NFC East: Jonathan Goff

Cowboys work out veteran LBs

November, 18, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- With Sean Lee and Justin Durant out at least two more games because of hamstring strains, the Dallas Cowboys took a look at two veteran free agent linebackers on Monday.

Durant
Jamar Chaney, who was cut by the Atlanta Falcons last month, and Jonathan Goff, who has not played since 2010, worked out for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch. Chaney spent three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before his release over the summer. He was cut by Atlanta last month.

Goff had his 2011 and ’12 seasons ended after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament twice. In 2011 he was with the New York Giants. In 2012 he was with the Washington Redskins.

With three division games left in the final six weeks, it can’t be a coincidence that both players have NFC East ties.

The Cowboys added linebacker Taylor Reed to the practice squad to provide some depth in case of emergency. He was among the Cowboys' final cuts over the summer.

Coach Jason Garrett would not rule out Lee from Sunday’s game against the Giants, but that’s more because of how he deals with injuries than a significant improvement by Lee. Garrett acknowledged that Ernie Sims would play inside linebacker in Lee’s absence.

“He had a productive weekend,” Garrett said of Lee. “When everyone else was on a bye, he was working hard to get himself back. He was in good spirits today. We will see how he does as the week goes on.”
ASHBURN, Va. -- Late in the Washington Redskins' afternoon practice, after catching a pass near the goal line, tight end Chris Cooley fumbled. Linebacker Bryan Kehl picked the ball up and ran the length of the field, fairly certain of a touchdown. Had you asked Kehl during that run what the likelihood was of the team's rookie starting quarterback running him down from 80 yards away and preventing that touchdown, he'd likely have laughed. But that's exactly what happened.

"I'm not going to let the guy have a free touchdown," Robert Griffin III explained through his famous smile at his news conference a few moments later. "So I ran him down, because I could. It's more of a thing to show the team not to give up on a play."

Coach Mike Shanahan was watching.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Evan VucciRedskins quarterback Robert Griffin III made an impression with his hustle at Monday's practice.
"I was hoping he wasn't going to pull a hamstring," Shanahan said. "But yeah, that shows you the pride that he has."

Griffin's getting rave reviews around these parts for his attitude and the way in which he is balancing his dual responsibilities of fitting in with and taking charge of the team. After hearing a comment Griffin made about his ability to break arm tackles, cornerback DeAngelo Hall made him carry his pads Monday, telling him it would help him build up the strength to keep breaking those arm tackles. And Griffin is working on his rendition of "My Girl" for the team's rookie talent show, which begins Tuesday night. But he's also looking for opportunities to lead, and chasing after Kehl on a play that was basically over was one.

Of course, what you want to know is how he looked while actually practicing. My first impression was that he looked like a rookie -- a beat too slow with his decision-making in some key spots and a little bit off with throws in part as a result of that. This is what you'd expect a rookie quarterback to look like less than one week into his first training camp, and so there's no reason to be overly concerned about it. He throws a great-looking ball, obviously, and when he runs with it he looks fantastic. The issue is getting used to the speed of the NFL game. He's got plenty of time for that, and to hear him tell it, he's got help from his teammates on the defensive side of the ball.

"Guys you go against every day in practice, they've seen this offense time and time again and they're good at stopping it," Griffin said. "Nobody will be as good at it as [Ryan] Kerrigan and [Brian] Orakpo, and that's just helping me get better."

Some other thoughts from my first day here at Redskins training camp:

  • The offensive line looks like a real problem area, and it's down two starters. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger had arthroscopic surgery to clean out cartilage in his surgically repaired knee. The scope showed no damage to knee ligaments, and Shanahan said he's hoping Lichtensteiger will be back by the first regular-season game. Right tackle Jammal Brown is still awaiting news on his recurring hip problem. So Maurice Hurt was starting at left guard and Tyler Polumbus at right tackle with the first-team offense Monday, and the line was overmatched, even against Washington's second-team defense. It needs to jell quickly. Griffin is, as you might have heard, a considerable investment for this organization. It'd be good to keep him upright if possible.
  • Veteran Santana Moss is the shrimp of a wide receiving corps that includes Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson, but he looks great and sounds motivated, and I wouldn't count him out as a starter opposite Garcon. The Redskins used Hankerson and Morgan in the slot, as well as Moss, during practice Monday.
  • Evan Royster looks very good in the competition at running back. Tim Hightower sat out team drills because of his recovery from his knee injury, so Royster, Roy Helu and Alfred Morris got the reps. Royster made one excellent leaping one-handed catch, and skittered through the defense for a big gain on another play.
  • The defensive line rotation is very fluid on the first-team unit. There were plays on which Jarvis Jenkins and Stephen Bowen were the ends on either side of nose tackle Barry Cofield, plays on which Adam Carriker and Bowen flanked Cofield, plays on which Carriker and Bowen played the ends with Jenkins in the middle ... That's the way they want to run it, to keep everyone fresh, if possible.
  • Madieu Williams was the first-team free safety with Brandon Meriweather playing strong safety. Tanard Jackson, who's a candidate for that starting free safety spot, isn't allowed to practice in pads for his first two days off the PUP list, so it remains to be seen where he fits into the depth chart.
  • DeAngelo Hall was used a great deal as the slot cornerback with either Kevin Barnes or Cedric Griffin on the outside opposite Josh Wilson. It looked like he was beaten a few times, though on those plays the ball was not thrown to his man.
  • London Fletcher intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown. Just the way he's done it since the time of leather helmets. Seriously, that guy doesn't age.
  • Former Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff tore the same ACL he tore in the preseason last year, and he will miss the entire season. The Redskins viewed him as a potentially valuable backup at inside linebacker.
We are, as I'm sure you could tell, in a bit of a slow period for news here in the NFC East. So I thought it might be a good time of year to take a position-by-position look at the teams in our division. I don't have a set schedule in mind, and it may not be possible to do it every day, but my goal is to pick one position each day and break down the way each of our four teams looks at that position. So today I've picked linebackers, and we'll start with the Washington Redskins.

