NFC East: Shaun O'Hara

Thoughtful piece here from Paul Schwartz, with the help of former New York Giants tackle Luke Petitgout, on the Giants' preference for parting ways with players before those players lose their effectiveness. At the end of the week in which the Giants cut two-time Super Bowl-winning running back Ahmad Bradshaw, as well as linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackle Chris Canty, Petitgout remembers his own experience and sees it reflected in what's going on now:
“The Giants are a family,’’ Petitgout said. “It’s something tough to accept, like when a girlfriend dumps you. They know when your time is up. Some guys may buck the trend and have a good couple years after that but if you’ve been there a long time, they know your medical history, they know your aches and pains, they usually make the right decision. I basically had a time bomb in my back and when I went to Tampa it went off. The Giants knew what they were doing.’’
[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants parted ways this week with Ahmad Bradshaw, who was their leading rusher the past three seasons.
It cannot have been easy for GM Jerry Reese to say goodbye to Bradshaw, who played through significant pain to help deliver the team's Super Bowl title last year. But between Bradshaw's salary and the chronic foot injuries that kept him from practicing during the week or playing at full strength on Sundays, the Giants believed it was the right thing to do. It's not the first time they've cut a player while he was still an effective producer for them, and if Bradshaw's best days are behind him, it won't be the first time the Giants cut a still-productive player just in time:
Reese is rarely wrong. As a former scout, his eye for talent isn’t confined to youngsters. Steve Smith and Kevin Boss haven’t done a thing and haven’t stayed healthy. He traded away Jeremy Shockey. He did not re-sign Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward or Amani Toomer. He cut Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie. He didn’t think Antonio Pierce's neck was sound enough to continue playing. He passed on bringing back Plaxico Burress. In the same purge that caught Petitgout, Reese also jettisoned Carlos Emmons and LaVar Arrington. Did any of these players prove Reese wrong?

Pretty amazing list. Combine this idea with what we wrote about here Thursday -- the Giants' organizational belief in developing young players in their system so they're ready to take over when it's time for the veterans to go -- and it's easy to see that Reese has a definite plan and is sticking to it. Will it work? No way to know. If the Giants are in something of a rebuild mode, they're going to need many of their young players to be as good as the team thought they'd be when it drafted them. And not even Reese, with all of his track record, can predict how players are going to play. The point is, even as things change with the Giants and people come and go, it's still easy to see the consistency with which they operate, and it has served them well.

NEW ORLEANS -- The glitz is still here, but the tone this Super Bowl week just doesn’t seem to fit with the celebrations on Bourbon Street or the free and easy nature of the host city.

The issue of player safety has been as topical as Ray Lewis' last game or brothers Jim and John Harbaugh coaching against each other.

We've heard predictions that the NFL will be gone in 30 years, or at least reduced to a game of two-hand touch. President Barack Obama hypothetically has wondered whether or not he would let a son play football. Current players have said they "signed up" for a violent game and all that may eventually come with it, even as thousands of former players are pursuing lawsuits claiming the NFL failed to warn them of the long-term effects of concussions.

ESPN.com surveyed a group of current and former players and executives to get their thoughts on the player-safety issues.

The group included current San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman, former NFL cornerback Eric Davis, current Baltimore safety Ed Reed, retired quarterback Bobby Hebert, former NFL director of officiating Mike Pereira, former linebacker Willie McGinest, current San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith, NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth, current Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, retired lineman Shaun O’Hara, current San Francisco fullback Bruce Miller, longtime Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt and current San Francisco guard Alex Boone.

[+] EnlargeEric Davis
AP Photo/Kevin Terrell"Let's be real honest," former NFL safety Eric Davis said. "It's a gladiator sport. Coliseums were built for it."
Here are the highlights of their answers to the hot-button questions:

Where do you see the NFL in 30 years?

Brandt: "I don’t think we’re Montgomery Ward. Montgomery Ward, at one time, was the leading retailer in the world and they made the mistake of saying we’re not going to go into the little towns, we’re just going to go into these big places, and they stood still. The league may doze, but it will never close. They’re always looking for ways to make things better. They’ve been working on making the game safer and they’ll continue to make it safer."

Pereria: "I see it not a whole lot different than it is. I think the league will go as far as it can and still go further than it is now to try to make the game safer. But I don’t think it’s going to make the league disappear as some people have said. I think this is still a once-a-week game that people get very passionate about their games."

McGinest: "I think the NFL definitely is going to be here to stay. I think that this is the best game in the world. I think that they’re doing everything in their power to keep it that way and to make it one of the safest games. I don't think it's going to look different. I think they're just changing certain things to make it safer. If you're talking about hit zones, if you're talking about staying away from head shots and stuff like that, that's not something we're not used to hearing. So I don't think we're going to go back to leather helmets with no face masks or no helmets. This game is going to be the way it is. I just think they're doing everything and taking every precaution to make it safer."

O’Hara: "Football is not going to disappear in 30 years. Will it look different? Of course it'll look different. Look at the game 30 years ago to today -- different game, different rules, different equipment. So 30 years from now, absolutely, it'll be a different game."

Are the safety concerns overblown?

Foxworth: "My responsibility is just to protect the rights of the players and their health and safety, so I don't think that there can be enough [attention given to safety issues], especially given some of the things that have happened as a result of some of the head injuries. I'm pretty sure that those players and their families would say that there's no such thing as too much attention on the health and safety of the guys. So I come from that standpoint, and, being a former player, it's something I'm keenly aware of from a personal standpoint, and a lot of my friends are in this league and I know a lot of our kids may potentially be in this league. So it's very important that we put as much effort, time and money toward evolving the game and the science of the game as we can."

Smith: "The game is what we signed up for. We didn’t sign up for tennis. We didn’t sign up for swimming and didn’t realize we were going to go out there and get tackled. We signed up for football, which we knew was a physical sport.”

Davis: "Let’s be real honest. It’s a gladiator sport. Coliseums were built for it. People like to watch it and we’re talking about big, strong, fast men. There are going to be collisions. There are going to be injuries. Do all the things you have to do to make it as safe as possible, but the reality is there’s always going to be some danger."

Hebert: "A little bit. But the NFL is so popular because it’s the modern-day gladiator. I mean, I don’t know what that says about mankind. But you can also look at boxing and ultimate fighting and how popular they are. Fans don’t want to see flag football. I still think football will be here. You can change it, but you can only change it so far."

McGinest: "I think it's necessary based on some of the studies, some of the former players and what they're going through, some of the players now. It's necessary. And it's also showing that the NFL cares about its players. If they're taking time to put on these full-on studies and they're going through every precaution with the testing of the gear and the helmets and they are willing to change certain things about the game to make sure that it's going to be here and be a safer game, it has all the signs of going in the right direction."

