NFC East: Albert Haynesworth

Five Wonders: Looking to the future

December, 17, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- So many things to wonder, so little time.

It’s Five Wonders and we’re hitting big topics right off the top.

Away we go:

** I wonder if the Cowboys have a decision to make on DeMarcus Ware in the offseason. Ware is set to count $16.003 million against the salary cap in 2014. He has a base salary of $12.25 million. The Cowboys have reworked his contract numerous times over the years, even adding voidable years to it to help with the prorated amounts. They will need to restructure more contracts in the offseason to get under the projected $126.3 million salary cap in 2014. They will also have to cut some high-priced veterans. Perhaps even Ware, which seems shocking in a way. Ware has only six sacks with two games to go. He missed three games because of a quadriceps injury and has not been effective for much of the past month. He was so good in training camp. He made Tyron Smith look bad on an almost daily basis. Is it just health? Ware says he is healthy. Is it age? Ware turns 32 next July. The Cowboys have made mistakes with age before. Jay Ratliff comes immediately to mind. Ware is far from Ratliff. He is the right kind of guy. He works hard. He is a good teammate. He plays hurt. Ware has not only missed three games but he is playing only 67.2 percent of the snaps when he does play. It is one thing to commit $16 million to a guy on the cap when he is getting you anywhere from 12 to 18 sacks a season. It’s another thing to do it when he is struggling. If the Cowboys released Ware, their all-time leader in sacks, they would save $7.43 million against the cap. Jerry Jones has a hard time with these types of decisions. Could he ask Ware to take a cut in pay? Would Ware accept one?

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesIs Jason Garrett's future in Dallas secure?
** Mike Shanahan won’t be the Washington Redskins' coach in 2014. Could he join the Dallas Cowboys' coach? If Jones decides to part ways with Jason Garrett, then Shanahan’s name will be linked to the Cowboys just because he’s a name. Same with Jon Gruden. But let’s stick with Shanahan here for a moment. Now it’s difficult to take Albert Haynesworth’s word for much. After all he did stomp on Andre Gurode’s head in 2006. But Haynesworth said last week in Washington, D.C., that it is in Shanahan’s contract that Daniel Snyder has to limit contact with the players. I can understand why Shanahan would want that in there. It helps him control things more. But I wonder if Shanahan would ever come here because you know Jones would never EVER have that in coach’s contract. Jones moved to the background when Bill Parcells was coach but he did not disappear.

** Let’s stick with the head coaching theme and the possibility of Garrett’s demise. Forget “who” Jerry Jones targets. I wonder “what” kind of coach he targets. Shanahan and Gruden have Super Bowl rings on their résumé, but Jones has said before he does not necessarily want a coach with a championship because he does not believe the coach has the same fire. (Yes, I realize Parcells is an exception.) I wonder if Jones goes for a defensive coach. The offensive personnel figures to be mostly the same in 2014: Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Smith, Travis Frederick, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar. The defense needs the re-tooling. Does Jones go after a defensive coach? There’s a lot of work to do there obviously and not as many parts. Who is a building block? Sean Lee. The rest you hope can rebound from poor seasons. If Jones goes defense, I wonder if he would go with a first-time coach or a veteran head coach. Would Mike Zimmer be in the mix? Lovie Smith? None of this matters if the Cowboys win their final two games.

** I wonder if Murray’s performance over the past month or so is making those at Valley Ranch rethink their thoughts about his long-term future. Murray is 23 yards away from reaching 1,000 yards for the season. He probably should have hit that number against the Green Bay Packers if they just ran the ball more. He will get it this week against the Redskins barring something unforeseen and he will do it in just his 13th game of the season having missed two games with a knee injury. That’s pretty impressive. He has run harder as the season has gone on but has left yards on the field as well. The prevailing wisdom is that running backs can be found here, there and everywhere and you only commit long term to the Adrian Peterson types. Murray is not that kind of back but he has had his best season. He is signed through 2014.

** If the Cowboys lose Sunday and the Philadelphia Eagles win, I wonder how the Cowboys approach the season finale against the Eagles. The Cowboys will be out of the playoff chase. In 2005 the Cowboys were eliminated before their finale against the St. Louis Rams but Parcells chose to go with his starters and lost 20-10. Many inside the organization wanted to see him start Tony Romo in that finale, but the coach stuck with Drew Bledsoe. Not to go all Herm Edwards on you here, but you play to win the game. If you can take a look at a player, then fine. The problem the Cowboys have is they don’t have much in the pipeline you would want to see. Maybe Jermey Parnell gets a shot at right tackle, but Doug Free hasn’t done anything to be benched and should be back in 2014. Maybe Escobar takes the bulk of the backup tight end snaps over James Hanna. Would that change any perceptions of Escobar as he heads into his second season? Could Williams get the work over Miles Austin? Yeah, but that has happened for most of the season.

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 13

December, 2, 2013
A review of four hot topics following the Washington Redskins' 24-17 loss to the New York Giants:

Running trouble: For the second week in a row, the Redskins faced a defense that, statistically at least, ranked among the top 11 in the NFL. For the second week in a row, the Redskins failed to generate a ground game. In the past two games, against two teams that have done well against the run, Redskins running back Alfred Morris has gained 78 yards on 25 carries. He was a bigger factor Sunday night in the first half in the pass game (27 yards) than in the run game (11). And he had two carries in the second half, gaining 15 yards. After that, Morris didn’t touch the ball, which is really difficult to believe. Nor should that happen in a close game. I know the Giants geared up to stop him, but I also think this game exposes more problems with the Redskins’ offense and its inability to adjust (or to make its adjustments work). It only works when it can play one way -- especially against the better defenses. The Redskins have played seven of the NFL’s worst nine defenses in terms of overall yards allowed; if they want to factor in who they have faced at quarterback to explain some defensive issues, you have to look at this when gauging the offensive success. They have played two defenses in the top 11: New York and San Francisco. And the Redskins failed to sustain anything against either.

