Good morning. It’s April, and the draft is quickly approaching. The Eagles begin their offseason program in fewer than two weeks, and the draft is three weeks from Thursday.

This is an offseason edition of the Early Birds newsletter. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.

— Zach Berman

DeSean Jackson arrives for his press conference at Eagles NovaCare complex in Philadelphia, PA on March 14, 2019.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
DeSean Jackson arrives for his press conference at Eagles NovaCare complex in Philadelphia, PA on March 14, 2019.

The Doug Pederson-DeSean Jackson relationship

Doug Pederson was an assistant coach on the Eagles’ coaching staff during much of DeSean Jackson’s first stint with the team, and Jackson has spoken fondly of his new Eagles coach. When they saw each other on the field in September while Jackson played for Tampa Bay, they had a memorable exchange.

As you might remember, Jackson scored a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. Jackson later ran a play near the Eagles sideline. He spotted Pederson and said, “you should have never let me go!”

One problem: Pederson was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City during Jackson’s inexplicable release in March 2014. That was considered a Chip Kelly production.

“I wasn’t even there!” Pederson responded.

Later in the game, when Pederson went to tend to an injured player, Pederson spotted Jackson again.

“Why you mad at me?” Pederson said.

Pederson called it a fun exchange and Jackson didn’t have a problem with Pederson. But Pederson, who is recovering from foot surgery, said he was on pain medicine when Jackson came to the NovaCare Complex last month, so he didn’t have much of an interaction with Jackson after the trade. He’s been impressed by Jackson’s maturity from afar.

“You can see how he has matured in his game both on-and-off the field,” Pederson said. “He is a great guy. Family man. We are excited to have him in the fold.

Thoughts on recent transactions

Since Early Birds came out last week, the Eagles made two moves: Trading for Jordan Howard and re-signing Richard Rodgers.

My extended thoughts on the Howard trade can be found in the beat writer reaction. I thought it was a good move, considering the need and the price. Howard isn’t an elite running back, but he’s a clear upgrade in the backfield and the Eagles surrendered a 2020 Day 3 pick. That’s a small price to pay for a player of that age and production who will likely have a big role on the Eagles. Still, I expect them to look for a versatile running back in the draft. They just don’t need to force a pick.

As for Rodgers, he didn’t do much for the Eagles last season and I don’t expect him to have a big role with the Eagles this season. He provides good depth as the third tight end. He’s an experienced player who fits into the tight end room and can contribute on special teams. As long as Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are healthy, Rodgers won’t get much time on offense. If one of the top two tight ends is injured, the Eagles can do lot worse than turning to a six-year veteran with 121 career catches.

Offseason program dates

The NFL announced the Eagles’ offseason dates on Monday. The offseason program begins on April 15. The first two weeks are devoted to strength and conditioning work. The next three weeks include individual drills.

The final phase of the offseason program is when there’s full-team on-field work. The Eagles have three weeks of organized team activities (OTAs): May 21-23; May 28, May 30-31: and June 3-6. There’s no live contact during this period, although teams are allowed to do 11-on-11, 9-on-7, and 7-on-7 drills.

The mandatory minicamp is June 11-13. The on-field work is similar to the OTAs, but the day is structured differently and the attendance is required.

New Eagles running back Jordan Howard listens to questions during an introduction press conference at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Monday, April 1, 2019.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
New Eagles running back Jordan Howard listens to questions during an introduction press conference at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Monday, April 1, 2019.

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the Mailbag

I don’t see that happening. I don’t think the Eagles value the position the way you do. If it was a potentially transcendent player, you can’t rule it out, but I don’t think that opportunity will present itself this year. If the Eagles traded up, I think it’s for a defensive lineman – not a linebacker.

In fact, if the Eagles draft a linebacker, it might not come until Day 3. That just hasn’t been the way Howie Roseman has allocated draft picks. Other than Mychal Kendricks, a second-round pick, it’s not a spot where Roseman has invested a high pick. I don’t anticipate that changing this season.

No, I would not. I think Rasul Douglas is a useful player and a position in which the Eagles need depth. To add in a draft pick, it wouldn’t make much sense. And I like Duke Johnson as a player and think he could fill a role for the Eagles as a versatile pass-catching running back, but that’s a steep price to pay. Douglas was a key contributor for the Eagles last season and he has two years left on his rookie deal. So I wouldn’t make that proposal if I were the Eagles.

Good question. It sounds like Jalen Mills won’t be back from his foot injury until training camp, so at least for the offseason program, he won’t be in the mix. The coaching staff likes him and he’s been a major part of the Eagles defense, but the depth at cornerback should mean he’s challenged. Of course, much depends on health. Same with Ronald Darby, who is coming off a torn ACL. Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox should all be in the mix on the outside. Cre’Von LeBlanc will be in competition for the slot. So I’d expect that to be a competitive position, although Mills’ experience and the trust he’s developed should give him some equity.