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Keeping an Eye on the Other Beasts in the NFC East

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Whichever team wins the NFC East can count on its rivals to begin loading up to try to catch up the day the offseason begins. While personnel changes are a given, managerial and coaching changes have run rampant in the division these past two months. The Cowboys, however, have sat tight compared to the other Beasts.

The Giants hope that a fiery Perry Fewell will restore their defense to the fierce unit that Bill Sheridan couldn't seem to get going after taking over for Steve Spagnuolo. They've also shuffled around some offensive coaches as well.

The Eagles hope a change at the GM position will garner them some trustworthy free agent pickups and a successful draft.

The Redskins have gone through the most change, inserting a new GM before the '09 season was even over. Their coaching staff has been rebuilt with Executive VP and Head Coach Mike Shanahan leading the way.

Meanwhile, on the home front, the Cowboys are content with their front office. The biggest issue on their minds may be how much money they want to throw at Miles Austin. Also sounding content is Austin, who feels as if he and the Cowboys' brass will get a deal worked out.

"No, not worried at all," Austin said after watching the Sprite Slam Dunk contest at the American Airlines Center. "I have all the confidence in the world in the organization and I'm sure everything will be worked out right."

Thursday was the first day the NFL could place franchise tags on players before the Feb. 25 deadline. The Cowboys haven't placed a franchise tag on Austin, which could net him $9.5 million.

Len Pasquarelli has Austin on his "all-RFA" team.

More Beasts in the East after the jump.

 

Washington Redskins (4-12)

3-5 Home, 1-7 Road

0-6 in the NFC East

Washington's coaching staff features the father-son duo of Mike (HC) and Kyle (OC) Shanahan (HC). Jim Haslett will coordinate the defense.

"I have a great deal of respect for what Jim has done in this league," Redskins Executive Vice President/Head Coach Mike Shanahan said.

"He is one of the game’s sharpest defensive minds and has a great passion for the sport. He will be instrumental to our success in Washington."

Executive VP/GM, Bruce Allen, likes what he sees from his new coaches.

Allen said the coaching staff, led by head coach Mike Shanahan, would "blend a lot of new ideas" in terms of player evaluation and developing new schemes on offense and defense. Many of the new coaches have not worked together before--including Shanahan and his son Kyle, who was hired as offensive coordinator after directing the Houston Texans’ offense the last two years.

"[The coaches] have not really worked together as a group," Allen said. "Watching them together and start to install the playbook is really an exciting time for our organization."

Scout.com's list of the Redskins' 2010 Free Agents:

  • LS Ethan Albright UFA 15 6-5/265
  • QB Jason Campbell RFA 5 6-5/228
  • DE Phillip Daniels UFA 14 6-5/285
  • S Reed Doughty RFA 4 6-1/205
  • DT Kedric Golston RFA 4 6-4/292
  • OT Stephon Heyer RFA 3 6-6/320
  • OT Levi Jones UFA 8 6-5/307
  • OLB Rocky McIntosh RFA 4 6-2/230
  • DT Anthony Montgomery RFA 4 6-5/301
  • P Hunter Smith UFA 10 6-2/209
  • DE 23 Renaldo Wynn UFA 13 6-3/275
  • TE 11 Todd Yoder UFA 10 6-4/253

Redskins.com breaks down the team's free agents here.

Like many other NFL pundits, Don Banks sees the Redskins selecting a quarterback with their first round pick.

It's way too early to know, but I happen to think the Redskins new head coach will spend the team's No. 4 pick in the first round on Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, even with Washington's crumbling offensive line needing to be rebuilt.

But choosing to groom Bradford for the future may not preclude the return of Campbell, a restricted free agent, in the short term. Remember, the last time Shanahan took a first-round quarterback -- Jay Cutler in Denver in 2006 -- he kept veteran Jake Plummer around for one more year during the transition from old to new. Shanahan seems to think Campbell did OK with what he had to work with last season, and re-signing him to a short-term deal gives the Redskins options and buys time for Bradford.

The big question will be: Is Campbell OK with that plan?

The Redskins signed kicker Justin Medlock from the CFL.