[+] EnlargeBrian Orakpo
AP Photo/Nick WassBrian Orakpo can help Washington's pass defense improve by generating a consistent pass rush.
Orakpo’s resurgence: Linebacker Brian Orakpo continues to play well, and Sunday he was credited with two sacks and two hurries and again played the run well. On both sacks he was able to cut inside left tackle Will Beatty, something Orakpo hasn’t done a lot of -- he’s typically winning by driving his man back or going around him. Beatty even had outside help so he could play to the inside, but it didn’t matter. Orakpo said last week that he’s playing better now in part because the rust is gone, not to mention any fear about hurting his pectoral muscles again. He’s playing for his next contract, too, though let’s not look at this like he’s, say, Albert Haynesworth. Nobody ever questioned Orakpo’s effort. But it does make the next four weeks interesting for him. The Redskins need to find a way to keep him (Rob Jackson is just not the same player). But I wonder the pay level Orakpo is anticipating; he considers himself an elite pass-rusher.

Blocking woes: If the coaching staff does return, and there’s no scheme change, they’ll have to make changes along the offensive line. They drafted three linemen last year; someone needs to emerge. Though the right side has struggled, they are far from the lone culprits. In the past two weeks, every offensive lineman has had issues. But that was true last season, too. However, the blocking on the edge was much better than it’s been the past two games, with the tight ends and even the receivers. If Santana Moss, for example, holds his block on the bubble screen to Pierre Garcon early on the final drive, it has a chance to be an excellent gain. The big plays come when the blocking on the edges and downfield is good. That has not been the case.

Griffin’s performance: The reason why you don’t sit Robert Griffin III in the next four weeks is because of games like Sunday night. He needs to continue to be placed in all kinds of situations if he’s ever going to become a franchise quarterback. Some growth was evident in his game, with the first-half check-downs and freezing the safety with his eyes. Griffin needs to experience all of this over the next four weeks, because his development is crucial to the organization’s future. That’s true regardless of who is coaching here in 2014. It’s imperative that he get put in positions to win a game at the end -- and then go do it. You build off such scenarios. Thing is, Griffin did what he could on that final drive, and his teammates didn’t help with three drops and a stripped ball. Nor did the officiating crew with a botched down marker. (I'm not going over that again since it was covered in depth Sunday night; not much more needs to be said. A massive screw-up.) Still, there’s nothing to gain by sitting Griffin.

Haynesworth rips Shanahan, ignores reality

October, 31, 2013

I was going to poke holes in Albert Haynesworth's latest beef against the Washington Redskins. I was going to dissect his points and remind all that one person played a huge role in the downturn of Haynesworth’s career: Haynesworth himself.

Then I decided it would just be silly. I’ll offer a brief assessment of Haynesworth and then let him have the stage so you can get a good chuckle.

Maybe he has some good points, but they get lost because of how he thinks he worked while he was here. One coach from his two-year era said Haynesworth was a bad worker, cutting corners at every turn. Even at the time, when teammates spoke of him, they’d talk about how they liked him but that he didn’t quite “get it.” When he was signed, a respected NFC general manager warned this would be a bad signing; too many red flags in Haynesworth’s past. Even his former defensive line coach in Tennessee, Jim Washburn, said Haynesworth once told him his goal was to be “the richest person in the world.”

[+] EnlargeAlbert Haynesworth
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsAlbert Haynesworth said he has nothing but regret concerning signing with the Redskins.
And if Haynesworth really wanted to be a Hall of Famer, would he have let alterations in how he was used block him? He would have been a terror as a 3-4 nose tackle with his size and quickness (though, sure, he’s better as a 4-3 tackle. Still, point is: Two bad years ruined those Hall of Fame chances? Come on).

A lasting image of his time here? Lying on the ground for an extended time in a Monday night debacle against the Philadelphia Eagles -- while the play was ongoing.

Anyway, that’s out of the way. Here’s a full transcript of what he said, courtesy of the nation's No. 1 transcriber, the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg. But here are a few highlights:

“Then, after that year of playing and not doing ANYTHING like we did in Tennessee…then we get [Mike] Shanahan in there, aka Red Lobster, as Fred Smoot says. He comes in and completely changes the defense to a 3-4, where I’m reading. I’m not doing things that I normally do -- exploding and shooting the gaps and creating havoc -- I’m staying on the line, going left and right. Not even going forward.

"I mean, it's like, you can't win with that team. And you think it was just me? I mean, look how he did Donovan [McNabb]. See what's going on with RGIII. I met RGIII. He seemed like an extremely nice guy that's willing to work. Now he's gonna learn -- I mean, I hate to say he's gonna learn -- about [Mike Shanahan], how he's conniving and everything like that, where he's not gonna help him out, it's all about him." The host then pointed out that Shanahan has two Super Bowls to his credit. "He hasn't won a playoff game since Elway retired.” (Note: He’s won one game since that time).

“... when I signed that deal -- which to me was the worst mistake in my life. You could say yeah I got paid a lot of money -- I don’t really care about the money. If I knew it was gonna be like that, I never would have went. I never would have went. I guarantee. Because my goal was to be a Hall of Famer and to be one of the greatest defensive tackles to play the game, not just to go and make money at Washington and in two years my career be over there. I mean, that’s not what I’m about. Yeah, I love to make money, but I can make money playing the game and not just some free agent bust or whatever.”

