NFC East: david decastro

We took the chat out west with us. It held up find. Had to cut it short so I could shoot that video thing I blogged about earlier and then get over to Oxnard to watch big men bump into each other for a few hours. Oh, Oxnard, how I miss you. I haven't even landed yet and I know the humidity is just going to be... well, you don't care. We chatted. It was fun. If you missed it, go run four laps and then come back and read this recap.

Justin (Monterey, CA): In your opinion, would the Dallas Cowboys be in better shape right now with David DeCastro instead of Morris Claiborne? (not to mention we'd have a second rounder as well)

Dan Graziano: See, the way I look at it, they could have had Fletcher Cox in the first round and Peter Konz in the second and would be better off. But they loved Claiborne and decided he was worth their first two picks. I disagreed with the move, even though I think Claiborne will be a good player.

Luigi (NYC): Does the new leaner faster Mark Herzlich have any shot of being the New York Giants' opening day starting middle linebacker?

DG: I still think playoff/Super Bowl hero Chase Blackburn is going to get plenty of rope, and may have to do something to lose the job. But Herzlich's a comer, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him there midseason.

Bobby (MD): When you were at Redskins camp, did you come away with the impression that they're making significant adjustments to their offense given the new personnel or will it be different people running the same plays?

DG: They were running a dizzying number and variety of plays, many of which were new this year, including option and pistol stuff. But when I asked Mike Shanahan about it, he said his plan was to throw everything they could at Robert Griffin III and see what he's handling the best, then narrow the offense down to that stuff and put the rest to the side for next year.

Jake (Death Star Command Centre): How's the O-line look in Lehigh? Are we going to see LeSean McCoy take a step back this year without Jason Peters?

DG: I think they'll have to change some things. They ran left a lot last year and McCoy got big yards around the edge because of Peters' work. Might not be able to count on as much of that this year, but the development of Danny Watkins at guard could help them run more inside than they did last year.

I dug the Canadian Death Star reference, of course. And I promise we'll go the full hour next week. Back on the east coast, everything will be much easier.
Things didn't work out exactly the way I planned for the Dallas Cowboys in the ESPN blogger mock draft Monday. Yes, the Eagles traded up to No. 7 to take Fletcher Cox, a player the Cowboys like a lot. But for the Cowboys I decided not to get into such excitement. First of all, they don't have the cushion the Eagles have with two second-round picks. And second of all, they need to add depth all along the roster, so I decided that if they traded they'd come away with more picks rather than fewer.

As the draft wound on into the middle of the first round, I was thinking my top Cowboys target, Alabama safety Mark Barron, would be there at No. 14. So when James Walker of the AFC East blog called on behalf of the Patriots and offered a first-round pick (No. 27 overall) and a second-round pick (No. 48), I said no. James pointed out that each side of the deal added up to exactly 1,100 points on the NFL draft trade value chart, and for a second I thought we should make the deal just based on that coincidence alone. But I held off, thinking Barron would fall to 14.

Little did I know, James was also talking to Mike Sando about the Seahawks' No. 12 overall pick. James offered Mike both of the Patriots' first-round picks (No. 27 and No. 31) for the No. 12 pick and a fourth-rounder (N0. 106). Guess I should have asked James for more, because that's a steal for Sando, who happily gave up the No. 12 and began making plans for what to do with his two first-rounders. James moved up to 12 and took Barron for the Patriots, and I started fielding offers for the No. 14 pick.

No one was interested, though, so when 14 rolled around, I took the player I believed would be the highest on the Cowboys' board at that point -- LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers. What I like about Brockers for the Cowboys is that he's a more polished, NFL-ready prospect than is Dontari Poe (who would fall all the way to the Steelers at No. 24!) and that he's versatile enough to play any spot on the Cowboys' defensive line. He can play inside as a defensive tackle alongside Jay Ratliff when they line up in 4-3 sets. He can play end in a 3-4 (and allow them to move on from Kenyon Coleman or Marcus Spears if they so choose). He can spell Ratliff at the nose when and if they decide to move Ratliff outside. I just felt as though he'd appeal to Rob Ryan as a guy who could do a lot for him -- and do it right away -- in a defense that relies on constantly changing looks and fronts.

I thought about Poe, and Quenton Coples, and Stephon Gilmore, and Dre Kirkpatrick, and Courtney Upshaw. But in the end, I believe that, of the post-Barron choices, Brockers was the one that fit the Cowboys the best.

(NOTE: Stanford guard David DeCastro was also gone, at 11 to the Chiefs, but as you know I believe the Cowboys should be focused on defense in this round. And probably all of them.)

