NFC East: Gerald McCoy

The Washington Redskins' defense is optimistic about where it's headed, thanks to the addition of Jason Hatcher and a tweaked philosophy regarding the pass rush. Whether their play matches that optimism always remains the biggest hurdle. What's not in doubt: They will have two players among the most expensive at their positions when it comes to the salary cap. The fact both are in their front seven isn't a coincidence as the Redskins' offseason goal has been to improve the pass rush. So, after breaking down where the Redskins' top cap hits at each position offensively stood in comparison to their NFL counterparts earlier this week, it's time to take a look at the defense.

Safety

NFL's top five cap hits
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs $11,619,700
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers, $10,100,000
Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, $9,250,000
Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $9,000,000
Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans, $8,000,000

Meriweather
Redskins' top cap hit
Brandon Meriweather (59th), $1,000,000

Summing it up: Notice who’s not in the top five? Jairus Byrd, after his new deal with New Orleans. But don’t worry: He’s set to take up the most cap room in 2015 at $10.3 million. I like Byrd, but not at that figure (I’d have paid Sean Taylor that sort of cash). But Byrd was never really a legitimate option for the Redskins. Mike Mitchell was and he’ll count $2.2 million this season and $4.95 million in 2015. But the overriding point is Washington views the best way to help this position is by bolstering the pass rush. Starters Meriweather and Ryan Clark both are on one-year contracts, so this position is still a question mark beyond this season (and still will be one entering the year).

Corner

NFL's top five cap hits
Brandon Carr, Dallas, $12,217,000
Johnathan Joseph, Houston, $11,250,000
Lardarius Webb, Baltimore, $10,500,000
Brandon Flowers, Kansas City, $10,500,000
Tramon Williams, Green Bay, $9,500,000

Porter
Redskins' top cap hit
Tracy Porter (43rd), $2,800,000

Summing it up: Next season, Darrelle Revis' cap hit jumps to $25 million. Which means he’s playing on a one-year deal. Is it a good thing the Redskins’ biggest cap hit here belongs to Porter, who has battled injury issues along with consistency during his career? Of course, it’s not like he occupies a lot of space. DeAngelo Hall's cap hit is $2,062,500 but that jumps to $4,812,500 in 2015. By then the Redskins need young corner David Amerson to have fully emerged -- can he become their best corner? If not, then they’ll have to start looking for a No. 1 corner. By the way, the top five on the list for 2014? They’ve combined for four Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro spot (Joseph). But Carr did do a good job vs. Washington last year (and in at least one game against then-Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson).

Linebacker

NFL's top five cap hits
Lawrence Timmons, $11,816,250
Tamba Hali, Kansas City, $11,464,706
Brian Orakpo, Washington, $11,455,000
Clay Matthews, Green Bay, $10,943,750
James Laurinaitis, St. Louis, $10,400,000

Orakpo
Redskins' top cap hit
Orakpo

Summing it up: That’s quite a list for Orakpo to be part of, but to stay on there after this season -- at least in Washington -- he’ll have to be a little more productive. But even if he has another season like last year, Orakpo will still be in the $10-million range. When Hali got paid, he responded with sack totals of 12, nine and 11 in the next three seasons (with nine forced fumbles and one interception). I don’t think anyone says Hali's overpaid (well, at least not many). In Orakpo’s last three full seasons, he has a combined 27.5 sacks, but only four forced fumbles. More game-changing plays and he’ll get the contract he desires. Another interesting part on this is that two of the five are inside linebackers, though Timmons plays in a 3-4 and Laurinaitis in a 4-3.

