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Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Breakfast links: The day has come

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Morning. The new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET, and while two of our teams may have less to spend than they initially thought, it promises to be an interesting day on which speculation finally begins converting to reality. No longer must we wonder what our teams will do once free agency begins. Today, we get to watch and see.

At this hour, it is still technically not yet the new league year. So one last time, our links are in order of this past year's division standings. Tomorrow, they'll be alphabetical again.

New York Giants

Old friend Kevin Boss has been released by the Raiders. Lots of people were asking, in the wake of this news, whether this meant he'd come back to the Giants. It makes perfect sense to me. Boss knows the system. The Giants need a tight end. He's not likely to cost anything near what he cost last year. He probably regrets leaving. Why not? If he's healthy, the Giants need to at least look at it.

Free-agent running back Mike Tolbert says he wants to be the guy to replace Brandon Jacobs in New York. I say it's a great fit. Tolbert is a different kind of back than Ahmad Bradshaw is. He's used to being in a committee situation and apparently wouldn't mind being in one again. He's good enough to be an every-down guy if and when Bradshaw has to miss a game. Tolbert and Michael Bush, two starter-quality free agents who have been operating in running back committees, make the most sense as Jacobs replacements if the Giants can afford them. The question now for Tolbert is how much he expects to make. They're right up against the salary cap, which is why Jacobs is gone in the first place.

Philadelphia Eagles

Rich Hofmann wonders if free agency will be the time when the Eagles, who should be feeling a sense of urgency about the coming season, start to show it. I don't think that's how the Eagles roll. And while they might make a signing or two (Rich raises the London Fletcher possibility we discussed here last week), they're not likely to go nuts the way they did a year ago. Those players are all still there, or the good ones are at least, and they believe they'll perform better in Year 2.

The Eagles did take care of restricted free agent Antonio Dixon on Monday, tendering him at second-round level. If any team wants to sign him to an offer sheet, the Eagles will have seven days to match the offer or receive a second-round pick from the team that wants him. Basically means he's not likely to go anywhere.

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques Taylor writes that the salary-cap sanctions against the Cowboys show that Jerry Jones doesn't wield the same power he used to in an NFL that's become a Roger Goodell dictatorship. I don't think that's what happened here. It wasn't Goodell who pushed for these sanctions, but rather the other owners. And it does bear mentioning that the new chairman of the NFL Management Council, which issued the sanctions, is Giants owner John Mara. Jones and the Redskins' Dan Snyder likely flaunted the 2010 guidelines because they saw that they constituted illegal collusion and figured the NFL would have to admit to such if it ever wanted to call them on it. They just didn't count on the NFL getting its union to go along with the punishment, which effectively cut off their avenue for complaint.

Todd Archer explains what you really want to know if you're a Cowboys fan -- why the sanctions announced Monday don't necessarily kill the Cowboys' plans to use free agency to fill the many holes on their roster.

Washington Redskins

Regardless of the sanctions, the Redskins still need to be active and intelligent in free agency, according to Mike Jones and Mark Maske, who run down some of the Skins' potential moves. One name that popped on the market late Monday is that of right tackle Eric Winston, who was released by the Houston Texans in a surprise move and should be one of the Redskins' first phone calls this afternoon.

Dan Daly writes that the sanctions are a disgrace, and that the Redskins were negligent for allowing them to happen. Strong take, but again, I'm not sure I agree. The Redskins broke no rule whatsoever. They simply acted in a way that upset their competitors. Unfortunately for them, the  NFL is a business in which their competitors have the ability to band together and punish them for behavior they don't like. I guess the Redskins should have known that, but (a) it strikes me as having been worth a shot and (b) they have so much cap room this year that it's unlikely to matter too much anyway.