So what do you think, Cowboys fans? Did I get it right? Did I pick the wrong guy? Was I wrong to turn down the Patriots' offer? I eagerly await your feedback.
Yes indeed, it is Monday and the draft is on Thursday and that means this week is pretty much going to be about the draft. We have the ESPN blogger mock draft -- a live first-round mock in which each of us makes the picks for the teams from our division and in which trades are permitted -- at 1 p.m. ET today, so you'll want to check that out. We will have coverage from Radio City Music Hall on Thursday night and throughout the weekend. And we'll try to pack Tuesday and Wednesday full of the kinds of pre-draft goodies that get you fired up for the NFL's biggest offseason made-for-TV extravaganza. But the best way to prepare for it all is, of course, with links.

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins ponders whether the Cowboys would take a quarterback in the middle rounds as they look toward a future after 32-year-old Tony Romo. Now, when Calvin calls me later today to complain that I pointed out that the first guy on his list is only three and a half years younger than Romo, at least he won't be mad at me for not linking to his stuff.

Old friend Matt Mosley seems to think (a) that Jerry Jones' proclamations about letting Jason Garrett have final approval of roster decisions will go out the window once the draft starts and (b) that Stanford guard David DeCastro will be the pick if the Cowboys stay at No. 14 (and if DeCastro lasts that long). Hey, Matt knows the team and may be right. I just don't see how picking DeCastro is a good use of the No. 14 pick after spending so many resources on offensive line over the past calendar year.

New York Giants

Ohm's Giants draft preview series took a look recently at offensive line, where the Giants haven't used a first-round pick since 1999 but well could this time around. First of all, by the time the Giants pick at 32, offensive line could well be where the best value is. And second of all, they do need help there. And not just right now (the Giants don't love to draft their right-now help but prefer it to be the result of player development) but for the future as well. They need some tackle depth in case Will Beatty isn't the answer.

Jerry Reese says he likes picking No. 32, according to Ralph Vacchiano. And hey, who wouldn't, given what it means about what happened a few months earlier? Ralph's got a couple of names that look like very possible No. 32 picks, including Mike Adams, the Ohio State tackle whose stock has slipped a bit in recent weeks but could fit the profile nicely.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have used second-round picks in each of the past two seasons on safeties. But Geoff Mosher wonders if they might break that streak this year -- by taking one in the first. Again, check out the ESPN blogger mock draft at 1 p.m. ET today for a simulation of what, exactly, might happen depending on the way the first round falls in front of them.

No matter what else they do in the draft, Jonathan Tamari writes, the Eagles will have their eyes open for opportunities to improve the pass rush -- be that from any spot they can find on the defensive line.

Washington Redskins

Here's The Washington Post's Rick Maese, out in Texas doing his Sunday feature thing with Robert Griffin III. In case you haven't heard, Griffin is the guy the Redskins will be picking with the No. 2 pick Thursday night. Sorry to spoil that portion of the ESPN blogger mock draft for you.

The Redskins will pick again later in the draft, though not until the third round. And when they do, Mike Jones writes, they will still have some offensive needs to address as they look to assemble a team around Griffin.
One week from tonight, young men in suits will hug the NFL commissioner and put on brightly colored caps on a stage at Radio City Music Hall. Just one more week. Can you make it that long? I know what'll help. Links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten says that the lesson he and the Cowboys can learn from last year's Giants is that "you've got to be your best at key times." He also said a lot of the right things about the Cowboys having to prove stuff and having plenty of leaders, etc. You know. We'll see.

Stanford offensive lineman David DeCastro visited the Cowboys on Wednesday. His initially planned visit was scratched due to the heavy storms that rolled through the Dallas area a couple of weeks back. DeCastro was a popular pick for the Cowboys once upon a time in mock drafts, and I guess he still could technically be the pick. But the Cowboys seem more interested in taking a defensive player, and Michael Brockers was the Wednesday visitor more likely to be taken at No. 14, I would think.

New York Giants

Ohm's latest Giants draft preview looks at wide receiver. The Giants have two top-line starters in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but Ohm lists some of the internal candidates who could replace Mario Manningham as well as some names the Giants could look at in the first or later rounds of the draft if they decide to add to their depth at that position.

Left tackle, right tackle, left guard, whatever. David Diehl doesn't know which position the Giants will ask him to play in 2012, and he doesn't care, either.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles drafted for need last year, particularly in using their second-round pick on a reach for safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. But as Paul Domowitch writes, Philly would rather go back to a best-player-available approach this year. Makes sense, especially early. The Eagles have few clear immediate positional needs, and some of the ones they do have (linebacker, backup running back) are spots where value can be found in later rounds.

DeSean Jackson says he thinks Eagles fans "deserve" for the team to win them a Super Bowl title. Funny. My experience tells me that's exactly what Eagles fans think, too!

Washington Redskins

Jabar Gaffney says he's been told to stay away from voluntary workouts while the Redskins attempt to trade him. Gaffney thinks this has something to do with a profane Twitter rant he went on last week, and he continues to deny that it was actually him doing the ranting. I have no idea on that last point, but to the first: I'm pretty sure this has a lot more to do with the fact that the Redskins are overloaded at receiver and trying to get something for a guy who's unlikely to get another 947 yards this year before they have to cut him.

