Monday, February 24, 2014
Eagles' interest in Manziel: Is it real?
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- It might mean nothing. It might mean quite a lot. At the very least, the whole idea of the Eagles’ meeting with Johnny Manziel in Indianapolis over the weekend is, like everything else Manziel-related, of interest.
Manziel is a little short for a lightning rod, let alone a quarterback, but the reality is that he and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney are the two most intriguing players in the 2014 NFL draft.
Peter King mentioned the Eagles’ meeting as almost an afterthought in his MMQB.com piece about Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback:
“Manziel met with Houston (1), Jacksonville (3), Cleveland (4), Dallas (17), Tampa Bay (7) and Philadelphia coaches and team officials, and very likely Oakland (5), this weekend before flying back to Texas late Sunday afternoon,” King wrote.
The numbers in parentheses weren’t in King’s original text. I added them. They are the draft positions for the teams mentioned. According to King, then, Manziel met with representatives of teams with five of the top seven picks in the draft. The Cowboys at 17 and the Eagles at 22 are jarringly out of place in that company.
That can mean one of two things as far as the Eagles are concerned: Either they believe Manziel could drop far enough on draft day to be an option for them, or they are contemplating a blockbuster deal to move up in the draft to have a shot at him.
The former is more likely, for several reasons. First, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman went out of his way last week to underscore that Nick Foles will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback in 2014. Second, in a draft widely heralded as the deepest in years, the Eagles would be giving up valuable lower-round picks to move up for one guy.
Third, it would take a trade partner willing to give up a coveted high pick. The Rams (No. 2) and Falcons (No. 6) are the two top-seven teams that weren’t on King’s list. That’s because they have quarterbacks: Sam Bradford in St. Louis and Matt Ryan in Atlanta.
The Eagles, of course, have Foles. So their meeting with Manziel would give new life to the suspicion that Chip Kelly deep down wants a more mobile quarterback to run his offense.
It is certainly the more entertaining possibility to discuss. Drafting Manziel would unite the most compelling college coach of recent years with perhaps the most compelling college player in one of the most football-centric markets in the NFL.
Either way, though, the Eagles’ using valuable combine time to meet with Manziel is worth noting. Roseman has said the Eagles wouldn’t rule out a quarterback if one was clearly the best player available when they are on the clock. In that regard, it makes sense to do their homework on Manziel.
Some draft experts have him going first overall to the Texans. Others have him dropping a few slots. It would be surprising for him to drop all the way to No. 22, but ask Geno Smith (second round last year) or even Aaron Rodgers (24th overall in 2005) whether that is possible.
The NFL evaluation process began in earnest with the combine. Manziel was measured at just under 6 feet tall but helped himself by running the 40 in 4.68 seconds. Manziel’s hand size -- a major consideration for Kelly in evaluating quarterbacks -- was a very respectable 9-7/8 inches. Manziel didn’t participate in the other drills. He will throw at his pro day on March 27.
Only then will teams begin to reach conclusions on Manziel. That includes the Eagles, which is suddenly kind of interesting to think about.