You might find this hard to believe, but I don't miss covering what was the Haynesworth train wreck.
Greetings and welcome to your Thursday edition of the breakfast links, where we work to keep you abreast of what folks around the league are writing about our division's teams. I hope you enjoy.

Washington Redskins

DeAngelo Hall says the plan all along for him was to return to Washington this year at a drastically reduced salary. He says he felt responsible for the salary-cap mess in which the Redskins found themselves, since he believed his contract and Albert Haynesworth's were the ones for which the other teams' owners penalized them. Says he's made enough money.

Robert Griffin III's knee isn't the only injury concern for the Redskins on offense as the offseason program gets underway. Tark El-Bashir runs down the list of the walking wounded that surround Griffin, or Kirk Cousins, as the case may be.

Dallas Cowboys

It is assumed that DeMarcus Ware will make an easy transition from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end, and he very well might. Players of Ware's talent are capable of more things that we sometimes give them credit for. But Jean-Jacques Taylor writes that the move does carry some risk.

Yes, Phil Costa knows the Cowboys' first-round draft pick could take his job as the starting center. No, Costa does not plan to be a jerk about it to Travis Frederick. Just doesn't think that's the way to do things. Obviously, it's possible that whoever from the duo of Frederick or Costa doesn't win the center's job could win a job as a starting guard, too.

New York Giants

If you believe that the presence of smoke indicates the presence of fire, then you have reason to be optimistic about the state of the Victor Cruz contract talks. Again, I expect that this will get done to the satisfaction of both sides, but if it doesn't get done in the next couple of days, that's no reason to think anything's necessarily gone wrong.

The Giants were hoping to lure free-agent Josh Cribbs to help their kick-return game, but he has instead signed with the Raiders. This likely means running back David Wilson remains the primary kick returner in spite of what's expected to be an increased role in the running game.

Philadelphia Eagles

There are a few Philadelphia Eagles players for whom Chip Kelly's methods and mannerisms are not new or unfamiliar. Those players who knew him at the University of Oregon say he's the same guy he was there.

Matt Barkley is making a strong first impression on the Eagles' coaches and his fellow competitors at quarterback, and it's not crazy to think he's not in the mix to play that position as early as this season.
Death, taxes and Mike Shanahan taking a running back in the late rounds of the NFL draft. These are things you can take to the bank, and with the first of their two fifth-round picks Saturday (No. 154 overall), Shanahan and the Washington Redskins selected Florida State running back Chris Thompson.

You'll recall the Redskins drafting Alfred Morris in the sixth round last year, and even if you don't you'll certainly recall Morris finishing second in the NFL in rushing yards in his rookie season. So while the Redskins don't have a need for a starting running back, Shanahan believes there's no such thing as too much depth at that position. He also believes you can find starting-caliber running backs late in the draft.

Thompson is a big-play running back who's not built for early-down, between-the-tackles work but is the kind of back who's a threat to score from anywhere on the field. The reason he was there in the fifth round is a history of major injuries that include a season-ending broken back in 2011 and a torn ACL last year. So he's a long shot, but if he can get/stay healthy, he could be an exciting new weapon for their Robert Griffin III-led offense.

The Redskins had a second fifth-round pick (No. 162 overall) as a result of the Albert Haynesworth trade to New England, and they used it on another injured Florida State guy with upside -- pass-rusher Brandon Jenkins. He was a defensive end in college who profiles as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL and could help augment the Redskins' outside pass rush. A foot injury ended his 2012 season early, but he was extremely productive in the years prior to that. He's a pure pass-rusher with good instincts, and if he factors in this year it'll likely be as a situational guy.

Basically, the Redskins spent their fifth-round picks on depth at positions where they already look good but believe you can never be deep enough.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- A new month and a new locale for the NFC East blog, which drove Tuesday night through Gettysburg and Harrisburg and goodness-knows-how-many other burgs to arrive here. I will be checking out the training camp of the dynastically-minded Philadelphia Eagles the next two days, but you know you'll still be getting plenty of my leftover reporting from Giants camp and Redskins camp while I'm here. (I head to Cowboys camp Monday and Tuesday). You also know you can always count on the links.

Philadelphia Eagles

Much of the focus and analysis of the 2012 Eagles' secondary has focused on the likely benefit of playing Nnamdi Asomugha more in man coverage, where he excelled as a Raider. But moving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the outside full-time is also likely to have major benefits, as Geoff Mosher explains.

The Eagles blitzed on just 18 percent of their plays last year (second-lowest figure in the league), Sheil Kapadia writes. And since they tied for the league lead in sacks anyway, don't expect that number to go up very much. The defensive scheme implemented last year by Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn relies on the four defensive linemen to create pressure on the quarterback, and the Eagles have the linemen to pull it off.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking run game works best with a versatile, heavily involved fullback in the backfield, so Darrel Young's hamstring strain is not good news. Shanahan said after practice Tuesday that Young would likely miss one to two weeks with the injury. That could give rookie Alfred Morris a chance to show his versatility, as he's said he'll play fullback if needed, but the Redskins have been using him in the tailback rotation and he's actually got a shot to emerge from camp as the starting tailback. (Hey, who doesn't?)

You can't watch Redskins practice these days and not notice some of the option offense they're running with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. It looked to me as though Roy Helu was most often the running back when they went to the option, but I didn't keep close track of that. I'm sure they'll run some option at some point with Griffin, but the impression I get is that they're just trying to throw everything at him right now and determine which stuff he can handle and run the best.

Dallas Cowboys

The Bill Nagy injury is disappointing for the Cowboys because Kevin Kowalski and Mackenzy Bernadeau are already hurt and that leaves pretty much no one to push Phil Costa at center. And even if they didn't want to replace Costa as their starting center, the Cowboys were hoping to throw some competition at him and maybe help him get better. That is not, currently, an option.

