NFC East: Jake Long
Now, the Eagles have the cap room to sign anyone they want to sign, so if they wanted Vollmer or Smith it's likely they'd have them. Or at least that there would have been some drama around their ultimate decisions. It could still happen with Smith, I guess, but the lack of noise in this case likely indicates a lack of serious interest. And as for free-agent guards, the top one available is the Jets' Brandon Moore, and after that our free-agent tracker drops all the way down to Jake Scott, who was most recently an Eagle himself.
So the upshot is that the Eagles don't seem to be pursuing free-agent offensive line help too intensely, possibly in the belief that a full return to health by all of last year's injured starters will be enough or possibly because they plan to draft a new starter with the fourth overall pick in the draft (or the 35th, which isn't a ridiculous idea, either). Most of their free-agent efforts so far have focused on the defensive side of the ball, where their needs were most glaring. But one of last year's many painful lessons in Philadelphia was about the importance of offensive line depth, and so Eagles fans are justified in hoping that there is some sort of plan to fortify that right side. There is time, and there may be a surprise or two still to come. But at this point, things appear to be quiet with the Eagles and the offensive line.
The Eagles can still afford to upgrade their offensive line and find another five-technique defensive end for their 3-4 defensive scheme, but Roseman on Tuesday indicated that he’s not looking to spend on patchwork talent.
“Most importantly, I don’t see a circumstance where we get someone that we think is just a one-year guy,” he said from the Arizona Biltmore lobby at the NFL’s annual owners meetings. “Anything we do at this point would be someone who we think has a future as we build this program, because that’s where we are now.”
If they sign another big name, it likely would be one of the free-agent offensive tackles near the top of the market -- Cincinnati's Andre Smith or New England's Sebastian Vollmer. But since the top tackle, Jake Long, didn't sign until just a couple of days ago, that market has been slow to develop. If it develops in the Eagles' favor, Smith or Vollmer would fit the description of a longer-term solution (as opposed to Eric Winston, who likely would not). But the point Roseman seemed to be trying to make was that the Eagles aren't looking to spend simply because they have cap room.
I think they ought to be players for the tackles as acquiring one would allow them to move Todd Herremans inside to guard and strengthen and deepen their offensive line overall. After last year, when they lost four starting linemen to injury, the Eagles have to be conscious of the importance of quality depth there. Of course, there's also the chance they could take a tackle with the No. 4 pick in next year's draft.
Smith and Vollmer were right tackles in their previous stops, and the right side of the line is where the Eagles have a need. Assuming left tackle Jason Peters recovers from last summer's Achilles injuries as they expect him to, they could sign a free-agent right tackle and move Todd Herremans inside to guard to replace the disappointing Danny Watkins.
Pro Football Focus ranked Smith as the top right tackle and the No. 4 overall tackle in the league last year. Vollmer ranked as the fourth-best right tackle and 13th-best overall. If they're both hitting the market with expectations for right-tackle money, as opposed to the left-tackle money Long is likely to get, they'd jive with the Eagles' apparent desire to play on the second tier of the market at key positions. Though it is worth mentioning that the Eagles' most likely starting quarterback in 2013 is left-handed Michael Vick, so the right side of the offensive line is his "blind side."
Adding a tackle in free agency would help the Eagles' depth and versatility on the offensive line, which crumbled last year as it lost four starters to injury. And if they're worried about Peters being able to come back, they might have the ability to draft a franchise-caliber tackle with the No. 4 pick in next month's draft. Whoever the Eagles' quarterback is in 2013 and in years beyond will need a quality offensive line in front of him, and there's no team in the league that learned that lesson in more difficult fashion than the Eagles did in 2012.
If you look at the tackle page of our ESPN.com free-agent tracker, you can pick through and find some other names in which you would like the Eagles to have interest. Eric Winston, recently cut by the Chiefs, is another possibility for right tackle. But Smith and Vollmer are the cream of the still-available crop, and if the Eagles are checking them out, that means they're serious about addressing their offensive line.
