Thursday, March 15, 2012
NFC East Thursday: How was your day?
By Dan Graziano
Unless you were in Buffalo, NFL free agency seemed to hit a bit of a lull Thursday. Maybe everybody was watching basketball. Hard to blame them, but come on. I watched a ton of basketball and still managed to spend the day working my tail off for you, my loyal blog followers. I care about you. And it is in that spirit that I feel compelled to ask this question:
How was your day...
"Can't talk. Too busy." Yeah, Dallas was another place where free agency was in full swing Thursday. Nothing like the Mario Williams extravaganza up by Niagara Falls, but the Cowboys are grinding it, filling need after need with players they've targeted for their own reasons. Unlike some past years, when the Cowboys could seem captivated by the market's biggest names, they are employing a focused, systematic approach and generally landing the guys they want. Thursday saw them come to terms with inside linebacker Dan Connor, who will help their run defense and allow Bruce Carter more time to develop if he needs it, and safety Brodney Pool, who played for Rob Ryan in Cleveland and likely replaces free agent Abram Elam. That's six unrestricted free-agent signings in two days for Dallas, and the Cowboys were working on a deal with guard Nate Livings, though he was said to be drawing interest from other teams as well. What they do the rest of the way in free agency -- whether they succeed in getting another lineman, another defensive back or more linebacking help -- could determine what they do in the first round of next month's draft. But the Cowboys are having a very productive offseason and addressing many of their myriad needs.
"Kinda slow." Still can't shake the feeling that the Eagles, who I think are still about $19 million under the salary cap, are saving up for something at least somewhat major. Maybe it's a new deal for LeSean McCoy. Maybe it's one or more of the good linebackers still available on the slow-moving linebacker market. Maybe it's for something no one's thought of yet. But the day after signing DeSean Jackson to a long-term contract and clearing much of that cap room, the Eagles sat patiently and made no noise. They'd like to bring back guard Evan Mathis, who played very well for them in 2011, but they seem okay with him testing the market, and he met with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday. Defensive end Juqua Parker left, which was no real surprise, to sign with the Cleveland Browns. But the Eagles' biggest needs are linebacker and a backup running back, and the market doesn't seem to be requiring anyone to hurry to fill either of those positions.
"So-so." They signed safety Brandon Meriweather (and I learned how to spell his name!), a former first-round pick who was cut twice last year and becomes a low-risk, high-reward project for new defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. But they saw Ben Grubbs, in whom they'd be interested for guard, sign with the Saints. And they saw wide receiver Eddie Royal, whom they thought they had signed Tuesday, sign instead with the Chargers. So they're not getting everyone they want. The Redskins do seem to be focused now on offensive line and defensive back (they were scheduled to have Aaron Ross in for a visit Friday), but with Royal out of the picture, watch to see if they look for another speedy wideout who can help in the return game. The biggest looming question for Redskins fans is the status of linebacker London Fletcher, who remains unsigned and on whom there has been almost no buzz. They definitely want him back, but it hasn't happened yet.
New York Giants?
"Blissfully boring." I think the Giants feel about free agency the way Ron Swanson feels about municipal government. They accept that it's there and they have to deal with it, but they don't seem to be very impressed. Sure, they signed tight end Martellus Bennett on Wednesday. But Thursday was dead boring. They agreed to terms with former Redskins safety Chris Horton, a special-teams candidate who was out of the league last year. They had Cowboys receiver/returner Kevin Ogletree in for a visit but did not sign him. While Ross, Mario Manningham, Jonathan Goff and Brandon Jacobs are out shopping for jobs, the Giants are sitting by and waiting things out. Ross and Manningham are sure to find bigger deals elsewhere, and Jacobs is likely to find something as well, the Giants would be fine with either welcoming those guys back at their own price once they strike out or replacing them with cheaper or internal options. It's how they roll, and they believe the Super Bowl trophy they just won after doing very little last offseason validates their approach. They make a pickup or two, but don't expect things to get hot and heavy with the Giants any time soon.
My day? Wonderful. I always enjoy the first day of March Madness, even when my bracket gets crushed and there aren't any big upsets. And I am still energized by free agency and the pace we're all keeping here at ESPN.com to keep you all up to date with it. I'll be up bright and early in the morning again, in case anybody has any questions. But for now, I bid you good night.