Boone: "I just never understood how you change the game when you have players who are bigger, stronger and faster every year. It’s just football. It’s going to be physical. It’s a physical sport. There are going to be injuries, but we’re doing things to correct it.''

What one change would you make to improve safety?

Pereria: "The safety issue is really all about the head. That’s something the league has been focusing on for a long time and they’ll continue to focus on making the rules broader than they are right now. Right now, only nine players are protected in certain situations. Can you go further? Possibly. The whole notion is going to try to be to get the head out of the game and get back to the wrap and tackling as opposed to lowering the head. They’re serious about that, and they should be. To me, as I watch so much football on Sundays, it’s already made a difference. You see situations where a defender really has a chance to blow up a receiver and he doesn’t. To me, that means the rules are taking effect and that the fines have made a difference."

Davis: "They’re making the game safe for quarterbacks and star players. But they’re not making it safer for all players. You never hear of a defenseless running back. You never hear of a defenseless linebacker. Defensive players aren’t protected. Unless you make it safer for all players, I don’t think you’re doing as much good as you can. You have to put everyone on equal footing."

Reed: "Defensive players should be protected, too. Offensive guys, quarterbacks in general, shouldn't be treated better than everybody on the football field.''

McGinest: "I would take out the chop-block. That's another thing we don't talk about. A lot of emphasis is on the head, guys getting concussions and stuff, but there are also a lot of players getting their ACLs knocked out because now guys are diving. Now that they know they can't go high, guys are starting to attack with chop-blocking. That's also knocking guys' careers either out or messing them up. Not everybody's Adrian Peterson coming back from those injuries. A lot of guys, they take the wrong hit on the knee, they're never the same player."

O’Hara: "I think the only real way to get everybody on the same page is to somehow get all the players in the NFL and all the coaches in the NFL and all the referees, get everybody in the same building and have, 'This is what is acceptable and this is what is not.' No second- and third-person regurgitation of the facts and, 'Here's what we're looking for,' because that needs to be consistent and everybody needs to hear the same message. Centralize the education, basically."

What else can be done to make things safer?

Hebert: "I think you truly have to take it out of the players' hands as far as whether you’re going to go back into the game or not after a head injury. As a player, when it comes to your teammates, you never want to be looked upon as a wuss. You want to be a tough son of a gun. To me, it totally has to be out of the hands of the players."

[+] EnlargeShaun O'Hara
AP Photo/Mel Evans"You wouldn't give your son a circular saw and let him go and start whittling wood," former lineman Shaun O'Hara said. "You would teach him how to use that."
Davis: "Look, the guys I played with and the guys that are playing now were schooled a certain way. It’s too late for us and maybe too late for the guys still playing in the NFL. But the next generation is where a difference can be made. The kids that are coming into Pop Warner now need to be taught how to tackle properly. And maybe, just as importantly, they have to be taught that if you get dinged, if you take a hit to the head and you don’t feel right, you go straight to the coach or the doctors and tell them immediately. People do that with ankle injuries. You hurt your ankle, you come out of the game. Head injuries need to be treated the same way."

Foxworth: "In nine years, you can ask me that question and I'll have a definitive answer. But I don't know. We don't know how much damage repetitive hits do or whether it's the big knockout blows that do the damage. There are just so many questions. We're not sure about the best treatments and the quicker recovery time and if there are any precursors that make someone predisposed to have these kinds of brain injuries. Those are questions that will be answered by this Harvard research, and at that point, I think we can be able to set forth clear protocols of how to treat a player after a practice or how many hits [before] it's time to sit a guy out. Those sorts of things that are changes that can be made easily."

Brandt: "I think it’s like the Internet. People that are older, like myself, are not Internet-savvy. Kids that are 7 or 8 know more about it than I do. I think it’s a thing that you build from the bottom up. Where I think we have a problem is that we have a lot of youth football leagues and the guys that are coaching sometimes get overzealous. I think we’re gradually educating that element."

Would you let a young son start playing football right now?

Bowman: "I’m not going to deter my kids from the game. When they see the game, they understand what it’s all about. It’s a physical game."

Suggs: I respect [the president's comments] for the simple fact that this is a very physical and dangerous sport, especially considering that with the concussions and the current findings of Junior Seau. A parent would be reluctant [to let] his or her child play football. I think, if you play the game right and you play it appropriately, that injuries are part of the game.''

Pereria: "Sure, I would. But I’d also be out there with him, coaching and working with the coaches to make sure that the game, at that level, is being coached properly and that kids are keeping their heads up and abiding by the rules that are still in the NFL rule book, which defines tackling as wrapping your arms around the opponent and taking him to the ground."

Miller: “Everyone has their own opinions, but I would let my kid play football. It’s a violent game, but not too violent. At the same time it builds character, hard work, dedication, responsibility. All of those things are important. They are taking caution to be careful and concerned for the players’ safety and taking that into account more.”

Foxworth: "My son's so young, I like to think that we would have made advances by the time he's old enough to play to make it safer. Given the current state of the game, I wouldn't stop him from playing it, but I'd be very cautious about the exposure and the frequency with which he may come into contact with those type of dangers."

O’Hara: "If my son wanted to play football, I would absolutely let him. I would drive him. But I would teach him. You wouldn't give your son a circular saw and let him go and start whittling wood. You would teach him how to use that. There's a proper way to use power tools. So my issue is, when I hear parents say, 'I don't want him to play football,' well, it's because you don't want to take the time to teach him how to do it right. Or you don't know how to teach him right. So that, to me, is a big sticking point. When I see kids that want to play football, I just want them to learn it the right way. We need to make sure our coaches are teaching our kids the right way to do things, because for every one kid that gets hurt, that's something that could affect a whole lifetime."
NEW ORLEANS -- Lots of buzz going around here this week about player safety issues and the future of the game. Much of it has been fueled by President Obama saying earlier in the week that he'd have to think long and hard about letting his son play football if he had a son. Not surprisingly, there has been some backlash in the NFL ranks.

"I guess my knee-jerk reaction is, to me, that's an irresponsible statement by the president," said former New York Giants center Shaun O'Hara, now an NFL Network analyst. "I know he's not the first one to say it, but being the president, I think he could be more responsible than that."

O'Hara joked that, "Obama doesn't have the body to play football -- he has a basketball body, so I don't blame him," but he turned serious when he defended the game he loves against the idea of injury risk as a deterrent.

"I understand his concern, but this game is about so much more than just injuries," O'Hara said. "Kids, the values that they're learning by playing the game of football, the team sport, the idea of setting goals, working together with others to attain that goal and then finally achieving that goal. Those are principles in life that we all need to learn, and I think it's great. People say football will make a man out of you? No, football will teach you how to be a man."

