INDIANAPOLIS - From Andy Reid's perspective, it's not necessary to have a clear-the-air meeting with Donovan McNabb over his brief benching because the issue between the Eagles coach and his quarterback was long ago resolved.
"We've already talked about it," Reid said yesterday while taking a break from watching film of college prospects in his hotel room at the NFL scouting combine. "I met with him right after the game [in which he was benched], and I addressed it right there, and I've talked to him since. We talk all the time. I spend more time with him than my wife. We're good. I think the world of the guy."
McNabb was benched at halftime of the Eagles' 36-7 loss at Baltimore on Nov. 23. McNabb returned as the starter the following week, broke out of a slump, and the team went on to advance to the NFC championship game, losing to Arizona.
More than once following the benching, McNabb said he planned to meet with Eagles management after the season, presumably to secure his future with the team with a deal that extends beyond the two remaining years on his contract.
"I'm sure we'll all get together when the time comes," Reid said. "[McNabb's] statement wasn't to talk to me. It was something else, and we'll get that done."
McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith, yesterday confirmed a Daily News report that discussions on a new contract have not started, but he frequently meets with Eagles president Joe Banner for lunch at the combine.
With the free agent signing period beginning Friday, the Eagles have more pressing concerns. Although he didn't directly say so, Reid indicated the team may soon come to terms with safety Brian Dawkins and offensive tackle Tra Thomas, two of five veterans eligible to become unrestricted free agents.
"I think that'll all take place within the next few days or week or whatever," said Reid. "There's communication."
Dawkins, who will turn 36 in October, was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the seventh time after rebounding from an injury-plagued 2007 season. He has been with the Eagles 13 seasons and may be the team's most popular player.
Thomas, who will turn 35 next season, has been a mainstay at left tackle since the Eagles drafted him in the first round in 1998. Tackle Jon Runyan, backup running back Correll Buckhalter and tight end L.J. Smith can also become free agents.
Thomas's bargaining power probably got a boost yesterday when Carolina signed Jordan Gross to a six-year contract. A talented young left tackle, Gross would have been a good fit for the Eagles if he had gone on the free agent market.
Runyan is one month into recovery from microfracture surgery on his right knee that was expected to sideline him four-to-six months.
"Time will tell. We'll see," Reid said of Runyan. "They're all different. I've seen ones that have worked and some that haven't."
Although the Eagles' need at offensive tackle appears obvious, Reid wouldn't tip his hand on the team's draft priorities. He said guards Todd Herremans and Shawn Andrews could be moved to tackle if needed. Herremans has played the position, and Andrews was among the nation's top tackles at Arkansas. But Andrews missed nearly the entire 2008 season with back problems that required surgery.
"I'm not saying I'm going to do that," Reid said. "A lot of guards that started for me have been outside guys I moved inside. And when the time comes, I can move them back out. I've got two guards who are real good tackles."
Reid made it clear he likes the position the Eagles are in to upgrade the team. They have the 21st and 28th picks in the first round of what is regarded as a draft deep in talent. They have 10 picks overall. And according to profootballtalk.com, the Eagles are $31 million under the mandatory salary cap of $124 million, giving them the freedom to be aggressive in free agency.
But 14 potential free agents were given franchise tags, leaving the pool of free agents pretty shallow.
"What this does is it gives you some flexibility with two first-round picks," Reid said. "We've got a little firepower there."
Reid prefers to upgrade through the draft than free agency, and he doesn't believe in drafting strictly to fill needs.
"You can't afford to draft for needs," he said. "People fall into that. I try not to do that. You understand what your weaknesses are and if that player's there and he's a quality player you take him. If that need is there and he's quality, then you take him. But if there's a way better player there at a different position, then you take that player.
"You don't want to get caught up in getting someone who's not that good just to try to fill a need."