Free agency in the East: Tackles

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
9:30
AM ET
Nearly done now with our position-by-position look at potential four-year unrestricted free agency and the NFC East. I asked yesterday if you guys wanted me to do kickers and punters, and you seemed to say yes, so those will roll out this afternoon to wrap the series. For now, though, we go with the big fellas -- the offensive tackles.

NFC East teams in need

Redskins: With 2010 first-rounder Trent Williams on the left side, they feel like they're okay there now and for the long-term. Not so much on the right side, where Jammal Brown is a free agent and Stephon Heyer not likely a sufficient replacement. A veteran who could help develop Williams and the other young players on Washington's rebuilding line might be a good move.

Cowboys: They drafted Tyron Smith with the ninth pick in April, and their hope was to play him on the right side and emerging star Doug Free on the left. But if the new rules allow free agency after four years of service, Free becomes a free agent and a top priority for Dallas to re-sign. Should he go elsewhere, the Cowboys will need a tackle, be it right or left, since they're likely to part ways with Marc Colombo.

Eagles: Jason Peters is a star on the left, but Michael Vick's "blind side" is the right side, where Winston Justice and King Dunlap remain big question marks. Having addressed the line in the draft, the Eagles could be planning to roll the dice with those guys and fill defensive needs in free agency, but it wouldn't be crazy for them to look for a tackle.

Giants: This is a well-traveled topic and a matter of opinion. Mine is that the Giants' offensive line is a ticking injury time bomb, and that David Diehl has lost a few steps. The Giants and their fans would say the injuries on the line didn't hurt them last year, and that they actually showed the depth the team has at various line positions. I still think it's worth staying ahead of the curve, and while I know the Giants have a lot of needs, I think they need to at least look and see if they can add a tackle for depth, even if it means moving Diehl inside or into a backup role.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent tackles

1. Free. Still young and still developing, but his first year as a starter on the left side was a rousing success, and the Cowboys are hoping he can last there for a while -- as long as he stays in town. It'll be interesting to see what kind of market he draws, since it was just the one year on the left and he'd surely prefer to stay on that side than go somewhere else and play on the right. He might be more valuable to the Cowboys than he would to anyone else.

2. Willie Colon. He missed the 2010 season with an injury, but his track record as a premier right tackle won't be lost on teams that need line help. His agent recently said he didn't think the Steelers were interested in retaining Colon.

3. Tyson Clabo. A perfect fit at right tackle for the Falcons, Clabo is coming off a Pro Bowl appearance and could draw interest from run-heavy teams looking for someone to seal off that right side.

4. Matt Light. A great veteran who may be past his prime but likely still has something to offer on the field and in the locker room. Might have to settle for a shorter-term deal, given his age relative to the rest of this field.

5. Brown. The Redskins' best plan may be to bring back Brown, who performed better at right tackle for them as the season went along and his hip got healthier. It'll be interesting to see if he draws interest as a left tackle from teams in need of help on that side.

Predictions that mean nothing: Cowboys re-sign Free. Redskins re-sign Brown. Eagles look a little further down the list, maybe at a guy like Marshal Yanda, who can play tackle or guard and really shore up their situation on the right side. Giants do nothing.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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