scheduled to earn $9.5 million this season. I'm hearing that he will be willing to go down to $7 million in bonus and salary this season. But that might not be low enough to get it done.
* To a lot of people outside of Philadelphia, Marty Mornhinweg still is remembered as the knucklehead coach who once won the overtime coin toss and elected to kick off when he was the head coach of the Lions. Well, under the new overtime rule, which allows the kicking team a possession in OT if the receiving team kicks a field goal but fails to score a touchdown, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said kicking off in OT might not be such a bad idea. "To me, there's a little bit of an advantage to the team that gets the ball second," the former Eagles assistant said. "If there's a field goal kicked, the other team has the chance to march the ball down the field. A lot more strategy comes into this. Particularly if you play defense the way we play."
SW_TEXT]* Roger Goodell insists he has no problem with Sean Payton recruiting Bill Parcells as his interim replacement before he starts serving his 1-year suspension because Saints owner Tom Benson ultimately will be the guy signing off on it. But it's pretty clear that Benson is nothing more than Payton's yes man in New Orleans. The old man is so grateful to Sean for bringing a Super Bowl title to the Big Easy, he'll do whatever and hire whomever Payton tells him.
* I'm going to miss Asante Samuel. There's really no way to make it work at cornerback with Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. But I'm still going to miss him. Find a way to get 15 to 20 more interceptions before you hang up your cleats, buddy, and we can talk about Canton.
* The Eagles absolutely, positively will take a quarterback in this draft, and if I had to take a guess right now which one it will be, I'd say, drum roll, please . . . Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.
* Last week, I mentioned that agent Drew Rosenhaus had a stable of NFL clients numbering close to 200. When I talked to him at the NFL meetings this week, he told me the count actually is 117.
From the Lip
* "Asante has a great personality. He is what you would call a live wire. I've enjoyed having him. I understand him. We communicate in our way. That's how we go about it."- Andy Reid on cornerback Asante Samuel
* "It's a yearly battle for him. I feel bad for him because all he's done is win football games and make this team a bunch of class guys, who just have a passion for the game. But I don't think he gets appreciated. Even after winning this [Super Bowl], if we go through a rough patch this year or the year after, someone will be calling for him [to be fired] again."- Giants guard Chris Snee on his coach and father-in-law, Tom Coughlin
* "Probably forever. It'll be there forever. Well, forever's a long time. Until I die, which won't be forever. Most likely." - Ravens coach John Harbaugh when asked how long his team's AFC Championship loss to the Patriots stuck with him
* "I absolutely think players and coaches want to be here. When we talk to people about the Dolphins, they still think highly of this franchise, its history, its direction. They have no problem coming here."- Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland
By the Numbers
* LeSean McCoy was one of just eight running backs with 300 or more touches last season.
* The Cowboys' Dez Bryant had the best drop rate among wide receivers in the league last season, dropping just one of 64 catchable passes, according to Profootballfocus.com. The Eagles' Jeremy Maclin was 22nd with six drops in 69 catchable passes. DeSean Jackson was 41st, dropping nine of 67 catchable passes.
* The odds of Bill Parcells' being the Saints head coach next season are 5/7, according to online oddsmaker Bovada (www.Bovada.lv).
* Bovada has Panthers quarterback Cam Newton as the favorite to wind up on the cover of Madden 2013 at 2-to-3 odds, followed by the Lions' Calvin Johnson (7-to-2), the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (11-to-2) and the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (7-to-1). The Eagles LeSean McCoy is listed at 25-to-1.