I'm back from Indy, from a long and exhausting week at the 2017 NFL combine. It was busy for me, but even busier for the Eagles.
For them, this week was jam-packed with meetings. Meetings with player agents, meetings with other teams and meetings with draft prospects.
With NFL free agency just around the corner, let's not waste any more time. Here are 20 observations, news nuggets and notes from this year's event in Indianapolis:
1. The Eagles are being honest with themselves, which should be slightly reassuring for fans. When de facto general manager Howie Roseman spoke on Wednesday, he talked about playing the slow game as the team develops around Carson Wentz. This is a smart approach.
Here's what he said:
"I think you have to adjust your thinking a little bit to what you have and what you need. Certainly, we’re not sitting here saying we’re one player away and if we sign this one guy, it’s going to put us in a position to get over the top. So we’re going to try to build it piece by piece and be aware of the risks involved. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to take some risks or do something to get through the moment at certain positions. But that’s our plan."
Basically, the Eagles aren't naive enough to think they're close to winning a Super Bowl, nor stupid enough to tell fans they are.
That answer was in response to a question about the thought process changing from the time when Band-Aids were the goal for the Eagles, when they were going out and signing Nnamdi Asomugha and Byron Maxwell and Cary Williams.
Really, the first part of his answer on Wednesday was the most interesting. Roseman pretty much gave excuses for the way they used to do things. When Mike Vick was the quarterback, they needed to be in win-now mode because of his age. Then in 2013, when they maybe should have started over, they won 10 games and expectations changed.
Roseman said this is the first time since Donovan McNabb was a young player that they have a young quarterback to really build around. That was the same talking point when Nick Foles was early in his career, but this time the Eagles actually mean it.
2. The biggest storyline of the week had nothing to do with the prospects competing on the field. It was all about Brandin Cooks, the receiver from New Orleans. The Eagles have reportedly been one of the teams in the running to trade for him, which makes a ton of sense.
Cooks is still just 23 -- just a year older than the top three receivers in the draft -- and has two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. According to multiple league sources, the Eagles have long been a fan of Cooks, so it shouldn't be a surprise they're going after him now.
Cooks would be a perfect fit. He's young enough to grow with Wentz and is a true deep-ball threat. He had as many 40-yard catches (six) and 50-yard catches (three) as the Eagles in 2016.
3. Price is the issue. Not just what it will cost the Eagles to acquire him, but also what it will cost to keep him if he comes to Philly.
First off, there have been some dueling reports about what the Saints will need to get in return for Cooks. It sounds like they say they want a first-round pick, and other teams obviously don't want to give one up. If the Eagles somehow manage to grab him for a second-round pick, it's an absolute no-brainer. But I think even if it costs a first-rounder, the Eagles at least ought to consider it.
Now, the reason some would say no to giving up a first-round pick is because of how much Cooks will cost down the line. He has one year left on his rookie deal, but the Eagles would be able to use a club option in 2018. That's two years of a good and cheap receiver. The best option from there would be to sign him long-term. I know ... that's more expensive than a rookie receiver would be over that time, but in the NFL good players get paid.
It's quite possible Cooks hasn't hit his ceiling and could become a weapon for Wentz long-term.
4. Speaking of Wentz, he wasn't in Indy this week, but it sure felt like it. It's almost wild to think that for the Eagles last year at the combine, it was all about talking to him and finding a way to get him to Philly, and this year is all about building the entire franchise around him.
Wentz has been working out in California with a few receiver prospects the Eagles are expected to have some interest in, but Wentz as free-agent bait is maybe more interesting.
Here's what Roseman said about that.
"First, in free agency, money does talk. There's no question about it. But having a guy that people want to play with, and we've had that before. Having a quarterback that people say, 'I want to play with that guy, I want to build around that guy' -- that's huge for you from a recruiting perspective.
"So if things are close or even and people see that there's this opportunity to build chemistry with a guy over a long period of time, we think that will help us as we go and recruit players."
5. Here are some options at 14 at positions of need we know the Eagles had formal interviews with: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Mike Williams, WR Corey Davis, WR John Ross, CB Sidney Jones, CB Marshon Lattimore.
Now, you've probably heard some version of this: "It doesn't matter, teams talk to everyone at the combine." OK, some of that's true. But there are 330 prospects at the combine and teams get just 60 formal interviews of 15 minutes. So they at least indicate a little bit of interest.
When you get some time, check out this video from the Eagles of their meeting with Carson Wentz last year. Really cool stuff.
6. I ran into former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans a couple times while in Indy and got a chance to chat with him for about 10-15 minutes. After a year out of the game, Ryans is a defensive quality control coach with the 49ers, and he seems absolutely thrilled about his new gig. He's all-in as a coach, which shouldn't be surprising. Chip Kelly always said Ryans had coaching in his future, and he was basically a player-coach at the end in Philly. By the way, he thinks one of his pupils, Jordan Hicks, might end up being really good in the league.
7. The most entertaining media session of the week was probably with cornerback Teez Tabor from Florida. Tabor certainly didn't help himself by running in the 4.6s on Monday, but he sure did talk the talk on Sunday.
Tabor's confidence -- cockiness? -- isn't in short supply. When I asked him if he was the best cornerback in the draft, he said he was the best player in the draft.
When asked with teams had the most interest in him, here's what Tabor said: "Really everybody. I mean, it's hard not to like a player like me."
