One of the Eagles' negotiating plans for Saturday's first-round picks is already in place even though those contract talks probably won't begin for at least a couple of months.

"You try like heck to get the guys in, and obviously this first pick, whoever it's going to be, we're going to use Brodrick [Bunkley] as an example," Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said yesterday.

Bunkley, of course, was the Eagles' first-round draft pick last April, and the defensive tackle arrived two weeks late to training camp at Lehigh University because of stalled contract negotiations.

The Eagles believe that was a major reason Bunkley made few contributions as a rookie after being taken with the 14th overall pick in the draft.

"No question about it," Heckert said. "Players can say all they want and the majority of them, if they're not [in camp], they say, 'I'm working out every day.' If you're working out by yourself, it's a big difference what kind of shape you're in. You say you're working, but you're really not working as hard as you need to be."

Despite their intention to use Bunkley's delayed signing as a point of negotiations, Heckert said a player's signability will not keep the Eagles from drafting a particular player.

"You don't think about that as much, but it's a major deal," Heckert said. "If you are willing to go ahead and basically miss a year, that's not a wise decision. Anybody who holds out, they are always going to struggle a little. That's common knowledge. Sometimes you talk to the players and they say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' But then the agent, that's the guy who is actually getting them the money and they listen to him over us."

- Bob Brookover