Defensive tackle

NFL's top five cap hits
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, $22,412,000
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore, $16,000,000
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, $15,627,253
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati, $9,000,000
Barry Cofield, Washington, $7,667,500

Cofield
Redskins' top cap hit
Cofield

Summing it up: Cofield’s base salary jumped from $840,000 last season to $4.55 million (the lower figure was the result of a restructuring last spring in which $3.5 million in base salary was converted to a signing bonus). This is as high as Cofield’s cap number will be and in two years it falls to $6,877,500. I know the coaches felt he would become the NFL’s top nose tackle by this time. That’s not the case, but Cofield does have his strengths and has done a nice job with Washington. For a short stretch last season he was playing as well as anyone on the team defensively, and he always plays hard. He’ll be helped by having Hatcher in the pass rush, perhaps giving Cofield more one-on-one matchups. If that happens, then perhaps Cofield will have the sort of season in all phases that coaches have hoped for.

Defensive end

NFL's top five cap hits
Mario Williams, Buffalo, $18,800,000
Charles Johnson, Carolina, $16,420,000
Chris Long, St. Louis, $14,900,000
Greg Hardy, Carolina, $13,116,000
Calais Campbell , Arizona, $11,250,000

Bowen
Redskins' top cap hit
Stephen Bowen (15th), $7,020,000

Summing it up: All of the top five on this list play in a 4-3, where ends can excel as playmakers and, therefore, command big bucks. The 3-4 ends, typically, are not -- with some exceptions. Bowen has not been a playmaker, though for a while he was an effective player both against the run and as a rusher. However, he has just one sack since the 2011 season (26 games). And after microfracture surgery and being 30, I wonder about the level at which he’ll be able to play. Multiple Redskins sources said they still expect him to be in the Redskins' plans, but will it be at this cap figure? That's a big hit for someone in his situation. If Bowen returns healthy and plays well, the Redskins will greatly benefit. If not? That's a lot of cap room to occupy. One more note: Johnson and Hardy combine for approximately 23 percent of Carolina's cap.
PHILADELPHIA – For a guy with no previous NFL experience, Chip Kelly sure seems to have history with a lot of folks around the league.

Last week, Kelly faced New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who offered Kelly a job back in 2006. This week, Kelly is preparing to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who offered him their head coaching job in 2012.

“I didn’t want to leave the staff at Oregon at that time,” Kelly said Wednesday. “They met me while I was on the road, recruiting. I was impressed with the three Glazer brothers and I was impressed with (GM) Mark Dominik. My decision was to stay at Oregon and not to go anywhere in the NFL.”

It was a decision with ramifications all over the country. Kelly stayed at Oregon, went 12-1 and, but for a 17-14 loss to Stanford, might have played in a second national championship game during Kelly’s tenure.

“I don’t look at decisions as difficult,” Kelly said. “You get all the information necessary and you make the decision and move forward. We had an outstanding year, staying at Oregon.”

The Buccaneers hired Greg Schiano away from Rutgers. The Bucs went 7-9 last year and are 0-4 this year under Schiano. It remains to be seen how the team will recover from its messy divorce with quarterback Josh Freeman, who was released last week.

And of course the Eagles hired Kelly in January. A year later, and with the NCAA investigating Oregon’s program, Kelly decided it was time to jump to the NFL.

Next week, Kelly faces the Dallas Cowboys, whose new defensive coordinator is Monte Kiffin. Kelly’s Oregon teams averaged 50 points per game in three meetings with USC while Kiffin was there as defensive coordinator.

A few other highlights from Kelly’s morning press availability:
  • Kelly said the Buccaneers defense has improved from last year. “The personnel was upgraded,” Kelly said. “But I thought they were a good defense last year. … Gerald McCoy may be the best 3 technique player in the league. He’s explosive, dynamic, he can run.”
  • Kelly reacted to wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s boast that cornerback Darrelle Revis “can’t run with me.” “That’s not exactly what he said,” Kelly said. “He said a bunch of things. Sometimes it’s good if you put the rest of it out there, because he said it was a great matchup. He’s got all the respect in the world for him. And the question is if he thinks he’s faster than him. We’re not having a track meet on Sunday.”
  • Kelly said quarterback Michael Vick would continue to practice as much as his sore hamstring allows him and that no decision was yet made on Vick’s availability for Sunday. Safety Patrick Chung (shoulder) was on the practice field Wednesday.