Calvin Watkins is calling Felix Jones, Andre Holmes and Brodney Pool -- the three Cowboys players who failed their camp-opening conditioning test -- "The Big Three," which I personally find hilarious. Anyway, he says there's a chance they get to run the thing again today. I hope they pass it. No one needs an Albert Haynesworth situation here.

New York Giants

Giants safety Tyler Sash got suspended for four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy and offered the same lame excuse everyone's using nowadays. Doesn't matter whether he's lying or not, Sash has already lost his appeal. I just marvel that every single guy who ever gets suspended for performance-enhancers is always innocent. No one ever comes out and says, "Yeah, I did it. I messed up. I'm sorry. Won't happen again." Anyway, between this and Terrell Thomas' fresh ACL injury, the likelihood of a Deon Grant return does seem to be increasing, no?

Gary Myers seems to believe that Jerry Jones' trash talking at a fan pep rally earlier this week will somehow "wake up" the Giants and enable them to beat the Cowboys in 2012. Couple of things. First, I was not aware that the Giants were not awake. Second, I just want to throw out the possibility that, if the Giants beat the Cowboys in 2012, it might have something to do with their having better players. For goodness' sake, people, it was a pep rally. Jones didn't break into the Giants' locker room and start telling all of the players they stink. It was a pep rally.

The appeal of NFL-imposed cap reductions to the Washington Redskins ($36 million) and Dallas Cowboys ($10 million) has ended. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank dismissed their claims today -- for reasons described below -- and the teams have raised the white flag, issuing a joint statement accepting the decision. Interestingly, the two NFL owners who enjoy a good fight the most -- Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder -- have decided to go quietly here, choosing to use this as a chip for political capital down the road.

The NFL claimed the teams gained competitive advantage by maneuvering cap money into the uncapped 2010 year, clearing the deck for future spending without encumbrances from bloated contracts of Albert Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hall, Miles Austin and others. Were the teams given a chance to argue, they would have emphasized that there were no written warnings against their conduct, and that the contracts were approved upon submission to the NFL management council (NFLMC). However, they will have no such chance, as the case was dismissed.

Commissioner power

Burbank rejected the teams’ arguments that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was not authorized to act on behalf of the NFLMC, the unit of the NFL that gave strident verbal warnings about their cap maneuvers and suggested discipline. Burbank intimated -- but did not expressly hold -- that the articles and bylaws of the NFLMC contemplate the commissioner acting as an agent for them. Thus, the commissioner’s powers may extend past the playing field into the contract and cap decisions made by teams and their ownership.

NFLPA on board

The March 11 letter announcing the reduction (reallocation letter) was executed by both Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith. Smith was agreeable as long as league-wide cap room remained the same, with the $46 million reallocated to the other 28 teams (the Saints and Raiders were denied reallocation because of similar, but lesser violations). The union’s buy-in -- forged with assurances from the NFL that the team cap number in 2012 would not dip below that of 2011 -- was a factor in Burbank’s dismissal.

Teams on board

With the NFLPA signing off, the March 27 resolution by 29 NFL teams (the Bucs abstained) to ratify the reallocation letter became, in Burbank’s eyes, a valid amendment to the collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, the Cowboys’ and Redskins’ claims of unilateral changes in the cap and collusion by other teams were denied. The key line from the decision reads in part: “the March 27th Resolution effectively ratified the Reallocation Letter, which therefore is binding on the Redskins and Cowboys as an amendment to the CBA.”

Thus, Burbank essentially gave his blessing to two agreements that served to bind and penalize the Redskins and Cowboys without them being a party to either. Commissioner power is strengthened again, 28 teams have additional cap room, and the NFLPA protects its players’ cap room league-wide. Everyone is satisfied except, of course, those two owners.

Something tells me that -- although they are accepting the decision -- they won’t soon forget this episode.

Giants sign DT Shaun Rogers

April, 26, 2012
We interrupt our regularly scheduled pre-draft hysteria to report a veteran player acquisition. Leave it to the New York Giants to treat this as a business-as-usual day, which they did by signing veteran defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. Rogers is a 33-year-old, 12-year NFL veteran who played every game last year for the New Orleans Saints.

The signing is interesting because of what it might say about the way the Giants feel about the younger defensive tackles they already had on the roster, including Linval Joseph and second-year man Marvin Austin, who missed his rookie season with an injury. Austin has been saying all the right things about working to get back on the field, but the Giants' recent hunt for a veteran at the same position (Mike Garafolo reports they were looking into Albert Haynesworth) indicates that they're not sure what they're going to get out of their holdover group.

Anyway, we all knew the Giants would find a way to come up with a defensive lineman today. It remains to be seen whether they'll draft one at 11:30 pm. As you know, they never believe they have too many.
Good and interesting insight in this story from Albert Breer on about what, exactly, upset the other teams in the NFL about the way the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins spent their money in the uncapped 2010 season. The NFL stripped the Redskins of $36 million and the Cowboys of $10 million in salary cap space over the next two years, and those two teams have filed a grievance against the league and the NFLPA to dispute the punishment. But to this point, it has remained unclear what, exactly, the other teams felt they did wrong.

Albert writes that, by structuring the contracts of Miles Austin, Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall in such a way as to inflate 2010 base salaries and save money in future years, the Cowboys and Redskins inflated the franchise-player numbers for wide receivers, defensive tackles and cornerbacks. As a result, the Chargers had a hard time keeping Vincent Jackson, the Ravens were handcuffed by the contract they wanted to give Haloti Ngata and the Bengals were unable to keep Johnathan Joseph. For example:
[+] EnlargeMiles Austin
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireOne of the contracts owners were upset about was the one the Cowboys gave to Miles Austin in 2010, according to an story.
Austin's contract was instrumental in pushing the receiver number from $9.5 million in 2010 to $11.3 million in 2011. San Diego franchised Vincent Jackson at the latter number in 2011. The leverage Jackson gained from having an $11.4 million tender made him difficult to sign to a long-term deal, and the resulting 2012 franchise figure -- by rule, 120 percent of the previous number, which came out to $13.7 million -- made it even harder to tag him again for the club.

