20 Eagles Observations From the 2017 Owners Meetings in Phoenix

The Eagles and the rest of the NFL's decision-makers spent a good portion of this week in Phoenix, Arizona, the site of this year's annual league meetings. 

The luxurious Arizona Biltmore Hotel played host for the four-day event under the bright and hot southwestern sun. 

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There was minimal time to catch some rays, though, as there was plenty going on. Meetings filled up a good portion of the week for the folks in the NFL and there was plenty of Eagles-related information to come out of the few days. 

Without further ado, here are 20 observations from my four days in Phoenix: 

1. Let's start with Jeff Lurie, who spoke publicly for the first time in over a year on Tuesday evening.  His time with reporters lasted just under 40 minutes and covered an array of topics from Doug Pederson to Carson Wentz to Joe Mixon and Kelly green. A lot happened since the last time Lurie spoke, a year ago at the owners meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. 

I wrote about it at more length here (see story), but the most interesting thing Lurie said, in my opinion, was about the condition upon which he gave Howie Roseman a promotion last year. 

Roseman was away from power for the season when Chip Kelly was in charge, but, according to Lurie, he was brought back to power with this one condition: Roseman needed to hire a "top-notch" personnel department. That resulted in Roseman hiring Joe Douglas as the team's vice president of player personnel. 

The way Lurie put this condition was pretty blunt: Either Roseman was going to find a way to solidify the personnel department ...

"Or we were going to find somebody that could find a great player personnel department," Lurie said "That was his responsibility."

2. I thought it was interesting that Lurie called the hiring of Douglas the "pivotal moment of the last year." (Remember, the last year also included the team moving up to draft Wentz.)

It's pretty clear what the Eagles think of Douglas and his right-hand man Andy Weidl. The fact that Douglas was in Phoenix for the meetings and the team's eagerness to put him in front of the cameras as much as they can, proves he's a big part of the organization. 

And it makes plenty of sense on paper. Roseman and Douglas should complement each other and form a pretty complete general manager. Here's the thing: Roseman gets knocked a lot for his talent evaluation, specifically in the draft, and because of that inefficiency, fans tend to overlook the things that Roseman is really good at. He's a great manipulator of the salary cap and he's extremely aggressive and adept at pulling off trades. 

Pairing him with Douglas, whose strength is talent evaluation, specifically in the draft, should work. 

But will these two be able to work together long-term? We won't know for at least a few more years. 

3. In his post-season press conference, Roseman's use of the word Band-Aids was a big takeaway. At the time, he was talking about the past signings of guys like Nnamdi Asomugha and Byron Maxwell at the cornerback position. He said the team was over signing Band-Aids in free agency. 

Then this offseason, the Eagles have gone out and signed a bunch of guys to one-, two-, and three-year deals. It seems an awful lot like they're still signing Band-Aids. After the Eagles brought in Chris Long, here's how Roseman explained it: 

"We are trying to build this for the long term, but at the same time, when we see opportunities to improve our football team and the competition level and the depth, we're going to take those opportunities."

Roseman said the move to bring in Long -- and we can lump Patrick Robinson in too -- was about value, not finding Band-Aids. 

Here's my take on the difference: When the Eagles signed guys like Nnamdi and Maxwell, they expected them to be the solutions at the position. None of these signings have that feeling. Sure, they might make the team better immediately, but none of them will prohibit the Eagles from drafting at the positions they've added to during free agency. 

4. Pederson certainly seemed pretty excited to have Alshon Jeffery -- the team's biggest free-agent pickup -- on his team. But it was the praise from another head coach that was even more impressive. 

Dolphins head coach Adam Gase coached Jeffery for just one season -- in 2015 with the Bears -- but absolutely raved about the wide receiver this week. Gase said Jeffery is the only player he's ever coached that allowed him to tell his quarterback to not worry about what the coverage looked like, just throw it up. Gase thinks that ability from Jeffery will help Wentz immensely in 2017. 

"You don't have to think, you can just throw it up," Gase said. "Like, you can just legitimately throw it up with two guys on him and he'll go get the ball."