Projected starters: OLB Brian Orakpo, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, ILB London Fletcher, ILB Perry Riley

Reserves: Rob Jackson, Lorenzo Alexander, Keenan Robinson, Jonathan Goff, Markus White, Chris Wilson, Bryan Kehl

[+] EnlargeBrian Orakpo
Howard Smith/US PresswireBrian Orakpo (98) lead the Redskins with 9.0 sacks last season.
Potential strengths: The Redskins' hope is that Orakpo and Kerrigan are in the process of developing into one of the more formidable pass-rushing duos in the league. They've each shown that ability so far in their relatively brief careers, but the key is for each of them to take the next step. Some say Orakpo needs to develop another move. Kerrigan needs to refine his all-around game as he heads into his second season. The defense is set up to allow the two of them to take advantage of the opportunity to pile up sacks, and they will look to improve on the 16.5 for which they combined in 2011.

Potential weaknesses: Under Fletcher's guidance and tutelage, Riley last year looked like someone who could be a legitimate long-term answer at the inside linebacker position. He needs to demonstrate more consistency, or else the Redskins could turn to someone like Goff or the rookie Robinson. As brilliant and apparently indestructible as Fletcher is, he did just turn 37, and there remains a slim chance that his play could tail off at some point in the near future. The Redskins picked Robinson thinking he could be the Fletcher replacement down the road, and they signed Goff thinking he could fill in on the inside in case of injury. But if there is an unforeseen issue with either starting inside linebacker, any possible replacement at this point comes with serious question marks. Alexander is working with the inside 'backers in an effort to develop into an all-around utility player, but he's still learning.

Keep an eye on: Goff. He was slated to be the Giants' starting middle linebacker at this point last year and he has plenty of experience as an NFL starter. But like many of the 2011 Giants, he is coming off of a torn ACL, and the Redskins don't know yet what they'll be able to get from him. If he's fully healthy, he could be a major asset as a veteran presence in a reserve role. He's still only 26 years old, so if an injury or something else happened to present him with an opportunity, he could write himself a nice comeback story.
Interesting little transaction of NFC East interest today as the Washington Redskins announced the signing of former New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff. Nice pickup for the Redskins. A year ago, before tearing his ACL in the preseason, Goff was slated to be the starting middle linebacker for a team that would go on to win the Super Bowl. Now, he comes into Washington as insurance (assuming he's healthy) at a position at which the Redskins suddenly have some interesting depth.

Goff won't be a starting inside linebacker for the Redskins, as those two spots in Washington's 3-4 defense belong to London Fletcher and Perry Riley. But Fletcher's quite old and Riley's still quite young and so you never know when you might need help at one of those spots. Adding Goff to a backup mix that includes Lorenzo Alexander, recently signed Bryan Kehl and fourth-round draft pick Keenan Robinson is a low-risk, high-upside move.

From Goff's perspective, it appears he misread the market. The Giants would have had him back (at their price, which was what they told all of their own free agents), but he wanted to see if he could find greener pastures. But while he visited places like Cleveland and Miami, the Giants went out and traded for linebacker Keith Rivers, likely costing Goff a chance to go back to New York and reclaim his starting middle linebacker job. Now, if he'd like to be an NFL starter again, he'll have to work his way back into such a role from a backup spot. At least the Redskins' linebacker group is a good one around which to spend time. Prolonged exposure to Fletcher is the kind of thing that can help a guy's career if he pays attention.
You e-mail questions, I answer them. Ideally, you come out of this weekly exercise informed and/or entertained. We'll see.

Scottie Baker from Berrian Springs, Mich., asks whether, if the Colts are able to sign the player they're taking with the No. 1 pick (presumably Andrew Luck) before the draft, would the Washington Redskins then be able to sign the player they want to take at No. 2 (presumably Robert Griffin III) before the draft as well.

Dan Graziano: No, Scottie, they would not. The NFL's rules stipulate that the team holding the No. 1 pick is the only team allowed to sign its draft pick in advance of the draft. So if the Colts were to do a deal with Luck, say, sometime next week, that would not give the Redskins license to negotiate a deal with Griffin. They'd have to wait until after the Colts actually formally selected Luck on April 26 to officially pick Griffin, and until then they would not be permitted to sign Griffin. I imagine this rule is in place to avoid a slippery slope that could theoretically result in everyone in the top 10 signing their picks well in advance of the draft and depriving the NFL of the pomp and pageantry of its draft night. But it is, in fact, a rule. I checked.

KD from Cleveland wants to know how the re-signing of Derek Landri will affect the Philadelphia Eagles' plans for the first round of the draft. Specifically, he wants to know if Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd
could enter the picture.

DG: Well, Floyd could enter the picture, and it will surely be tempting for the Eagles to secure another weapon for Michael Vick and the offense. But I personally don't think the Landri signing will or should affect the Eagles' first-round plans. The Eagles were one of the worst teams in the league last year defending against runs up the middle, and they can't do enough to strengthen the middle of their defensive line. A longer-term solution at defensive tackle in the first round is the best way for the Eagles to go if they can't (as it appears they won't) get Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. I think the Eagles should be willing to move up or down a few spots to get the best bang for their buck in the first round, and I think that means drafting defense.

Alan from Arlington, Va., wants to know why the Giants couldn't pay $1.25 million to keep Dave Tollefson from signing with the Raiders.

DG: The Giants are right up against the salary cap, and in the case of Tollefson they decided they didn't want to pay more than the veteran minimum to keep him. They've decided, in the cases of several of their own free agents this year, to set a price over which they would not go and then allow the player to go see if he could get more on the open market. This is why they have lost Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham to the 49ers and why Jonathan Goff did not re-sign. They also made a decision to trade for Keith Rivers to improve their linebacker corps, and at the time of the trade he was scheduled to earn $2.16 million in 2012 (though they were working on a restructuring in the immediate wake of the deal). Figuring in the Rivers pursuit and the money they'll need to sign draft picks, the Giants had to be willing to let valued veterans like Tollefson and Jacobs go if they weren't willing to accept the exact amount the team had allotted for them. The Giants also trust in their ability to replenish positions of need from within their own roster or through the draft.