Chat wrap: Where the action is

March, 20, 2012
3/20/12
1:50
PM ET
I never imagined things would be this slow in the NFC East on the seventh day of free agency. But facts is facts, and since last week ended the facts are that not much has happened. I realized this morning that I didn't even do a "How was your day?" last night because everybody's day was so doggone dull.

But things are never dull in the chat, and we had a fun one Tuesday. Some highlights:

Sean Peters (DC): Hey Dan, what are your thoughts on what the possible departure of London Fletcher could mean for a young Redskins defense?

Dan Graziano: I think it would be a mistake for them to let him go. I know they're getting younger and he's 37 and so that doesn't obviously mesh. But he's a special case. He's like having another coach on the staff -- and one who's actually on the field with the guys during games. I know they love having their young linebackers around him, they love the leadership he brings on the field and in the locker room and that they want to have him back. I still think they'll keep him. As to why they haven't yet, I can't help you.

CP (Brooklyn): Dan, do you think Martellus Bennett will thrive in the Giants' system?

DG: For all the justified abuse Bennett took in Dallas as a disappointment, he was a very good blocking TE. I think he could be a nice pickup for the Giants if he can become a reliable pass-catcher. They don't need him to catch 60-70 balls, but if he can contribute something around 40 and block the way he did in Dallas, I bet they'll be happy.

Peyton (Minnesota): I find it hard to believe that the Cowboys would draft a corner in the first round and he would play the 4th spot with Orlando Scandrick, Mike Jenkins and Brandon Carr already taking the first 3 spots.

DG: I guess, but Jenkins is always hurt and Scandrick's really just a nickel corner. You can't be too deep at that position. The Giants took a CB in the first round last year even though they didn't appear to need one. It's not a terrible idea, if you really like the player.

Alex (Austin): You always repeatedly say you aren't a fan of any NFL teams, but the best in your business (Simmons, Wilbon) openly admit to being homers and it makes their writing more personable and entertaining. Why don't you just embrace a bias towards your favorite team?

DG: Well, I can't make it up. Those guys have favorite teams. I don't. You want me to lie?

Danatio (Philly): Mr Pineapple, Have you heard anything about the Eagles talking to any linebackers? I know there was the Gerald McCoy twitter rumor of Curtis Lofton to Philly, but has anything happened there? Are they thinking their current group will just improve this offseason?

DG: No, I think they'll add. And this might help answer the Fletcher question, too, but the LB market has developed very slowly. Very few linebackers have signed at all, and the ones at the top of the market have yet to find homes. It's not a position teams really prioritize, and the Eagles are smartly waiting to see what develops rather than jumping the market and overpaying.

We do it every Tuesday at noon ET, folks, and all are welcome.
So I was sitting here on Twitter, trolling for news, answering your questions and getting a kick out of the fact that Justin Tuck was watching (and tweeting about) the same "Big Bang Theory" rerun as me when it occurred to me that it was almost time to turn in and get some sleep. Before I did that, I just wanted to ask one question.

How was your day ...

Philadelphia Eagles?

"Surprising." You guys know I didn't think the Eagles intended to sign DeSean Jackson to a long-term contract, so when the news broke Wednesday afternoon that they had, I was stunned. It's a good deal for the Eagles, as almost all of the $15 million in guaranteed money is concentrated in the first two years and it saves them $6.6 million against this year's salary cap. And Jackson's happy because he's making a ton more than he did last season. The issue now is whether his production will rise along with his happiness. (And how long he'll stay happy, considering what other receivers are getting on the open market.) They signed Trent Cole to a four-year contract extension, and in the wake of the Jackson news the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that they were working on a new deal for running back LeSean McCoy.

The Eagles seem determined to take care of their own roster before dipping into the free-agent pool, so they're making little moves, too. Antonio Dixon signed his restricted free-agent tender, and Winston Justice got traded to the Colts in a deal that saw the teams swap sixth-round draft picks. That last was a salary dump, but it was one they needed to make. Guard Evan Mathis remains unsigned and is drawing interest elsewhere, but the Eagles still believe they have a good chance to bring him back.

