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Saturday, March 17, 2012
Mailbag: Free agency on the brain

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

All that's been on anyone's mind this week is free agency and college basketball. We'll skip the hoops questions in this week's mailbag and try and stick to that first thing. If you don't mind.

Barry from DC is concerned that he hasn't heard more about the Washington Redskins trying to sign offensive linemen.

Dan Graziano: Clearly, Barry, wide receiver was their first priority (after quarterback, of course, which is fixed through the draft). Then they got to work on the secondary. But I agree with you that right tackle and left guard remain areas of concern. Reports out of Washington say they had tackle Demetrius Bell in for a visit Friday, and everything I'm told indicates they're interested in tackle Eric Winston (though he spent a lot of time with the Chiefs this week). They weren't in the mix seriously for Carl Nicks or Ben Grubbs at guard. They may not land any big O-line names, but I know they're looking to add, and they're targeting guys they think can work well in their zone-blocking run game schemes.

Like a lot of people, Jason from Bryn Mawr, PA gives the Dallas Cowboys a lot of credit for the moves they've made so far in free agency. He wonders if the focused, targeted approach they're taking reflects coach Jason Garrett's influence on personnel decisions.

DG: I do, Jason. I think you saw that begin last year, when the Cowboys cut players like Roy Williams and Marion Barber in order to go with more sensible options. I think you saw it this year with the overhaul of the coaching staff that got rid of some long-timers and replaced them with fresh faces. I believe Jerry Jones really wants Garrett to succeed and is willing to let him run the team his way, and I believe that means Garrett has a great deal of say in the kinds of players the team is pursuing. Things are making more sense in Dallas than Jones' old reputation usually leads people to believe they are.

George from Lexington, VA is watching the New York Giants sign free agents "to modest contracts so that they can fill specific roles in their system" and asks whether their approach is at all similar to the Billy Beane Oakland A's model that inspired the book and movie "Moneyball."

DG: I think it's an imperfect comparison, George. "Moneyball" is the story of a low-revenue team trying to find a way to compete in a game that has no salary cap and was at the time heavily tilted in favor of the high-revenue teams. The NFL's salary cap eliminates this problem by effectively eliminating the concept of low-revenue teams. All NFL teams are rolling in money, and those that don't spend as much as the others do so by choice. The Giants have been right up against the cap the last two years as a result of some big contracts that would make Billy Beane pass out, so part of the reason they haven't made big free-agent moves is because they're unable to. But I think the main reason the Giants are so comfortable with their simple moves is their belief in their coaching staff and the veteran-inspired environment in their locker room. They really believe they can find most of their solutions internally, because they believe their program develops prospects into good players. And they've been proven right a lot in recent years.

Now, when I do the mailbag, I like to make sure all four teams are represented. But man, was it hard to find a Philadelphia Eagles question this week. I scrolled back and scrolled back through Redskins question after Redskins question, and the first Eagles questions I found were from March 11! Thomas Hanson from D.C. asking if the Eagles would bring back Kevin Kolb as Michael Vick's backup if the Cardinals let Kolb go and gwh from Downingtown, PA asking if Donovan McNabb would be open to coming back as Vick's backup and if the Eagles would consider that.

DG: Obviously, since these questions came in, Arizona has decided to stick with Kolb, so that's out. And I guess, if there is an NFL team out there that would consider giving McNabb a job (and we have no proof that there is at this point), the Eagles would be a leading candidate. I thought the two best backup quarterback options were Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton, but they got snatched up right away by the Bears and Cowboys. The Eagles make that position a priority, as you know, and they're surely looking around for better options than Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards. But the list of the remaining candidates isn't awe-inspiring. David Garrard may be the best of a bunch that includes Rex Grossman, Shaun Hill, Jake Delhomme, Dennis Dixon and old friend Jeff Garcia.

Anyway, Eagles fans, come on! Where are the questions?