Air it out: The Dolphins' defense is allowing 251.1 passing yards per game this year, which is the eighth-highest average in the league. Now, during their current three-game winning streak, they're only allowing 206 passing yards per game. Their defense is playing better, especially up front. But they can still be exploited in the secondary, and none of the teams they've beaten -- Kansas City, Washington or Buffalo -- came equipped with the kind of downfield weapons the Cowboys and Tony Romo have at their disposal. While the Cowboys have shown, since rookie DeMarco Murray took over as the starting running back, a commitment to the run, I'd look for them to take some deep shots against a weak part of this Miami defense and see if they can build an early lead.
The Fiammetta factor: With fullback Tony Fiammetta sidelined due to illness last week, Murray and the run game weren't as effective as they had been in the previous four games. That's not to say Murray wasn't good. His prior four games were a lot to live up to. But with Fiammetta out, there was a clear difference in Murray's effectiveness when running between the tackles. It looks as though Fiammetta will sit out again, so watch the Dolphins stack up eight-man fronts to try and take away Murray or at least dare him to try and run inside.
Is Sean Lee all the way back?: The Cowboys were the best defense in the league against the run in the early part of this season. Then, starting with the injury to middle linebacker Lee in the loss to the Eagles, they struggled against the run for a few weeks. Was their improvement in this department Sunday because the Redskins' run game is so poor, or because Lee is getting more comfortable playing in spite of his injured wrist? The Dolphins, with Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas leading their run game, will offer a more reliable test.
Home for the holiday: Romo is 4-0 in his career on Thanksgiving Day. He missed last year's game due to injury, but he and the Cowboys are thought to have an advantage here because they play a Thanksgiving game every year and are experienced in how to handle the short week. They're also at home, and playing with extreme confidence. While they can't take the suddenly red-hot Dolphins lightly, they have what they need to establish themselves as the better team early and control the game.
The only other NFC East tackle who got votes was the Cowboys' Doug Free, who impressed a lot of people in his first year on the left side but isn't yet thought of by most as an elite guy. Free was named on two of the eight ballots, by Tim Graham of the AFC East and Kevin Seifert of the NFC North, and finished 13th in the voting. If he has another year like the one he just had, and we're doing this list again next year, I predict he'll fare much better.
Washington rookie Trent Williams and declining Giants veteran David Diehl were shut out in the voting, as you might expect. But I predict big things for Williams on these kinds of lists in the future. Every scout and coach I talk to say he has all the makings.
You know, for those of you who like a little complex math first thing in the morning.
Anyway, the left tackle at the top of the list is Miami's Jake Long, which makes me feel better because I ranked him first in the league in the left tackle Power Rankings. The NFC East representation on the list doesn't make me look as good. Dallas' Doug Free ranked as the fifth-best left tackle in the league in pass-blocking efficiency last season according to the formula, two spots ahead of Philadelphia's Jason Peters. And Washington's Trent Williams, whom I ranked ahead of Free in Friday's debate post, ranked as the ninth worst. The Giants' David Diehl ranked third worst, incidentally, which I think helps explain Eli Manning's interception numbers a bit.
They also do right tackles here, with New York's Kareem McKenzie faring quite well and Dallas' Marc Colombo ... not so much. It's an interesting breakdown of one critical aspect of tackle play and provides a little data for our ongoing debate. As you chew on that, I'm hitting the links:
Because I know how you Cowboys fans love your Tony Romo golf updates, here he is qualifying for the Wisconsin State Golf Association Match Play Championship. Hey, gotta do something, right? I salute him. I remember guilt-free golf as a newly married guy before the kids came. Enjoy it now, Tony!
Oh, and in case you missed it, Jason Witten came in at No. 36 on this much-discussed NFL Network list of top 100 players as voted on by other players. One more Cowboy to go on this list, and it's DeMarcus Ware, who's ranked ... somewhere up higher. They're only telling us a little bit at a time, you know. And you say we're stretching for content during the lockout.
