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Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Tag hurts safety, pass-rush markets

By James Walker

There are two things nearly every team in the AFC East needs this offseason: safety help and an outside pass-rusher.

The franchise tag put a dent in both markets with just a week to go before the start of free agency. Five top safeties and pass-rushers were tagged in the past few days.

All four teams in the division need help getting to the quarterback next season. But defensive end Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer of the Dallas Cowboys were tagged Monday. The Indianapolis Colts also agreed to a long-term contract with Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis this week.

The New York Jets, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins are looking for safety help. But safeties Michael Griffin of the Tennessee Titans, Dashon Goldson of the San Francisco 49ers and Tyvon Branch of the Oakland Raiders also were tagged.

There are still a few good pass-rushers and safeties left on the market. Defensive end Mario Williams and safety LaRon Landry of the Washington Redskins are two examples. But the competition for free agents will only get stiffer with fewer top players available.