NFC East: Jerome Harrison

Friday links. Come and get 'em.

New York Giants

Ohm Youngmisuk brings it, as always, with a look-ahead to the post-bye portion of the Giants' schedule, including items on how important it is for them to stop the run better than they have and a game-by-game look at the final nine games of their schedule -- all against teams that currently have a combined 30-16 record.

Giants owner John Mara has been appointed chairman of the NFL Management Council, which makes it official that he's one of the most powerful and influential owners in the league. In his quiet way, Mara was already (especially through the recent labor situation) one of the most important owners in the league.

Washington Redskins

Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said the playcalling won't change much as a result of the switch from Rex Grossman to John Beck at quarterback. Remember, the Shanahans believe in their system and are looking for quarterbacks who can run it. They're not interested in tailoring the system to the quarterback. My guess is the biggest difference you'll see is Beck's ability to run for yards when plays break down.

The injuries on the Redskins' offensive line are likely to mean Erik Cook is the new starter at center and Will Montgomery, who's been outstanding at center all year, moves to left guard. Change is not good on the offensive line, especially when the offensive line has been such a critical element of the team's success.

Dallas Cowboys

In case you forgot about Tony Romo's fractured ribs, he's still wearing a protective vest and taking painkilling shots as they continue to heal. He's hopeful he'll only have to do those things for a few more weeks.

Tim MacMahon understands that the reason the Cowboys don't want to use Dez Bryant on punt returns is the risk of injury. But he correctly points out that they should harbor the same concerns about Terence Newman, and that Bryant's remarkable ability on punt returns justifies the injury risk, whereas Newman isn't the same level of threat.

Philadelphia Eagles

If you're wondering what happened to tight end Brent Celek as a pass-catching part of the Eagles' offense, Sheil Kapadia points out that the Eagles are keeping him in to help with pass blocking more than ever. Which makes sense, given how many weapons they have at receiver and the issues they've been having with pass blocking.

The Jerome Harrison story is chilling. The reason the trade that would have brought him back to Philadelphia for Ronnie Brown was voided was because Harrison was diagnosed with a brain tumor during his Eagles physical on which the trade was contingent. Without the trade, he wouldn't have had the physical. And while the prognosis now is that he'll be fine since they've discovered it, the fact is the trade and the physical that resulted may have saved his life.
I had a whole breakfast links post ready to go Wednesday night, but I had to retract it because of my keyboard's health. So this is the updated version.

New York Giants

Antrel Rolle's been pulling double-duty as a starting safety and a nickel cornerback, which has impressed the Giants' coaching staff but is, in my mind, the main reason the team would benefit from getting a healthy Prince Amukamara on the field. If he can play, he'd allow Rolle to play only safety and likely get a needed breather every now and then.

It's not easy covering the other team's No. 1 wide receiver every week, but it's a challenge that Corey Webster is accepting with enthusiasm, according to Mike Garafolo.

Washington Redskins

Jason Reid writes that "Now that the Shanahans have acknowledged they were wrong in naming [Rex] Grossman the starter six weeks ago, they must be right this time about [John] Beck." Now, I love Jason like a long-lost brother with whom I used to drink beers when we were both young and single and covering Major League Baseball for a living. But I disagree with his assessment of the Redskins' quarterback situation. If Beck plays poorly, they can just go back to Grossman. It's not as though Grossman's been cut. They knew what they had at quarterback when the season began, and I'm sure they knew they were going to have to make at least one change as the season went along. And I think they knew there was a pretty good chance they didn't have their long-term answer on this year's roster and would have to devote a fair amount of the focus of the next offseason to finding one. I don't think anything's changed that dramatically.

Oh, and everybody's saying that the stuff Santana Moss said earlier in the week about hoping Grossman got to keep the job doesn't matter. Everybody's saying that. Moss, Beck, everybody. But Moss said he still thinks Grossman can do the job, just so you know.

Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Ware missed Wednesday's practice to rest his back, which bothered him during Sunday's game against the Patriots. Now, it's a tried-and-true axiom of journalism that you never under-emphasize an injury because (a) the team's usually trying to do that anyway and (b) any injury could potentially be serious. But in this case, I'd be pretty surprised if there was anything to worry about in terms of Ware playing Sunday.

It's beginning to look as though the Cowboys could get a contribution out of rookie linebacker Bruce Carter this season, as he's out on the practice field and could be playing on special teams at least very soon.

Philadelphia Eagles

Remember that trade from Tuesday when the Eagles sent disappointing backup running back Ronnie Brown to Detroit for former Eagles backup Jerome Harrison? Yeah, it never happened. Harrison failed an Eagles physical, voiding the trade, and the players head back to the teams they were on last week. That means Ronnie Brown is still on the Eagles. It does not mean you should expect him to play very much for them.

