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Monday, 11 March 2013

Filling The Holes: NFC East

Onwards to the NFC East, which plays home to some of the better-supported franchises in the UK.

All 4 of the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles have problems to overcome between now and the start of the season, most common of which is a crippling lack of cap space.

New York Giants

Notable Free Agents: Ahmad Bradshaw (RB), Martellus Bennett (TE), Kevin Boothe (LG), Osi Umenyiora (DE), Chris Canty (DT), Chase Blackburn (LB), Kenny Phillips (S)

Holes: Tight End, Wide Receiver, Defensive Tackle

The Giants have a lot of impending free agents and not enough cap space to bring them all back. They are working on a deal with Kenny Phillips which is good for their secondary, but beyond that it's not too clear who will be back and who won't be.

Osi Umenyiora's playing time has decreased dramatically in the past two seasons and Bradshaw was released, but otherwise it's some serious playing time that's going out the door. You never like to see offensive lines as successful as the Giants was last year get broken up, and I'm sure Eli Manning and the running backs would quite agree.

Even with Martellus Bennett performing admirably last season it was clear that the Giants had a glaring hole at tight end as well as at receiver where they lacked reliability behind Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. They do have last year's 2nd round pick Rueben Randle waiting to come in, but he only saw 32 targets all year despite being healthy, which makes you think the Giants considered him not to be ready. They will be hoping that he can take a step up to be a productive WR3 next year.

Elsewhere the Giants will also be looking to improve an iffy run defense and maybe even go back to the pass rushing well after Justin Tuck's down year and Jason Pierre-Paul's inconsistencies.

Washington Redskins

Notable Free Agents: Fred Davis (TE), Tyler Polumbus (RT), Madieu Williams (S)

Holes: Wide Receiver, Defensive Back

The Redskins priority is DB's and more DB's. Williams is joined in free agency by Cedric Williams and the cut DeAngelo Hall, leaving the Redskins already thin secondary extremely bare indeed. With very little cap room and no 1st round pick it's going to be extremely difficult to restock the cupboards at Fedex Field. They will be looking second-round prospects such as UConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson at corner or Fresno State's Philip Thomas at safety and hope they can survive if thrown straight in at the NFL deep end.

Thankfully for the Redskins though, they don't have too many glaring holes. More depth across the board would be great, but the starters are fairly strong. It will take some AP-esque heroics from Robert Griffin III to take the Redskins back the post-season in 2013, but they should be competitive.

Dallas Cowboys

Notable Free Agents: Felix Jones (RB), Kevin Ogletree (WR), Kenyon Coleman (DE)

Franchise Tag: Anthony Spencer (OLB)

Holes: Offensive Line, Wide Receiver, Defensive Line, Safety

The Cowboys are another cap-strapped team, but unlike the Redskins they really do have a lot of holes. Their interior offensive line has been horrible for a long time now, and Doug Free isn't playing anything near to the value of his $11.175million cap hit. Any influx of talent along the O-Line would be very welcome to an embattled Tony Romo. Anyone from DJ Fluker (OT, Alabama) and Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina) to Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas) are a possibility in the one asset the Cowboys do have, the 18th overall pick.

They also need help at receiver as Miles Austin has been significantly hampered for two seasons now by hamstring issues and Dez Bryant is still prone to having some truly horrific games. But where the Cowboys find the necessary quality is a very difficult question to answer.

Philadelphia Eagles

Notable Free Agents: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB), Akeem Jordan (LB)

Holes: Offensive Line (?), Defensive Line, Defensive Back

After a horrible end to the Andy Reid era, Philly are looking to get back on their feet. However those feet seemingly still belong to Michael Vick after the veteran restructured his contract to stay with the Eagles. Philly are also looking to get Nnamdi Asomugha to restructure his contract and hope to lessen the cap hit from a player who hasn't played nearly as well as everyone thought he would since leaving Oakland. If they can avoid cutting Asomugha then they'll be free to pick the player at the top of their board when they get on the clock early on draft day.

There are several ways the Eagles could go with their 4th overall pick. The most likely is that they bring in Alabama's Dee Milliner to boost their woeful pass defense. While the Eagles offensive line was a shambles for most of the season, it was almost all down to injury. The big question is if Jason Peters can recover from his torn achilles and be the force he used to be at left tackle. If the Eagles believe he can then Milliner is the man, but if not they might go for Eric Fisher from Central Michigan. A fleet-footed giant at 6 foot 7, Fisher has the tools to be a very productive left tackle, something that was missing without Peters in 2012.

- Toby Durant (@TDonSport)
- The Pulling Linemen

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