Thursday, June 30, 2011
Free agency in the East: Cullen Jenkins
By Dan Graziano
My good friend Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com is a very busy man. He helped out on NBA Finals coverage this month, and I know that, deep in his heart, he longs to be a baseball writer. But in an apparent effort to stay true to his roots, Calvin still throws us the occasional NFL item, as he did today in ESPN Dallas' continuing series on the Cowboys and free agency.
Calvin's topic today is Cullen Jenkins, late of the Super Bowl champion Packers, which is good. Because as many of you pointed out, I completely neglected Jenkins in my post this week on free-agent defensive ends. This wasn't because I didn't know about Jenkins or because I don't think he's good or because I don't think any NFC East teams could use him. Quite the contrary, in fact. Jenkins is just a tough guy to fit into a specific category -- a 3-4 defensive end who can rush the passer and could probably play end in a 4-3 as well. He probably should have been at the top of the list for his versatility and widespread potential appeal. So because of the oversight I'm giving him his own post all to himself.
NFC East teams in need
Cowboys: Calvin breaks this down better than I (and most of his fellow baseball writers) could. Jenkins could play either end spot, would be an upgrade over Marcus Spears and could help mentor young players like Clifton Geathers and Sean Lissemore. Adding Jenkins to a front seven that already includes Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer could give the Cowboys a fearsome pass rush that might even ease their need for drastic upgrades in the secondary. Could come down to which spot they'd rather spend money on -- the front line or the back.
Redskins: The ends in Jim Haslett's scheme are supposed to clear room for the linebackers, and Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are lined up to be the pass-rush stars in Washington. But both of those guys are young players, and it's got to be tempting, at least, to bring in a lineman who has Jenkins' pass-rushing ability. There's nothing wrong with versatility, and Haslett has said his defense encourages different players to play a lot of different roles. Jenkins would be a nice fit in Washington if they're unable to land the big-time nose tackle they seek.
Eagles: They supposedly have their eye on more traditional 4-3 pass-rushing ends like Jason Babin and Ray Edwards, and their plan seems to be to spend their big money in the secondary. But plans can change, and Jenkins is the kind of guy who allows a defensive coordinator a lot of options.
Giants: No, it's not a need and I don't expect it to be. I believe both Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka will be back with the Giants in 2011, and that would mean no room for or interest in Jenkins.
Prediction that means nothing: Cowboys and Redskins both bid aggressively but lose out to a non-division team. I'll say the Jets.