The Eagles' offensive line has taken a lot of heat this year, mainly for some specific and ugly failures to protect quarterback Michael Vick. But in truth, Vick bears a lot of responsibility for that issue himself, and the criticism has obscured the fact that the Eagles' line has been a tremendous run-blocking unit this year. Paul Domowitch writes of the positives on the line.

Ronnie Brown, we hardly knew ye

October, 18, 2011
10/18/11
4:39
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Well, it wasn't the deal for which Philadelphia Eagles fans were hoping in advance of Tuesday's trade deadline, but the Eagles did make a trade -- sending running back Ronnie Brown to the Detroit Lions for running back Jerome Harrison and a seventh-round 2013 draft pick. Eagles fans will remember Harrison as last year's sound backup to LeSean McCoy -- a role he'll assume again now alongside impressive rookie Dion Lewis. And Eagles fans will forever remember Brown for his ridiculous, inexplicable fumble at the goal line against the 49ers a couple of weeks ago when he decided at the last second to lateral the ball as he was being tackled.

That play is likely to be the lasting legacy in Philadelphia of a player whose surprise early-August signing was a symbol of the Eagles' gleeful, free-wheeling 2011 free-agent spree. In truth, Brown was always a luxury, much the way receiver Steve Smith and maybe even cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie appear to be on a team that could have used some of the money it spent on those players to add help at a position like linebacker. Harrison makes more sense as a backup to McCoy than does Brown, who gives the Lions the power runner they need to offset Jahvid Best but didn't really have a role in Philadelphia, where McCoy can handle the between-the-tackles grunt work as well as the open-field razzle-dazzle.

There had been rumors in advance of the deadline about a deal (maybe even with Detroit) involving cornerback Asante Samuel for linebacker help. But it now appears the Eagles, as they've said they were all along, are intent on keeping Samuel, Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha at cornerback and finding a way to get them all on the field.

NFC East: How was your day?

July, 26, 2011
7/26/11
9:58
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It's clear by now that this first week or so of post-lockout NFL business is going to be as insane as Eagles fans likely remember Crazy Eddie's prices were. A quick review shows that I did 13 NFC East blog posts and a live chat in a 12-hour stretch Tuesday, and things are just getting revved up. So, because we're doing quick-hit analysis move-by-move and some things are obviously going to slip through the cracks, I'm going to try and do a daily Day-in-Review post that tries to assess what kind of day each team in the division had. I was originally planning to do one per team, but for now we'll try this. Going to try, I said. If it doesn't work... hey, I tried.

So, how was your day...

Dallas Cowboys?

"Efficient." Dallas needed to make some cuts to work on getting under the salary cap, and they trimmed Marion Barber, Leonard Davis, Roy Williams and Kris Brown from their roster. Marc Colombo's status remained up in the air at day's end, and the next order of business was likely the restructuring of some veteran contracts (Romo, Austin, etc.) to keep freeing up room for outside free-agent pursuits. Reports surfaced that they reached out to Abe Elam to talk about one of their openings at safety, and they are talking with guard Kyle Kosier, who along with Doug Free is an important re-sign for them. Knocking $16.6 million off their 2011 payroll represents a good first day for a team that needs to rebuild its defense within the next week.

New York Giants?

"Confusing." When the Giants decided not to make offensive line a priority in the draft, many people assumed it was because they felt they had enough depth at the position. But Tuesday brought news that veterans Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Shawn Andrews would be cut. Adam Schefter reported that Kevin Boothe would return on a two-year deal, but even if Will Beatty is ready to be the starting left tackle, the Giants will need reinforcements. They also needed to get under the cap, but such a drastic purge at one position suggests a recalibration of free-agent priorities for a team that has work to do to bring back several of its own free agents. Adam also reports that the Giants have been speaking with Plaxico Burress about a reunion, which is confusing in light of what Burress had to say about Tom Coughlin after his release from prison last month. Giants fans tend to trust their team's front office, but if there's a sound plan here, it has yet to reveal itself. The Giants did make a feel-good move in the morning, signing undrafted rookie and cancer survivor Mark Herzlich, who could be part of the solution at linebacker if he can return to the form that made him one of the best defensive players in college football in 2008. Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com reported on Twitter that potential linebacker target Paul Posluszny would sign with the Jaguars, but I still expect the Giants to find another linebacker in free agency. Herzlich has big upside but is no sure thing.

Philadelphia Eagles?

