PHOENIX - Jeffrey Lurie is scheduled to speak to reporters today for the first time since Lurie issued a Jan. 2 statement outlining the restructuring of the Eagles' front office, and as Lurie availabilities go, this would rank among the most widely anticipated ever.
Lurie's Jan. 2 statement used a lot of corporate buzzwords, but didn't really explain why Lurie's closest confidant, general manager Howie Roseman, was losing that title and the personnel role that had been Roseman's lifelong objective. That power now resides with coach Chip Kelly.
Roseman, Lurie and team president Don Smolenski were the triumvirate that represented Eagles ownership in yesterday's league meetings, just as they have for several years. Roseman hasn't spoken with reporters since his duties changed, and did not speak yesterday.
The last time reporters spoke with Lurie was in the visiting locker room following the season-ending victory over the Giants, Dec. 28. Asked if Roseman would continue as GM, Lurie mocked the question. In his Jan. 2 statement, Lurie acknowledged that, and said he changed his mind after postseason meetings with "key executives," but he didn't really say why.
"We discussed a comprehensive approach on how to seamlessly integrate the personnel and coaching departments in order to maximize every facet of the process," Lurie said then.
Two weeks ago, when Kelly finally spoke for the first time since the restructuring, he told reporters the whole thing had been Lurie's idea.
"I just had a meeting with [Lurie] like I do at the end of every year, in terms of the direction of what we're doing and how we go from being a 10-6 team to a team that can win the Super Bowl. That was a decision that Jeffrey made," Kelly said then, when asked why he sought increased say over personnel. "I feel like we have an understanding - we have a vision of what we want for our football players here, and I think we can articulate that, and I think that's what we are trying to go out and get."
That vision remains unclear to outsiders. There will be some pressure on Lurie to make it clearer today.
When Kelly spoke, reporters didn't have Lurie's Jan. 2 statement in hand to cross-check, but when they did look at it, they realized Lurie had said that in a meeting, Kelly "articulated a dynamic and clear vision on how this fully integrated approach will work." Lurie didn't seem to be saying the whole thing was his own idea.
Lurie also will be asked about the changes Kelly has made this offseason, Kelly seemingly intent on wiping out any trace of the Andy Reid regime, wanting to win with players Kelly chose. Kelly said the LeSean McCoy trade was about cap room, but with the subsequent signings of Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray, the Eagles have the second biggest percentage of cap space committed to the running back position. The team's inability to nail down a deal with Jeremy Maclin before free agency led to the team's leading receiver leaving, amid a depleted market that did not offer a comparable Maclin replacement.
Speaking of Murray, a few reporters yesterday got an unexpected chance to ask Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about losing him to the Eagles.
Jones, phone pressed to his ear, was hustling between buildings at the Arizona Biltmore. Jones ended his call and started looking for the meeting he was supposed to be attending.
Reporters tend to trail the Cowboys' owner wherever he goes, and such was the case here, especially since Jones, not paying close enough attention to where he was walking while on the phone, had wandered far past the NFL meeting rooms and into the area that only houses the media covering this event. Quickly, the scrum of reporters grew, as Jones realized the media workroom was not his planned destination, and asked directions back to civilization.
"I've got to find my meeting. Can't miss a vote," Jones said.
Of course, the trailing were deeply concerned that Jones find his meeting, but they also wanted to ask him a few things as he walked, especially about Murray. And being Jerry Jones, he was perfectly willing to do this, even while breaking into a near-trot.
"Tremendous locker room. Work ethic off the charts. Such pride in his work," Jones said. "He's a great player. I don't use [the term] loosely."
Asked about being outbid by the Eagles in free agency, Jones said: "We're trying to help our defense in this free agency, so that was at issue there." He said the Cowboys needed to keep some money to sign other players.
Murray, the NFL's leading rusher in 2014, signed with the Eagles for $40 million over 5 years. Dallas apparently was offering about $6 million a year. Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell told reporters yesterday that the Eagles topped the Jags' offer to Murray by "a large amount."
Kraft backs Chipper
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft spoke to a large crowd of reporters in the Arizona Biltmore lobby and was asked his thoughts on Chip Kelly.
"It's pretty exciting. If I were an Eagles fan, I'd be excited," Kraft said. "I know my coach has great respect for him, and he's trying to put his stamp on what's going on there."
Kelly, meanwhile, sat down for a rare one-on-one interview with the NFL Network's Steve Wyche that aired last night. He said the Eagles were "just doing our homework" when they worked out quarterback Tim Tebow last week.
Among a very few agents who traveled to Arizona for these meetings is Drew Rosenhaus, who told USA Today's Jim Corbett that he did so to drum up interest in a trade for client Evan Mathis. This is starting to look a lot like last year, when Mathis was unhappy with his contract and the Eagles gave Rosenhaus permission to seek a deal. Nothing was forthcoming. Mathis, the Eagles' left guard who turns 34 during the 2015 season, is the oldest projected starting offensive lineman in the NFL and has a $6.5 million cap figure this season . . . Browns GM Ray Farmer spoke to Cleveland reporters yesterday. He neither confirmed nor denied that the Browns offered the Rams and then the Eagles a first-round pick for quarterback Sam Bradford.