Jul 272010

July 27 Philadelphia Daily News

“If you ask Andy Reid – and reporters did exactly that yesterday evening, because Eagles training camp was opening for rookies and the 12th-year head coach was sitting at the front of a tent, behind a microphone – this first-round signing business has gotten way out of hand.

Eagles first-rounder Brandon Graham will not be on the field when those rookies work out for the first time today at Lehigh. Graham, expected to compete for a starting defensive-end role, talked during minicamps about how important it was for him to be here, and vowed he would be here. Of course, this was before he really talked to agent Joel Segal about how the process works. Or, in recent years, how it doesn’t work.

The Eagles were totally amazed and frustrated last year when wideout Jeremy Maclin – who also had no intention of missing valuable learning time – didn’t arrive until a week into drills. Maclin’s agent, Gary Wichard, needed to see certain other deals get done around Maclin, who was drafted 19th overall. Wichard simply wasn’t signing Maclin until he saw those deals.

So, this year, rookies reported to Lehigh with exactly one first-rounder signed in the entire NFL, Dallas wideout Dez Bryant, taken 24th overall. There is no structure on which to base a deal for Graham, a defensive end who was the 13th overall pick. Getting him here could take a few days, a week, or much more. Right now, nobody knows. Eagles sources aren’t even willing to guess.

“Nobody around him has done anything,” Reid noted. “There’s one first-round pick that’s really signed. To me, it’s crunch time, but I’m not sure that urgency is there, and I’m not saying with Brandon, but with the agents that are involved with all of these first-round picks. To me, it’s third-and-2. I’ve got to make that call right now. It’s a shame for these kids. Every day that they get is a good day for them.”

Segal did not respond to a request for comment yesterday on why the first round has been so hard to sign this year. Other sources close to the situation have said that the lack of a collective bargaining agreement past this season makes structuring future bonus payments problematic. Indeed, very few second-rounders had signed before a flurry of signings yesterday, mostly players taken in the 50s and 60s overall. The Eagles seemed to think – and Reid indicated – that their second-rounder, 37th overall selection Nate Allen, will sign very quickly and could even be on the field today.

Reid was asked if he has talked to Graham, who also said he would like to come to camp and participate in classroom sessions even if he weren’t signed. Of course, that’s against the rules.

“These guys are kind of in a bunker mode. Their agents kind of tell them, ‘Don’t pick up the phone unless it’s me calling,’ ‘me’ being the agent. So, I understand that game,” Reid said.

Ultimately, there will be a new CBA, and one thing management wants to address is out-of-control first-round inflation that makes agents leery of just doing a deal off, say, what the 13th player selected last season got. Someone asked Reid if the NFL might move toward an NBA system of slotted values for first-round picks.”

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