So San Diego, which likely would've tagged Jackson again if the number had been more affordable, let Jackson walk. He signed a five-year, $55.6 million contract with the Buccaneers this offseason.

Many thanks to Albert for shining some light on what, exactly, the other owners found wrong with the way the Cowboys and the Redskins behaved in a year that was supposed to have no spending restrictions. The Cowboys and Redskins are arguing that there was no rule against what they did, and while that may be true, Giants owner and NFL management committee chairman John Mara said last month that all teams were warned that they could be punished if they did what these two teams did.

But for a couple of reasons, I continue to believe the teams that are complaining about this are full of it. First of all, commissioner Roger Goodell said at the owners' meetings last month that the reason for the penalties was that the teams in question had attempted to gain a competitive advantage in future years through their 2010 actions. But what Albert writes (on the league's own web site) is something quite different. Albert's reporting indicates that the reason the other teams got upset at the Cowboys and the Redskins was because their actions required them to spend more money than they wanted to spend to pay their own players. And if that's the case, then the artificial, unwritten guidelines the owners tried to put in place to control spending during the uncapped year were not an effort to maintain future competitive balance (as they have claimed publicly), but rather clearly an attempt to control player salaries.

Furthermore, it's important to remember that there never would have been an uncapped 2010 season -- or any reason to cut backroom deals to regulate spending therein -- if the owners hadn't decided to lock out the players in 2011 in an effort to restructure the CBA in a manner more favorable to themselves. Had they negotiated in good faith prior to 2010, they could have put a new CBA in place that would have imposed a salary cap and clear spending rules for that season. But because they had decided long before to impose a lockout strategy and not negotiate until they had the players backed up against the wall, the 2010 season arrived without a salary cap, as the prior CBA said it must if it were to be the final league year.

The entire concept of the uncapped 2010 season was an avoidable mess of the owners' own making. The lockout was an unnecessary act of pure greed, as evidenced by a new CBA that solved almost none of the competitive-balance issues raised by small-market owners. And the idea that the teams could whisper together behind closed doors about acting as though there was a cap when there wasn't and expect every owner to go along with the plan is (and always was) utterly foolish. The salary cap penalties against the Cowboys and Redskins are part of the fallout from the clumsy way in which the NFL's owners executed their negotiating strategy, and I continue to see no common-sense reason why those teams shouldn't expect to get some sort of restitution from the arbitrator.
Continuing our borderline relevant, hopefully fun and interesting look at the history of the specific draft picks our division's teams hold this year, we look at the Philadelphia Eagles, who have nine picks in this year's draft. Some interesting stuff you turn up in an exercise like this. For instance, some pretty good recent history at the Eagles' first two picks. And if you think the Eagles have to take a quarterback early if they're thinking about the future, scroll all the way down. They might be able to wait until their very last pick to find the next Bart Starr!

PICK 15 (15th pick, first round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Mike Pouncey, C, Dolphins

2010 -- Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants

2009 -- Brian Cushing, LB, Texans

2008 -- Branden Albert, T, Chiefs

2007 -- Lawrence Timmons, LB, Steelers

Eagles' history of No. 15 picks

2003 -- Jerome McDougle

Hall of Famers picked No. 15

Alan Page (1967), Jim Taylor (1958)

Other Notables

Albert Haynesworth (2002)

PICK 46 (14th pick, second round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Orlando Franklin, T, Broncos

2010 -- Linval Joseph, DT, Giants

2009 -- Connor Barwin, DE, Texans

2008 -- Jerome Simpson, WR, Bengals

2007 -- LaMarr Woodley, LB, Steelers

Eagles' history of No. 46 pick

1983 -- Jody Schulz

Hall of Famers picked No. 46

Jack Lambert (1974)

PICK 51 (19th pick, second round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Buccaneers

2010 -- Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings

2009 -- Andy Levitre, G, Bills

2008 -- Malcolm Kelly, WR, Redskins

2007 -- Steve Smith, WR, Giants

Eagles' history of No. 51 pick


Hall of Famers picked No. 51

Rickey Jackson (1981)

PICK 88 (25th pick, third round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Johnny Patrick, DB, Saints

2010 -- Andre Roberts, WR, Cardinals

2009 -- Ladarius Webb, DB, Ravens

2008 -- Bruce Davis, LB, Steelers

2007 -- Andy Alleman, G, Saints

Eagles' history of No. 88 pick

1984 -- Evan Cooper

Hall of Famers picked No. 88

Bob Hayes (1964)

PICK 114 (19th pick, fourth round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars

2010 -- Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens

2009 -- David Bruton, DB, Broncos

2008 -- Reggie Corner, DB, Bills

2007 -- Marvin White, S, Bengals

Eagles' history of No. 114 pick

1967 -- Bob Van Pelt

Hall of Famers picked No. 114

None. Closest I found was Steve Largent, who was picked 117th. Sorry.

PICK 153 (18th pick, fifth round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets

2010 -- Andrew Quarless, TE, Packers

2009 -- Cornelius Ingram, TE, Eagles

2008 -- Matt Slater, WR, Patriots

2007 -- Kevin Boss, TE, Giants

Eagles' history of No. 153 pick

2009 -- Cornelius Ingram

1967 -- Bob Hughes

Hall of Famers picked No. 153

None. No one at all in the 150s. Or the 140s, for that matter.