Want to know what the Redskins are up to this week during the conditioning-only portion of voluntary offseason workouts? Yeah, that's right: Pilates.
The draft used to be the part of the offseason that confused me. Not why it happened, but the extent to which the hype exceeded the quality and the value of the thing itself. And while that may still be the case with the draft, it is no longer the most confusingly overhyped part of the offseason. The schedule release is, and it's happening tonight at 7 p.m. ET. We have a three-hour TV special on it, so whatever team you root for, you can be sure its schedule will get its full share of the attention.

Never mind that we've all known for more than three months which teams every other team will be playing in 2012. Tonight we get to find out the dates of these games. In my experience, and to my everlasting confusion, fans get excited about this. Hence, three-hour special. Plus plenty of coverage here on the blog. But that's not for 11 hours. By then you may well have forgotten about all of the knowledge and nutrition you derived from your daily links. But I know that, without them, you'd never have made it that far.

Dallas Cowboys

So, Anthony Spencer's skipping the the start of the conditioning part of the voluntary offseason program, which is fine because it's voluntary. We're not about ripping guys for skipping voluntary workouts on this blog. Other people can do that if they want. Here, words have meaning. But Spencer's also making it clear he wants a long-term deal, which is ... well, it's unlikely. And if the Cowboys use the No. 14 pick in the draft (which is nine days from now) on someone like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, then Spencer's short-term and long-term role on the team could be affected in a negative way. Something to think about, as Upshaw says how excited he'd be to play at Cowboys Stadium in Rob Ryan's defense.

Nick Eatman has a list of the five guys he thinks the Cowboys could take with that No. 14 pick. Upshaw isn't among them (though he does get an honorable mention), and Nick's still putting David DeCastro on the list. I guess it's possible they could take a guard in the first round. I just thought we'd reached the point where we all agreed it wouldn't make sense.

New York Giants

So after they traded for linebacker Keith Rivers, the Giants re-worked his contract so he's only due $1.25 million this year instead of the original $2.16 million. For their next trick, the Giants will pull a rabbit out of their hat. I hope it's the one that's been digging up my lawn.

Eli Manning says he's "a little nervous" about hosting "Saturday Night Live" on May 5. Yeah, this is the third thing I've written in two days about Manning and "SNL." No one who's excited about schedule release day has a right to criticize me about what I find interesting. (Funny thing is, there's no way I'm staying up to watch "SNL" on May 5 or any other night. I used to watch it, sure, but that was before I had kids who didn't understand how important it is to sleep in on Sunday mornings.)

Philadelphia Eagles

Jeff McLane lists some of the teams that could be interested in trading for Asante Samuel, and he says he thinks a third-round or fourth-round pick would be fair value for the star cornerback, who says he wants to stay. Jeff also raises the possibility of a training camp holdout for running back LeSean McCoy, who wants a new deal but is working out this week with his teammates anyway. My guess is that these two things go together. If the Eagles trade Samuel and wipe out a $10.5 million 2012 cap hit, maybe McCoy is more likely to get his new deal. But that's just me guessing, which is usually not a great way to go.

Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney went to a hockey game and apparently loved it. Someone told me it's hockey playoff season. I told them I already knew that because I'd been spending time in the comments section under my blog posts and noticing that people were talking about hockey in there. They were like, "That's good, you need to build some nap time into your day."

Washington Redskins

Tracee Hamilton writes about the way in which the re-signing of London Fletcher has contributed to the burgeoning good feelings around the Redskins this offseason. "Burgeoning" is your word of the day. You can feel free to look it up and use it, if you like, in your hockey smack-talk. I'll have to take your word that you tried.

Of course, the main reason for all those good feelings is the impending (presumed) arrival of Robert Griffin III, likely to be taken by the Redskins with the No. 2 pick in the draft nine days from now. Rich Campbell writes about how Griffin revived a football program at Baylor and wonders whether he'll be able to do the same in Washington, D.C.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is aware that his team didn't sign the biggest-name, highest-pedigreed offensive linemen available on this year's free-agent market. That wasn't the goal.

"None of these guys were brought in and told, 'You are the anointed starter,'" Garrett said Wednesday morning at the NFL owners meetings. "They're here to create competition on our team, and we feel like they're the right kinds of guys, individually as people but also with their talent. They can come in and compete for those spots and make us a better football team."

The newcomers are guards. The Cowboys like both of their starting tackles, though they are switching their roles, with Tyron Smith slated to move to left tackle and Doug Free back to right tackle in 2012. But where they really struggled last year was on the interior of the line. So they signed Mackenzy Bernadeau from Carolina and Nate Livings from Cincinnati, and they're throwing them into the mix with the two guards -- David Arkin and Bill Nagy -- they drafted last year along with centers Phil Costa and Kevin Kowalski, and they're going to see what happens.