Jed from Texas has a PUNTER QUESTION!!! He wants to know why the Dallas Cowboys haven't signed Mat McBriar and if they're really going to go with Chris Jones as their punter.

DG: Well, Jed, as much as we value punting on this blog, it's not necessarily a major priority for teams in the early weeks of free agency. McBriar had some serious health questions last year, and it's perfectly understandable if the Cowboys want to make sure those are behind him before committing any real money to him. If Jones isn't the answer, then McBriar or another more acceptable option is likely to present itself some time between now and the start of the season. I think they can and will do better than Jones, and McBriar may well be the solution. But they should make sure his foot is fully healthy before making that decision.

Back next week with more mailbag fun. See ya.
The New York Giants appear to have addressed their need at linebacker by trading their fifth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for former first-round pick Keith Rivers. There are multiple reports that say the deal is done, though the Giants have yet to announce it. And Rivers himself sent out a tweet that quoted "Theme from New York, New York," though he attributed the quote to "Frank Santria."

[+] EnlargeKeith Rivers
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesKeith Rivers has dealt with nagging injuries for much of his career.
Regardless of his knowledge of New York/New Jersey-based music legends, Rivers is a nice pickup for the Giants for the price. He was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2008 draft and a productive player for Cincinnati early in his career. He was available for such a low price (the 167th overall pick in this year's draft) because the Bengals don't have room for him in their starting lineup anymore and because he missed the 2011 season with a wrist injury. Health has been an issue for Rivers, but if he can stay healthy he's an upgrade at a position where the Giants were planning to lean heavily on second-year players.

With Dave Tollefson having signed with the Raiders, the Giants may need Mathias Kiwanuka to play more defensive end in 2012. And there has been talk of moving Michael Boley to middle linebacker, though the team has not yet decided how it will align all of its linebackers at this point. One thing this move does seem to ensure is that the Giants will not be bringing back free agent linebacker Jonathan Goff, who has drawn interest from the Dolphins and Browns.

The Giants did announce the signing of offensive lineman Sean Locklear, an eight-year veteran who started four games for the Washington Redskins in 2011. Locklear can play guard or tackle, but the Giants' greater need is at tackle, which Locklear said in the team's official press release is his preferred position. In fact, he said right tackle is his favorite, and the Giants currently do not have a starter there as Kareem McKenzie is a free agent. They could fill that position in the draft or by moving David Diehl there, but at this point Locklear is in the mix as a backup at both tackle positions and, if he performs well enough in the preseason, possibly a candidate for the right tackle job.

So yeah, busy day for the champs, who aren't likely to do much more before the draft. Rivers is scheduled to earn $2.16 million in 2012, and the Giants only had about $3.4 million in salary cap space left when we checked in on that last week.
Sitting here, looking out my window on a Wednesday morning, wondering how it is that April is colder than March was, and chewing on some links.

Dallas Cowboys

If the Cowboys don't take safety Mark Barron in the first round but still want to use the draft to add depth at that position, Oklahoma State's Markelle Martin is a possible option in the second round or the third. Here's Bryan Broaddus' analysis of Martin's prospects at ESPNDallas.com

As for that first round, Nick Eatman thinks drafting a nose tackle such as Memphis' Dontari Poe would offer the advantage of effectively upgrading two positions at once. We talked about this earlier in the week with regard to Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox -- a guy who could start at defensive end but also spell or eventually replace Jay Ratliff at nose tackle. Someone with the versatility to help at multiple positions on the line and allow Rob Ryan to mix and match fronts. Makes some sense.

New York Giants

Jonathan Goff, who's attempting to come back from the ACL tear that cost him the 2011 season, could be the next member of the Giants to leave for another team via free agency. He was in Miami on Tuesday to visit with the Dolphins, and also has visited the Browns. If Goff leaves, the Giants' middle linebacker spot could go to one of last year's rookies. It's also been suggested that they might move Michael Boley inside to that spot.

Brandon Jacobs' contract with the 49ers isn't for much more money than the Giants were offering him, but as Mike Garafolo points out, the timing wasn't right for a deal between Jacobs and the Giants.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha spends part of his offseason taking high school students on college tours in different parts of the country.

Jonathan Tamari has five questions facing the Eagles in advance of the draft, which is 15 days from now. Included is a question about how much pressure Andy Reid is really under and whether that will affect decisions made during this year's draft.

Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin III was in Washington to meet with the Redskins on Tuesday, and Andrew Luck is there today for the same reason. I was thinking about a blog post on this Tuesday, but not sure how much there really is to say. I imagine that every team, if they could, would have pre-draft visits with every single player they know they might possibly draft in the first round. By hosting Griffin and Luck, that's what the Redskins are doing.

Shortly after the news broke that they'd agreed to terms with free-agent safety Madieu Williams, the Redskins announce that they'd also signed cornerback Leigh Torrence, a former Redskin who adds depth at the position and makes me think they're about done making additions to the secondary. In fact, once they get London Fletcher locked up, it looks as though the remainder of their offseason and their draft can be spent focused on offense -- the line in particular.

NFC East salary cap update

April, 2, 2012
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One of the most popular questions you get this time of year is about salary cap space -- as in, how much does each team have left? So it's worth it every now and then to check in and see where those situations stand. I'm using the figures from the NFL's web site, figuring they're as close to official as it gets. So here's their cap room figure for each NFC East team as of March 30:

Dallas Cowboys: $2,164,189

The Cowboys did their free-agency work early, and I wouldn't expect too much more. This figure would be $7,164,189 if not for the penalties the league imposed for the way the Cowboys spent in the uncapped 2010 season. But I still don't think they'd have plunked down big dollars to compete with Jacksonville to sign receiver Laurent Robinson. They'll bargain-hunt for their No. 3 wide receiver again, as they did last year when they turned up Robinson. And while there may be another signing or two -- bargain receiver, second tight end, veteran safety -- the Cowboys' attention right now is on the draft.

