INDIANAPOLIS - Steve Baker, agent for soon-to-be free agent quarterback Jeff Garcia, reiterated yesterday that his client really, really, really wants to return to the Eagles.
But for that to happen, Baker said, the Birds need to offer Garcia a contract - something Baker said has not occurred, as the days dwindle toward the March 2 advent of free agency.
Baker said that in his last conversation with the team, a few weeks ago, Eagles officials said they wanted the situation resolved before the start of free agency. Baker said he won't make a proposal to the team without testing the market, so unless the Eagles come to him with a bid, Garcia seems unlikely to re-up before March 2.
"The Philadelphia experience was one of the highlights of Jeff's career," Baker said. "It would be extremely hard for him to leave Philadelphia. My suspicion is that he would leave substantial money on the table in order to return to the Eagles."
Eagles president Joe Banner did not return phone calls from the Daily News seeking comment last night. Earlier this week, general manager Tom Heckert said the Eagles would like to bring back both Garcia and wideout Donté Stallworth, their two highest-profile pending free agents. Heckert said talks generally heat up at the NFL Scouting Combine, with agents and front-office people mingling in Indianapolis, as they are this weekend.
"Obviously, we never want to overpay for players, but I think there's a common ground where you can come to and say you're willing to go this high, and after that, I think you just have to have your options open and move on if you think it's just too out of the price range," Heckert said then.
Baker, a veteran agent who has dealt with the Eagles before, said that while talks with the Birds are never easy, "I've always found them to be very honest and very fair."
Stallworth's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, declined to discuss his views on the possibility of Stallworth returning to the Birds.
"I don't have any comment on that," Rosenhaus said as he rode an escalator to an NFL agents meeting held in conjunction with the combine. Perhaps sensing this was not the response his questioner hoped for, Rosenhaus added, "Hey, at least I didn't say 'next question!' "
Kennard McGuire, who represents soon-to-be free agent defensive end Juqua Thomas, indicated optimism about his client's returning to the Birds.
"I believe they'll have first opportunity to bring him back," McGuire said yesterday. "He'd like to return there, and I believe [the interest] is mutual. I expect to meet with them this coming week."
Down the stretch last season, Thomas emerged as one of the top linemen on an underperforming Eagles defense.
McGuire's partner, Fletcher Smith, represents another potential Birds free agent, running back Correll Buckhalter. Smith said he hadn't heard much from the Eagles about Buckhalter, who was a pleasant surprise in 2006 after missing two straight seasons to knee surgeries. The team seems unlikely to sign Buckhalter before free agency starts.
The Birds seem very interested in bringing back reserve safety Quintin Mikell, especially since they are set to let their other pending free-agent safety, Mike Lewis, walk. Mikell's agent, Derrick Fox, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.