"Unsatisfying." We woke with the idea that the long-expected Kevin Kolb trade could happen as soon as the clock struck 10 am. It did not happen, and in fact the market for Kolb took a hit with the news that the Broncos were trying to trade Kyle Orton (thereby providing the Cardinals with another option) and that the Seahawks were going to sign Tarvaris Jackson (depriving the Eagles of the most viable other trade partner with which they could leverage Arizona). Kolb to Arizona still seems the most likely outcome here, but the longer it goes without the Eagles getting what they need to get in return, the more likely it is that he ends up staying in Philadelphia. Michael Vick hinted that DeSean Jackson could hold out of training camp due to dissatisfaction with his contract situation, which portends trouble on that front. The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported that the Eagles were planning to let go of all of their own free agents, including linebacker Stewart Bradley and backup running back Jerome Harrison -- news that led some (including me) to speculate that they were clearing the financial decks for a big signing such as Nnamdi Asomugha. One of those free agents, safety Quintin Mikell, agreed to a deal with the Rams, according to a report by Schefter. And the team announced the signing of undrafted running back Noel Devine of West Virginia, who could perhaps compete with Dion Lewis for that backup running back spot. Fair amount of business conducted, but none of the big moves we've been expecting from the Eagles ... yet.

Washington Redskins

"Encouraging." There were reports of discussions of a trade of Donovan McNabb to Minnesota, which was a mild surprise. If they can get anything -- even a fifth-round pick -- for McNabb, they'll have to call that a win. Schefter reported that Santana Moss had agreed to return on a three-year, $15 million deal, which is a move each side wanted to make sure happened and will help the Redskins' inexperienced quarterback and receivers. I don't think that move takes them out of the running for Santonio Holmes, but The Star-Ledger reported that the Jets are moving to re-sign Holmes, as was expected. So he remains a long shot, and potential offensive line target Marshal Yanda re-upped with the Ravens, taking him out of Washington's plans. But the re-signing of Moss and the serious McNabb talks have to count as a good first day for a team with a lot to do.

How was my day, you ask? Busy, but lots of fun. Looking forward to another busy/fun one tomorrow. Love that we have actual news to write about, at long last. And I hope you enjoyed your day here on the NFC East blog. Talk to you again in the morning.
So this is kind of unexpected. Jonathan Tamari reports that the Eagles are planning to let all of their unsigned free agents leave town, "including starters such as Stewart Bradley, Quintin Mikell and Sav Rocca and backup running back Jerome Harrison."

Obviously, the first reaction to news such as this is that the Eagles are clearing room for a big signing such as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. And that may very well be the case. Someone will pay Asomugha's price, the Eagles need a cornerback and he likes the East Coast. The move makes a ton of sense, no matter how many people tell me they'd rather have a worse player, such as Ike Taylor or Johnathan Joseph.

Obviously, this also raises questions, though. Such as...

1. Who will play linebacker? If Bradley goes, they can play Jamar Chaney in the middle, as they did last year when Bradley was hurt, and start Moise Fokou and Keenan Clayton at the outside spots. Or they could sign a linebacker, middle or otherwise, from the large pool of available free-agents. Or they could get one in exchange for Kevin Kolb. Options are there, though I'm a little surprised that they're letting Bradley walk. They do like his talent, but they must be sick of the injuries.

2. Who will back up LeSean McCoy? Well, there will be veterans available for that spot. Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, maybe even old friend Brian Westbrook, in addition to many others, are out there. Harrison is very good, though, and a better viable starter should something happen to McCoy than any of those others guys are at this point in their careers. The Eagles will be in the running back market.

3. Who punts? I don't buy that they drafted Alex Henery to punt. I think he's David Akers' replacement at kicker and they'll find a punter. Punters kind of come and go, right?

4. Are they really going that young at safety? Yeah, the Mikell move isn't unexpected, but it does leave them with Nate Allen and rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett as the most likely starting safeties. Kurt Coleman and Marlin Jackson may yet be heard from on that front, but Mikell is a leader who will be missed.

The Eagles said they'd be busy, and it looks as if they'll be in a position to fulfill that promise.

NFC East free-agency breakdown

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each NFC East team:

Dallas Cowboys

1. Re-sign left tackle Doug Free. He is coming off his first season as starting left tackle, but Free handled the move well and is viewed as the starting left tackle of the Cowboys' future. More importantly, with rookie Tyron Smith slated to start at right tackle and probably not yet ready to play on the left side, Free is the Cowboys' left tackle of the present. If he were to go elsewhere, the Cowboys would be scrambling to find a tackle, and it could mess with all of the other plans they need to make and execute before training camp begins. Expect Free to draw lots of interest, and his price tag to be higher than the Cowboys probably were hoping.

2. Fill holes in the secondary. The plan seems to be to move Alan Ball back to cornerback, so while you'll hear the Cowboys connected to free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, they're more likely to focus on bringing in a safety or two. There's a chance they re-sign their own guy, Gerald Sensabaugh, and then go get a free agent such as Eric Weddle, Michael Huff or Quintin Mikell. But if Sensabaugh were to leave, Dallas would be in the difficult position of having to sign two safeties.