On Bernadeau, Garrett had this to say:
"He's a guy that we liked coming out. He's a young guy from a small school who we feel has the physical traits to be a really good player in this league. He has not been a consistent starter for [Carolina]. He has been a starter, but he's had some injuries and some different things that he's dealt with. We're just excited about the kind of kid he is and the upside that he has. So we feel like putting him into the mix will help our team."

And on Livings, this:
"Nate had been a starter the last couple of years in Cincinnati. He's a big guy. He played at LSU. And he's one of those guys who was a college free agent and who had to really earn his way in the NFL. When we put the tape on, we just liked how he played. And we feel like, if you bring a guy like that in as well, he can get infused into our roster and hopefully create some competition up there."

Neither of the new guys is looked at as a potential solution at center, so that position is likely to come down to Costa and Kowalski and possibly Nagy if they don't add anyone else. But Garrett's point is that the Cowboys have enough bodies at those interior positions that it's fair to expect a strong offensive line to emerge. The players are young enough that, assuming they do find the right five-man mix, the line can grow together over the coming season and seasons and become a strength of the team. There are no guarantees, of course, but that's the hope and the plan, and the Cowboy have hand-picked some guys they believe can help produce those kinds of results.

Garrett also echoed the sentiment that owner Jerry Jones articulated the day before in a session with Dallas-area reporters here -- namely, that the work they've done on the offensive line through last year's draft and this year's free agency makes it more likely that they'd take a defensive player in next month's first round than an offensive lineman such as Stanford guard David DeCastro.

"We'd have to take into consideration that we've done pretty well in free agency relative to our offensive line," Garrett said. "We'd have to take that into consideration if we had the alternative of taking defense. So you're not off-base if you ask whether it's likely that we would take a defensive player."
I love where the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are picking -- 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first round in next month's NFL draft. Those spots lend themselves to endless speculation and a myriad of possibilities. We know who the Redskins are taking at No. 2 (or at least we know it's one of two possible quarterbacks). And with the Giants picking No. 32, speculation is almost pointless. No way to know who'll be there, and the Giants always pick the best player available anyway.

But the Cowboys and the Eagles, right there in the middle of the first round, that's where the fun is when it comes to speculation. And I know you Cowboys fans are enjoying it, so here's some more.

Calvin Watkins reports that the Cowboys plan to bring in Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick for a visit in early April. The team can host up to 30 players, so a Kirkpatrick visit doesn't mean he's the pick. But with the Cowboys still needing to add depth in the secondary and on defense in general, he's a very interesting guy. Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft had Kirkpatrick going No. 17 overall, so it's possible he'll be there for the Cowboys at 14 if they want him.

We've talked about this a lot, and we'll continue to do so for the next five weeks. Some people like Stanford guard David DeCastro at that No. 14 spot. I personally think the Cowboys need to be thinking defense, and as bad as their secondary was last year taking the best available defensive back at 14 makes a ton of sense to me. That could be Kirkpatrick. Could be Janoris Jenkins. Could be a safety, if Kirkpatrick's national champion teammate Mark Barron is there.

But anyway, Kirkpatrick's going to Valley Ranch the week after next, and I figured you guys could have some fun with that information.
Here's a little fodder for all of you Dallas Cowboys draft prognosticators: According to our man Calvin Watkins, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett did not attend Thursday's pro day workouts at Stanford University. As Calvin points out, the only pro day Garrett attended last year was that of USC tackle Tyron Smith, who became the Cowboys' first-round draft pick. With Stanford guard David DeCastro projected by many to be the guy for the Cowboys in this year's first round, it's worth noting that Garrett didn't go to see DeCastro work out with presumptive No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck on Thursday.

DeCastro
DeCastro
Now, of course, this in no way indicates that the Cowboys are not interested in DeCastro or that they might not take him in the first round. There are any number of reasons Garrett might not have gone to Stanford today. Maybe he was busy with something else. Maybe he saw that it was going to be broadcast on a number of ESPN platforms and decided to help out our ratings. Maybe he's already seen enough of DeCastro to make a decision. Maybe he didn't want to bother with the crowds showing up to get a look at Luck. Maybe he doesn't like DeCastro and doesn't want to draft him. We're only speculating, which is a large part of what we do with regard to the draft this time of year. And as we've discussed several times, it's slow right now on the NFC East blog.

Anyway, I saw that DeCastro did some work at center and told reporters that he'd be willing to play center in the NFL if that's what his next team wanted. Now, if he can play center, I may be willing to change my mind on this and say the Cowboys should take him at No. 14. That, as they say, is a horse of a different color. Center was the biggest problem the Cowboys had on the line last year.
Busy Tuesday upcoming here on the blog. You know things are cookin' when there's a post up before the links. We'll have a chat at noon ET, as we do each week, and plenty more goodies coming your way as the first full week of free agency wraps up with work still to be done for all four of our teams. Keep it right here for all your NFC East needs. Including, of course, your morning links.