O'Hara's first child, a son, is due in the coming months, and he made it clear he doesn't share the president's reservations.

"If my son wanted to play football, I would absolutely let him. I would drive him," O'Hara said. "But I would teach him, because it's just like anything. You wouldn't give your son a circular saw and let him go and start whittling wood. You would teach him how to use that. So my issue is, when I hear parents say, 'I don't want him to play football,' well, it's because you don't want to take the time to teach him how to do it right. Or you don't know how to teach him right. So that to me is a big sticking point. When I see kids that want to play football, I just want them to learn it the right way. We need to make sure our coaches are teaching our kids the right way to do things."
Good morning. Only one more round of preseason games stands between us and real, regular-season football. I, for one, am looking forward to being able to drop the qualifiers and talk about games that actually do mean something and allow us to draw meaningful conclusions.

In the meantime, we have the links.

Dallas Cowboys

Why did the Cowboys cut Andre Gurode? ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon offers a couple of reasons: "He was overrated, overpaid and overweight. Oh, and they’re confident in Phil Costa." Tim says they'll get much more bang for their buck with Costa, even if he's inexperienced, "short-armed" and currently recovering from a knee sprain.

If the Cowboys don't have a good kicker this year, don't say it's because they didn't consider all options. Even with four kickers already on the roster, they're discussing adding Dave Rayner, recently cut by the Lions, to the mix. It's kicker, folks, so it's all about hitting on someone. Most of these guys blow with the wind, and just because Rayner didn't make it in Detroit doesn't mean he can't be the answer in Dallas.

New York Giants

Gary Myers writes that Eli Manning's decision-making must improve over what he showed Monday night, and I agree. When I spoke with Manning about last year's 25 interceptions a few weeks back, he said, "You try to eliminate the bad-decision ones." The second one he threw Monday was a bad-decision one, and he admits that. I'm just going to wait until he starts making them again in the regular season before I start condemning him for it. Because, for the six millionth time, preseason means nothing as far as predicting anything that will happen in the regular season. At all.

Oh, and on a much sillier note, Manning and Plaxico Burress did meet up to talk before Monday night's Giants-Jets matchup. They bumped into each other at the movies. Plaxico was coming out of "The Smurfs," but Brian Costello didn't report which movie Manning and Shaun O'Hara were there to see. Regardless, there can no longer be any question about Manning and Burress' relationship. I didn't see "The Smurfs," but based on my wife's reaction to it after seeing it with the kids, I have to believe Burress was in a pretty lousy mood when Manning found him.

Philadelphia Eagles

Phil Sheridan asks one of many good questions in the wake of Michael Vick's new six-year, $100 million deal -- namely, whether Vick will continue to work as hard and be the same straight arrow he's been for the past two years as he pursued that deal: "As long as that contract was out there, just out of his reach, Vick had literally 100 million reasons to be a solid citizen, coachable player, and consummate teammate. He had 100 million reasons not to be the man he was before he lost everything. Now the deal is done and he has 100 million temptations to go right back to his old ways." Phil doesn't worry that Vick will go back to dogfighting -- just whether he'll go back to being the "arrogant superstar" he was in Atlanta. It's a question worth raising, as it is with anyone with a questionable history who gets a big new contract. Only Vick can answer it. By now he surely knows such questions are here and not going away.

Geoff Mosher writes that the newly configured Eagles offensive line doesn't have much time to get in sync. With only 12 days until the regular-season opener, I see his point. But few seem to be talking about the fact that the line can continue to improve after the regular season begins, too. They'll still be practicing after Week 1, and there's no reason to believe the quality of the line play in the first game will be the same as it is come Week 4 or Week 9 or Week 15. I wouldn't be surprised to see the line play cost them a game or two early in the season, everybody to react as though the sky is falling and then Howard Mudd to continue to coach them up and improve as the year goes along. A lot of what the Eagles are trying to do this year rests on their faith in their coaching staff.

Washington Redskins

Wide receiver Terrence Austin has been one of the more impressive surprises of the Redskins' preseason, and Rick Maese has a look at the road he took to get to this point, where he's seriously challenging for a spot on the 53-man roster. The part about Austin and John Beck practicing together by themselves on Tuesdays last year when the rest of the team was off is especially interesting. Makes you wonder if Beck will look Austin's way more than you might expect -- assuming they're both playing, of course.

Ryan Torain is supposed to be back from his broken hand and playing in Thursday night's preseason finale. LaRon Landry won't, but he still says he'll play in the regular-season opener against the Giants. Landry seems pretty confident the fact that he hasn't played in a game since last November won't hold him back.

Nothing will hold me back today. I'm chatting at noon ET, and have plenty planned for your NFC East enjoyment today as we count it down together on the way to real football.

Camp Confidential: Giants

August, 14, 2011
8/14/11
12:00
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's funny to say this about a team that plays where they play, but the New York Giants like it when nobody notices them. They like being forgotten, underestimated, treated as an afterthought. They're OK with the Jets getting all the back-page-tabloid attention and the Eagles being the big offseason story because of their free-agent shopping spree. The Giants believe in their own way of doing things, and if that means lying in the weeds while people on the outside are distracted by other teams that are hot at the moment, that's fine with them.

"We believe in our organization, and we believe in our coaches," said ninth-year offensive lineman David Diehl, who has moved from left tackle to left guard as part of the Giants' offensive line shuffle. "We're not running around doing the free-agency fiasco and all that stuff. Yeah, you hope that, if an opportunity arises, you bring in guys that fit holes. But at the same time, we've got guys that have been here, guys that are a part of this team, guys who know the system."

That's why, even though they lost tight end Kevin Boss and receiver Steve Smith in free agency and didn't sign new guys the way the Eagles did, the Giants say they're not worried. They have a different way of doing things here. They build through the draft and groom their own players to replace the ones who leave. And they have a few guys they think can fill the holes created by their cuts and free-agent defections. It remains to be seen whether they're right, of course, but the vibe at Giants training camp is clear: Go ahead, underestimate us. We'll see how it turns out in the end.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeWilliam Beatty
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireThe Giants will have a revamped offensive line that includes William Beatty, left, at left tackle.
1. The new offensive line. When they cut longtime center Shaun O'Hara and guard Rich Seubert on the first day of free agency, the Giants signaled a decision to change an aspect of their team that hadn't changed much over the past six or seven years. They signed free-agent center David Baas from San Francisco, moved Diehl inside, and gave the starting left tackle job to 2009 second-round draft pick William Beatty. So there are questions that must be answered about how quickly the newly configured group can jell, how smooth the relationship between Baas and quarterback Eli Manning will be and, perhaps most importantly, whether Beatty in his third NFL season is ready for the responsibility of protecting Manning's blind side.

