Eagles general manager Howie Roseman hinted that the Eagles would be more restrained in free agency this year, said DeSean Jackson has a "bright future" and discussed the team's draft philosophy -- all without getting too deep into specific answers, leaving plenty of room for interpretation of his remarks.
My initial take away was that Roseman's comments leaned ever-so-slightly toward the idea that Jackson could return. I base that on his emphasis on building through the draft and re-signing players whom the Eagles have developed – "you want to always keep your really good players under contract," Roseman said at one point. But those takes on both Jackson and free agency admittedly come from reading between the very broad lines Roseman painted in a 22-minute interview with three reporters Thursday. He left lots of room for interpretation, declining to get too detailed about the team's offseason plans.
Along with Jackson and the draft, Roseman talked about Asante Samuel's future, his hopes for Brandon Graham and Nate Allen and the criticism he faces. More on that below.
The most interesting answer, I thought, came when Roseman talked about the importance of the draft and keeping homegrown players. That was the Eagles' philosophy for years – construct a team from within, while adding a few key free agents -- before making a massive splash last offseason. Roseman indicated that it was a one-time spree.
"If anything maybe last year was the change in thinking and it's because of the opportunity that was presented to us," Roseman said when asked if the team would move away from last year's philosophy. He said the 2011 free agent class offered opportunities to get players who can help for years to come. "We thought there were opportunities there to get some players that can make a difference at key positions in free agency, but really what we want to do is draft and re-sign our own."
Jackson, of course, would fit that category.
"You want to always keep your really good players under contract. That's the way it's always been," Roseman said when we asked whether the team had any reluctance to use the franchise tag. "It's been draft and lets extend them and re-sign them. It just doesn't always happen that that's how it works."
Roseman said contract talks in general tend to heat up at the Combine, when agents and general managers are all in one place. As for Jackson, Roseman wouldn't comment specifically on the franchise tag (which the team can apply as soon as Monday) or any talks with the star receiver, saying they are best left between the team and player.
"We feel fortunate to have a player of DeSean Jackson's magnitude on our football team and I think the future is bright for DeSean Jackson," Roseman said.
We asked about the many quality receivers who might hit the market and could be viable replacements. Roseman downplayed that idea.
"Without talking about specific players, when you break it down and you look at age or maybe injury history I think that kind of decreases that amount of players at whatever position you're looking at; and then you're talking about tags and resigning, so as we sit today it's going to change," he said.
On other topics:
Whenever you have a surplus at a particular position there are talks around the league. People call and your phone does ring and that's happened in the past couple years by our quarterback situation and so I think there are particular position on our team that maybe we had a surplus at and I expect the phone calls to be active. In terms of talking about a specific player or position obviously I stay away from that. But we're always open to phone calls and to seeing if something works and really if there are win-win situations for particular teams and particular players we'll look at that.
On emphasizing the draft over free agency:
That doesn't mean that if there's an opportunity to get a good player or player that that we think can improve us – or a couple of players that can improve us – we won't go and look at that. But we do think we have a core of good young players and we want add to that, and we also have some players that it was their first year in Philadelphia and we think they will improve and have good seasons."
On recent struggles drafting on defense:
When you just look at Pro Bowl selections of guys that we've drafted, it's obvious that the offensive players are getting more nods than the defensive homegrown players. But we've drafted some players that we had high hopes for. Now injuries have kind of taken them a step back – I'm talking about Brandon and Nate – and so we haven't gotten a clearer picture of them. Obviously we want to get great players from the draft.
On criticism of his performance and any fear for his job:
You get into this business you know what you're getting into. This is not a business where you're sitting in the same place for 25 years or 30 years. I feel very fortunate to have the support of ownership and I work with a great head coach and try to bring a championship to the city of Philadelphia. Anything other than that I'm just putting my head down and trying to work as hard as I can.
On whether free agency signings will significantly change the Eagles' draft plans:
You really want to take the best player available because you can't really project where your roster is going to be 3, 4, 5 years from now and I've always felt that the draft is a long-term decision for your organization. If that's the case, you shouldn't be worried so much into who's going to help you this year because really, when you look at it, the history of rookies is they don't help that much in the first year, whether it's here or somewhere else, it takes time to grow.
-- Roseman had no update on quarterback Trent Edwards, who the team worked out and had in for a physical.
-- On the Eagles regular season win over the Giants: "I don't take any great pleasure in knowing we were 1-1 against the Super Bowl champions or we were close to making the playoffs. Our goals are bigger than that."
-- He essentially no-commented when asked about the possibility of adding either Randy Moss or Albert Haynesworth, both of whom are available.