3. Find defensive ends. With Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher set to be free agents, the Cowboys need a couple of starters at defensive end, too. They could bring both guys back, but it's not as if the defensive line was a position of strength for Dallas in 2010, so they'll probably at least look elsewhere. The Packers' Cullen Jenkins would be a nice fit, though there will be competition for him from within the division, as you'll see below in the Redskins' section.

Top five free agents: OT Free, G Kyle Kosier, DE Bowen, DE Hatcher, S Sensabaugh

New York Giants

1. Figure out which of their own guys to keep. With Ahmad Bradshaw, Barry Cofield, Mathias Kiwanuka, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss all set to potentially go free, the Giants have to prioritize and figure out which guys they're keeping. The top priority is probably going to be Bradshaw, an emerging star at running back, and it appears they'll let Cofield walk while trying to bring back Boss. They think the injury situations with Kiwanuka and Smith will help keep those guys' prices reasonable. But before the Giants hit the market, they'll need to get their own free-agent house in order.

2. Get at least one linebacker. The Giants have ignored this position over the past couple of years, and they seem to believe Jonathan Goff can handle the middle linebacker spot. They'd probably be better off moving him back outside and exploring the middle linebacker market, which includes Stephen Tulloch, Barrett Ruud and Paul Posluszny. But if they're set on keeping Goff in the middle, perhaps someone such as Manny Lawson or Nick Barnett could be a fit. It's one thing not to prioritize a position, but it's another to ignore it completely, and the Giants have been doing that with linebacker, to their detriment.

3. Some offensive line insurance. There were lots of injuries along the line in New York last season, and although it didn't kill them, it was a potential sign of things to come. The Giants hope Will Beatty will soon be ready to take over at left tackle for a declining David Diehl, but they must watch out for the health of Shaun O'Hara at center. And if they have to cut Shawn Andrews to sign some other guys, they'll need to replace him with a tackle who can provide depth.

Top five free agents: RB Bradshaw, DE/LB Kiwanuka, TE Boss, DT Cofield, WR Smith

Philadelphia Eagles

1. Settle the Kevin Kolb situation. If they can get the great deal for him that most believe they can (i.e., a first-round pick plus), the Eagles will deal Kolb and look for a reliable backup quarterback who can play if and when Michael Vick gets hurt. If they can't get good value for Kolb, they'll probably keep him to serve as said reliable backup. A trade is most likely, but whatever happens, the Eagles will probably settle this soon after the league year begins.

2. Sign a cornerback. The starting spot opposite Asante Samuel is open, and no one on the current roster appears able to fill it. That's why you've heard, and will continue to hear, the Eagles connected with Asomugha. Philadelphia must rank among his most likely destinations at this point. If they don't get him, they'll look down the list at guys such as Johnathan Joseph, Ike Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. And there's a chance they could get a cornerback for Kolb. But they'll get one somewhere.

3. Re-sign Stewart Bradley. Sure, they could let Bradley go and play Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker. Chaney looked, at least, capable in that spot last season and may be the Eagles' future at the position. But if Bradley leaves, the Eagles' problems will be about more than just the alignment of the linebackers. They'll actually be short on bodies and will need to play the free-agent field to find a replacement. Bradley's had injury problems, but when healthy, he's the Eagles' best linebacker and could be a key cog in whatever new defensive alignment Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn are cooking up.

Top five free agents: LB Bradley, S Mikell, G Nick Cole, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Ellis Hobbs

Washington Redskins

1. Fill out the defensive line. Whether they add a free-agent nose tackle such as Aubrayo Franklin or look at defensive end options like Jenkins, the Redskins must figure who their starting defensive linemen are. They like their linebacking corps, and although they also need a cornerback, they love their safeties with Oshiomogho Atogwe in the fold next to LaRon Landry. But their good, young outside linebackers will need big, space-eating ends in front of them to open up lanes to the passer. And they'll also need to get some sort of pass rush from the line, whether it's from the nose or the ends.

2. Re-sign Santana Moss. The Redskins are making noise about pursuing a big-time wideout such as Santonio Holmes or Sidney Rice. But the reality is that it's going to be tough to convince receivers to sign in Washington while they're not viewed as a contender and the quarterback situation remains so cloudy. Moss likes it in Washington. The Redskins like him. And he's a nice guy to have around to help out young receivers Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson -- not to mention inexperienced quarterback John Beck.

3. Resolve the Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth situations. They don't want either player on the team anymore, but the question is how to get rid of them. They might be able to dump McNabb for a late-round draft pick, but if they can't, they'll probably just cut him and let him find his next job on his own. Haynesworth has trade value in a league where many 4-3 teams are looking for interior defensive line help. Don't expect the Redskins to cut Haynesworth, because they don't want to do him any favors and they don't want him free to sign with former Tennessee D-line coach Washburn in Philadelphia. If they can't get value for him, don't be surprised if Haynesworth remains on the team all season and has a hard time getting into games.

