NFC East: Derek Cox
But we'll know all of that soon enough. The point I wanted to make here is about the two veteran restructures the Redskins have done in the past two days. Neither Moss nor defensive end Adam Carriker had any years added onto their deals. Carriker, like Moss, agreed to convert a portion of his guaranteed salary into incentives. And though these incentives have been characterized as "attainable," giving up guaranteed money is always a risk in a league in which your season could end on any given play. What you're seeing with Moss and Carriker is players agreeing to help out the team with its salary cap problem in ways that could end up costing them money. And I think that's significant and says something about the culture that's been established around the Redskins in recent years.
Now, of course it's possible that Carriker and Moss were told they'd be released if they didn't take the pay cuts. The Redskins did cut cornerback DeAngelo Hall on Monday without an attempt at restructuring. But it's noteworthy that these two restructures do not simply shift salary-cap costs into future years, as many of the restructures being done around the league do. It's clear that Shanahan wants to avoid that practice if at all possible, and it appears he's been able to do that so far in spite of the $18 million in cap penalties still affecting the franchise. It's entirely possible that, as free agency rolls along, the Redskins have to do the more common type of restructuring with some of their deals. But so far, they've avoided it.
Cap status: Some last-minute contract restructuring Monday got the Cowboys under the 2013 cap. They're not far enough under to operate very deftly in free agency, so don't expect any big splashes from them in the first wave, but they still have the ability to extend Tony Romo's deal or make some more cuts if they find someone they really want to fit into their budget.
Strategy: They should work on the offensive line, which was atrocious in 2012. But after signing two free-agent guards last year and giving center Phil Costa a two-year extension this year, the Cowboys may put off addressing that need until the draft. I'd expect them to be active on the veteran safety market, as they have question marks at that position, and there appears to be enough free-agent inventory that costs for safeties should be kept low. Depth on the defensive line and at running back will be important as well, as the defense is changing to a 4-3 alignment and DeMarco Murray's backup, Felix Jones, appears set to hit the market. Expect the Cowboys to bargain-hunt at positions that haven't traditionally cost too much.
Cap status: After Sunday night's agreement with defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, the Giants remain around $7 million under the cap. Enough to get them in compliance and work on deals for their own free agents but likely not enough to make them players for too much outside help.
Strategy: For the Giants, the focus is in house. They'd like to bring back guard Kevin Boothe, tight end Martellus Bennett and of course restricted free-agent wide receiver Victor Cruz. They can tender Cruz and keep him, but they'd prefer to get a long-term deal done soon if possible so the headache goes away. As for Boothe and Bennett, if they'll sign for the Giants' number, they'll be Giants. If they want to try to cash in on the market, the Giants likely will look in other directions. They appear set to let valuable safety Kenny Phillips depart after his injury-wrecked season, so they'll look to address that position as well as linebacker, running back and offensive line. Don't be surprised if Jenkins isn't their last defensive line move, either. They do like to have depth there.
Cap status: The Eagles have about $34 million in salary-cap room and are likely to add $11 million more with the expected release of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on Tuesday. They will be able to get any player they want to get, most likely.
Strategy: The Eagles' management figures that whoever remains in place from two summers ago knows all about how badly the last big experiment with free agency went, so don't expect to see a frenzy like the one it created on the market in 2011. But the Eagles have many needs -- cornerback, safety, linebacker, nose tackle, a right guard or tackle, maybe a big wide receiver. They will be active because they must. As for strategy, though, I'd expect them to target younger free agents who can help them build the roster long term, not just help them contend in 2013. The moves the team has made since firing longtime coach Andy Reid and hiring Kelly indicate that Kelly plans to be in Philadelphia for a long time and is thinking about what can make his team competitive for years to come, not just right away.
Cap status: Cutting veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall saved the Redskins $8 million in cap room Monday. That and the contract restructure of defensive end Adam Carriker helps the Redskins address the significant cap problems they're still having as a result of the $36 million in penalties the league imposed on them a year ago. More cuts and restructures are likely on the way.
