With the opening of free agency looming, Sean McCormick of Football Outsiders previewed what each team in the NFC East might do once the new league year starts.
First, let's take a look at what McCormick projects for the other three teams in the division.
The Cowboys' biggest key to success the past couple seasons, according to McCormick, has been their ability to stay healthy. Last season, only two teams in the league were less impacted by injury than Dallas, according to Football Outsiders' Adjusted Games Lost metric. Usually, teams that have abnormally healthy years are expected to regress health-wise the next season, but the Cowboys have consistently been healthy for the last five years. One area of concern though is the aging offensive-line, as players tend to get injured more frequently as they advance in age.
Because of that, McCormick expects the Cowboys to be interested in acquiring one of the marquee left tackle free agents, either Donald Penn or Marcus McNeill, each of whom is a restricted free agent. The price for both of those players may be too high though, especially considering the holdovers that the Cowboys need to retain.
The most important move for the Cowboys in free agency will be to re-sign wide receiver Miles Austin, who provided the Cowboys with the big-play wide receiver they so desperately coveted. Austin is a restricted free agent, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has stated on the record that Austin won't be going anywhere. Two other restricted free agents, safety Gerald Sensabaugh and defensive end Marcus Spears, are also likely to be retained. One starter from last season who could be let free, according to McCormick, is safety Ken Hamlin. Hamlin is reportedly due $6 million next season and the Cowboys have a younger, more inexpensive option in Alan Ball.
New York Giants
The Giants have already released middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, and McCormick expects them to also cut ties with veteran defensive tackle Fred Robbins, who lost his starting job in the middle of last season. McCormick also thinks there's a possibility that Giants general manager Jerry Reese could look to trade defensive end Osi Umenyiora because Umenyiora has expressed unhappiness with his current role and the Giants have depth at the position.
Safety and linebacker are the team's two biggest areas of need this off-season, especially with safety Kenny Phillips recovering from microfracture surgey. Some of the potentially available players that McCormick expects the Giants to be interested include Buffalo Bills safety George Wilson (restricted free agent), Bills linebacker Keith Ellison (restricted free agent) and New York Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, who could be made available in a trade. The two former Bills players make sense because they were both coaches last season by the Giants' new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
There is reason for hope in Washington because in addition to bringing in a new head coach with a Super Bowl winning pedigree, they were also far better last season than their record indicated. Despite having the fourth overall pick, McCormick notes that the Redskins were 21st in the league in Football Outsiders' DVOA statistic, so they should be in for a natural rebound next year. And having that fourth overall pick means the Redskins can add a much need blue-chip player on offense, whether it be a quarterback or an offensive tackle. Not coincidentally, the Redskins have confirmed that Chris Samuels, the left tackle for the last 10 seasons in Washington, will announce his retirement tomorrow after suffering a serious neck injury in 2009.
McCormick expects the Redskins' primary focus in free agency to patch holes along a battered offensive line, noting two possible veteran additions. Tony Pashos, 29, is capable of playing both guard and tackle and is reportedly considered a likely fit in Washington. Likewise, interior lineman Russ Hochstein, 32, is another player who would add consistent production to an offensive line that was quite porous in 2009. McCormick doesn't address the Redskins' rumored interest the prize of the free agent market, defensive end Julius Peppers. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's exploits in free agency are well-known and Peppers may be too good for him to resist.
Check back tomorrow for what McCormick sees in the Eagles' free agency future.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 3:16 p.m., March 3