Top five free agents: WR Moss, OT Jammal Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, LB Rocky McIntosh, QB Rex Grossman

Eagles back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:10
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NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Eagles held a series of player-organized workouts throughout the summer, but quarterback Michael Vick was only there for a couple of days' worth, opting most of the time to work out on his own. They have a new defensive coordinator in Juan Castillo (who was their offensive line coach) and a new defensive line coach in Jim Washburn, so there are likely to be new aspects of the defense they'll have to learn quickly once the coaches can get their hands on them.

Biggest challenge: Constructing that defense. The Eagles need a new cornerback to play alongside Asante Samuel, and they'll probably aim high and try to get Nnamdi Asomugha. It appears as though they're ready to let Quintin Mikell walk, since they appear to think rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett is ready to start right away opposite Nate Allen. But they could add a veteran there to work with the young guys or in case Allen's not fully healthy. They also need to figure out the linebacker situation around potential free agent Stewart Bradley. And Washburn will lobby to add a pass-rushing end and maybe another piece or two along the line. Before the Eagles can set about installing anything new on defense, they'll need to know who the players are who'll be responsible for putting the plans into action.

Vick's backup: The Eagles' first order of post-lockout business is expected to be the trade of backup quarterback Kevin Kolb. Assuming they can get the return for Kolb that most people seem to believe they can (a first-rounder plus, or maybe an established cornerback or linebacker), they'll ship him out of town to Arizona or Seattle or whichever team comes with the best offer. But after that, they'll need to find a veteran quarterback to sit behind Vick and step in if and when the starter gets hurt. Vick has never played a full 16-game season, and his style lends itself to potential injury. And while they like Mike Kafka long-term, he's probably not as ready as Kolb would be to step in and win a game if Vick can't go. Look for the Eagles to explore several possibilities for this role, including the Titans' Vince Young, who might be a perfect fit.

Key players without contracts for 2011: K David Akers, LB Stewart Bradley, G Nick Cole, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Ellis Hobbs, LB Akeem Jordan, S Quintin Mikell, P Sav Rocca, LB Ernie Sims

NFC East salary cap talk

July, 20, 2011
7/20/11
2:18
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John Clayton's latest column is on potential salary-cap casualties -- guys who could be cut by teams that need to get under the new salary-cap number, which looks as if it will be $120 million. It also comes with a list of all NFL teams and where they are relative to that $120 million figure. Here's the breakdown on the four teams that matter to us:
Keep in mind that it looks as if each team will get a $3 million "exception" that will help them exceed the cap for one specific player if they feel they need to, and that teams are probably going to be required to spend at least 94 percent of the cap figure on player salaries.

As for the players on John's list, several are of potential interest to NFC East teams. To wit:

Reggie Bush: As John says, he'd likely prefer to test free agency than to restructure his deal. He's been connected to the Eagles, which is a dizzying possibility considering how numerous and electric the Eagles' current offensive options already are. Personally, I think a guy like Willis McGahee, who's further down on John's list, would make more sense as LeSean McCoy's backup if Jerome Harrison leaves. McCoy and Bush strike me as similar kinds of players.

Nick Barnett: The Packers will try to trade him, but if they're unsuccessful they'll likely cut him and set him free. There's been a rumbling or two about potential Giants interest, and they do need to beef up at linebacker. The Eagles will be looking for linebackers, too, if they don't re-sign Stewart Bradley.

Vince Young: Still think he makes a lot of sense as Michael Vick's backup in Philly if the Eagles trade Kevin Kolb.

Albert Haynesworth: Not much left to say here. I'll be surprised if he's cut and allowed to pick his next team. The Redskins are under the cap as it is.

Antwan Odom: Lots of thought that the Eagles are looking for a pass-rushing defensive end. Remember the first half of the 2009 season, when Odom was leading the league in sacks? Big health risk with the possibility of a big reward.

Shawn Andrews: Giants brought him in for offensive line depth, which they still kind of need. But the $7.333 million they could save by cutting him is likely to be more useful than Andrews himself.

Breakfast links: More labor thaw

June, 29, 2011
6/29/11
8:00
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See, to me, this can only be a good sign. The fact that the NFLPA would ask commissioner Roger Goodell -- and that he would agree -- to speak to rookies at the rookie symposium the NFLPA is having in lieu of the one the league canceled because of the lockout heralds a new level of trust between the two parties. It gives you reason to believe the optimism that the latest round of talks will lead to a new labor deal and an on-time start to the season may not be misplaced.

What I'm interested to see is this: If there's no actual deal -- i.e., a signed document establishing the work rules for the league for the next three, five, eight, however many years -- within a couple of weeks, but during that time the two sides make significant enough progress that they know what those rules are going to be and all that remains are formalities, could the league year start anyway? The owners, theoretically, have the ability to lift the lockout any time they want to. Could they do that in the absence of a formal, finalized contract with the players and just hold free agency under rules to which they mutually agree as part of their settlement talks?

