ORLANDO, Fla. -- "Thanks, Chip!"
Ron Rivera yelled across the noisy conference room at the Ritz Carlton to his colleague Chip Kelly, but there's no way that the Philadelphia Eagles coach could hear him. Kelly was too busy getting questioned by a horde of reporters hungry for news about possibly trading DeSean Jackson and guard Evan Mathis.
The attention on Kelly made it easier for the rest of the NFC coaches to get some elbow room while they scarfed down hash browns with the media for an hour Wednesday morning. When Rivera commented about the clamor around Kelly, we told Rivera that Mathis was on the trade block, too.
"He's a good player," Rivera joked. "I want to hear what Kelly says, too."
Rivera would have heard Kelly give a less than enthusiastic answer about Jackson's future in Philadelphia. This story has ping-ponged all week, but we leave the NFL Annual Meeting believing that Jackson is very available if anyone is interested. Kelly's private encouragement to Jackson looks mostly targeted at keeping his player quiet in the coming weeks.
Based on all the reporting and chatter in Orlando, there's little reason to believe the Eagles would get a mid-round draft pick in exchange for Jackson. They probably will have to decide whether to keep him for one more season or cut ties for nothing. (Or close to nothing if they can get a late-round pick.)
Mathis, meanwhile, is an odd case. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports that Mathis was looking for more money in a new contract. The Eagles responded by putting Mathis on the trade block.
We suspect the Eagles won't find a wiling suitor, and they will use that information to explain to Mathis that he's fairly compensated at $5 million. Jackson looks more likely to be an ex-Eagle in 2014 than Mathis.
Here's what else we learned Wednesday before taking off for the Orlando airport:
- Jim Harbaugh was in a great mood all week. He was very open with the media and not afraid to joke around, whether about painful losses or doing pushups with a walrus.
"Got a kiss on the cheek, too. That was a well-trained walrus. The walrus did situps, too. You've got to check him out," Harbaugh said.
"I think we all know what Colin's earning potential is," Harbaugh said.
The 49ers also will keep working out quarterbacks. David Fales and Derek Carr are next on the docket.
- Harbaugh said that free agency puts him "in a funk" because he has to watch players like Donte Whitner leave the building. But it's not as painful as watching the Seahawks win a Super Bowl in a rout. That couldn't help but make Harbaugh wonder how the 49ers would have fared against Denver.
"I've had those thoughts. I've laid awake at night and had those thoughts, sure," Harbaugh said. "(I) just realize it didn't happen, it's not going to happen."
- Asked repeatedly about reported tensions with general manager Trent Baalke, Harbaugh called any perceived angst nothing more than "little mini-controversies that are made up."
Harbaugh then went on to flame the "so-called experts" who ripped Kaepernick last season as a one-read passer. Midway through his rant, the coach paused and quipped that it was time to change the subject "before I get emotionally hijacked."
- Harbaugh wouldn't commit to using the team's fifth-year option on Aldon Smith. Sean Payton was similarly evasive about Mark Ingram. Pete Carroll said the Seahawks had decided whether they would pick up guard James Carpenter's fifth-year option, but the coach wouldn't reveal the answer. (That's probably because they won't do it for Carpenter.)
- Payton stressed that running back Travaris Cadet was the team's best option to play the Darren Sproles role in the offense.
- In a rare and surprising move, Payton sided with Jimmy Graham in his battle to be considered a wide receiver. Payton called the franchise tag rules "antiquated."
- Carroll said that Tony McDaniel and Cliff Avril will directly replace the snaps that went to Red Bryant and Chris Clemons last year.
- The Seahawks coach insisted that Mark Sanchez still could be a starter in the league. But Carroll wants Sanchez to have a chance to start, and that wouldn't happen in Seattle. The Seahawks won't sign him.
- The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, plan to bring in competition for Kellen Moore behind Matthew Stafford, but we don't expect Mark Sanchez to be in the mix after coach Jim Caldwell told us that Detroit hasn't even discussed him as an option.
- Rivera admitted that Steve Smith "probably could have helped" the Panthers this season, but the team had to make a tough decision to let him go at some point. He said Smith needs to "tone it down" on the practice field to keep himself healthy. My takeaway: They were worried about how Smith will hold up physically long term.
- Rivera said the team isn't done adding pieces. It's no secret, he said, they will be looking to add a receiver in the draft. He said the team made Jerricho Cotchery their top free-agent target, but they couldn't sign him right away because Cotchery was on a cruise at the beginning of free agency.
- The Panthers coach stressed that their run game would lead the way for the offense, and they only "need" to replace 10 catches a week from their wideouts -- and he doesn't care where those catches come from. In essence, he's saying they don't need a No. 1 receiver. We have our doubts.
- Jay Gruden told Around The League that the Redskins have heard "nothing" from teams inquiring about Kirk Cousins. The coach said "you need two great quarterbacks on your team ... the way Robert (Griffin III) plays, you just never know what can happen."
- Gruden also said that the Redskins won't use many read-option plays if Griffin isn't comfortable with them.
- Jason Garrett said Dez Bryant is "certainly the type of player" the Cowboys would target for an extension, but -- like Jerry Jones on Tuesday -- the Cowboys coach wouldn't give any specifics on where talks stand, only calling it "good business" to keep your own talent.
- Lovie Smith was asked about signing an older quarterback like Josh McCown to be his starter, and he noted all the great quarterbacks in their mid-30s in the league. Smith also wanted everyone to know the Buccaneers would consider a quarterback at No. 7.
- Smith was intrigued by coaching the fastest player in the league in track star Jeff Demps. Smith wants Demps to try out a number of positions during the offseason.
- Adrian Clayborn is likely to start opposite Michael Johnson at defensive end in Tampa. He would be ahead of Da'Quan Bowers on the depth chart.
- There were no huge surprises among the rules passed, discarded and tabled Wednesday by NFL ownership. It is a thrill that our longtime passion project, raising the goal posts, has become a reality. Somewhere, Adam Carolla is smiling.
- We wrote about all the rules decisions here. Fans will be happy that there isn't yet an appetite to make all plays reviewable. But there was significant discussion on the topic. The league will also experiment with moving extra points back to the 20-yard line in the preseason.
- Bill Belichick should become the NFL rules czar when he steps away from coaching. He came up with the goal posts proposal, and his idea to mandate cameras on every goal line, end line and sideline will be further discussed with broadcast networks.
- The most lasting change from the league here didn't even require a new rule. Jeff Fisher made it clear the league is going to crack down on taunting by penalizing players more. Fisher bemoaned the "in-your-face" taunting that goes on and said it got out of control last season.
- Expansion of the playoffs is coming; it's only a matter of time. It could even happen in 2014, but that's more of a long shot.
We say goodbye to Orlando with a big thank you to our bosses for sending us here and Anderson Cooper, who is randomly roaming around our hotel. Don't miss Marc Sessler's fantastic behind the scenes musings of the week that was.