One weird thing did happen. Late in the afternoon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy sent out a tweet in which he apologized to Bucs fans for being unable to lure free-agent linebacker Curtis Lofton to Tampa and said Lofton was going to sign with the Eagles. The Eagles quickly denied any contact with Lofton, and McCoy retracted his tweet. So it's tough to say what's going on there, but it bears watching. The Eagles need linebacker help, but the linebacker market is slow, so they can wait it out.

Dallas Cowboys?

"Outstanding." They got their top-choice cornerback, agreeing with Brandon Carr on a five-year, $50.1 million contract. They got their veteran, starter-quality backup quarterback, agreeing on a three-year deal with Kyle Orton. They added guard Mackenzy Bernadeau to their interior offensive line mix, where they needed (and still could use more) help. And they signed fullback Lawrence Vickers to replace Tony Fiammetta, who seems to want to go see what he can get on the market. According to ESPNDallas.com, they have visits scheduled in the coming days with free-agent safety Brodney Pool and free-agent guard Nate Livings, so they're still hard at work trying to fill needs. The names may not be the splashiest, but the Cowboys have been down those roads before, and this measured, focused, need-based approach looks like the right way for them to go. A lot of money for Carr, yes, but they desperately needed a top free-agent cornerback, and that's what they're going for this year.

Many Cowboys fans were upset to lose wide receiver Laurent Robinson, who came out of nowhere to catch 11 touchdown passes from Tony Romo in 2011. But the Cowboys were never going to pay him anything close to what the Jaguars ended up paying him ($32.5 million for five years), and they shouldn't have paid their No. 3 wide receiver that much. They were prepared to go without Robinson last year. He was a bonus, a lottery ticket that hit. They'll be fine with what they have at receiver, and they can fill in Robinson's spot the same way they did last year, when they sifted through a bunch of decent-looking candidates and came up with Robinson. Don't sweat that loss, Cowboys fans. The team has bigger worries and bigger needs.

New York Giants?

"A success." They flew former Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett in late Tuesday night, and they signed him Wednesday to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. They obviously see something they like in Bennett and believe that the coaching staff and quarterback Eli Manning can bring the best out of him, and they targeted and got him. They also got him on a very low-risk deal that will allow them to go in a different direction if he disappoints and their injured tight ends are healthy enough to return at the end of the season. Cowboys fans seem sure he will disappoint, and he very well may. But he's only 25 and he's got a ton of physical ability, so the Giants think maybe they're getting a guy right before he really takes off. The Giants also retained backup quarterback David Carr, which they wanted to do. What they'll do next I do not know. They need offensive line help and could use a veteran running back to replace Brandon Jacobs, but they'll be patient and target specific guys they like, because that's the way they operate. It seems to work for them.

Washington Redskins?

"Quieter." After racing out of the free-agent gates and signing two wide receivers before the sun went down on Tuesday, the Redskins made very little news Wednesday. Their trade with the Rams for the No. 2 pick in the draft became official, and we learned that they will host former Giants cornerback Aaron Ross for a free-agent visit Thursday in the hopes of adding him to their cornerback mix. They still haven't locked up Eddie Royal, who seemed poised to become their third free-agent wide receiver signing last night, and he's on his way to talk to the Chargers. And they have a visit set up with safety Brandon Meriweather. But the most-asked question about the Redskins is where they stand with free-agent linebacker London Fletcher, who was called a "top priority" in December by Mike Shanahan but remains unsigned. It's possible that this is where the salary-cap sanctions hurt the Redskins. Having lost $18 million in cap room this year (and $18 million next year) for violating the other owners' sense of spending propriety during the uncapped 2010 season, the Redskins might find a Fletcher signing trickier than, say, a Pierre Garcon signing. Garcon is 25, and they can spread out his contract and the resulting cap hit over five years. Fletcher is 36, and any deal with him is much more likely to be front-loaded. That doesn't mean they can't bring him back, but it could make it a little more difficult. Just a theory I heard from someone I talked to today.