It sounds easy, but it may not be. Remember, these are not collective bargaining-talks that are going on right now. These are settlement talks on the antitrust suit the players filed against the league. If the owners were to lift the lockout and have free agency, even under mutually agreed-to rules, they'd have to be 100 percent sure they weren't putting themselves at risk of being guilty of an antitrust violation. I imagine they'd have to get a promise in writing from the players that the players wouldn't pursue legal action against them as a result of anything that happens during the free-agent period.

So it may be that they need to dot all I's and cross all T's on the new labor agreement before free agency and the league year can start. But if that's not the case -- if they can get close enough to a finalized deal that they feel they can start the league year and training camps on time -- at least now it looks as if there's a decent enough relationship between the two sides that they could work that, and eventually all of this, out.

In the meantime, as ever, we link:

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins and the gang at ESPNDallas.com have been looking at potential free-agent targets for Dallas. Today, Calvin brings up Eagles guard Nick Cole as a potential Kyle Kosier replacement. His theory is that he's younger and versatile and might be more worthy of a long-term deal than will Kosier. Calvin knows the Cowboys. Even if he is really a baseball writer at heart.

Oh and Gerry Fraley has this item about former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer's foray into the wine business. Love the part about him describing his rural Arkansas childhood home on the label. Priceless.

New York Giants

Lots of people ask about Barry Cofield, and the Giants have a number of free-agent concerns once the lockout ends. Cofield himself doesn't sound like a man who expects to be back in New York. "I think they think I'm a good player," Cofield told the New York Post. "Obviously they don't view me as indispensable. They place a premium on certain positions. Let's be honest, defensive end is the name of the game in New York." He's certainly right about that, but that doesn't mean they don't appreciate a defensive tackle who can get to the quarterback. The question is whether the Giants feel they have enough in guys like Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin to replace Cofield if they focus on other concerns. He seems to feel as though that's the idea.

Eli Manning worked out with Hakeem Nicks and rookie receiver Jerrel Jernigan last week at Duke University, according to The Star-Ledger. Priceless time with QB1 for Jernigan, who could theoretically be asked to do more if he shows something and if Steve Smith isn't fully healthy.

Philadelphia Eagles

In light of the recent news on Terrell Owens, Sheil Kapadia wonders if Andy Reid's biggest football regret would be not finding a way for Owens and Donovan McNabb to coexist after their relationship blew up in the wake of their Super Bowl appearance -- if the magic that landed them in the big game could have been extended if Owens' stay in Philly had been as well.

The Eagles' team site breaks down the running backs, wondering as we all are whether Jerome Harrison will return as LeSean McCoy's backup. They do agree, however, that if he doesn't, Dion Lewis isn't the answer there. Expect the Eagles to re-sign Harrison or find a veteran replacement.

Washington Redskins

Rookie Ryan Kerrigan spoke about the challenges he's facing transitioning from college defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL -- especially with no coaches around to tell him if he's doing it correctly.

Redskins.com takes a gander at the right guard spot and whether Will Montgomery looks like the starter there this year. Montgomery also would seem to loom as an option at center should the team decide to part ways with Casey Rabach. Upshot is, Washington may be looking for interior line help.

Go get 'em.
Our first speculative free-agent post was a hit. It was about cornerbacks, and which potential free agents (assuming the labor deal gets done and it returns the required service time for unrestricted free agency to four years) would fit with teams in the NFC East. So, since you seemed to like it, we're going to do the other positions. Running backs are up next.

NFC East teams in need

Giants: This is a conditional "need," of course, since Ahmad Bradshaw, the No. 2 guy on the list below, is a Giant and likely (though not certain!) to sign back with the team. They also could find themselves having to jettison Brandon Jacobs in order to pay Bradshaw. So, depending on the ways in which those situations shake out, the Giants could have no need or a very serious need here.

Eagles: They're set at starter with the brilliant and still-emerging LeSean McCoy. But unless they bring back Jerome Harrison, they'll need a grinder and a change-of-pace guy who's willing to come in and not get the glory McCoy gets. Philly isn't likely to be looking at the guys at the top of this list.

Redskins: The starter reps are most likely to go to some combination of youngsters Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. But in case neither guy can handle that, there remains a chance the Redskins will want to find a veteran back to bring in to mentor them or even start until one of them is ready. Since they have so many other needs, Washington is more likely to bargain-hunt for running backs, but there could be some deals to be found.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent running backs.

DeAngelo Williams
Rich Kane/Icon SMI DeAngelo Williams is the star of the free-agent running back class.
1. DeAngelo Williams. Without the injury problems, he's the clear star of this class. Of course, without the injury history, he'd probably already have been locked up by Carolina. But with Jonathan Stewart on the roster, top receiver Steve Smith's situation in question and top draft pick Cam Newton still to sign, the Panthers might not be able to keep Williams' considerable talents. He's a great fit for the Giants if things fall apart with Bradshaw, but he's not likely what they're looking for in Washington or Philly as long as he's expecting a big contract.