New York Giants: $3,431,050

This gives the Giants a little bit of room to address their needs at linebacker, offensive line and running back, though they don't seem in much of a hurry to do any of those things. Up tight against the cap for the second year in a row, the Giants continue to maintain their prudent, patient approach to the offseason. They'll probably bring back linebacker Jonathan Goff and add a veteran running back, but I think they address their tackle need at some point in the draft, if not in the first round.

Philadelphia Eagles: $16,255,888

Lots of money, and there's plenty the Eagles can do with it, starting with signing a free-agent tackle to replace the injured Jason Peters and working out a new deal for running back LeSean McCoy. The Eagles also are in the market for a veteran safety, a veteran running back and some more linebacker help. But they're not spending like sailors this offseason, mainly because they did last year and most of those same guys are still on the team.

Washington Redskins: $7,681,338

Yeah, and think about it. It'd be $25,681,338 if not for their salary-cap penalty. This figure still gives the Redskins plenty of room, if they want, to sign linebacker London Fletcher, running back Tim Hightower and a new right tackle. But especially in Fletcher's case, they need to get more creative than they expected they would have to be. Fletcher turns 37 this year and isn't going to get the kind of long-term deal that allows the team to spread out the cap hit over a period of years. The Redskins have been active in free agency and can continue to address their needs, but the penalty has forced them to adjust the way they're going about their spending.

NFC East free-agency assessment

March, 30, 2012
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AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Dallas Cowboys

Key additions: CB Brandon Carr, S Brodney Pool, QB Kyle Orton, FB Lawrence Vickers, LB Dan Connor, G Nate Livings, G Mackenzy Bernadeau

Key losses: WR Laurent Robinson, TE Martellus Bennett, FB Tony Fiammetta, CB Terence Newman, G Kyle Kosier (cut)

"You ain't a beauty, but hey, you're all right": Rather than go big for the biggest names out there, the Cowboys took a more directed, focused approach to free agency this year. They did spend a lot to bring in Carr, but they had a glaring need at cornerback and they believed Carr was the best one on the market. The two guards were specifically targeted by Cowboys' scouts and new offensive line coach Bill Callahan, and Connor was brought in to address a need at inside linebacker while 2011 draft pick Bruce Carter continues to develop.

The only loss that they didn't upgrade is that of Robinson, who signed with the Jaguars after coming out of nowhere to catch 11 touchdown passes from Tony Romo in 2011. The Cowboys will hope that one of the young receivers on their roster fills that No. 3 wide receiver role, or that they can catch lightning in a bottle again this year as they did with Robinson last year. They could miss Kosier's leadership on the offensive line, but he was getting old and injured and they needed to keep getting younger on the line.

What's next: While they'll keep an eye out for a bargain-bin receiver to replace Robinson, and they could try and find another tight end to replace Bennett, the Cowboys' main focus the rest of this offseason is likely to be on defense. They could add to the safety or cornerback mix in the draft or with another free agent. They'll keep looking to upgrade the pass rush, either with another outside linebacker or a defensive lineman. Those are the likely areas in which the Cowboys will focus their efforts in the draft.

Otherwise, it's going to be about sorting things out, especially on the offensive line. They need to find a pair of starting guards from a group that includes the two newcomers and the two youngsters -- David Arkin and Bill Nagy -- they drafted last year. Training camp should help sort out what needs to be sorted out on the offensive side of the ball. The draft will be for adding more pieces to Rob Ryan's defense.

New York Giants

Key additions: TE Martellus Bennett

Key losses: RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Mario Manningham, CB Aaron Ross, T Kareem McKenzie

"Reason to believe": The Giants don't like to make big free-agent splashes, and since they're up against the salary cap they also have little choice. But their second Super Bowl title in five years should help ease any concerns fans might have about if they're doing enough in the offseason. The Giants' way is to establish fair prices for the positions they need to fill and to be patient until they find players willing to play for their number. They'd have loved to have Jacobs or Manningham or Ross back, but not for the kind of money those guys found in free agency. They'd love to have linebacker Jonathan Goff and defensive end Dave Tollefson back, but if they get big-money deals elsewhere, the Giants will let them go too.

They targeted Bennett right away and signed him on the second day of free agency, since they saw in him a young talent at a position where they lost two players to major knee injuries in the Super Bowl. And they re-signed cornerback Terrell Thomas and punter Steve Weatherford, two of their offseason priorities. But since then, the Giants have been quiet, content that they have a good, deep, championship roster and willing to let the market come to them.

What's next: The areas of concern, if there are any for the Giants, are linebacker and offensive line. And if Goff comes back, they like what they have at linebacker with the incumbents and last year's rookies. With McKenzie leaving, they could move David Diehl from left tackle to right tackle, but they'll still need to add depth at tackle as they look to the future on the offensive line.

There remains the chance that the Giants could trade defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who was disgruntled about his contract this time last year and now only has one year to go. If they did that, they could move Mathias Kiwanuka from linebacker back to his old pass-rushing spot on the line. But the Giants would have to be really blown away by an offer to move Umenyiora, who has relaxed a great deal about his contract situation and said he'd like to stay.

Philadelphia Eagles

Key additions: LB DeMeco Ryans (trade), G Mike Gibson

Key losses: DE Juqua Parker, WR Steve Smith, QB Vince Young

"We take care of our own": The Eagles' focus so far this offseason has been internal. They extended the contracts of right tackle Todd Herremans and defensive end Trent Cole, signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson to a long-term deal and re-signed free-agent guard Evan Mathis. The Eagles believe last year's team was a good roster that underachieved, and they basically are taking a mulligan and hoping it works this time.