Dallas Cowboys

ESPNDallas.com's draft preview series focuses on Wisconsin's Peter Konz, who's the No. 1 center in the draft and actually what the Cowboys really need on the offensive line but might be a reach, value-wise, at No. 14 in the first round. Lots of people calling for the Cowboys to take Stanford guard David DeCastro with that pick, but center was a real weak spot last year and they have quite a number of guards on the roster all of a sudden. I wonder if it makes sense to deal back and try to get a center.

Mac Engel thinks the Cowboys should trade for Tim Tebow. I think Mac's argument is unsound. It is based, as are so many unsound Cowboys-related argument, on the tired premise that "Yeah, Tony Romo is really good, but they haven't won with him," as though Romo were supposed to magically appear on the field and tackle the Giants fullbacks who were all jumping over Terence Newman on New Year's Day. The Cowboys have a plan, and it appears to be a good one, and I can't see a legitimate way in which Tebow fits into it. Especially if he's going to cost draft picks.

New York Giants

Victor Cruz has a new agent, but Mike Garafolo cautions us not to worry that this means he'll make an ugly scene about his contract anytime soon. Cruz would like to make more money and cash in on the monster year he just had, and he's said as much publicly. But the Giants have told him he must wait in line behind more pressing priorities, and he seems content to do that.

After having training camp in East Rutherford, N.J., last year due to the lockout, the Giants will return to their regular training camp home in Albany, N.Y., this year, and Albany is psyched.

Philadelphia Eagles

So, while we're on the topic, Rich Hofmann thinks the Eagles would be wise to at least consider Tebow. He's not the first to bring this up, and while I maintain that the Eagles don't need to throw the Tebow circus on top of everything else they already have going on this year, you can't entirely rule out the possibility that they do it anyway, against my sage advice. You know Andy Reid is always at least intrigued when a new quarterback hits the market, and the people who run the Eagles are thorough enough that they've surely at least discussed how it might work. I dispute the notion that Tebow could plug right into the Eagles' offense because he's left-handed and likes to run and is therefore a similar player to Michael Vick. I do not think they are, in fact, similar players, and I believe the Eagles would have to totally overhaul their offense if Vick were to suffer an injury and Tebow had to play. But look at it this way: Nobody imagined the Eagles signing Vick three years ago when he got out of jail, and once they did, no one could figure out how they planned to use him. So, stranger things have happened -- and worked out all right -- with the Eagles.

The re-signing of guard Evan Mathis is a popular move among Eagles fans, and not just because of how well Mathis played in 2011. The fans also like Mathis' personality.

Washington Redskins

Mark Maske reports that the Redskins are considering challenging the NFL's decision to strip them of $36 million in salary-cap room due to the way they structured contracts in the uncapped 2010 season. The challenge would be through arbitration, not through an antitrust lawsuit, and Mark reports that the Cowboys (who lost $10 million in cap space for the same ridiculous reason) could join them in seeking arbitration. I still don't know if they'll do this, or how likely it would be to work given the way the CBA is worded. But it's clear the Redskins are upset, as they should be, and haven't yet let this go, as they shouldn't.

John Keim thinks back to the early days of LaRon Landry's time in Washington, when he and the late Sean Taylor looked as though they'd make for one of the most fearsome safety tandems in the league, and wonders what might have been.
The Dallas Cowboys have signed seven free agents so far. And because only two of them have been offensive linemen and neither is an offensive lineman of whom Cowboys fans had previously heard anything good, there is a sense that they're setting up to draft Stanford guard David DeCastro with the 14th pick in next month's draft. And sure, they could be. DeCastro's No. 15 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board Insider, so it's not as though it'd be a bad-value pick. I generally frown on the idea of taking a guard in the first round, but people think DeCastro's a special player for whom it's worth making an exception, and he may well be a fine pick for the Cowboys. Tim MacMahon and Bryan Broaddus have more on DeCastro in today's edition of ESPNDallas.com's draft preview series.

I'd just be careful assuming that's what's going to happen. The Cowboys entered this offseason with a ton of needs on defense. And while they have signed cornerback Brandon Carr, safety Brodney Pool and linebacker Dan Connor and franchised linebacker Anthony Spencer, they're not done working on the defense and they shouldn't be. The indefatigable Todd Archer reports that they're trying to schedule a visit with Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush, who'd be a special teams guy mainly but also would add depth to the secondary. As we mentioned in the breakfast links, they're also showing interest in linebacker Erik Walden. And these are surely not the only defensive players to whom they're still talking. The Cowboys needed to add depth and quality on defense, and as well as they've done so far in free agency, they still do. This was a defense that fell completely apart last year after the team had seemed to take control of the division race in late November. They simply can't do enough to fix it.