2. Bradshaw. He's said he wants to stay in New York. They've said he's a top priority for them. It all makes sense. But we don't know yet who's going to come knocking and offering money. Bradshaw did just hire Drew Rosenhaus, and you don't do that if you're not planning on at least testing the market. The Giants have a large number of potential free agents, and if Bradshaw's demands go through the roof, there could be an unexpected parting of the ways. It's hard to imagine, however, another NFC East team being the one to outbid the Giants for Bradshaw.

3. Cedric Benson. Likely gone after two productive seasons in Cincinnati, Benson will be looking for a starter's contract. Another guy who might make sense in New York if Bradshaw bolts, he'd also make sense in Philadelphia as the power back to complement McCoy. But he'd almost certainly have to accept a smaller role in Philly than he anticipates, so they probably won't become an option for him unless he first exhausts his opportunities to be a starter.

4. Joseph Addai. He hasn't shown the ability to hold up as a starter over a full season, and he hasn't played in an offense that really uses the run at all. I think he's a real nice fit in Washington, where his skills as a receiver and in pass protection will help John Beck or whoever the potentially overwhelmed quarterback turns out to be.

5. Ronnie Brown. Another guy who, like Addai, is probably best suited for a multiple-back offense. His skill set would make him a perfect Harrison replacement in Philadelphia. But whoever gets that job isn't going to get the ball very much with McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and of course Michael Vick as options on every play. So if Brown doesn't mind going someplace where he won't get many carries, the Eagles could certainly use him.

Predictions that mean nothing: Giants keep Bradshaw and Jacobs, Eagles keep Harrison to back up McCoy, Redskins sign Addai as their needed backfield veteran.

Breaking down the RBs: Eagles

March, 28, 2011
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Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the running backs of each NFC East team. Today: Philadelphia Eagles.

As I alluded to in my “Soon to be Stars” piece not long ago, LeSean McCoy is becoming a truly great player. Having Michael Vick in the backfield helps any running back, and the Eagles’ run blocking is much better than many realize, but McCoy brings a ton to the table. He understands what it takes to be a running back in the NFL and isn’t always looking for the big play. His elusiveness, vision and burst are among the best in the league. His receiving abilities soon should be as good as just about anyone, which is important in Andy Reid’s pass-first attack.

I'm a big fan of McCoy, but he isn’t the biggest guy around, and having a quality backup should be very important for the Eagles. During the 2010 season, Philadelphia did trade for Jerome Harrison, who is now set to become a free agent. Harrison would be an excellent backup for McCoy, and bringing him back makes a lot of sense. But maybe Philadelphia decides to complement McCoy with a bigger, bruising runner who could also be helpful in short-yardage situations.

The Eagles could go a different direction and tap into a very deep running back class in this draft. There aren't a lot of big bruiser types in this draft, but there are plenty of options. As the draft goes along, running backs in general could become excellent value selections in the middle rounds.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Draft Watch: NFC East

March, 10, 2011
3/10/11
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: biggest team needs.

Dallas Cowboys

While its 2010 record did not show it, Dallas has an excellent roster. I see only two major areas to attack this offseason: the secondary and the offensive line. On the back end of the defense, the Cowboys have to add one more cornerback to the mix -- preferably one with the talent to challenge for a starting spot before long. But I see free safety as the bigger need in Dallas’ secondary. A rangy, ball-hawking center fielder type could make a lot of secondary problems go away. Locking up defensive end Stephen Bowen also would be the smart move, but adding another end to the mix even if he does stay also makes sense.

On the offensive line, Doug Free and Kyle Kosier are up for free agency. The Cowboys must bring back Free. Dallas also needs to acquire a starting right tackle, because that position was a major liability last season. Adding youth to the interior should be a priority. Adding a big-time prospect like Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara or USC tackle Tyron Smith or even Cal’s defensive end Cameron Jordan with the ninth pick overall could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

New York Giants

The running back position is somewhat unsettled, and if Ahmad Bradshaw were to depart, replacing him would be priority No. 1. But overall, I see the Giants’ offensive needs up front on the offensive line. There was just too much shuffling with this unit in 2010 -- mostly because of injuries. But if the Giants could add an infusion of youth -- specifically at left tackle -- this line might quickly get back to the extremely high level it played at in previous seasons. Kevin Boss is a free agent, which would open up a hole for a starting tight end should he leave.

On defense, the Giants are loaded up front and at safety. But linebacker help would be a huge boost to an already solid defensive nucleus. Adding a cornerback to compete for playing time also would make sense. But I see an every-down, versatile outside linebacker as the position New York would most like to add on the defensive side of the ball right now.