Medlock, 26, spent the 2009 season with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts. He connected on 40-of-46 field goal attempts (87.0 percent), with a long of 52 yards, and made all 22 of his extra point attempts last season.

Free agent LB Karlos Dansby (ARI) named the 'Skins and Giants as two teams he would be interested in playing for.

Dansby, a two-time franchise player in Arizona, expects to hit the market in March. He listed the Giants, Chargers, Dolphins and Redskins among teams he'd like to join, according to Sirius Radio's Adam Schein.

 

 

New York Giants (8-8)

4-4 Home, 4-4 Road

4-2 in the NFC East

Now that Chris Palmer is retired, Tom Couglin named Mike Sullivan the team's new quarterback coach. As a WR coach with the Giants for the past six years, Sullivan is already familiar with QB Eli Manning.

"I'm excited about getting to work with Coach Sullivan," Manning said. "He's been in the system with the Giants and been working with the receivers for the past six years, so I've been working closely with him, trying to get on the same page with the receivers. We have a good relationship and we communicate well, so I'm excited about having him in the quarterback room. I think we're going to have a great relationship on and off the field. He's helped me become a better quarterback and I'm looking forward to that opportunity.

"I talked to Coach Coughlin about this. I feel very comfortable with Coach Sullivan. I knew he was in the mix. I feel very good about him moving to the quarterback position. He's a guy who knows what we do and we can grow as an offense. I think he'll be good in the meeting room, giving me different ideas and things we can work on and I look forward to that."

With the release of Antonio Pierce, the Giants are likely look to fill that MLB void via free agency or the draft.

The impending no-salary cap season could limit the availability of five prize middle linebacker prospects. Houston’s DeMeco Ryans, Tampa Bay’s Barrett Ruud, Cleveland’s D’Qwell Jackson, Oakland’s Kirk Morrison and Tennessee’s Stephen Tulloch all would become restricted free agents, rather than unrestricted, if no deal is reached by March 5. There is no doubt their current clubs will tender them, which means they would have first refusal on any contract offer, and receive draft-pick compensation if they do not match an offer.

[snip]

Alabama’s Rolando McClain is by far the top inside/middle linebacker prospect in the upcoming draft, but the Giants may have to trade up from No. 15 to get a shot at him. Other touted prospects — although probably not first-rounders — include Florida’s Brandon Spikes, TCU’s Daryl Washington, Iowa’s Pat Angerer, Mississippi State’s Jamar Chaney and Kentucky’s Micah Johnson, who is coming off knee surgery.

Draft Countdown has the Giants selecting ILB Rolando McClain from Alabama with the 15th pick of the first round.

A terrific all-around prospect, McClain can stop the run, drop into coverage or rush the passer and that versatility is sure to make him a valuable commodity on Draft Day. In fact, it would not be a surprise if he was the first linebacker selected and off the board by this point.

Another area the Giants could look to address is safety, where Kenny Phillips is coming off of a serious injury and there really isn’t much else to get overly excited about. Don’t rule out a defensive lineman either.

The Giants claimed OT Herb Taylor off waivers from the Broncos.

Taylor, 6-3, 295 pounds, was originally a sixth-round draft choice by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007. In two seasons with the Chiefs, Taylor played in 18 games with one start (at left tackle on Oct. 5, 2008 at Carolina). Although he has primarily played left tackle in this career, has also filled in at the guard and tackle spots on the right side.

Scout.com's list of the Giants' 2010 NFL Free Agents:

 

Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)

6-2 Home, 5-3 Road

4-2 in the NFC East

Eagles' president, Joe Banner, sounds a bit green about how well the Cowboys' front office has handled its roster. Perhaps that is the reason he let GM Tom Heckert Jr. walk and replaced him with Howie Roseman.

Picking apart the differences between the Eagles and the Cowboys, for instance, Banner noted that Dallas might have done a better job putting together its roster, which gets back to the whole player-personnel business. If the president wasn't satisfied with how that side of the operation worked, from draft day to free agent scouting to formulating trades, then it's no surprise the Eagles have a new general manager.