PICK 172 (second pick, sixth round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Brandon Fusco, C, Vikings

2010 -- Brent Bowden, P, Buccaneers

2009 -- David Buehler, K, Cowboys

2008 -- Thomas Brown, RB, Falcons

2007 -- Legedu Naanee, WR, Chargers

Eagles' history of 172nd pick

2005 -- Scott Young

1999 -- Cecil Martin

1984 -- Joe Hayes

Hall of Famers picked No. 172


PICK 194 (24th pick, sixth round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Markell Carter, LB, Patriots

2010 -- Ramon Harewood, T, Ravens

2009 -- Brandon Gibson, WR, Eagles

2008 -- Ryan Mundy, S, Steelers

2007 -- David Irons, CB, Falcons

Eagles' history of 194th pick

2009 -- Brandon Gibson

1996 -- Steve White

Hall of Famers picked No. 194

None. Closest I found was Shannon Sharpe, who was picked No. 192 in 1990.

PICK 200 (30th pick, sixth round)

Last five players taken

2011 -- Ross Homan, LB, Vikings

2010 -- Charles Scott, RB, Eagles

2009 -- DeAndre Wright, CB, Giants

2008 -- Joe Mays, LB, Eagles

2007 -- Melila Purcell, DE, Browns

Eagles' history of 200th pick

2010 -- Charles Scott

2008 -- Joe Mays

1984 -- Manny Matsakis

Hall of Famers picked No. 200

Bart Starr (1956)
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean, the NFL's owners, coaches, GMs and almost anyone else with any connection to the league rise to begin their annual meetings at The Breakers. Most everyone checked in Sunday, and much of the lobby chatter was about the salary-cap penalties against the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. There will be more of that talk today, along with a great deal of other NFL business, and we'll keep you posted on all of it the best we can. Time to get you started, though, with some links.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he'd speak with reporters here Monday about the salary-cap penalties against his team and the Redskins. In light of what Giants owner John Mara said Sunday about the situation, I think we're all eager to hear Jerry's thoughts on this.

I enjoyed Calvin Watkins' short appreciation of former Cowboys running back Marion Barber in the wake of Barber's retirement announcement late last week.

New York Giants

Mara was in a bitter mood over several things as he took questions upon his arrival at the meetings Sunday. After he got through excoriating the Cowboys and the Redskins for breaking something that doesn't appear to have been a rule, he was asked what he thought about Tim Tebow signing with the Jets. "I don't know," he said, "but the David Carr press conference is tomorrow, too." The Giants sometimes get a little too fixated on the Jets, you see.

Giants 101 did a mock draft for the Giants and has them taking a pass-rusher, of all things, with the final pick of the first round. It's certainly not a need pick, but it wouldn't be a surprise. The Giants believe in what they believe in, and one of those things is that the draft is for building a deep roster, not for plugging short-term holes.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles tend to come to these meetings with a purpose, and as Jeff McLane wrote Sunday, this year's may be to see what kind of deal they can get for cornerback Asante Samuel. Now, you can argue the merits of trading Samuel versus trading Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or even Nnamdi Asomugha. But for contract reasons and other reasons, it seems Samuel is the guy for whom they'd like to get something, and they should have some idea over the next couple of days what they might be able to get in return. If they can do better than a fourth-round pick, I imagine they'll jump on it.

In the wake of last week's Los Angeles Times report about front-office infighting in Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan ponders where the fault lines might lie.

Washington Redskins

Len Pasquarelli says the Albert Haynesworth deal was largely to blame for the penalties incurred by the Redskins in the salary-cap mess. What I've been given to understand is that this wasn't about just one or two deals, but rather about the Redskins repeatedly restructuring many of their existing deals in such a way as to dump money into the uncapped year. It's apparently something many teams did, but that the Redskins did to an extent that the other owners found odious.

The idea of a Redskins training facility in Washington, D.C., is a complicated one, and this here doesn't make it sound as though it's very far along or close to fruition.

Let's talk about LaRon Landry

March, 15, 2012
Man, do I get LaRon Landry questions. Washington Redskins fans want to know if they're bringing him back. Dallas Cowboys fans want to know if they should sign him to play safety. Philadelphia Eagles fans want to know if they're taking a look. The answers, best as I can tell, are as follows:

No, no and only if it's really cheap. Landry is an injured player, folks. And if there's an early market for his services, it's because some team is willing to take a very big risk.

I guess Landry has fans' attention because he's a big name. And in spite of the fact that memories only go back six days in the NFL, there are some images still stuck in people's brains about big plays Landry used to make once upon a time when he was a healthy player. Oh yeah, when he's on the field, there are few safeties in the league scarier than Landry. There is no doubting that.

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Steven Bisig/US PresswireLaRon Landry's days in D.C. appear to be coming to an end.
But the reason he's on the market -- and the reason the Redskins are talking to people like Brandon Meriweather while Landry is trying to get visits to other places -- is that he can't get on the field, and the Redskins are sick of wondering from week to week whether they can count on him. Hampered by Achilles and groin injuries, Landry played in eight games for the Redskins in 2011, was credited with just 35 tackles, no passes defensed and no interceptions. That doesn't scream, "Pay me!!!," especially when he played in only nine games the year before. The Achilles is still hurt, and he has refused to have surgery to repair it, which makes him an injured player, which explains why he's not on some big, happy tour of various team sites and sifting through huge contract offers.

So if you're a Redskins fan, you ought to say goodbye. The current coaching staff has had enough of waiting for Landry to show them what he can do -- and that he can do it reliably over the course of a full season. They have moved on. They used their franchise tag on Fred Davis instead and are looking at other options for the secondary.