So while, yes, the first-round pick could be DeCastro, I still think the Cowboys would be wiser to keep the focus on defense. I don't think they could go wrong by picking another cornerback, a safety or, if possible, a pass-rushing outside linebacker at that No. 14 spot. And contrary to what some people have been asking me on Twitter, I think that what they've done so far in free agency indicates that they very well might go defense in the draft. They drafted three offensive linemen last year and just signed two more last week. I think they can find a couple of starting guards and a starting center from the group they have, and that a defensive player remains the way to go for the Cowboys in the first round.
All right, well, it was a bit of a quiet weekend in the NFC East. A guard here, a backup quarterback there, a wide receiver leaving the champs for the conference runner-up. That was about it, and each of our four teams will enter the second week of free agency with more work left to do. I will, of course, be here to chronicle and analyze it all for you, just as soon as I have my links.

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins writes that the Cowboys have some interest in linebacker Erik Walden, a former Cowboys draft pick who had a nice year for the Packers but made the wrong kind of headlines last November. I guess I'll just leave his ugly alleged transgressions alone for now and say, yeah, he'd help the pass rush.

Clarence Hill has nothing but praise for the Cowboys' targeted approach so far in free agency. You know by now that I agree with him. Critique each individual signing if you must, but (a) we don't actually know how these guys are going to play and (b) picking out players you like because you believe they fit what you do is a lot better than just grabbing for the most recognizable names. Interesting nugget in Clarence's column: He seems pretty certain they'll go after guard David DeCastro in the first round of the draft.

New York Giants

Ohm runs down the Giants' options for a No. 3 wide receiver now that Mario Manningham is in San Francisco. These include waiting out the free-agent market and finding a bargain, drafting someone like Baylor's Kendall Wright with the No. 32 pick in the draft or just finding the solution internally, as the Giants like to do, from a group that includes Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon. My guess is they'll do at least one of the first two, but not in such a way as to rule out the internal solution as a possibility.

Prince Amukamara showed up on crutches at an autograph session over the weekend and a report got out that he'd had surgery on the foot he broke last year in training camp. Turns out it was a different kind of procedure -- an injection, like the ones Ahmad Bradshaw gets for his broken foot. So not surgery, but still, don't you have to wonder now if this is an issue that lingers as Bradshaw's has?

Philadelphia Eagles

I've consistently been amazed, since the Eagles' disappointing 8-8 season, at the extent to which quarterback Michael Vick has escaped blame. Not that it was all Vick's fault, of course, but his interceptions were a huge part of the problem, and that doesn't get harped on nearly as much as does Juan Castillo's defense or DeSean Jackson's pouting or Andy Reid's refusal to call enough plays for LeSean McCoy. But Sheil Kapadia's a sharp guy, and he writes, in the wake of the Evan Mathis re-signing, that it's going to be very hard for Vick to escape blame if it all goes wrong again.

Jeff McLane doesn't think the Eagles will be able to lure Stephen Tulloch away from Detroit or pay Curtis Lofton what he wants, so he runs down some other options for the Eagles at linebacker on the free-agent market. Yeah, London Fletcher's name is in there. And, yeah, it should be. Jeff points out that Fletcher will be 37 at the start of the season, which would generally be a turn-off. But anyone who's watched and been around Fletcher knows that he's an unusual case and still at the very top of his game. And what do the Eagles care about 37? Don't they have to win this year?

Washington Redskins

Rex Grossman is under no illusions about his role on the Redskins' 2012 roster after signing another one-year contract with the team. He knows they're planning to draft their new franchise quarterback, and that said quarterback is certain to be the starter. And he says he'll be happy to help.

LaRon Landry's drawing interest, The Washington Post reports, from the Jets, Patriots and Lions. But this is only a Redskins story in that Landry is a guy who once played for the Redskins. At this point, if he were to return in 2012, it would be a complete shock.

NFC East links: Eagles shouldn't draft RG3

February, 28, 2012
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Dallas Cowboys

Charean Williams of the Star-Telegram writes that there's a prior connection between Stanford guard David DeCastro and new Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

Not so fast, writes CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan, who argued DeCastro is not worth such a premium pick.

Executive Stephen Jones admits the Cowboys don't have "good enough talent" on defense, the Star-Telegram's Clarence Hill Jr. wrote.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Tony Fiammetta is the only restricted free agent the Cowboys plan to tender.

Former Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens is reportedly facing foreclosure on two homes he owns in Dallas.

New York Giants

Brandon Jacobs will have to take a significant pay cut if he wants to return to play with the Giants, writes Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.

Tight end is a position of need for New York, and Giants101.com lists the five best options on the free-agent market.

Philadelphia Eagles

Robert Griffin III is going to be an elite player in the NFL, but Dave King of InsidetheIggles.com says the Eagles "can’t draft him. They shouldn’t, and they probably won’t, for a number of reasons."

The best player available when the Eagles draft No. 15 overall, says Philadelphia Daily News' Les Bowen, will likely be a defensive tackle. Is Devon Still in the Eagles' crosshairs?

Washington Redskins

The Redskins have re-signed backup defensive end Darrion Scott, The Washington Post reports.

Donovan McNabb is no longer a Redskin, and he says he sure doesn't see Peyton Manning as one, either.