The one exception is a big one -- the trade that brought them Ryans from Houston in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick. The Eagles were pitifully weak at linebacker last year, and that weakness hurt their otherwise successful implementation of the "Wide 9" defensive line formation. They could get to the passer with their front four, but teams were able to attack the middle of their defense at will. The addition of Ryans, a veteran middle linebacker who was a productive tackler and beloved leader with the Texans, should help solve a lot of those problems.

What's next: There remains a strong chance the Eagles will trade cornerback Asante Samuel before or during the draft. They can afford to do so because they'd still be left with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as starting cornerbacks and the underrated Joselio Hanson at nickel corner. Other than that, the Eagles figure to be fairly quiet the rest of the way.

They're most likely to use their first-round pick on a defensive player, though Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, who'd be a great addition, now looks likely to be gone by the time they pick at No. 15. So they could pick up another veteran linebacker and use the draft to add to their defensive line rotation. It's also likely they add a veteran safety and a veteran running back to back up LeSean McCoy, who's next in line for a new contract.

Washington Redskins

Key additions: WR Pierre Garcon, WR Josh Morgan, CB Cedric Griffin, S Brandon Meriweather

Key losses: S O.J. Atogwe (cut), S LaRon Landry, WR Donte' Stallworth

"When the change was made uptown and the big man joined the band": The Redskins' biggest move of the offseason was the draft-picks trade they made with the Rams, sending three first-round picks and a second-round pick to St. Louis in exchange for the No. 2 pick in this year's draft. That pick ensures that Washington, which has been looking for a franchise quarterback for a couple of decades, will be in position to take one of the two quarterbacks in this year's draft that projects as a franchise guy. They're most likely getting Baylor's Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner who's got Redskins fans in a tizzy already.

The Redskins' first big moves when free agency opened were aimed at building a new offense for their rookie quarterback to run. Garcon and Morgan are, the Redskins believe, receivers with big-play talent who will fit well into the offense they like to run. The other two big additions -- Griffin and Meriwether -- were brought in to beef up the secondary, which lost its two starting safeties. It's possible Griffin could play safety, though he played cornerback in Minnesota.

What's next: The Redskins continue to try to re-sign veteran linebacker London Fletcher, and they're confident they can do that. They also want to bring back running back Tim Hightower, assuming he's recovered from his ACL injury, and they're in talks with him about doing just that. If they fail in either or both of those efforts, they'll need backup plans, as they'll lack depth at running back and inside linebacker.

Washington still could stand to add to its secondary and find help for the offensive line. Right tackle Jammal Brown has injury problems, and the team is looking for a better option. Demetrius Bell remains on the market and is a player Washington likes for that right tackle spot.
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- One more day here by the beach. As you read this, I am at the NFC coaches' breakfast listening to what Andy Reid, Jason Garrett, Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan have to say. I shall spend the remainder of the morning and the afternoon working feverishly to communicate back to you the items of NFC East interest from this session before my flight leaves for home this evening. They had links at the AFC coaches' breakfast Tuesday, along with bacon and some kind of cool steak eggs benedict deal. Not sure if today's spread will be the same, but you know you can always count on having links right here, every morning at 8 a.m.

Dallas Cowboys

The only thing you know for sure about the draft this time of year is that everybody's lying. Everything's a smokescreen and no one's telling you what they really think or plan. So take this with a grain of salt, even though I agree with Jerry Jones that it wouldn't be a great idea for him to take an offensive lineman in the first round after drafting three of them last year and signing two more earlier this month.

Yeah, I wish Jones would tell us what he really feels about the salary-cap penalties, too, but he's smart to keep his mouth shut until the arbitrator rules on it, and so this little crack about wanting to settle his dispute with John Mara on the field will have to do for now.

New York Giants

Coughlin's getting a contract extension, obviously. Mara told the New York Post that he expects the deal to be done within four to six weeks, and there's every reason to think the Giants coach, who's won two Super Bowl titles in the past five years, will get paid a salary similar to those of the best coaches in the league -- upward of $7 million per year. I'm thinking it ends up being a three-year deal.

Defensive end Dave Tollefson continues to draw interest on the free-agent market, now scheduled to visit the suddenly free-agent-happy Green Bay Packers. As they are with Jonathan Goff and, to some extent, Brandon Jacobs, the Giants are letting Tollefson test the market while also letting him know they'd like to have him back. If he can't find a better offer than what the Giants are willing to give him, he comes back. If not, they move on and find a replacement. It's how they roll.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman sure made it sound as though the team believes it can find a trade market for cornerback Asante Samuel between now and the draft. Roseman discussed that issue and several others Tuesday with Jeff McLane. One point further down in the notes: Roseman declined to say where he expected Jamar Chaney to play because the Eagles are "still in the talent acquisition phase" of the offseason. Says to me they're still looking for linebackers, even with DeMeco Ryans in the fold.

Former Andy Reid assistants Pat Shurmur and John Harbaugh, now the head coaches of the Browns and Ravens, respectively, came to the defense of their former boss -- and of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo -- in conversations with Paul Domowitch at the aforementioned AFC coaches' breakfast.

Washington Redskins

Yes, the Redskins were seriously interested in Peyton Manning when he was on the market. No, it's not clear how good their chances were of getting him. But Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan met with Manning even after trading for the No. 2 pick in the draft, and it's clear that he was a serious option in their minds if they hadn't been able to move up to the spot from which they now plan to draft their next franchise quarterback.

Former Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien is at the front of the latest lawsuit by former players against the league over head injuries. These suits continue to be filed, and will continue to be filed, and if you don't think they worry the league, then think again about why the punishments against the Saints for the bounty stuff was so severe.
Wednesday wasn't the least interesting day in NFL history. I mean, if you're a fan of one of this division's teams, weren't you glad not to be a fan of the Saints or the Jets or the Jaguars? The most exciting things we had going on here were the Baylor pro day, the DeMeco Ryans news conference and Troy Aikman saying Tony Romo's better than he was. On another day, that last might have been "First Take" gold. But not in this NFL offseason, no sir. We're just hanging out in the shadows with our little NFC East storylines and nibbling on some links.