And if you're a Cowboys fan, don't get your hopes up. The Cowboys don't appear to be going the big-name, low-production route this year. They're targeting guys they like for their specific need positions, and Brodney Pool is the safety coming in for a visit today.

And if you're an Eagles fan, keep expectations low. Yes, it's possible they'd take a look at Landry, but only if his price remains very low and he's willing to come in on a short, make-good deal that pays off only if he plays and produces. The Eagles have talented young safeties who need to play and develop, and while they might be willing to take a chance on Landry's talent, they're unlikely to do so at the expense of their long-range plan.

This post by AFC East blogger James Walker Wednesday says the Patriots and the Jets have some interest in Landry. It mentions the Eagles, too, at the bottom, but those two AFC East teams feel like more likely destinations. Rex Ryan loves him a big name, even if the production no longer matches up. You could see him taking a shot. And the Patriots? Well, Landry would feel like a very Patriot move. I could just imagine them signing him, late in the market, to a low-guarantee, high-incentive deal and everybody saying, "Wow, that Bill Belichick may have got himself a steal right there." You know. Like they said last year when he got Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco.

Fact is, whoever signs Landry may get themselves a steal, if he can finally stay healthy and put together a full season. But at this point, on the third day of free agency, with so many other healthier options available, it's hard to see how it's worth the risk. For anybody.

These aren't the 'same old Redskins'

February, 21, 2012
ShanahanGeoff Burke/US PresswireSince Mike Shanahan's arrival, the Redskins' personnel decisions have been more disciplined.
I get it, Washington Redskins fans. You've been hurt. You've been burned too many times by big March headlines you thought would bring lasting happiness but instead brought heartache, and now it's difficult for you to trust. You don't want to be hurt again.

How else to explain the horrified reaction by a quarterback-starved fan base to the idea of signing Peyton Manning? Judging by the reactions from the folks in our comments section all the way up to the mayor of Washington, D.C., you'd think we were talking about handing the starting quarterback's job to Dan Snyder's teenage nephew. This is what Mayor Vincent Gray had to say on the topic to a D.C. television station last week:
"You know, I think it depends on what role he would play, Bruce," Gray said. "But I really think the Redskins need a quarterback that they can build with for the future. You know, Andrew Luck is probably going to go to the Colts, but there's Robert Griffin III, and there's a couple other promising quarterbacks that are out there. We've kind of been down this pathway with quarterbacks who've been great but maybe are in the back end of their career, and even if he comes in and plays a year or two, where do we go from there?"

Well, jeez, Mr. Mayor. At that point, you go with the guy you drafted in 2013 because you weren't able to trade up and get Griffin in 2012. Or you go with a young guy you picked later in that draft who's been apprenticing for a year or two under Peyton Manning, for goodness' sake. What Gray and many other Redskins fans seem to be missing here is that Mike Shanahan can't just go to the "franchise quarterback" aisle at the Wegman's down the road from the team's Ashburn, Va., training facility and pick one. Only one team's going to get Griffin, and if the Redskins aren't that team, they need to have a good Plan B. If Manning is fully healthy and shows he can throw the ball the way he was throwing it two years ago before his neck injury, he's the greatest Plan B in alphabetically themed planning history.

Redskins fans, the mayor included, are looking at this whole thing through the disappointing prism of free-agent signing periods past. I'm hearing names such as Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Albert Haynesworth and yeah, Donovan McNabb -- a list of big-name, star players the Redskins brought in to great fanfare and who flopped for one reason or another. Because of this, the chorus moans, Manning isn't the way to go. The Redskins have done the big-name/big-contract thing before and it just never works out. They need to stop doing business this way.

Well, guess what? They kind of already have. Yeah, McNabb was a mistake -- a flyer Shanahan took thinking he could re-light a spark that had gone out in Philadelphia and maybe sneak into the playoffs in his first year in Washington. He acknowledges it was a risk that didn't work out. But (a) Manning is not McNabb, who was no longer driven to excel by the time the Redskins got him and (b) the McNabb acquisition is an outlier among the moves Shanahan and Bruce Allen have made since taking over personnel decisions two years ago. Everything else they've done in the draft and free agency has been focused, sober and competent, and they deserve the benefit of the doubt, even from Redskins fans scarred by the mistakes of past administrations.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Frederick BreedonAdding Peyton Manning for the right price would make a lot of sense for the Redskins.
Snyder doesn't pull these strings anymore. Part of the agreement Shanahan signed when he took the job was that Snyder would let him build the team, as he puts it, "the right way." Last year's draft was an exercise in patience, as Shanahan refused to reach for quarterbacks he didn't think were the long-term answer simply because he had a need at that position. He traded back, trying to build depth, and picked up key future pieces such as Ryan Kerrigan, Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Jarvis Jenkins and Dejon Gomes. He has eight picks this year and will have to decide how many of them he's willing to sacrifice if he wants to move up to draft Griffin. Shanahan knows how many needs his team has, so he's not going to make that decision lightly.

In the meantime, there is free agency, and although the Redskins didn't make a big splash last summer, they did very well in free agency. Shanahan targeted specific players in the 27- to 29-year-old age group -- guys he believed were already established but still young and hungry enough to grow and develop with the team. He plans to use the same formula this year to address wide receiver, offensive line and the secondary. He's not after the biggest name out there. He's after the specific types of players he believes his team needs in order to build a consistent, year-to-year winner.

Which brings us back to Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Shanahan's not going to give Manning a big, five-year, huge-money deal. I don't think anyone is, given the health concerns, but if the market gets that crazy, I don't expect the Redskins to play in it. It just wouldn't be smart. Bringing Manning in on a one-year or two-year deal with incentives to allow him to prove he's healthy is smart, because if Manning is healthy, he's worth as much as any quarterback in the league.