Adam Carriker tells Jake Russell of TheHogs.net that he feels he's finally coming into his own as a defensive end and he should be compensated fairly by the Redskins or some other team.

NFC East combine primer

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
2:30
PM ET
With the NFL scouting combine kicking off, let's take a look at some of the story lines involving NFC East teams in Indianapolis this week. We'll do them in draft-pick order:

Washington Redskins

Biggest need: Well, it's quarterback, as everyone within 500 miles of the beltway knows. But the Redskins will also be talking to wide receivers, defensive backs and offensive linemen at this year's combine. They have a number of needs, and a number of different things they can do with the No. 6 overall pick. The key question is whether they'll stay at No. 6. A big part of the combine is the after-hours interaction between team executives, agents, etc. By the end of this week, if they don't already, the Redskins might have some idea about what it would cost them to trade up to No. 2 overall and ensure they could draft Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Once they have some idea of that price, they can decide whether Griffin is their answer at quarterback or whether they need to find one in free agency and use the No. 6 pick on a receiver or a defensive back.

Interview targets: The Redskins will surely want to talk to Griffin, along with other, lower-ranked quarterback prospects such as Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler and Brandon Weeden. At other positions, it makes sense for them to be keeping an eye on wide receiver Justin Blackmon, cornerback Morris Claiborne and maybe an offensive tackle such as Riley Reiff.

Later-round sleepers: Boise State safety George Iloka is a second-day type of player on whom the Redskins could have their eye if the chips fall correctly. LaRon Landry looks like he may be a goner in Washington, and they could use some help at safety. And there's some buzz right now about Midwestern State tackle Amini Silatolu, who projects as a guard in the NFL and might look nice on the left side of the line next to Trent Williams.

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest need: They have several, but none so glaring as cornerback. When one of your starters gets hurdled by two fullbacks in the division title game, you know you have a problem at the position. The Cowboys pick 14th in the first round, and if they've addressed cornerback in free agency they could use the pick on a pass rusher, a safety or even an interior offensive lineman like Stanford's David DeCastro. But even if they pick up a big-name free-agent corner, it's not out of the question they could draft another in the first round. Their need at the position is that desperate.

Interview targets: With Claiborne almost certain to be gone by 14, the two corners on which the Cowboys have their eye are Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick. But they'll surely check in on DeCastro as well as pass rushers such as Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw. Mel Kiper had the Cowboys taking Alabama safety Mark Barron in his most recent mock draft, and with Abram Elam's 2012 status in doubt, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see them take the top available safety at 14.

Later-round sleepers: Todd McShay's recent post on possible combine sleepers mentions Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson and McNeese State safety Janzen Jackson as guys who could be there for the Cowboys at need positions after the first round.

Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest need: The Eagles need linebackers — at least two of them. The issue is whether there is value at that position in the first round. If Boston College's Luke Kuechly is still there at No. 15, it would make a ton of sense for the Eagles to take him. But Andy Reid's draft history doesn't indicate that he likes taking linebackers that high. In spite of their disappointing 2011 season, the Eagles don't look, on paper, like a team with a lot of obvious needs. If they don't take a linebacker at 15, I'd expect them to either move down or pick a big defensive tackle such as Fletcher Cox, Devon Still or Dontari Poe. And if DeSean Jackson is traded or leaves via free agency, they could target a wide receiver such as Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright.

Interview targets: All of those names above, but I'm going to throw the two cornerbacks in here as well — Kirkpatrick and Jenkins. The Eagles obviously love to stock up on cornerbacks, and if they trade Asante Samuel for salary/overcrowding reasons, it's not crazy to imagine them deciding one of those corners has too much value to pass up. As for their troubled pasts... hey, this is Andy Reid we're talking about here.

Later-round sleepers: Michael Vick's not going to be around forever, so don't be surprised to see the Eagles spend an early-round or mid-round pick on a quarterback such as Osweiler or Nick Foles. But those guys aren't really sleepers, because you've heard of them. Nebraska's Lavonte David is a well-regarded, if undersized, linebacker prospect. At wide receiver, remember the name Tim Benford from Tennessee Tech.

New York Giants

Biggest need: Offensive line. The champs patched it together in January with a line that wasn't very good in the first half of the season but played big when it needed to. But Kareem McKenzie looks set to leave as a free agent, David Diehl won't play forever and the Giants need to be thinking about what their offensive line will look like in the future. They haven't taken an offensive lineman in the first round since Luke Petitgout in 1999, but at No. 32, their pick is barely in the first round, and they'll take the best player available, as they always do. Don't be surprised if that player is a tight end such as Clemson's Dwayne Allen. The Giants did lose two tight ends to knee injuries in the Super Bowl. Oh, and if they lose both Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas in free agency, they may need a cornerback.

Interview targets: Allen and Stanford's Coby Fleener at tight end. Mike Adams and Bobby Massie at tackle. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them look at a versatile rush linebacker like Marshall's Vinny Curry. I always think the Giants need help at linebacker, though they never seem to agree.