5. When asked about Dorial Green-Beckham on Wednesday, Pederson called upon that same old excuse: DGB arrived late in training camp and missed valuable time last year. 

No excuses for DGB this time around. He'll have an entire offseason to prove that he deserves a roster spot. And it won't be easy. Aside from his lackluster play for much of the 2016 season, Green-Beckham doesn't fill a role on special teams, which is normally standard for a deep reserve receiver. No excuses anymore. 

6. I got into Phoenix early enough on Sunday afternoon to enjoy some of the scenery and did the Echo Canyon trail at Camelback Mountain. I think it was a combination of the heat, sitting on a plane for five hours, the difficult rock scramble (or maybe I'm just out of shape), but it knocked the crap out of me. Still, the views made the hike worth it. Absolutely beautiful country. 

7.  The little bit of news fans probably cared about most this week was that Lurie indeed wants to bring back Kelly green as an alternative jersey. The Eagles initially submitted a proposal that would allow teams to wear helmets to match their alternate jerseys, which set off rampant speculation that proved to be right. It was all about bringing back Kelly green, Lurie confirmed. 

But, sadly for Eagles fans, the Eagles talked with the competition committee before flying to Phoenix and they told the Birds the proposal wouldn't pass. The Eagles then withdrew it. But Lurie seems pretty optimistic about the rule change next year. The Eagles could wear Kelly green now, but they'd have to wear midnight green helmets with them, which would look pretty awful. They could work around it and use decals but that wouldn't look as good, and as Lurie put it: "I want a Kelly green helmet."

I've heard from a few fans who don't care about Kelly green and a few who actually dislike the color, but the overwhelming majority of Eagles fans I talk to say they want Kelly green back. For many fans, it's a connection to their past. 

Lurie said the feedback for him has been pretty overwhelming too. So good for Lurie, listening to the fans. Hopefully, Kelly green will be back in Philly by the 2018 season. 

8. Tuesday offered the first time to talk to Lurie about Wentz, who is the biggest part of the team and now the face of the franchise. The owner detailed the process the team went through to vet Wentz before they made the move up to draft him. That process included 80 pages of reports and Lurie was very involved personally, especially while vetting Wentz as a person, according to league sources. That part makes sense. Lurie holds a master's degree in psychology and a PhD in social psychology. 

While it seems like Lurie is trying to temper his expectations of the young quarterback -- "He had a very good first year. That's it." -- it's also pretty clear he thinks Wentz is the franchise's best shot of getting a championship.  

For his part, Wentz didn't disappoint during his rookie season. Sure, there were ups and downs, but plenty of folks I talked to from around the league think the future is still extremely bright for the Eagles' quarterback. 

"You can win a Super Bowl with that kid," one head coach said. 

9. Lurie repeatedly praised Roseman for working out of the mess left behind by Chip Kelly, but also repeatedly failed to acknowledge his own culpability for what happened. If Lurie never gives Kelly -- who had minimal NFL experience to begin with -- personnel power, Roseman doesn't have this hole to dig out of. 

The answer Lurie gave at the 2016 owners meetings still rattles around in my head some nights. He basically said he gave Kelly power to determine if he could handle it and to give him a reason to fire him if he couldn't. I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that was the gist. He stuck with that reasoning on Tuesday. 

10. I still don't see enough value in taking a running back with the 14th pick. 

11. The only rule the Eagles ended up proposing and presenting this year passed with flying colors. From now on, leaping over the line of scrimmage in an attempt to block a field goal or extra point is prohibited. Those were fun plays, but the league and NFLPA had safety concerns. Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said the problem wasn't the leaping, but that opposing teams were learning the way to stop it was simply to have their linemen stand up and impede the progress of flying defenders. Not super safe. 

The most noteworthy change centralizes instant replay. Many, especially in this region, won't be happy with Cowboys-party-bus-goer Dean Blandino in charge of the new system. But the idea of centralizing replay might not be so bad if it speeds up the process. It's amazing how long it can take at times. This system is more like how the NHL does business. 