New York Giants
Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese said they wouldn't rule out a return of Plaxico Burress to the Giants. This was, presumably, before they read this.
Ralph Vacchiano says Eli Manning expressed "tempered enthusiasm" for the player workouts he and the other Giants had last week at Bergen Catholic High School. Personally, I've never known Eli Manning to express any other kind of enthusiasm.
Jonathan Tamari wonders if Andy Reid has a Dirk Nowitzki-like, career-capping moment in his future -- a title celebration that would erase the only remaining criticism of his coaching career in Philadelphia. I mean, it'd be nice. The whole "He hasn't won a Super Bowl. Enough said" argument sure does seem to be getting old and overused.
Tony Dungy directly addressed a question about Burress potentially landing in Philadelphia along with Michael Vick, another player with whom Dungy worked as a mentor during and after his stay in prison. "I don't know that that would be the case," Dungy said.
Looks as if the Redskins are at least considering the possibility of moving their team headquarters from Virginia to Maryland. The current facility in Ashburn, Va., is not up to current NFL standards and needs an upgrade. Surely, if Daniel Snyder can get Prince George's County to help him pay for a new one, that would pique his interest.
The 2010 Redskins may not have won a lot of games, but they sure did make a lot of people mad. Santana Moss is the latest from the team to be sued, as he now stands accused of defaulting on a lease for a dry-cleaning business his family ran in Miami. Reason No. 8,437 the lockout needs to end soon.
Hey, make sure you have a good breakfast. Big day today. We're chatting at noon.
Should the Redskins select a quarterback at No. 4 overall?
Okung's probably the safest pick at No. 4 overall -- and I think it would be the wisest selection. But Mike Shanahan knows more than anyone the importance of the quarterback position, and it's hard to tell if he's sold on Jason Campbell. He's reportedly watched hours of film on Jimmy Clausen, so I'm sure he's formed a pretty strong opinion of the former Notre Dame quarterback. We keep reading that Clausen's alleged cockiness put off some teams at the combine, but I haven't heard that complaint from anyone in the Redskins organization.
ESPN draft gurus Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are split on Clausen. Kiper has the Redskins selecting Clausen at No. 4, but McShay's never been sold on him. The big thing Clausen has going for him is that he's played in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense and he's comfortable taking snaps from center. Players such as Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy are having to make some major adjustments in terms of their drops, but Clausen's been doing it for years.
Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and Shanahan haven't made any knee-jerk moves in trying to change the culture of the organization. If you look at what Bill Parcells and the Dolphins did when they first got to South Florida, they took the best left tackle in the draft in Jake Long. He'll likely start at that position for the next eight or nine seasons. They eventually selected Chad Henne, but the Dolphins didn't rush the process. It was Chad Pennington who led the team to the playoffs in '08.
Taking Clausen in the first round might be the most exciting move the Redskins could make, but acquiring a cornerstone of the offensive line will provide a better foundation. You guys on board with Okung at No. 4 or do you want Clausen? Use the "comments" section to answer The Big Question.
Three days after Buffalo Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon said he expected Peters to remain on the team, the Bills are close to trading him to the Philadelphia Eagles.
ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and John Clayton report Peters has been summoned to Philadelphia to meet with the Eagles front office. The Eagles have 12 picks, including two first-rounders, in next weekend's draft.
As you're sitting around tonight watching an Orange Bowl that features two suspect teams, ask your buddies the following trivia question: Can you name the four players in NFL history who started a playoff game in the same season that were drafted No. 1 overall?
Hint: One of them played in the NFC East, which makes this blog entry semi-relevant.
- Earl Campbell, Houston Oilers, 1978
- Kenneth Sims, New England Patriots, 1982
- Russell Maryland, Dallas Cowboys, 1991
- Jake Long, Miami Dolphins, 2008 (when he starts against the Ravens)
Source: ESPN Stats & Analysis