Later-round sleepers: Louisiana-Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green could fill a need for them in the middle rounds if his knees check out this week. And the Giants like to take late-round running backs, so keep an eye on Senior Bowl star Doug Martin from Boise State.

What to do with Anthony Spencer?

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
4:40
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One of the Dallas Cowboys' big-need areas as they head into their offseason is the pass rush. They have DeMarcus Ware at one outside linebacker spot, and he may be the best pass-rusher in the entire league. But on the other side is Anthony Spencer who (a) has been a bit of a disappointment in that area and (b) is a free agent.


On ESPNDallas.com, Todd Archer writes that the Cowboys' decision on Spencer is a key to their offseason. He thinks the best move might be to use the franchise or transition designation on Spencer, effectively putting him on a one-year contract and making sure he has incentive to prove himself. But that's an expensive way to go, and Spencer was playing in a similar situation this year in the final year of his deal.
Spencer has had five seasons to prove he can be a worthy pass-rusher opposite DeMarcus Ware. At times he did. Too many other times, he didn't.

The free-agent market doesn't offer much hope for serious improvement, so the options appear to be sign Spencer to a long-term deal at a sensible price, put one of the tags on him or draft an outside linebacker with the No. 14 pick with Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw being everybody’s guy right now after the Tide's win against LSU.

Me, I'd go that last way. Lots of mock drafts have the Cowboys picking Stanford guard David DeCastro at No. 14, but they have young guards they like and can either continue to develop them or pick the draft's second-best or third-best guard in a later round. I think you want an impact guy if you're picking in the middle of the first round, and if I were in charge of the Cowboys' draft I'd be thinking pass-rusher. I feel like Todd does on Spencer -- that we've seen what we're going to see of him and it's time to look elsewhere.

I also think they need to address the defensive end spots and bring in guys who can help clear the way for their outside pass rush. But that's something that can be done in free agency. I'd be willing to risk letting Spencer go and taking a chance that he won't sign somewhere else to come back and terrorize me. Time for some new blood in the Cowboys' pass rush.

Mel Kiper's first mock draft is up!

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
12:30
PM ET
Aw, yeah, fans of teams that aren't still playing this week. Do we have some fresh meat for you. Our NFL draft expert, Mel Kiper, has posted his first mock draft of 2012, and here it is in all its glory. Looks like it's an Insider piece, so you have to pay to read the whole thing. But in the interest of keeping the blog fed, the masses happy and reasons for people to pay for Insider access obvious, I'll let you know what he's got for our four teams. The comments here are mine, not Mel's.

6. Washington Redskins: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. This came up in this morning's breakfast links, with John Keim of the Washington Examiner suggesting cornerback at a spot where most people have been hoping or assuming the Redskins would take a quarterback or wide receiver. But Mel's got Andrew Luck gone to Indy at No. 1, Robert Griffin III gone to Cleveland at No. 4 and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon gone to St. Louis at No. 2, and he doesn't forecast trades. He also doesn't have another quarterback going in the first round, so second-tier options like Ryan Tannehill could still be available there if this were to come true. I'm curious to see whether Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd could get this high, though he said this week that he's dropping out of the Senior Bowl, where Mike Shanahan and the Redskins will be one of the coaching staffs.

14. Dallas Cowboys: David DeCastro, G, Stanford. Seems high for a guard, and it would seem odd for the Cowboys to spend top-15 picks on offensive line two years in a row. But other than cornerback, interior offensive line is the Cowboys' biggest need position, and Mel has Claiborne and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick gone in the top 10. I wonder if the Cowboys would maneuver to grab a pass-rushing outside linebacker such as Alabama's Courtney Upshaw or South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, who are gone at No. 10 and 12, respectively, in Mel's mock.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College. No question linebacker is the Eagles' biggest need, but will Andy Reid really go far enough out of character to take one in the middle of the first round? Everybody loves Kuechly for his instincts and tackling, and those are two aspects of their linebacking corps the Eagles desperately need to improve. I could see, as Mel says he could also, the Eagles taking a safety here. (Mel has Alabama's Mark Barron going next, to the Jets.) And if they part ways with DeSean Jackson, the Eagles could certainly look for a wide receiver in the first round. But Kuechly seems like a big pile of exactly what Philadelphia needs.

29*. New York Giants: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State. The Giants will pick in this spot if they lose Sunday, 31st if they win Sunday and lose the Super Bowl and a very happy 32nd if they win the Super Bowl. Tackle's not a bad way to go, since they have some question marks there. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie is a free agent and Will Beatty didn't look like the answer at left tackle before eye surgery ended his season. David Diehl has played well there since, but he's 31, and it can't hurt to add young depth at a spot like this. The Giants could use help at linebacker and maybe in the secondary depending what happens with Terrell Thomas, but clearly, since they're still playing this week, their needs appear to be relatively few.

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