NEW ORLEANS - Could the Eagles trade Kevin Kolb before the NFL lockout ends?

No. But also yes, in a way.

"You can have trade discussions, but until the CBA is done, you cannot complete a trade," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said yesterday, the day when Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported that one team has offered the Birds a first-round pick in next month's draft for the 26-year-old quarterback. Neither Roseman nor Eagles president Joe Banner denied the King report (and why would they? It boosts the market). They did not offer official confirmation, though they said there is considerable interest.

But even though Roseman wouldn't say so, for obvious reasons, the fact is the Eagles are perfectly free right now to reach an agreement on Kolb's future home, pending a lifting of the lockout prior to the April 28-30 draft. They just can't make it official. If the lockout isn't lifted before the draft, of course, it all gets way complicated - and the league yesterday filed 57 pages of reasons why the U.S. District Court in Minnesota should not issue the injunction the players want that would end the lockout.

The vibe from Eagles people here at the NFL meetings, though, is that if the lockout is lifted even temporarily, the team is ready to act, despite the fact that King's report yesterday indicated the Eagles are hoping for an even better offer than the first-rounder. (King didn't say where in the round it would be.) Most scuttlebutt concerns NFC West teams such as San Francisco, Arizona, or Seattle, who might be a QB away from making the playoffs in a weak division. A Comcast SportsNet report cited a league source as saying Arizona has expressed the most interest. Arizona has the fifth overall pick. Hard to imagine the Eagles not jumping on that.

Kolb, who did not return messages yesterday, might be the NFL player sweating the lockout the most. Not only does it become unclear how much the Eagles can help their team in 2011 by trading him if the lockout continues through the draft, his value to a new team is clouded if months are frittered away. Nobody wants to bring a quarterback into a new system in August.

An AFC coach whose team has been mentioned in Kolb speculation said he intends to watch as "a bystander." The coach didn't want to venture a guess as to what the 4-year veteran might net. Kolb, a second-round pick in 2007, has been NFC offensive player of the week twice in seven career starts.

A number of NFL people believe Kolb represents solid value in a draft year when the only slam-dunk NFL-ready star QB, Stanford's Andrew Luck, decided to stay in college.

Roseman, meanwhile, said yesterday that the Eagles are prepared for free agency "whenever it is." Usually free agency is going on now and is pretty much over when the draft arrives. Roseman was asked if he isn't able to fill any holes before the draft, does it get harder not to draft for need, which he and Banner have said is often where big mistakes are made.

Roseman said he thinks the Eagles have to resist that temptation.

"You never know when you're going to have a particular need at a particular spot in this league," Roseman said. "The big mistake would be passing on a player who can really make a difference at his position . . . We want to be careful that we're not doing anything there that doesn't stay true to the board."

Roseman suggested that having free agency before the draft isn't an unmixed blessing.

"Sometimes you have free agency and you sign a player, and then you get to the draft and a player at the same position is on the board," Roseman said. He said that situation can lead to an uncomfortable decision on whether to pass up a rookie the team likes because it signed a veteran.

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

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