MY KNEE-JERK reaction? This will not end well.

That is, assuming Michael Smith's report is accurate, that Donovan McNabb "may hold off on further extension talks until he sees how the Eagles improve themselves in the offseason via free agency and/or trades."

What extension talks? Why, the ones that Smith asserts began a week ago today, citing a "source,'' who identifies that as the day McNabb and agent Fletcher Smith held McNabb's long-awaited sitdown with Eagles coach Andy Reid and president Joe Banner.

That's a puzzling revelation, right off the bat, given that last Thursday, 2 days after this would have happened, McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith, flat-out denied any talks or any sort of meeting had taken place. Smith spoke 1 day after another source close to McNabb asserted the quarterback might be willing to travel to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis to make such a meeting occur. Then on Friday, Reid told Inquirer and Daily News reporters that though he talks to McNabb "every day," and that McNabb "knows where he stands," no big, contract-related sitdown involving the other people McNabb had said he wanted present - Banner and team chairman Jeffrey Lurie - had occurred.

One possibility is that Michael Smith somehow got this all wrong, which is unlikely. He tends to be plugged into Fletcher Smith (no relation) and reasonably plugged into McNabb. If there had been some sort of misunderstanding, it would have been quickly addressed, one would think, within a few hours of the lateafternoon appearance of the report. Instead, Fletcher Smith did not answer his phone last night or return Daily News calls or e-mails. The Eagles said they had no comment.

Why on earth would either side lie about a meeting everyone in the region was waiting to hear had taken place?

Here's a shot at an answer, not at all sourced, just from my gut: Because it didn't go all that well. This ESPN report, which does not read like something leaked by the Eagles, would seem to be the next volley.

Here is the gist of what Michael Smith wrote:

"The source said the sides cleared the air once and for all on Reid's Week 12 benching of McNabb in Baltimore. They also held preliminary, informal discussions about a contract extension, the source said. The source said the parties had preferred to keep the meeting confidential as they work through various issues beyond the benching.

"Those contract talks may not resume any time soon. McNabb would like the Eagles to add to their already solid core pieces that would make them an even stronger championship contender before engaging in serious negotiations on an extension. McNabb, 32, is under contract for two more seasons.

"Although McNabb wants to remain in Philadelphia, if the Eagles aren't successful in significantly upgrading an offense that needs help at wide receiver, running back and offensive tackle [veterans Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas are free agents beginning Friday], not only may McNabb drop his request for a new contract, he may consider going as far as to ask the Eagles to trade him."

My personal favorite sentence is, "The source said the parties had preferred to keep the meeting confidential as they work through various issues beyond the benching." Hmmm. So news of the meeting was leaked, presumably, by the janitor? Remember, he was the guy who told McNabb he was getting his starting job back, or so Donovan joked at the time.

But let's put aside all the who-said-what-and-when. Key concept: McNabb might conclude, at the end of the day - one hopes it occurs before the start of training camp - that he would like to be traded? So, to keep that from happening, the Eagles are going to try to make offseason moves that will meet with Donovan's approval? Joe Banner and Andy Reid? Seriously?

I can get behind the idea that McNabb deserves more weapons. He deserved them last year, didn't get them, didn't complain about it. Might have gotten to or even won the Super Bowl this year if he'd had them, although the defense would have had to actually stop Kurt Warner a time or two at Arizona.

Two things, though: Free agency offers little in the way of weaponry this spring, beyond Bengals possession wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh (or, in a stretch, 36-year-old Marvin Harrison). And more to the point, do you see Joe and Andy calling up Donovan and politely asking if he'd rather they draft this guy or that guy? Maybe he'd like to sit in the war room on draft day, after going to a few college pro days with the scouts.

"What did your stopwatch say on that last o-tackle, Don, I had him in 5.2?''

It's important to remember that, whatever Eagles Nation might think of the team's approach to its offense, Reid and Banner think they've done just fine. They are not scurrying to fill the holes that talk-show callers perceive, any more than in previous offseasons. Whatever the merits of McNabb's request, it's hard to envision the Eagles offering him much beyond a general "we're working to upgrade our team every way that we can." McNabb has been here 10 years now; he knows who he's dealing with, knows, too, how they respond to attempts to muscle them, and to things being made public that they thought were going to stay private.

Because McNabb knows these things, I have to wonder if this "report" isn't really a passiveaggressive trade request, if Deion Sanders wasn't on to something all along. Like the meeting we were all waiting for, that apparently already happened, this looks like a misdirection, a big, loud commotion summoned for effect.

And I don't think that effect is an Eagles Super Bowl championship next year. *

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