Answers not easy to come by

Posted: January 17, 2010

The Eagles' off-season officially began last Saturday at 11:28 p.m., the moment the final whistle blew on the Dallas Cowboys' 34-14 demolition of the Birds in Arlington, Texas.

And, as is the case with every off-season that begins with the absence of a Vince Lombardi Trophy on display in South Philadelphia, there will be questions.

Lots of questions.

They'll be asked loudly by fans on the job, in bars, and on Web sites; shouted into microphones by pundits; and pondered by the Eagles' brain trust in the privacy of the team's inner sanctum.

Questions will swirl about the quarterbacks, the draft, free agency, a possible uncapped season, injuries, Andy Reid's clock-management skills, Reid's use of challenges, Reid's amazing expandable wardrobe.

Questions about the Eagles are like stars in the sky and grains of sand on the beach. So very, very many.

So to get the ball rolling on the latest Eagles off-season in time-honored Philadelphia tradition, here are five questions of our own.

DJacc + contract discontent = TO?

1. Could DeSean Jackson become the next Terrell Owens? The wide receiver's hiring of super(annoying)-agent Drew Rosenhaus would seem to suggest it's possible. It's no secret Jackson was not happy being selected in the second round of the 2008 draft and thus having to agree to a contract that now pays him significantly less than rookie Jeremy Maclin.

The all-pro has two years left on his deal, and there hasn't been any public maneuvering by Rosenhaus, who can be easy for teams to work with unless a client wants his contract restructured (see: Owens, 2005). If Jackson, sensitive whenever questioned about his deal, wants to see all-pro dough up front and the Eagles balk, things could get ugly.

Perhaps Jackson will simply use the humbling experience against the Cowboys, in which he was a nonfactor on the field and a rabble-rouser off it, as enough motivation to come back more dominant. Or maybe he'll just bask in the glow of his newfound stardom while he can.

On Friday, Jackson wrote on his Twitter account, "Wit da brodie in da suite chilln lifes great!!" It's fun to think that "brodie" just might be Brody Jenner, son of Bruce, reality hunk from MTV's The Hills, and dater of Playboy playmates. Life may, indeed, be great.

Will the brotherly love continue?

2. It was one of the better lesser-told stories of the Eagles' season. Even though Brian Westbrook was the veteran, LeSean McCoy was the rookie, and both were fighting for carries, neither publicly griped about the other. As far as one could tell, it was sincere.

Westbrook took McCoy under his wing instantly, and the affable Pittsburgh product was taken. It was a big brother-little brother relationship, and the pair hung out on occasion, such as the time Westbrook invited McCoy to the 76ers game for Allen Iverson's return to Philadelphia.

Of course, Cain and Abel were once the best of buddies. (Right?) Westbrook is apparently on his way out, at least if he hopes to be paid the $7.5 million he's guaranteed next season if the Eagles bring him back. He could take a cut and try to make the team, but the likely scenario has McCoy being the featured back. So the questions are: When do the Eagles give Westbrook the hint, and when does he stop answering McCoy's calls?

Eating for two?

3. The Eagles fired two of their strength coaches Thursday, but they could have done the team a better service by getting rid of their nutritionist. Or how about bringing in a new chef at the NovaCare Center or cutting back on the smorgasbord laid out in the cafeteria each day for the players (and the Eagles' employees)? You've got to see it to believe it.

Several linemen were obviously over their playing weight by the end of the season (hello, Jason Peters). Yes, the big guys up front need a little (OK, a lot of) extra girth, but you have to wonder if there was a common thread (or bread) behind all the injuries on the line.

It may be hard for coach Andy Reid to deliver that sort of sermon, because, well, look at him. But the Eagles may want to take a look at cutting the fat instead of adding more muscle. By the end of the season, Reid appeared to gain back all the weight he lost on an off-season diet. He didn't want to talk about the weight loss during training camp, and now it's easy to see why: He knew it was temporary.

Who's paying for Shawn Andrews' Southern California vacation?

4. The Eagles? The offensive lineman? Andrews has spent the better part of four months living outside Los Angeles as he rehabilitates a bad back. A recent question of clarification asked of the team was not answered. Reid had no update on Andrews' status the day after the season ended.

The best source for updates on "The Kid," as he calls himself, has come from his Twitter account. There isn't much on his recovery, however. But if you want to know his eating habits, his take on popular culture, and other such musings, start following Andrews on a social networking Web site. If you want to know about his future in football, try following the stars.

So, what about the quarterbacks?

5. They spent the last five months only inches away from each other. Donovan McNabb-Michael Vick-Kevin Kolb - that's how the Eagles quarterbacks' lockers were aligned at the team's practice facility. Now they'll go their separate ways until, most certainly, one or two of the trio gets traded.

All three will head to warmer climates. McNabb will find his way to his home in Chandler, Ariz., where he'll play the family man and continue his workouts. One thing to consider if the Eagles were looking to trade McNabb, who has only one year left on his contract. No other team is likely to play "Let's Make a Deal" unless McNabb has a contract extension.

Kolb returns to his native Lone Star State and his hometown of Granbury, Texas. He's an avid boar hunter and fishes competitively. He'll likely lay low as the off-season unfolds. Kolb has one more year left on his contract, but if 2010 is an uncapped season in the NFL, the Eagles could retain his rights for two more seasons. That might not force the team's hand, in terms of McNabb's future, for one more season.

Vick, meanwhile, plans to reside in Florida as he resumes his comeback. He said he would hire a personal trainer and work at getting back into tip-top shape. In 2007, Vick's association with a dogfighting operation became known, and what followed was a sports marketing nosedive recently rivaled only by Tiger Woods'.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.

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