That's the important thing to remember here, Redskins fans. Manning isn't a "fading star" who's past his prime. He was, before his neck injury, playing at as high a level as any quarterback in the league. He got hurt and missed a season. Now, it appears he'll be available again. And if he shows teams he can throw the ball the way he did in 2010, he's a smart short-term investment for a team that needs a quarterback answer now and for the future. The ideal solution would be both, but if that's not out there, the Redskins need to be smart about addressing the former while keeping their eye on the latter. So far, the Shanahan regime has shown that it doesn't do business like those "same old Redskins" who've hurt you so many times.
Jason La Canfora of did a big thing on potential "cap casualties," and it caught my eye because of the photo of Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley right there at the top. Jason lists a number of players who, like Albert Haynesworth in Tampa Bay, Stanford Routt in Oakland and, very soon, Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, could be cut because their salaries don't fit into their team's salary-cap budget for 2012. And here's the part about Cooley:
And at tight end, as much as Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan loves tight end Chris Cooley, he is oft-injured and his $3.8 million base may be too steep, especially if Fred Davis is brought back.

So, couple of things here. First, I have little doubt that Davis will be brought back. The Redskins will almost certainly designate him as their franchise player, since the number is low, they like his talent and they're justifiably leery of making a longer-term commitment to a guy who's one bad drug test away from a one-year suspension. To me, Davis isn't the issue.

Nor, presumably, is Cooley's salary. The Redskins are about $47 million under the projected salary cap and can afford to bring Cooley back on his current contract if they so choose. The questions about Cooley are health and whether he's worth that $3.8 million. With Davis having taken over as the primary passing-game threat at the tight end position in Washington, Cooley is now being paid for numbers he no longer puts up.

That said, when I met with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan in December, he mentioned Cooley's injury as one of the bad turning points for the Redskins in 2011 and spoke of how much he liked being able to "set the perimeter" on offense with two very good tight ends. So my belief is that he'd like to have Cooley back. And even if the Redskins decide $3.8 million is too much and they need him to restructure, Cooley's kind of all-in with the Redskins and likely would be amenable to such an idea if it meant staying with the team he loves.

It's a situation worth watching, and anything's possible. But my guess is Cooley comes back to Washington in 2012, even if it's at a lower salary than the one he's currently scheduled to make.

Does Haynesworth to Eagles make sense?

February, 16, 2012
Now, now. Don't go getting all worked up without reading first. I'll even start you off with a little anecdote to ease you into it.

My first beat writing job in sports journalism was as the Florida Marlins beat writer for The Palm Beach Post in 1997. The Marlins had a big offseason prior to 1997, bringing in big free agents and hiring a new manager, Jim Leyland. One of the big free agents they'd brought in was Bobby Bonilla, who'd been a star early in his career in Pittsburgh but had gone on to New York and other places and cultivated a reputation as a selfish malcontent. It was the selfish malcontent thing that led people to question the Bonilla signing, but the reason the Marlins felt good about it was Leyland, who'd been Bonilla's manager in Pittsburgh when Bonilla was a rookie and a young star.

They were right. Reunited with Leyland, a manager he adored and whose every decision he respected and honored, Bonilla played very well for the 1997 Marlins, who won the World Series. He was gracious with and helpful to those of us who covered the team. He was good with the young players. When Leyland dropped him in the batting order during a slump, Bonilla said, "I never question that man." The writers in New York thought we were nuts when we awarded Bonilla our "good guy" award, but the fact is, he was a different guy in Florida than he was in New York, and Leyland was the reason.

[+] EnlargeHaynesworth
Kim Klement/US PresswireAlbert Haynesworth hasn't been the same player since he left Tennessee.
So that's what got me thinking about Albert Haynesworth and the Philadelphia Eagles this morning. Haynesworth was released Wednesday, to no one's surprise, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are the third team in the past seven months to kick Big Al to the curb, and since he hasn't done much in the three years since he left Tennessee besides loaf and make coaches and teammates angry, it's fair to wonder if any team will even think about signing him.

But if there's one team in the NFL that might think it can get something out of Big Al, it may well be the Eagles. Their defensive line coach, Jim Washburn, was Haynesworth's defensive line coach in Tennessee. Washburn was said to be interested in a reunion with Haynesworth last summer, and to have been hoping the Redskins would cut him so the Eagles could bring him in. Not wanting to risk playing against an angry, motivated Haynesworth twice a year, Mike Shanahan traded him outside the division. But now, he's just sitting there, probably not getting very many offers, and available for Washburn and the Eagles if they want him.

Whether this happens depends on a number of things, but the biggest may well be the way Washburn feels about Haynesworth and what kind of relationship the two men have. If Washburn really feels strongly that he can dig up the performance Haynesworth gave him in Tennessee, and if Haynesworth feels about Washburn the way my man Bonilla felt about Leyland, it's the kind of thing that could work beautifully. It surely wouldn't cost the Eagles much to take a flier on him, and if he turned out to be the same miserable lump he was in Washington, it'd be easy just to cut him and send him on his way.

The Eagles don't need to invite discord into their locker room at this point, so it would behoove them to be sure Washburn can really draw out his talent and motivate him to perform. But if he can, wow. Haynesworth doesn't even turn 31 until June, and when he was at his best, he was one of the best defensive linemen in the league. There's no indication that he's not healthy. His problems with Washington, New England and Tampa Bay all seem to have been attitude related. And yeah, maybe he's just a guy with a bad attitude who got his money and no longer cares about anything else. This is possible, even likely, and can't be ruled out. But sometimes, a coach and a player just click. And if Washburn could get Albert Haynesworth clicking again, the Eagles could come away with one of the steals of the offseason.