Dallas Cowboys

They did have some fun with the Aikman-Romo thing on ESPNDallas.com, but Calvin Watkins says Romo's got some climbing to do before it's a legitimate question. He prefers to compare Romo to Danny White, rather than to Aikman, who's a three-time champion and in the Hall of Fame. Calvin seems to think Romo's got some work to do just to get to White.

The Cowboys did attend Baylor's pro day, though not to see Robert Griffin III, who'll be long gone by the time they pick. The Cowboys' website looks at three Baylor players who could interest the Cowboys, including wide receiver Kendall Wright, running back Terrance Ganaway and center Phillip Blake, who's apparently got a private workout set up with the Cowboys and new offensive line coach Bill Callahan next week.

New York Giants

The Giants remain one of the league's quieter teams during free agency, which is the way they like it. But two of their own free agents are drawing interest elsewhere. Dave Tollefson is visiting the Seahawks and Jonathan Goff had a trip to Cleveland to visit the Browns. The Giants would like both players back but are content to let them test the market. My guess is they end up bringing Goff back, but that Tollefson leaves, perhaps for a chance at a larger role elsewhere.

The Giants on Wednesday mourned the passing of Ron Erhardt, who served as their offensive coordinator during the Bill Parcells Super Bowl years.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are confident that Ryans will play better in his second year back from his 2010 Achilles injury than he did in his first year back from it, Zach Berman writes. By all accounts, Ryans' play did improve as the 2011 season went on and he got healthier. If he's back to full strength, he's a tackling machine at middle linebacker, and yeah, the Eagles could use that.

For his part, Ryans said he's looking forward to returning to the 4-3 middle linebacker position he was playing prior to his injury and before the Houston Texans switched to a 3-4 defense. He says it's more natural for him and that he functions best as a player and a leader from that spot.

Washington Redskins

Rich Campbell was on hand at the Baylor pro day and writes of how Griffin dazzled observers and fired up Redskins team officials who were on hand to talk with him and watch him work out. It was a day for the Redskins and their fans to dream happily of the future.

Everybody wants to know what's going on with London Fletcher, who was deemed a top priority by the Redskins at the end of the season but has yet to re-sign. Mike Jones writes that Fletcher has a number in mind, but that he remains in limbo while he and the team wait for the free-agent linebacker market to establish what a reasonable number would be.
Been a couple of hours since the breakfast links, in which I pointed out that there is almost nothing being written anywhere in print or on the Internet about what the Super Bowl champion New York Giants are up to these days. And nothing's changed. Still nothing out there. No rumors, no reporting, nothing. But I have Giants fans (I think) who still come here to read this blog, and it's a disservice to them if we allow the inertia of the coverage to dictate our content.

To that end, here's a list of some of the most popular questions I'm getting on Twitter and in the mailbag from Giants fans the past couple of days, and my best attempts to answer them:

Why didn't the Giants make the deal the Eagles made with Houston to get DeMeco Ryans?

It's not a terrible question. The Giants need a middle linebacker too, and if someone as good as Ryans could be had for nothing more than a fourth-round pick and a swap of third-rounders, why didn't the Giants do it? There are several possible answers. First, the Eagles have a great deal more salary-cap room than the Giants do, and Ryans is making $5.9 million this year. Second, the Giants got by just fine without a top-of-the-line middle linebacker last year, and they likely believe they can do so again. If they re-sign Jonathan Goff, as they're expected to do, and he's healthy, they believe he's more than good enough at that spot given their other strengths on defense. They didn't have the same level of need that the Eagles did. And third, it's not as though there was a "For Sale" sign on Ryans. The first any of us heard that he was available was when we heard the Eagles had acquired him. Maybe the Eagles just asked the right question at the right time. Ryans was no longer useful to the Texas at his salary, since they'd switched to a 3-4 last year and were taking him off the field in passing downs. For the Eagles, he'll play all three downs and likely flourish in his original position. Maybe the Eagles just had a good idea no one else had.

Is there a chance Brandon Jacobs comes back?

[+] EnlargeBrandon Jacobs
Debby Wong/US PresswireThe door is not closed on running back Brandon Jacobs returning to New York.
There is, until he signs elsewhere, that chance. The running back market is dormant, and there hasn't been a peep to indicate any team has had Jacobs in for a visit or expressed interest in him. That doesn't mean no one has, of course, but it indicates that the market isn't teeming with stellar offers for his services. If no team offers him more than whatever the Giants' final offer was, sure, he could come crawling back. But I still think he'll find a new home. The Carolina Panthers, who were already loaded at running back, signed Mike Tolbert, who was one of the best options on the market. So any team that was looking at Tolbert now has to look at lesser choices, and Jacobs is on that list.

Speaking of which, how about a trade for Jonathan Stewart, if Carolina has so many backs?

The Panthers moved quickly to dispel any notion that the Tolbert acquisition means they'll deal Stewart or DeAngelo Williams or even Mike Goodson. But that could be a leverage play to keep interested teams from thinking they're desperate. The fact is, they should see what they can get for Stewart, who's miscast there in a timeshare with Williams (and now Tolbert), and if I were the Giants I'd be extremely interested. Stewart is a big-time talent and would be a big upgrade over Jacobs in the Giants' backfield tandem with Ahmad Bradshaw.

What are they doing on the offensive line?

With Kareem McKenzie gone, the most glaring need is right tackle. But if Will Beatty is recovered from his eye problems, they could move either him or David Diehl to right tackle. They liked what Kevin Boothe gave them at left guard late last year, and they think highly of Mitch Petrus in that spot going forward, so they feel like they have some depth on the interior. I think they should get a tackle, be it in free agency or in the draft, because they're getting thin at those spots. But I don't think it had or has to be any of the bigger names out there. As they always do, the Giants will target someone they like for their team and system and then work to get him. And if they miss, they'll look for a solution on their own roster.

