ORLANDO - A rumor spread among the NFL's top executives yesterday: Donovan McNabb to Buffalo for draft picks.
Turns out that the trade rumor was false, or perhaps just not yet true.
Still, after the NFL's new overtime rule, approved yesterday by a 28-4 vote, the hottest topic at the league's meeting here was what the Eagles would be willing to accept for one of their three quarterbacks.
The Eagles certainly aren't divulging their plans, but it's growing ever unlikely that they'll have McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Michael Vick by the time next month's draft is complete.
Coach Andy Reid told me yesterday that the team is entertaining offers for the quarterbacks, and despite his assertions after the last season that McNabb would be his guy going into the 2010 season, that doesn't appear to be a given anymore.
"This is the truth: Our three quarterbacks are Philadelphia Eagles," Reid said yesterday morning from a table in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton, site of the NFL's annual meeting in Orlando. "People are entertaining us with offers. Nothing's been done, but we're evaluating all of them. That's the truth. There's not a lot really going on other than entertaining."
Nevertheless, the buzz over Philadelphia's quarterback situation - and much speculation over what price each of the three would command - cannot be ignored.
According to numerous front-office people from around the league, there is little-to-no market for Vick as a starting quarterback, and teams are hesitant to trade for Vick, given his publicly stated ambition of wanting to start this season.
There is, however, a market for the 33-year-old McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowler, and the 25-year-old Kolb, who has thrown 130 passes in his three-year career with the Eagles.
What's more, the Eagles apparently have lowered their price for either McNabb or Kolb. Once thought to be insistent on a first-round pick, the Eagles now are looking for a "fair" price - a second-round pick or a combination of high picks, a league source with knowledge of the team's thought process said.
One NFC general manager who is not looking for a starting quarterback said yesterday that if he were looking, he would be willing to offer a second-round pick for either McNabb or Kolb.
Seattle recently swapped second-round picks with San Diego and gave up a third-round pick in 2011 to get career backup Charlie Whitehurst, who has never thrown a pass in four NFL seasons. The Seahawks reportedly signed Whitehurst, a restricted free agent, to a two-year, $8 million contract, with $2 million more in incentives.
Also it is believed that, after much deliberation, the Eagles have decided to pursue an aggressive plan of action regarding the quarterbacks rather than wait for offers on all three to decide which way to go.
League sources yesterday offered varying opinions about what the Eagles may have decided.
One source with ties to the team suggested that the Eagles would keep McNabb and move Kolb, because to do the opposite would signal the official end of an era and would take the Eagles out of the NFC East title race and a Super Bowl chase.
Another from an NFC team said that the Eagles would move McNabb and go with Kolb because the team trusts Kolb can take over the team and be successful.
Still another source hinted that Reid might stick with McNabb because he believes McNabb will be a successful starting quarterback for the next four years, which would take Reid through the life of the contract extension he signed late last season. At the end of the 2013 season, McNabb will be 37.
Reid refused to reveal the team's plans but did say, "I think it's a great situation to be in, from a coach's standpoint.
"There are coaches who dream to be in this situation," Reid said. "I'm not in any hurry to get rid of any of them. Have people talked? Yeah, people have talked. Have we listened? Yeah, we're in the process of listening. The bottom line is if I have all three of them, that's great."
But that is unlikely to happen. All three are entering the final year of their respective deals.
Whatever the decision, if indeed they have already made one, the Eagles certainly have no interest in tipping their hand because to do so would devalue the quarterback they are trying to move. One goal is to get the highest pick, or picks, in the draft. The other is to win as many games, and, ostensibly, the Super Bowl, and do so immediately. Those goals don't necessarily mesh.
As for who needs a quarterback, Buffalo definitely does, but they weren't talking last night.
St. Louis might, but they have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and are high on Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who is scheduled to have his pro day Monday. Arizona recently signed Derek Anderson to compete with Matt Leinart for the Cardinals starting job, but neither is special. Cleveland signed Jake Delhomme off the street, but he's an aging, average veteran. And Oakland always seems amenable to adding a quarterback.
The Eagles quarterback picture won't clear for a while, but it will clear one of these days. Despite how people might feel about McNabb (59.0 career completion percentage) or Kolb (two starts, four touchdowns, seven interceptions in his brief career), one thing is true:
"You can never have too many quarterbacks," an AFC general manager said. "Until someone blows them out of the water with an offer, they'll keep them."
At least for today.