"In the case of William Beatty, it's time," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We've had him here. He's talented. He's had an opportunity to learn. He's practiced against some of the best. We've had some defensive ends around here that can play. So it's time. It's his turn."

Beatty started four games in his rookie season and two last season as he was being groomed for this opportunity. He's perhaps the best example of the Giants' belief in their ability to groom their own replacements for departing veterans rather than having to hit the free-agent market to do so. Now, he must prove that their faith in him was justified.

2. Can Osi Umenyiora be happy? Upset about his contract, the Giants' star defensive end has sat out practice and demanded that the team rework his deal or trade him to a team that will. Neither of those things appears likely to happen, though the Giants have offered an olive branch in the form of some 2011 incentives depending on the number of sacks Umenyiora gets this year. He had his knee checked out last week and there's a sense he could return to practice Monday. The way Jason Pierre-Paul played in Saturday night's preseason opener only helped the Giants' leverage in this situation. They believe Pierre-Paul, their 2010 first-round pick, can be a capable replacement for Umenyiora at the defensive end spot opposite Justin Tuck. Of course, if Umenyiora wants to come back and play, they'll be thrilled to be able to rotate three such weapons at the defensive end spots. It would also enable them to put Mathias Kiwanuka at linebacker and leave him there.

3. Manning's safety valves. As the Giants' passing game evolved over the past couple of seasons, Manning relied heavily on Smith and Boss as targets when things broke down. Both are gone. The Giants hope that 2009 third-round pick Travis Beckum is ready to replace Boss. Beckum is a good receiver, but he doesn't have Boss' size or blocking ability. And they're trying everyone from Mario Manningham to Domenik Hixon to Victor Cruz in Smith's old slot-receiver role in the hopes that someone can play the position the way Smith did. Top receiver Hakeem Nicks appears poised to have another big year, and the Giants can use Manningham on the outside as they did last season. But Manning is justifiably concerned about who will be there for him when a play inevitably breaks down, and tight end and slot receiver are positions that need to be sorted out before camp ends.

"When we've gotten in trouble in the past, we always had Steve in the slot, and that's kind of all we worked on -- Steve's in the slot, there you go, he's got it down," Manning said. "And so last year, when he got hurt, we were in trouble. No one else really knew how to play it. So this year we're putting everybody -- Hakeem is in there, Manningham's getting in here, we're getting a lot of people in there to get them to learn some of it, so that'll probably create some more opportunities for us to move guys around and get some mismatches."

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

[+] EnlargeJonathan Goff
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswireJonathan Goff is entering his second season as the starting middle linebacker.
Linebacker has been a weak spot for the Giants the past couple of years. Unable to add outside free agents because of cap concerns, they'll address it by moving Kiwanuka there for first and second downs. But much will still fall on the shoulders of Jonathan Goff, who enters his second season as starter at middle linebacker in the Giants' 4-3 defense. "I'll have better composure this year," Goff said. "Last year, being my first year, was a little bit of a learning experience for me. This year, I think we're all on the same page to move forward as a defense and get better. It's just natural now." Goff is responsible for communicating the calls from the sidelines and for making any front-seven checks. (The coverage checks are the responsibility of the safeties.) He knows he'll need to take a stronger on-field leadership role for the defense to play more consistently this season.

AN 'EXPLOSIVE' PHILLIPS

Two years ago, Kenny Phillips was on the verge of breaking out as one of the top safeties in the NFL. But he lost his 2009 season to a left knee injury, spent the 2009-10 offseason rehabbing the knee and wasn't the same player when he returned in 2010. This year, Phillips said, he was able to condition himself the way he normally would for a season, rather than have to rehab, and believes it has made a huge difference. "Just being more explosive," Phillips said. "Last year, just seeing the field, it was kind of difficult at times, because I'd been away from the game, to be able to break on the ball -- to actually see it and then be able to get to it. But this year, now, everything is just fluid. My technique and everything is sound. I just feel good about everything this year." Phillips said he learned a lot last season playing and working with veteran safety Deon Grant (who remains an unsigned free agent), and that, with his physical ability fully restored, he believes he'll be a better player.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Hixon could be a very important player for the Giants if he's recovered from his knee injury. He showed ability to play that slot receiver position when he was healthy, and will get a chance to show it again, though it seems clear the Giants would like to have multiple options there in case something goes wrong.
  • Linval Joseph, the 2010 second-round pick, would seem to have the playing-time edge at defensive tackle over 2011 second-round pick Marvin Austin. But each brings impressive size and agility to the position, and between them the Giants should be able to capably replace Barry Cofield, who signed with Washington.
  • The starting secondary of Phillips, Antrel Rolle, Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster looks excellent in practice. The question is whether there's enough depth behind those guys if there's an injury. Cornerbacks Michael Coe and Brian Witherspoon and safety Tyler Sash have a chance to earn playing time with Prince Amukamara hurt and Grant not re-signed. Witherspoon has been impressive on special teams and looked good in Saturday's game. Sash appears to be very athletic, but he needs to play with more discipline.
  • Kiwanuka at linebacker is a work in progress. No question he has the ability to play it, but he overpursued Saturday at times the way a defensive end might.
  • Even before he left Saturday's preseason game with a thigh injury, kicker Lawrence Tynes looked as though he might be cause for concern. Having missed a few practices as he recovers from knee surgery, Tynes was unable to boot kickoffs out of the back of the end zone the way it seems every other kicker in the league has so far this preseason. And he missed a couple of field goals (though the first was a 56-yarder he shouldn't have been asked to try). Worth keeping an eye on to see how he looks the rest of August.
  • As for punters, Matt Dodge has looked better than he did in his difficult rookie season, but it's going to be tough for him to beat out Steve Weatherford, who's just better at the job.
  • Amazing what happens where there's an avalanche of real news to cover. Stuff we leaned on, counted on, got used to during the long, dull lockout goes by the wayside. We didn't even do Fired-Up Friday this week, and it's been forever since I've fired up the video camera and done one of Shut.Up.Phyllis' much-beloved video mailbags. Hadn't even had time to check the mailbag in several days, which made it pretty funny to go in there today and read all kinds of questions like, "Do you think the Eagles will get Nnamdi if they don't end up with Rodgers-Cromartie?" and "What are the chances the Cowboys sign Cullen Jenkins?" Yeah, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

    Let's take a few of your questions on this somewhat slow Saturday.