My day was excellent, and I enjoyed spending it here and on Twitter with you. Much more to come Thursday and beyond.
I wrote this post Wednesday about the possibility of defensive tackle Kris Jenkins ending up back in the NFC South.

Jenkins
Jenkins
I really don’t think that’s going to happen because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers are the only two teams who fit what Jenkins said is his main criteria right now -- playing for a team that plays home games in a stadium with natural grass. Fact is Jenkins spent much of his career in Carolina and, at one point, said he wasn't exactly enamored with life in Charlotte. I don’t think that’s changed.

Besides, the Panthers are building with youth, and a 31-year-old coming off another major injury probably doesn’t fit the profile. It’s kind of the same story in Tampa Bay, where the Bucs have used early draft picks on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Roy Miller.

But here’s what I -- very easily -- can see happening. I can see Jenkins landing with the Washington Redskins.

Think about it? Makes tons of sense from both sides. If you know anything about Jenkins -- and I got to know him pretty well from covering the entire portion of his Carolina career -- you know that he absolutely loves the Washington, D.C. area. He used to spend his offseasons there and went to college at the University of Maryland. Jenkins is coming back from a major injury and all indications are his recovery is going well. He’s working out and, when Jenkins is healthy, happy and in shape, he still can be a dominant force in the middle of a defensive line.

The Redskins, who play in a stadium with natural grass, can’t do anything during the lockout. But it’s no secret coach Mike Shanahan and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth aren’t the best of friends. There has been tons of speculation that the Redskins will part ways with Haynesworth as soon as the lockout is over. Owner Daniel Snyder never has been shy about pursuing veteran players in free agency.

Pop Jenkins, a guy who wants to be in Washington, into Haynesworth’s place, and the Redskins might be able to solve a big problem.

Skins draft-day nuggets: Bradford in play?

April, 22, 2010
4/22/10
10:56
AM ET
By his presence alone, Mike Shanahan made the Washington Redskins relevant again in the league. Then he followed it up with the most fascinating trade of the past two decades -- in my opinion. Because of the Donovan McNabb trade, a lot of us are wondering whether Shanahan and Bruce Allen have another trick up their sleeves with the No. 4 overall pick.

The mock draft coalition has swung its support toward Oklahoma left tackle Trent Williams with that pick. There's a belief that his ability to play other positions on the line makes him even more valuable. But the King of the Mock (sorry, Mel), Rick "Goose" Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, is sticking with Oklahoma State's Russell Okung at No. 4. You have to admire Shanahan and Allen's secrecy. Other than sending out quarterback smokescreens ("we LOVE Jimmy Clausen"), the two have played it close to the vest.

There are even rumors the Redskins could bypass a left tackle and take safety Eric Berry, who may be the safest choice in the entire draft based on his remarkable college career and skillset. Mike Wise of the Post is a little bummed that he thinks the Redskins will do the right thing tonight. He misses being able to criticize Vinny Cerrato before the pick is even made.

Rick Maese of the Post has a nice breakdown of all the Skins' options. There's a chance one of the top defensive tackles in the draft -- Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy -- could be available at No. 4. Oh, and don't forget that Shanahan and Allen could try to bail out on the pick and try to land some picks on Day 2.

Dan Graziano of AOL Fanhouse is reporting that Washington is still having "discussions" with the Rams about moving up to select quarterback Sam Bradford. But while I do believe that Shanahan thinks Bradford is a remarkable talent, I don't see him creating an awkward situation with McNabb. It would certainly be the splashiest move of the draft, but it doesn't make a lot of sense.

The Skins' beat writer for the Post, Jason Reid, also thinks Bradford is still in play. I think the Skins want us to believe that just about everyone is "in play." I'd expect the Redskins to be on the clock at about 8:15 p.m. ET. This should be very interesting. Part of me wants to hop a plane to Redskins Park this very minute.

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