Tabor said NFL teams have liked his confidence and I hope that's true. A coach like Chip Kelly wouldn't have. Tabor's media session got me thinking: The Eagles don't really have personalities like that, aside from second-year player Jalen Mills, who just shows it on the field. Guys like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy had a little bit (a lot) of cockiness and it was fun. Not saying it's a necessary thing for NFL teams to have, but it doesn't always hurt either.
8. Teez, despite his slow 40 times, is still among the best of the cornerbacks in this class, and it's a crazy deep class. Multiple personnel people throughout the week told me this is the deepest cornerback class they've ever seen. And you can probably extend that to all defensive backs. There's a chance around a quarter of the first round could be defensive backs. That's crazy. But what's crazier is that it won't end there. There will be solid corners coming off the board into the fourth round. At this point, I'd almost be surprised if the Eagles didn't leave the draft with two.
9. I don't think Bennie Logan is going to be back next season. Ultimately, I think there are going to be too many teams bidding for him, which will force the Eagles to let him walk. That won't be easy because he's been a really good player since he got to the league, but sometimes cost outweighs value.
A league source confirmed a Philadelphia Inquirer report that the Eagles have started to work on an extension for Beau Allen, who has been Logan's backup. The writing appears to be on the wall.
10. I don't understand why Joe Mixon wasn't invited to the combine. I thought that's what the combine was for ... giving teams a chance to do their homework on guys. It's silly to think that by not allowing him to the combine, NFL teams won't be interested in him. Teams are going to talk to him. They're going to make a determination about whether they want him on their team regardless of his non-invitation to the combine. Maybe the sentiment was right, but it just doesn't make much sense to me.
11. Last year, I didn't get to Steak 'n Shake, but this year at the urging of countless folks on Twitter, I made a trip. Solid burger and fries for a good price. They really mash the hell out of the burgers with a spatula on the grill, which confused me, but it was a good burger.
12. I'm not surprised the Eagles slapped a second-round tender on Trey Burton, according to a source. According to ESPN, the price tag associated with the second-round tender is $2.746 million, which is a lot of money for a third-string tight end, but that's not all Burton is. He emerged as a serious receiving threat in 2016 and is a big-time special teams contributor.
It seems the Eagles were worried about losing Burton to another team if they put an original-round tender on him. That would have been cheaper, but wouldn't ensure his return. The Eagles think an awful lot of Burton and want to sign him to an extension -- they even tried during the season, but the two sides couldn't reach a deal, per a source.
13. Doug Pederson said he got a lot of positive reviews about new receivers coach Mike Groh during the search after firing Greg Lewis. It seems obvious that this time, the Eagles wanted some extra experience. An AFC receivers coach who requested anonymity said the Eagles job was intriguing despite the unit's struggles in 2016. The fact that the new coach had the chance to come in and maybe influence which receivers he'd get to work with was a selling point. So was Wentz.
14. The Eagles need so much help at cornerback and wide receiver that it seems fans and reporters have almost completely overlooked other needs. I'm guilty of it too. One need that doesn't get talked about nearly enough is defensive end. The Eagles need more help on the edge, especially if Connor Barwin is gone. Even if he's still here, they need help. I really wanted to see Tennessee's Derek Barnett this week, but he was sick. He has a chance of being available at 14 after Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas are way gone. The good news is there are plenty of guys who will be available in later rounds. Keep an eye on Kansas State's Jordan Willis if he's there in the third. Had a good week.
15. The NFL's legal tampering window will begin on Tuesday because there has been no tampering going on already. Absolutely none. Nothing to see here.
It's a joke that the NFL had the combine and free agency this close and tried to tell teams and agents not to tamper. Not gonna happen.
16. It's not surprising there were reports that NFL coaches and personnel men didn't enjoy having fans at the bench press this year. I think it's a decent idea and fans seemed to like it (they watched anyway), but it is a little strange. As far as the Combine Experience, that's pretty cool. Some folks who showed up to run the 40 took it pretty seriously.
17. The Eagles don't need a tight end. But if O.J. Howard is there at 14, they should seriously consider it. He's a game-changer.
18. This week, a report surfaced that the Eagles have given Allen Barbre permission to seek a trade. I doubt there will be much of a market for him and I think the Eagles should just hold him. He has a cap hit of just over $2 million, which would be a decent number for a backup behind Isaac Seumalo at left guard. The Eagles had a veteran backup in Stefen Wisniewski in 2016 and it paid off.
19. The Eagles had a formal interview with Dalvin Cook, and Eagles fans started drooling upon hearing the news. I think Cook will be a good NFL running back, but there's just too much value at other positions at 14. And there will be too much value at running back in later rounds. A guy to keep an eye on: BYU's Jamaal Williams.
20. Here are five prospects who had great showings at the combine:
DE Myles Garrett: He looks like the No. 1 pick. A 4.64 in the 40, 33 reps on the bench, a 41-inch vert and a 128-inch broad. Freaky athlete.
WR John Ross: Corey Davis didn't perform at all because of an ankle injury. Mike Williams didn't run the 40 because he'll do it at his combine. And Ross ran a 4.22.
LB Haason Reddick: Coming into the combine, there was talk about Reddick maybe being a first-round pick. I think the Temple product is definitely in the first round now and he's climbing up the board.
RB Christian McCaffrey: After putting up a measly 10 reps on the bench press, he showed off his athleticism and quickness the next day.
S Obi Melifonwu: Melifonwu from UConn might have performed his way into being a first-rounder.