    Two very different Giants offensive line questions came in back-to-back. Jason LaBombard from Westfield, MA thinks the line will be okay because he likes the starting five of Beatty/Diehl/Baas/Snee/McKenzie and the Giants' coaching staff showed last year they could patch things together even if they have injuries. But Greg from the UK thinks the left side looks "dodgy," which is his word because he's writing from the UK.

    Dan Graziano: This is tough for me, because I spent much of this offseason saying the Giants had to make changes on the offensive line. So now that they have, I can't rightly sit here and say they were wrong to do it. Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert were part of a line that had a lot of success for a very long time, but it's important to stay ahead of the curve and not wait until things fall apart before fixing them. I don't understand what the Giants have seen out of Will Beatty that makes them think he's ready to start at left tackle, but they know better than I do, and if he is ready, I side with Jason more than I do with Greg. David Diehl moving inside to guard will help, and reports on new center David Baas are good. With offensive lines, it's a matter of how quickly everybody gets used to each other. The Giants had offensive line success in 2007-09 because of how long those guys had all played together. That can't be simulated, and I wonder if they might have some getting-to-know-you mistake moments. But on the whole, they were right to do what they did and should be better in the future for it, if not necessarily in Week 1.

    Dal from Rancho Cordova, CA wants to know if it'd make sense for the Cowboys to pick up Plaxico Burress, who spent the past couple of days visiting the Giants and Steelers and is now being connected to the Jets and Eagles because everybody you've ever heard of is.

    DG: Like the Giants, Steelers and Eagles, who all have good and stable enough receiver situations that Burress could fit in without too much pressure on him to carry the load, the Cowboys with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant could make some sense. My sense, though, is that Dallas has too many other needs (they still need two starting safeties) and too many cap concerns to spend big on their No. 3 receiver. I imagine they fill that from within or cheaply.

    Ryan from Virginia asks if there's a chance the Eagles just roll with rookie Casey Matthews as the starting middle linebacker, since they're spending all this money already and still need to re-do DeSean Jackson's deal and maybe extend Michael Vick.

    DG: I guess. There's a chance the Eagles are adopting the Giants' philosophy that the important things on defense in this pass-heavy era are up-front pass rush and coverage, and are undervaluing linebacker as a result of that thinking. I disagree with the Giants doing it and think it's hurt them the past couple of years, and I disagree just as strongly if it's the way the Eagles decide to go. Unless they think Matthews is the next Zach Thomas (late-round-draft-steal-turned-difference-making-linebacker), I have to believe they're on the market for a free-agent middle linebacker. They still have some money to spend, believe it or not, and guys do seem to be taking less money to play there.

    Ian Wells from Gainesville, FL likes the moves the Redskins have been making and wonders, if the defense makes a jump into "the top 5 in the NFL," it could carry the team to a wild-card berth. He cites 2000 Trent Dilfer and 2006 Rex Grossman as examples of less-than-inspiring quarterbacks who led teams to Super Bowls because they were playing with brilliant defenses.

    DG: Well, Ian, I like what the Redskins have been doing, too. Especially on defense, where I think they have a chance to be pretty good pretty soon. But if you look at these moves, they're all future-focused. Josh Wilson, Stephen Bowen, Chris Chester -- these guys are all good starters who are relatively young and should improve. That's what makes them smart pickups for a team in Washington's current position. Could they contend in 2011? Of course they could. Anyone can, if they stay healthy and all goes well. But the likelihood is that the Redskins' defense and overall team will be better in 2012 and 2013 than it is in 2011, which is a rebuilding year. And even if John Beck or the 2011 Grossman plays like those two guys you cited, the defense has a long way to go to be what those Ravens and Bears defenses were -- which is to say, among the greatest ever. Patience is what you need if you're a Redskins fan. They're moving in the right direction, but they're still a ways away.

    Finally, Ed from Baltimore wrote this: "Dan, I just want to thank you. You brought the ESPN NFC East blog to life. Your balanced coverage, your honesty, & your humor have made me switch from ESPN's competitors to become a regular ESPN.com reader."

    DG: Thanks, Ed. I have nothing else to say on this one. Really just dropped it in here so my bosses would see it.

    That's it for now. Back to the salt mines.
    This idea of the Philadelphia Eagles landing Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie may have shocked most NFL observers, but the NFC East blog has some wise and astute readers, and there's one out there for whom the move Friday didn't come as a complete surprise.

    You may or may not remember this item from last weekend's NFC East mailbag:
    Jarrett from Dallas (who's an Eagles fan) wonders if acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kevin Kolb would take the Eagles out of the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, or if they'd play Rodgers-Cromartie in the nickel: "Having DRC, Nnamdi, and Asante Samuel would arguably give the Eagles the best secondary in the league, and those three would take major loads off of the young safeties' backs."

    DG: Very interesting point, Jarrett. I hadn't thought of that. I guess I'd been assuming that, if they got a starting corner for Kolb, they'd be out on Nnamdi. But you make some sense. The vibe coming out of Philly is that the defense will be more front-four focused in 2011, and that that's one of the reasons they're going young at safety. But we really don't know what Andy Reid has planned, and he has surprised us in the past.

    Man, am I glad I took that guy seriously! Nice job, Jarrett. You're a visionary.

    (Incidentally, you should click on that mailbag link. Had some prescient stuff in there. If Shaun O'Hara had read it, for instance, he might not have been so surprised when the Giants cut him. Just sayin'.)
    Every day is different, for everybody and every team. And so, at the end of a crazy day tracking, dissecting and analyzing all the moves being made and not being made in the NFC East, we like to pause and ask each team a simple question: How was your day ...

    Dallas Cowboys?

    "Fiscally responsible." Yeah, that's not a real exciting answer. And as pretty much every one of their fans will tell you, the Cowboys haven't had a real exciting week. But while Jerry Jones surely would love to be slugging it out for Nnamdi Asomugha and the other top free agents, the fact is the Cowboys had to start this offseason slowly. On Thursday, they added Marc Colombo to the list of cuts that will trim more than $19 million in payroll and help get them under the cap. They agreed to terms with left guard Kyle Kosier one day after bringing back left tackle Doug Free. They signed first-round pick and projected starting right tackle Tyron Smith and then immediately let linebacker DeMarcus Ware go to work on him in his first training-camp practice. But they did nothing to address their holes on defense, and in fact they lost one of their free-agent defensive ends, Stephen Bowen, to the Redskins. But that loss could be a gain. Bowen got a surprisingly huge deal (five years, $27.5 million, $12.5 million guaranteed), and the Cowboys don't believe he was worth that much. That deal actually could help them get the defensive end they want, the Packers' Cullen Jenkins, who had been talking to the Redskins but no longer is. The Cowboys still need two safeties, two defensive ends and maybe another offensive lineman. But they'll get them. Fans just need to be patient. This might not be the most exciting Cowboys offseason ever, but it will surely be more productive than it's been so far. They are crawling before they walk.