"They have a quarterback [Tony Romo] who was an undrafted free agent, an all-pro defensive tackle [Jay Ratliff] who was a seventh-round pick, a wide receiver [Miles Austin] who didn't have a lot of [attention]," Banner said. "All the good teams have that. You have to have a player-personnel department that understands it's not only about hitting the first-round pick . . . but looks at all potential resources to find players, whether that's the draft, whether that's free agency, whether the CFL. Beating the bushes and finding ways to upgrade every position on the roster."

He didn't mention, but could have, that one of the fellows sacking McNabb in the wild-card loss was linebacker Anthony Spencer, whom Dallas obtained when the Eagles swapped 2007 draft picks, moving up to get Spencer while the Eagles moved to the second round and took Kevin Kolb. (The Heckert defenders would point out that the third-round pick obtained in the deal was used to draft Stewart Bradley. So, there.)

Will Brian Westbrook remain an Eagle? Not even he knows that.

"I’m not sure. That’s one of those things that really is up to them," Westbrook told Rather.

"I’m under contract another year, and I would love to be in Philadelphia. There’s no other team that I would love to play for more than the Philadelphia Eagles. But it’s a situation where in the NFL, younger, cheaper is better for teams. It’s one of those things. It’s part of the business. I experienced it when I was younger, and I experience a different aspect now. You have to try and find out, for the team, what’s better for them."

What of Mike Vick?

Like Favre, Vick could dominate headlines this offseason, just like he did last offseason, but for much more positive and football-related reasons. The Eagles' backup quarterback is primo trade-bait for a team (the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers) in need of a starting quarterback.

There's even a chance that Vick could be released because of a $1.5 million roster bonus due in early March. There is a lot of talk coming out of Philly that the Eagles might hang onto Vick, but all it takes is one team to make a good offer.

We still don't know if Vick will turn into what he was -- a three-time Pro Bowler, who provided a sense of electricity into every game -- but he might be worth the risk to a whole lot of teams in need of an upgrade.

Garry Cobb reports that the Eagles have made a contract offer to Kevin Kolb.

The move could reveal that they want Kolb here as their starter. The fact that they were willing to make the move toward Kolb while knowing that the revelation of the offer could lower McNabb and Vick's value around the league, says something.

The negotiations aren’t normally executed by Andy Reid’s side of the front office and that could reveal something. Negotiations are done by team president Joe Banner and his assistants. The Eagles may be divided about who they want to be their quarterback. On the other hand the initiation of the move to sign Kolb may be a move made by a united front office.

I don't know whether Reid is on board with or aware of the move or not.

Philadelphia ranks as one of the most successful teams of the decade.

Vince Verhei of Football Outsiders recently took a look at the success of every NFL franchise from 2000-2009. The Eagles finished the decade tied for third with the Pittsburgh Steelers with an average of 10.4 wins per season. The Indianapolis Colts had the highest mark of average wins with 11.5.

John Clayton thinks the Eagles and Julius Peppers could be a match.

Peppers could be an intriguing fit for the Eagles, who have been one of the most active teams in free agency over the past couple of years. Imagine a defensive line with Peppers and Trent Cole. The action on Peppers, Vanden Bosch, Karlos Dansby and a few others will be fast once free agency starts on March 5.

Scout.com's list of Philly's 2010 NFL Free Agents:

Bucky Brooks has the Eagles selecting S Taylor Mays with the 24th pick of the first round.

Andy Reid underestimated the impact of losing Brian Dawkins in the back end, so he nabs Mays to become the new anchor of the secondary.

In what is generally considered one of the toughest divisions from year-to-year, winning the NFC East was a step in the right direction for the Cowboys. With offensive and defensive schemes remaining relatively the same, the staff can focus its full attention on personnel issues. Right now, Dallas looks to be a step ahead of the other Beasts.

Heck, they could even be the team to beat in the conference. Herm Edwards thinks so. He likes the Cowboys and the Jets in the 2010 Super Bowl.

"I still believe you have to play good defense, and they do that," Edwards said. "They do not allow a lot of points, you're talking about 15 points a game, and with that, they can get after the quarterback--42 sacks. They've got a young quarterback still in Romo, they've got a strong running game--they have to do something with their offensive line--but I like the Cowboys right now."

"You play to win the game!"