12. The one rule didn't pass but was pretty cool was submitted by Washington. Basically, if the field goal kicker put the ball through the uprights on a kickoff, the ball would be placed at the 20 instead of 25. Now, I don't know if that would make the game any better, but I was certainly interested to see how many could do it. 

13. On Monday afternoon, I watched Bill Belichick, in shorts, polo shit and came hat, roll his suitcase through the giant courtyard of the Biltmore Hotel with a huge smile on his face, presumably because he was ducking out the night before the AFC coaches breakfast and media session. 

Wearing camo doesn't help Belichick blend in. 

14. Giants receiver Brandon Marshall was in Phoenix to be a player representative at the owners meetings. His goal was to help bridge the gap between owners and players. 

While there, though, Marshall was asked by a report about the Raiders' move to Las Vegas and I thought his answer was interesting. Sure, a 21-year-old kid can find trouble in any city, but Vegas seems to present a unique set of challenges. 

"I just want to make sure that the players are protected," Marshall said. "I think it could be a tough place for a kid coming out of college. That locker room has to be strong, because there's so much there. There's access to so much. It's really big and overwhelming at times."

15. It certainly seems like the Eagles have at least a little interest in Joe Mixon. It's a tough decision for a franchise and every team will ask the same question: is it worth it?

Lurie's answer about Mixon included this: "So add to that the fact that I would never want to telegraph what we're going to do at any position in the draft, so sitting here with all you guys, just to be completely honest, I can't explain to you exactly what we would be doing because I don't want to telegraph to the rest of the league what we're going to do."

16. Pederson said he expects to have Jason Kelce on the roster this year, but I'm still having a hard time believing that. I think there will be a team around the draft or even as camp approaches that will be without a center and without many options. Kelce, at his price, would be a pretty good one.

The Eagles obviously care about having depth along their offensive line, but they have a crazy amount right now. There's a four-man battle for the left guard spot if Kelce is still on the roster. And they have four pretty good options in Allen Barber, Isaac Seumalo, Stefen Wisniewski and Chance Warmack. 

17. Remember SkyMall magazine? I hadn't thought about it in years but an older lady on my flight back to Philly told me she missed it and I kind of agree. Where else am I going to buy that weird face to put on a tree? 

18. Speaking of trees (check out this segue), Andy Reid was in Phoenix this week and so were plenty of coaches from his coaching tree. In fact, NFL Films was working on a piece on Sunday about Reid and his tree. Here's a list of the head coaches this week who coached under Reid: Pederson, Sean McDermott, John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Todd Bowles. And then there are plenty of former head coaches too: Pat Shurmur, Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier and Steve Spagnuolo. That's a huge number. 

"It's neat to see," Reid about the NFL Films' piece that had all of his head coaches in the same room this week. "Very seldom in this business can you reflect. You don't do that. And then to hear all the old stories, it was all the way back to the Vet and some of the stories that went on there. 

"The cats and the rats and all that crazy stuff, the beer flowing into your office after games. You kind of put that on hold until you retire, so this was a time to reflect. There were a lot of funny stories and I thought NFL films did a good job with it, how they went about it." 

Another thing I found interesting was McDermott's answer when I asked him about the best piece of advice he's gotten about being a first-time NFL head coach. I expected him to mention something from Reid or another one of his guys, but instead, McDermott has been taking a different approach. He said this week he tried to talk to coaches from outside the Reid Tree to gain a different perspective. He mentioned Sean Payton and Bill O'Brien by name. Probably a smart idea. 

18a. I think Andy Reid has more Hawaiian shirts than I have non-Hawaiian shirts. 

19. Pederson didn't come out and say it, but I get the sense he isn't thrilled about Wentz's using quarterback guru Adam Dedeaux to work on his mechanics this offseason. Ultimately, I don't think it will really matter. There isn't much Pederson can do about it anyway and maybe it will help. But it would make some sense if Pederson doesn't like it; it takes him out of control and he clearly wants to be in control when it comes to Wentz's development. 

20. We're less than a month away from the start of the draft and the Eagles have plenty of work to do. They have eight picks and have needs at many positions, so expect the phrase "best player available" to be thrown around a ton. And nothing the Eagles did in free agency should really affect what they do next month. 

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