    New York Giants?

    "Newsy." The Giants are still working and waiting on the resolution of their negotiations with Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss and Steve Smith, but they did knock out a new deal for Mathias Kiwanuka on Thursday. And Bradshaw lost a lot of his leverage when the Dolphins, with whom he and his agent had been playing kissy-face, acquired Reggie Bush, so the Giants should be able to get him at something closer to their price. But this day for the Giants was more about people talking -- John Mara talking about Plaxico Burress and Osi Umenyiora, the team talking to David Diehl about moving from tackle to guard and to Will Beatty about starting at left tackle, Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara talking about being cut ... lots of talking. There was even a report that the Giants were talking to Brad Maynard about coming in to replace shaky punter Matt Dodge. The talking -- at least to the free agents -- will soon lead to results one way or the other. But there was no shortage of interesting storylines coming out of Giantsland on Thursday.

    Philadelphia Eagles?

    "Cathartic." Yeah, they finally got that Kevin Kolb deal done. Felt like it took forever, right? Well, that's only because of that little lockout thing we no longer like to talk about. The end result is that the Eagles have their starting right cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick next year and will need to go find a veteran backup for Michael Vick, which won't be too hard. They also agreed to terms on a five-year contract with defensive end Jason Babin, who was much better last season with the Titans than he was in his first stint as an Eagle. But he should be OK since he'll be working with former Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who's now in Philly. They still need to address linebacker and backup running back and maybe offensive line, but the actual moves they got to do Thursday will help, and at least they provided some distraction from this very icky DeSean Jackson holdout situation.

    Washington Redskins?

    "Productive." I'm sorry. I don't think they'll contend in 2011, but I really like what the Redskins are doing. Sure, they overpaid for Bowen. But as someone pointed out to me on my extremely active Twitter day, the Redskins (A) have the money and (B) sort of have to overpay right now to get guys to go there, right? Like cornerback Josh Wilson, Bowen is a guy who is young and still emerging, and the Redskins are making a bet that he'll be better in the short-term future than he is now. They are a future-focused team and should be, and their moves have reflected that. Another example: They cut veteran center Casey Rabach and reportedly agreed to terms with Chris Chester, who can replace Rabach at center or play guard if Will Montgomery or Kory Lichtensteiger does. Still need a right tackle, but the defense starts to look pretty doggone respectable with the additions of Wilson, Bowen and Barry Cofield. Oh, and I almost forget. They dumped Albert Haynesworth on an AFC team before the sun came up. That alone would have made it a decent day for Mike Shanahan no matter what else happened.

    Me? Man. My day was kind of nuts. Did some more TV and a whole lot of Twitter conversating with y'all. Enjoyed every single bit of it and can't wait for tomorrow.

    How was your day?
    We keep up the best we can as things unfold, but it's always good to step back every now and then and evaluate things from a bigger-picture standpoint. That is why we have "How Was Your Day?" -- a recurring (well, the past two days, at least) feature here on the NFC East blog during this frenzied free-agent season. Each of our four teams is a perpetual newsmaker and is hard at work on a number of fronts. So, as the sun sets in the East, we ask once again: How was your day? ...

    Dallas Cowboys?

    "Realistic." We woke to the news that the Cowboys had re-signed left tackle Doug Free, an expected but important move they'd said would be a priority. But while they made a few more cuts, got to work on negotiations with first-round pick Tyron Smith and let it be known that their starting center had knee surgery last month, it felt like a bit of a slow day for the Cowboys -- a day seemingly spent assessing where they are on a number of fronts. They'd have loved to sign safety Eric Weddle, but he got a deal to stay in San Diego that was enough of a whopper to make them wonder if they'll be able to afford their second or third choices. They've dabbled in talks with Cullen Jenkins, but they seem more likely to either bring back their own defensive ends (Stephen Bowen and/or Marcus Spears) or go after guys like Robaire Smith and Kenyon Coleman. And while they'd surely liked to have been in the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, they say their starting cornerbacks this year are likely to be Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman again. The Cowboys have many moves to make, but their cap concerns appear as though they'll keep them from the top end of the free-agent market. Which may be fine, but it doesn't make for as exciting an offseason as fans might like. Their next big move could be the re-signing of left guard Kyle Kosier.

    New York Giants?

    "Businesslike." The Giants woke to the news of Barry Cofield agreeing to a contract with Washington, and while they were ready to move on without him they can't be happy that he stayed in the division. A few hours later, they learned that their planned meeting between head coach Tom Coughlin and free agent Plaxico Burress wouldn't be permitted until Friday, and that Burress would follow it with a trip to Pittsburgh to meet with the Steelers. But while all of that was going on, the Giants took care of some details. They gave Coughlin a one-year contract extension through 2012. They told Rocky Bernard he'd be cut since they couldn't rework his contract. They spoke to Brandon Jacobs about reworking his, and to free agents Ahmad Bradshaw and Kevin Boss about returning, though neither of those deals was done by sundown. The Giants also added a new center, David Baas, to replace Shaun O'Hara. They still need to get their own guys (Bradshaw, Boss, Steve Smith, Mathias Kiwanuka) re-signed and then hunt for a linebacker and more offensive line help, but things seemed to be progressing Wednesday after a Tuesday that saw nothing but subtraction.

    Philadelphia Eagles?

    "Painfullly patient." Yes, Kevin Kolb is still an Eagle. No, the Cardinals haven't gone in a different direction yet. There still remains the strong chance that these two teams do a trade of Kolb for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a pick sometime in the next couple of days. But the Eagles are being patient, as they can and should, since they shouldn't deal Kolb unless they're getting exactly what they want or more. He'd have value to them as a Michael Vick backup, and that's not a bad worst-case scenario. So while fans may be getting impatient, the Eagles are wise to wait this out. While they waited, they signed all of their draft picks except first-rounder Danny Watkins and seventh-rounder Greg Lloyd, and Andy Reid fielded (ducked?) questions about whether or not DeSean Jackson is planning a holdout. There is talk about Jason Babin for defensive end and possible solutions at linebacker, and if they don't get Rodgers-Cromartie they'll still need a cornerback. But the Eagles are proceeding patiently and slowly as activity swirls around other teams.

    Washington Redskins?