Philadelphia Eagles

The biggest need I see for the Eagles is at cornerback. If they could find a legit starter opposite Asante Samuel, this defense could be poised to jump into the elite category. Maybe they get involved with Nnamdi Asomugha? Depth at the position is also a problem, so adding two bodies at corner could be a wise move. The rest of the defense could use some tweaking, maybe by adding another linebacker or two because there could be change at that position. Another possibility would be adding a defensive end, but those needs pale in comparison next to cornerback. However, if Quintin Mikell were to depart in free agency, a massive hole would emerge at safety. Philly cannot afford to let Mikell walk.

On offense, Andy Reid has never been shy about fortifying his offensive line, and I fully expect him to go that direction again this offseason. Right tackle was a big problem last season, and adding a guard to the mix might make some sense as well. Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi would be a great fit in the first round. Overall, the Eagles don’t have a ton of pressing needs, but if Jerome Harrison leaves, then a backup to LeSean McCoy will be required as well.

Washington Redskins

I hate to say it, but I believe the Redskins need everything. On offense, they need help in all areas except tight end. On defense, they need help in all areas except safety. That sounds extreme -- and it is. But for the Redskins to catch up with the other teams in the division, a lot of work needs to be done.

On offense, they could use a right tackle if Jammal Brown leaves via free agency. They also probably need interior offensive line help no matter what. The running backs are pedestrian. The wideout group needs an influx of talent, and would be decimated if Santana Moss departed. At quarterback, few teams are in as bad of shape as the Redskins right now.

The defensive side looks better, but really, how many building block players are in place? I like the safeties. Among other things, nose tackle is a massive need if the team is to properly run the 3-4. Brian Orakpo is a great young player, but they need a pass-rusher opposite him. They don’t have many good fits overall for the 3-4. And -- by the way -- their kicking specialists might need to be replaced.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

NFC East links: Redskins seeking identity

March, 4, 2011
3/04/11
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Dallas Cowboys

With O.J. Atogwe and Bob Sanders no longer available, the Cowboys' search to upgrade the safety position continues.

Jean-Jacques Taylor says the Dallas offensive line is a position that needs a talent boost.

New York Giants

Running back Brandon Jacobs doesn't know what his future holds, but he does know he wants to remain with the Giants.

The Giants aren't letting a possible lockout get in the way of selling tickets for the 2011 season.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles on Thursday tendered offers to running back Jerome Harrison and punter Sav Rocca.

Has coach Andy Reid lost some power in the organization over the past few years? The Inquirer’s Bob Ford and the Daily News’ Marcus Hayes offer some perspective.

Washington Redskins

Signing Atogwe to a free-agent deal gives the Redskins a much-needed upgrade at the free safety position.

Larry Weisman says the Redskins are still a team in search of an identity.

It's official: Eagles stars will ride pine

January, 2, 2011
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I just had a look at the Philadelphia Eagles' inactives list, and it's a star-studded cast: Running back LeSean McCoy, right tackle Winston Justice, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive end Trent Cole, defensive tackle Trevor Laws, middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, cornerback Asante Samuel and quarterback Michael Vick will all be in street clothes for today's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Tight end Brent Celek and receiver Jeremy Maclin will be quarterback Kevin Kolb's best options -- if they take the field. It will be interesting to watch running back Jerome Harrison in a feature role. I'm sure he and Eldra Buckley will get plenty of touches.

Michael Vick wants the late hits to stop

December, 7, 2010
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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick thinks his head coach was right to complain about some of the punishment he's taking after releasing the ball. Vick went on his weekly ESPN Radio 94.1 show in Virginia Beach, Va., and talked about some of those hits in recent games.

"Not to take anything away from the other quarterbacks in the league, if you go back and watch the film, I'm always getting hit after I let go of the football," Vick said Tuesday. "I'm constantly getting hit after I throw the football. Constantly getting my facemask pulled and getting hit in the head and it's never called ... I just think that because I run the ball so much, the referees sometimes will overlook that. They have to understand when I'm in the pocket, I'm a passer. If I get hit late, they should call it. I'm not complaining. I just want to be treated fairly."

Well, actually Vick and Reid are complaining, and there's really nothing wrong with that. They at least want the officials to be thinking about Vick's situation and not hold his rare athleticism against him when it comes to late hits. Some folks would call this whining. Others would see it as a good strategy. Vick wants to be treated like any other quarterback when he's in the pocket and maybe all this talk will have some impact on the officials.

"Every chance they get, I'm getting hit," Vick added. "That's the game. At the same time, it takes a toll on me. I just don't think it's fair. I just hope the referees watch that closely and call it when it needs to be called."

But as I've said several times recently, it might also help to mix in a few more handoffs to LeSean McCoy and Jerome Harrison.

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