Strategy: The free-agent strategy since Allen and Shanahan came on the scene has been consistent. The Redskins like to target players in the 26-, 27-year-old range who have shown encouraging flashes but not necessarily yet proved all they have to prove in the league. They like hungry guys, and as they continue to build around second-year quarterback Robert Griffin III, they will continue to try to employ this strategy. Perhaps you heard reports this past weekend of the Redskins' interest in cornerbacks like Derek Cox (26, coming off injury) and Antoine Cason (also 26). As they did with Pierre Garcon at wide receiver last year, the Redskins will target guys who might not be at the top of the market but fit what they want to do both schematically and economically.
- We were quickly reminded that DeSean Jackson is perhaps the most exciting player in the league on Kolb's first throw. He hit Jackson in stride on a quick slant, and the Jaguars linebacker never had a chance. Jackson's a matchup nightmare for any team, but the Jags seemed especially overmatched.
- You might have been surprised to see how mobile Kolb was on Friday night. He does a really nice job of always keeping his eyes looking downfield as he escapes the pocket. He doesn't have a lot of speed, but he's actually pretty elusive. I didn't see any evidence of "happy feet" in the first quarter. Both Kolb and Michael Vick did a nice job using their legs.
- Speaking of Vick, he looks like a completely different player than last season. That touchdown run was vintage Vick in that he broke containment and then turned on the afterburners down the sideline. The Jaguars defensive linemen had no chance when Vick decided to take off. He was so much more decisive in Friday's game than he was at this point last season.
- Jeremy Maclin looks so much smoother in his route running. On that first pass from Kolb, he sort of lulled the Jags to sleep and then he exploded across the middle. He and Kolb seem to already have a nice rhythm. If Kolb's able to hit Jackson and Maclin in stride most of the time, this offense will put up huge numbers. The one thing Kolb can't do is stare down a receiver in the red zone. He did that with Jason Avant on that first drive. Fortunately, Avant was able to break up a possible interception.
- Give cornerback Asante Samuel credit for popping big tight end Marcedes Lewis early in the game. He's normally averse to contact, but he made a really nice play on third down. The first-team defense didn't get a lot of reps, because they played too well. Two three-and-outs is a good way to begin the preseason.
- Trevard Lindley prevented a long kick return early in the game with a really nice open-field tackle. I think general manager Howie Roseman has to feel pretty good about getting him in the fourth round. Lindley and free-agent rookie safety Kurt Coleman are both very aggressive players who play with a ton of confidence. Coleman's in the process of playing his way onto the 53-man roster.
- I'd love to see Chad Hall make this team, but you have to put Jackson back there on punt returns during the regular season. I heard the Philadelphia broadcasters talking about letting someone else do it to prevent an injury to Jackson. That doesn't make sense to me. Jackson's gamebreaking ability makes it worth the risk.
- You have to give it up for the first-team offensive line. Seemed like Kolb and Vick both had plenty of time in the pocket. By the way, Vick's pass to Riley Cooper was a thing of beauty. Cooper's acting like he belongs. It's going to be impossible to keep him out of the rotation once the regular-season begins. Three catches for 61 yards in his first preseason game. Just a very impressive rookie. He and Bengals' rookie Jordan Shipley have really stood out to me.
- Surely the Jags will have a better plan against the Eagles in a game that counts. Giving Jackson a free release is like begging him to beat you. The 26-yard catch and run was pretty impressive, but the end-around was the play of the night. Jags cornerback Derek Cox is trying to have film of that play destroyed, because Jackson made him look silly with that little stutter-step.
- LeSean McCoy did a nice job between the tackles. I thought he was a little too quick to bounce runs outside last season. On Friday, he lowered his shoulder and churned out yards in the first quarter. It wasn't a huge night or anything, but I saw some good signs. The huge night belonged to Martell Mallett. Some players just take it to the next level when the lights come on, and Mallett was that guy.
- I know Joselio Hanson wants to be competing for a starting job, but he can't bite on those double moves. Luke McCown, who hails from Jacksonville, Texas, made Hanson look really bad on a long touchdown pass. And if Hanson's going to interfere, you better pull the guy to the ground. Really poor technique. Geoff Pope also got burned on a deep ball from McCown.
- Left tackle Austin Howard basically took over the game in the second quarter. He had at least two pancake blocks in the game and his footwork was outstanding. I was amazed to see how technically sound he looked. And at 330 pounds, he was doing an excellent job of anchoring.
- Akeem Jordan was ready to play. Loved seeing him knife through on what might have been a run blitz early in the game. It's hard to complain about anything the first-team defense did.