    "Busy!" They started the day with the Cofield news, then lost out on Santonio Holmes when he agreed to re-sign with the Jets. So they drowned their sorrows by adding three new receivers, none of which are as good as Holmes -- Donte' Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokley. I like the Gaffney pickup a lot (they got him from Denver in a trade for defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon), but the others are low-risk, potential upside players who are worth a chance because the Redskins need help at the position. Worst-case, Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson play better than expected and they don't need those guys. Their best move of the day was getting cornerback Josh Wilson, who's young and good and speedy and improving and will replace Carlos Rogers as they continue their rebuilding project and suddenly have a very strong secondary. And don't underestimate how excited the Redskins are to have received anything at all in exchange for Donovan McNabb. I expected they'd have to cut him. A sixth-round pick and maybe two? They took that and ran. Nice, busy, productive day for a team that had a lot of work to do and still does.

    My day? Why, thanks for asking. I enjoyed it. Making plans for training camp trips, which will be fun. And I like being on TV, something "First Take" has given me a chance to do a lot this week. Hoping to grab more than four hours' sleep tonight, but we'll see.

    How was your day?
    One day after telling longtime starting center Shaun O'Hara that he'll be released, the Giants have come to terms on a new contract with free-agent center/guard David Baas, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. The Sacramento Bee was the first to report the agreement, and while there are a number of ways the Giants (who cut three offensive linemen Tuesday) could use Baas, the most likely spot for him is as their new starting center.

    Here's the Insider scouting report on Baas from our free-agent tracker:
    He is a thick wide body with above average initial quickness and adequate agility and body control. He is more of a mauler and brawler than finesse type of blocker, but can dominate opponents once he gets his hands on them. He is not a natural knee bender but will bring his feet with him to sustain blocks and has the kind of temperament and effort that allows him to finish most blocks off. He has come a long ways when it comes to understanding angles and techniques which allow him to sustain blocks better than when he used to rely on strength alone. He does a good job of sinking his hips to hunker down and stop the bull rush and will win most strength contests.

    So there you have it, Giants fans. You wondered who would replace O'Hara and you didn't have to wait long to find out. Offensive line will be a story in Giants training camp, because this won't be the last new face they add. If continuity and familiarity are keys to the success of a line, the Giants will have some work to do to establish some.

    NFC East: How was your day?

    July, 26, 2011
    7/26/11
    9:58
    PM ET
    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.
    Earlier today, we discussed the Giants' decision to release offensive linemen Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert. The moves continue. According to Shawn Andrews' Twitter account, he and the Giants were unable to come to agreement on a restructuring of his contract and he's out as well. Adam Schefter reports that they are going to re-sign Kevin Boothe to a new two-year deal, so that helps, but they're going to need to be in the offensive line market in free agency. I know Giants fans are saying they trust Jerry Reese to figure this out, but I still have to think they would have addressed the line in the draft if the plan all along was to cut all of these guys.

    Meanwhile, Adam also reports that the Giants are interested in bringing back receiver Plaxico Burress, who helped them win a Super Bowl four years ago but got sent to prison for shooting himself in the leg with an unlicensed gun in a crowded nightclub two years ago. Given what Burress had to say about Giants coach Tom Coughlin upon his release from prison last month, it's hard to imagine he wants to go back there. But if the offer is right and the other interest isn't what he hopes, there's always chance for a reconciliation, I would think. Makes one think the Giants are worried about Steve Smith's injury, no?

    Giants cuts: O'Hara, Seubert

    July, 26, 2011
    7/26/11
    3:15
    PM ET
    Not the greatest day to be a veteran offensive lineman for the New York Giants. On the first day of post-lockout NFL business, the Giants have informed longtime center Shaun O'Hara and guard Rich Seubert that they will be released. The Giants have work to do to get under the salary cap, and they appear to have begun that work by ridding themselves of the contract of a couple of injured veterans on the interior of their offensive line.

    The Giants, who are about $6 million over the cap, will save about $5.3 million with those two cuts. How they replace their starting center of the past seven years and one of the guys who filled in for him when he was injured last year remains to be seen. Backup center Adam Koets is coming off knee surgery himself.

    There has been some talk of left tackle David Diehl moving inside, but that assumes Will Beatty is ready to take over the starting left tackle position. And we're still waiting to see what happens with Shawn Andrews, who filled in at a couple of different positions along the line in 2010 and could be the starting left tackle if Beatty isn't ready. Many have assumed that Andrews was at risk to be cut, since he stands to make $7.5 million this year. But if he agrees to restructure, it appears as if they have a couple of ways they could still use him.

    Regardless, it appears as though they will be needing some new bodies for the offensive line in New York. Expect this, along with linebacker, to be the position they look to address in free agency.

    O'Hara, incidentally, was the Giants' NFLPA player rep and, along with Giants owner John Mara, a key figure in the negotiations between players and owners. Got to think it burns him up to have sat across the table from Mara those many months only to be blindsided like this on the first day after the lockout ended. O'Hara was the Giants' starting center for every game but one from 2005-09. He missed 10 games last year with foot and ankle injuries.
    Happy New Year, everybody. It took a few months, but things are finally happening. Starting today, teams can sign drafted and undrafted rookies and make trades. So while it'll be a few days before free agents can officially be signed, some players could be on the move as early as this morning. Specifically, Eagles backup quarterback Kevin Kolb, whose immediate and long-term future were hostages of the lockout, could soon find out where he's going to be playing in 2011.

    As of 10 a.m. ET today, teams are free to talk trade, which means that all of the Kolb-to-Arizona speculation of the past several months can morph into actual discussion that could lead to an actual deal. Will the Cardinals offer cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in exchange for Kolb? If they do, will that be enough to convince the Eagles to send Kolb away? Or do the Eagles deal Kolb for picks and keep themselves in the market for Nnamdi Asomugha or one of the other very good cornerbacks on the looming free-agent market? And where do the Seattle Seahawks fit into all of this? They need a quarterback, and it doesn't sound as if they'll bring back Matt Hasselbeck. Do they jump in here and steal Kolb away from the Cardinals once the doors to the trading season swing open?

    Obviously, all indications are that Kolb will go to Arizona. But if neither the Cardinals, the Seahawks nor anyone else offers enough value for the Eagles to justify trading away a game-ready backup quarterback they like a great deal, they could always keep him.

    We should have some answers soon. To this and many other questions. For the first time in months, there are plenty of options for the links.

    More Eagles

    Kevin Callahan says the Eagles can win the Super Bowl this week if they make the right moves once free agency opens. He runs down a list of potential moves with which we're all familiar, but I continue to take issue with this Albert Haynesworth stuff. The Redskins do not have to release Haynesworth, even if they're unable to get good value for him in a trade. And the main reason they won't release him is because they don't want the Eagles to get him, reunite him with former Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn and beat them twice a year. I would be floored, stunned, flummoxed, astounded and befuddled if Haynesworth were an Eagle in 2011.