I'll keep you posted if anything else comes up. Hopefully this holds you over.

Manningham was a Giants luxury

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
6:10
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The catch, in traffic, 38 yards up the left sideline with his toes just in bounds in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, isn't going anywhere. That's part of New York Giants lore forever, and because of it Mario Manningham won't ever get booed by Giants fans unless he does something to beat their team. But before, during and after that catch, which was such a key part of the Super Bowl victory over the Patriots last month, the Giants and everyone else knew Manningham wasn't going to be on their team in 2012.

He found his new home late Saturday night, agreeing with the San Francisco 49ers on a two-year contract. He becomes the first to defect from the Giants' latest championship team. The cost of doing business in the NFL is that if someone does something to help you win a championship, other teams want him.

In the Giants' case, they knew they'd lose Manningham because they knew the free-agent market for wide receivers would deliver him offers that were higher than what they wanted to pay for their No. 3 wide receiver. They have superstar-caliber players at the position in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz -- players who will be needing their own new contracts before long -- and with salary-cap concerns and other needs to fill, they've long been prepared to bid farewell to Manningham. The offense functioned very well when he came back healthy at the end of the season and gave Eli Manning another option, but it's not as though Manning had been incapable of functioning without him. He threw for 406 yards in New Orleans, 347 in the regular-season loss to the Packers, and Manningham didn't suit up for those games.

The Giants will find their No. 3 receiver somewhere, be it in the draft or from a holdover group that includes Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon. The Giants, as much as any other team, always believe the potential solution can be found on their roster. Manningham was a fine player for them, but once Cruz exploded onto the scene he became a luxury. Their offseason priorities at this point are linebacker, offensive line and running back.

As for their own free agents, they've been told go out on the market and see what they can get. If Aaron Ross, Jonathan Goff and even Brandon Jacobs come back and want to sign for the low, low prices the Giants have budgeted for them, they'll be welcomed back. If not, they'll be replaced. But they knew all along that Manningham would find something better than what they had to offer him. They'll wish him well, and thank him for all he did, and then they'll move on without him, just as they'd planned to.
Unless you were in Buffalo, NFL free agency seemed to hit a bit of a lull Thursday. Maybe everybody was watching basketball. Hard to blame them, but come on. I watched a ton of basketball and still managed to spend the day working my tail off for you, my loyal blog followers. I care about you. And it is in that spirit that I feel compelled to ask this question:

How was your day...

Dallas Cowboys?

"Can't talk. Too busy." Yeah, Dallas was another place where free agency was in full swing Thursday. Nothing like the Mario Williams extravaganza up by Niagara Falls, but the Cowboys are grinding it, filling need after need with players they've targeted for their own reasons. Unlike some past years, when the Cowboys could seem captivated by the market's biggest names, they are employing a focused, systematic approach and generally landing the guys they want. Thursday saw them come to terms with inside linebacker Dan Connor, who will help their run defense and allow Bruce Carter more time to develop if he needs it, and safety Brodney Pool, who played for Rob Ryan in Cleveland and likely replaces free agent Abram Elam. That's six unrestricted free-agent signings in two days for Dallas, and the Cowboys were working on a deal with guard Nate Livings, though he was said to be drawing interest from other teams as well. What they do the rest of the way in free agency -- whether they succeed in getting another lineman, another defensive back or more linebacking help -- could determine what they do in the first round of next month's draft. But the Cowboys are having a very productive offseason and addressing many of their myriad needs.

Philadelphia Eagles?

"Kinda slow." Still can't shake the feeling that the Eagles, who I think are still about $19 million under the salary cap, are saving up for something at least somewhat major. Maybe it's a new deal for LeSean McCoy. Maybe it's one or more of the good linebackers still available on the slow-moving linebacker market. Maybe it's for something no one's thought of yet. But the day after signing DeSean Jackson to a long-term contract and clearing much of that cap room, the Eagles sat patiently and made no noise. They'd like to bring back guard Evan Mathis, who played very well for them in 2011, but they seem okay with him testing the market, and he met with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday. Defensive end Juqua Parker left, which was no real surprise, to sign with the Cleveland Browns. But the Eagles' biggest needs are linebacker and a backup running back, and the market doesn't seem to be requiring anyone to hurry to fill either of those positions.

Washington Redskins?

"So-so." They signed safety Brandon Meriweather (and I learned how to spell his name!), a former first-round pick who was cut twice last year and becomes a low-risk, high-reward project for new defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. But they saw Ben Grubbs, in whom they'd be interested for guard, sign with the Saints. And they saw wide receiver Eddie Royal, whom they thought they had signed Tuesday, sign instead with the Chargers. So they're not getting everyone they want. The Redskins do seem to be focused now on offensive line and defensive back (they were scheduled to have Aaron Ross in for a visit Friday), but with Royal out of the picture, watch to see if they look for another speedy wideout who can help in the return game. The biggest looming question for Redskins fans is the status of linebacker London Fletcher, who remains unsigned and on whom there has been almost no buzz. They definitely want him back, but it hasn't happened yet.

New York Giants?

"Blissfully boring." I think the Giants feel about free agency the way Ron Swanson feels about municipal government. They accept that it's there and they have to deal with it, but they don't seem to be very impressed. Sure, they signed tight end Martellus Bennett on Wednesday. But Thursday was dead boring. They agreed to terms with former Redskins safety Chris Horton, a special-teams candidate who was out of the league last year. They had Cowboys receiver/returner Kevin Ogletree in for a visit but did not sign him. While Ross, Mario Manningham, Jonathan Goff and Brandon Jacobs are out shopping for jobs, the Giants are sitting by and waiting things out. Ross and Manningham are sure to find bigger deals elsewhere, and Jacobs is likely to find something as well, the Giants would be fine with either welcoming those guys back at their own price once they strike out or replacing them with cheaper or internal options. It's how they roll, and they believe the Super Bowl trophy they just won after doing very little last offseason validates their approach. They make a pickup or two, but don't expect things to get hot and heavy with the Giants any time soon.

My day? Wonderful. I always enjoy the first day of March Madness, even when my bracket gets crushed and there aren't any big upsets. And I am still energized by free agency and the pace we're all keeping here at ESPN.com to keep you all up to date with it. I'll be up bright and early in the morning again, in case anybody has any questions. But for now, I bid you good night.

NFC East Tuesday: How was your day?

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
11:30
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You've waited, speculated, hoped and fretted for months, and today it finally arrived -- the start of NFL free agency. It was a busy and hectic day, as it often is, and it's liable to continue into the wee hours of the morning. But for now, as we creep toward midnight, it seems like a good time to stop and ask each of our division's four teams our favorite free-agency question.

So, how was your day? ...

Washington Redskins?

"Exciting." The Redskins were extremely busy right away, agreeing to deals with wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and working on another for wide receiver Eddie Royal. The fact that they moved so quickly led to industry-wide cries of "Same old Redskins -- champions of March," because there's no more powerful force in the NFL than conventional wisdom. But an actual close look at what they're doing reveals the kind of smart, long-view plan that Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen began working to execute last offseason.

The old, reckless-spending Redskins would not have been outbid for 29-year-old Vincent Jackson, who got $55.5 million ($26 million guaranteed) from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The receivers the Redskins signed will be 26 and 27 years old at the start of the season. And while five years, $42.5 million ($20.5 million guaranteed) is obviously too much for Garcon, who has never been a No. 1 wide receiver, it's what it cost to get him. Shanahan has identified him as a guy who can explode, based on where he is in his career, the way he'll fit in Shanahan's offense and the potential for him to grow along with Robert Griffin III. If Shanahan's wrong, the contract could haunt him. But he's not just throwing money around. Garcon is a guy Shanahan targeted for good, specific reasons. There is a plan here, and it's likely to continue as they work to fill holes on the offensive line and in the secondary in the coming days and weeks.

The Redskins also re-signed Adam Carriker on Tuesday to maintain depth on the defensive line. What Redskins fans would like to see next is a re-signing of linebacker London Fletcher. I believe the Redskins would like that too, but the longer it goes without getting done, the greater the chance the Redskins will lose one of their most valuable defensive players. What's clear is that, in spite of being docked $36 million against the cap for violating some sort of amorphous fake spending limit during the uncapped 2010 season, the Redskins still have plenty of room to work under the cap.

Dallas Cowboys?

"Better than Monday." A day after learning that they'd be docked $10 million against the salary cap over the next two years for the same kinds of bogus violations that nailed the Redskins, the Cowboys set about executing their own plan. They cut Terence Newman and David Buehler and restructured the contracts of Doug Free and Orlando Scandrick -- a combination of moves that bought them about $15.8 million in extra cap room this year. Then, according to Adam Schefter, they brought in free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr, who at this writing seemed likely to sign with Dallas as Newman's replacement as early as Tuesday night. With Cortland Finnegan having signed for five years and $50 million in St. Louis, and Carlos Rogers having re-signed for four years and about $30 million in San Francisco, the market seemed set for Carr, and the Cowboys seemed determined not to let him leave Dallas without a deal.

Schefter also reported that the Cowboys were looking at Kyle Orton, who'd be an excellent veteran backup option for Tony Romo at quarterback. And ESPNDallas.com writes that the Cowboys plan to bring in former Panthers linebacker Dan Connor and former Bears tight end Kellen Davis for visits as well. Connor makes sense because they'll need depth at linebacker and may need more time for Bruce Carter to develop behind a veteran. Davis makes sense as a possible replacement for Martellus Bennett, who's in New York to visit the Giants. So if they get Carr done, they'll have addressed their most glaring need on the first day and are already at work on filling some other important needs. They still need to find offensive line help, and it looks as though they could lose wide receiver Laurent Robinson to the Jaguars or Dolphins, but cornerback was the place for them to start.

New York Giants?

"Productive." The champs began the day by re-signing cornerback Terrell Thomas, which was a priority of theirs, and buying themselves some cap room with the restructuring of the contract of center David Baas. Then they flew Bennett in for a visit, since they need a tight end to replace the two they lost to serious knee injuries in the Super Bowl. Cowboys fans are chuckling at the idea that another team would want Bennett, who earned a reputation as a pass-dropping underachiever during his time in Dallas. But the Giants see a guy who's 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, fast and still just 25 years old. They certainly trust their coaching staff and their quarterback to get the most out of any player, and if they can get him on a reasonable deal, it's certainly worth a shot that he still could transform his remarkable physical talent into reliable on-field production. And if he can't, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum should be back healthy at the end of the season anyway. It's worth the Giants' time to check on Bennett.

The Giants target guys they like but are otherwise patient, so don't expect to hear much about them and Mario Manningham, Aaron Ross or Jonathan Goff anytime soon. They'll let those guys see what they can get on the market, and if they come back disappointed and willing to sign for the Giants' numbers, they could return. If not, the Giants feel confident they can find replacements.

Philadelphia Eagles?

Wait. That was today?
Yeah, the Eagles had a quiet day. They extended Todd Herremans' contract and, as Sal Paolantonio reported, were working on an extension for Trent Cole as well. Part of the reason for the quiet is that the Eagles did a lot of work in free agency last year and expect those players to play better in 2012. Part of the reason is that the position at which they need the most help is linebacker, and the linebacker market hasn't really started humming yet. I still think Fletcher makes sense for them on a number of levels, and I wonder if he's a guy they're quietly targeting to steal away from Washington. We'll see. They won't go as nuts as they did last year, but the Eagles won't stay silent for long.

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