    Joe Banner spoke about the differences fans will see in training camp this year -- no two-a-days, no hitting in the early days, etc. Big win for the players there in the negotiations. They wanted stuff that will help them play and live longer.

    Dallas Cowboys

    Tim MacMahon runs down some options for the Cowboys at safety, but Cowboys fans aren't going to like this list. Tim announces before the list begins that he's going to "skip over Michael Huff, Eric Weddle and Quintin Mikell, who might be good fits for the Cowboys but could be expensive." Those guys will be expensive, sure. But if the Cowboys don't come away with this with at least one of them, it's going to be hard to say they did enough to address the safety position.

    Keith Brooking tells Matt Mosley he's not worried about having to learn Rob Ryan's defense in this compressed, post-lockout training camp time period. Says he and some other defensive players met with Ryan before the lockout and have some idea what it's all about. We'll see. I think that's the biggest issue the Cowboys face, other than, obviously, signing enough players to field that defense.

    New York Giants

    Kevin Boss says his "No. 1 priority" is to remain a Giant, but he also says he's going to enjoy free agency and make sure to find out and consider all options. So yeah. Kind of non-committal there. Which is fine. I think he's going to hear from other teams. Not a big-numbers guy, obviously, but he's well thought of around the league.

    Shaun O'Hara tells Zach Berman that he doesn't see why it'd be necessary to talk about re-working his contract as long as his injury is healed up and he's ready to play. Folks, this is a contract situation worth watching. The Giants may have some tough choices to make. They'll need to get under the cap. They have quite a few of their own free agents to sign. And they did manage to get by without O'Hara for most of 2010. Not saying he'll be cut, but it's not completely crazy to imagine it. Especially if he doesn't want to talk about re-working his deal.

    Washington Redskins

    Jason Reid is on the Redskins-must-dump-Haynesworth bandwagon. I guess I just don't see the harm in keeping him around. Does anybody really think Haynesworth's mopey presence was the reason the Redskins didn't win last year? As far as I can tell, his issues were his own and didn't bleed into the rest of the team, except insofar as he was unable/unwilling/unavailable to play and help them on the field. He has value. If he gets into a 4-3 defense with a coach with whom he clicks, he can again be a monster player. Mike Shanahan knows this, and that's why I don't think he's just going to set him free on the open market. And why I don't think he should.

    I do not believe we can fully rule out a Redskins pursuit of Asomugha. My issue with it is that I don't think Asomugha will want to sign in Washington. If he's leaving Oakland, it's not because of dreams of big-money deals. It's because he wants to win a Super Bowl as soon as possible. And free agents aren't going to view Washington as the place where they can do that.

    Lots more to come today, including the first post-lockout NFC East chat at noon ET. I'm also going to be on "First Take" on ESPN2, talking free agency. So check that out if I haven't posted in a little while and you just can't live without me.
    Least I can do is read some mail. My letter carrier worked so hard to lug all of those envelopes around in this heat.

    Matthew from Summit, N.J., (woo-hoo!) read John Clayton's piece on potential salary cap casualties, noticed the Giants' Shawn Andrews was on there and wondered who else from the Giants might be on the list.

    Dan Graziano: I wouldn't feel super-comfy if I were Rocky Bernard, even if Barry Cofield does leave via free agency. The Giants have picked defensive tackles in the second round each of the past two years and are clearly looking toward the future at that position. Brandon Jacobs could be cut if he doesn't agree to re-work his contract, but I think he probably will. I'm interested to see what happens with Shaun O'Hara, who's in the final year of his deal and missed 10 games in 2010. They got by without him, and they could face a tough decision there. What will help is the new CBA provision that gives teams extra money to help them retain veterans. According to the terms the league sent out Thursday night, "All teams will have approximately $3.5 million in what would otherwise be performance-based pay available to fund veteran player salaries," and "Each club may 'borrow' up to $3 million in cap room from a future year, which may be used to support veteran player costs." So the cuts might not be as severe as they have been in some years past.

    rd from Idaho was kind enough to take time out of his day to pen this missive: "your gonna look like an idiot when Nnamdi lands elsewhere."

    DG: If you say so, Grammar Guy. Hopefully YOU'RE around to remind me.

    markus from Washington, D.C., thinks it's "ridiculous" for the Redskins to go with John Beck at quarterback, would rather see Rex Grossman as the starter and believes the Skins should think about signing Vince Young after the Titans release him. Then he asks what I think.

    DG: A few people have asked about Young in Washington. I don't see it. Based on the way it bottomed out for him in Tennessee, I don't think Young's next NFL job is as a starter. I think he needs to be out of the spotlight for a while and get some coaching in a backup role. It's why I like Philadelphia for him. I could be wrong, and Mike Shanahan could be looking at Young's talent and record as a starter and thinking he can get the most out of him. But for me, that would qualify as a big surprise move.

    Jake from Oceanside, Calif., asks if a trade of Kevin Kolb to Arizona could result in the Eagles getting Karlos Dansby.

    DG: Only if it were a three-way deal involving the Dolphins, since that's the team for which Dansby currently plays.

    Jarrett from Dallas (who's an Eagles fan) wonders if acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kevin Kolb would take the Eagles out of the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, or if they'd play Rodgers-Cromartie in the nickel: "Having DRC, Nnamdi, and Asante Samuel would arguably give the Eagles the best secondary in the league, and those three would take major loads off of the young safeties' backs."

    DG: Very interesting point, Jarrett. I hadn't thought of that. I guess I'd been assuming that, if they got a starting corner for Kolb, they'd be out on Nnamdi. But you make some sense. The vibe coming out of Philly is that the defense will be more front-four focused in 2011, and that that's one of the reasons they're going young at safety. But we really don't know what Andy Reid has planned, and he has surprised us in the past.

    And finally, Travis from Scottsdale is hoping the new cap-exception rules might help keep Marion Barber in Dallas. Travis thinks Barber was slowed more than most people realize by his quad injury and needs a healthy year to remind people how good he is. And he says if they do cut Barber, they'd better make sure the backs who remain can pass protect because -- and I'm quoting Travis here -- "No back in the NFL lays the smack down on a blitzing LB like Marion Barber! Period."

    DG: Travis, I agree that Barber was a beast when he was healthy and that it'd be foolish to assume he has nothing left to contribute. But I do believe the Cowboys are ready to move on and go with a rotation of Felix Jones, Tashard Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray. Just because the new rules will help teams keep veterans more easily than they could in the past doesn't mean they have to keep guys they don't want anymore. I'm interested, as I'm sure you are, to see what kind of role Barber fills on his next team, whoever that is.

    Stay thirsty, my friends.

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