When the lockout is over, it could be a mad dash for talent all over the NFL. With that in mind, we examine the most important things each team must accomplish with a division-by-division breakdown. This is a look at the NFC East.
Re-sign Doug Free: The team probably should have put at least a transition tag on Free to guarantee it had a right of first refusal if another team went after him in free agency. I believe other teams will make a move for Free. He had an excellent 2010 season and is flexible enough to play right or left tackle. Losing him would put a lot on first-round pick Tyron Smith, and more importantly, Tony Romo. Maybe the Cowboys were close to a deal with Free before the lockout and feel confident he will return.
Sign a safety:Alan Ball is not the answer at free safety, and the unsigned Gerald Sensabaugh is just average at strong safety. A true free safety would be an excellent idea. A guy like the San Diego Chargers' Eric Weddle would look good in a Dallas uniform. In fact, I could make a case to sign two safeties. The Buffalo Bills' Donte Whitner led the NFL in tackles among safeties last year, and teaming him up with Weddle would be a strong move. Safety has been a problem in "Big D" for a long time and it has to be resolved. The Oakland Raiders' Michael Huff played for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan earlier in his career as did the New York Jets' Brodney Pool. There are choices at safety for the Cowboys.
Go after two top players: The Cowboys could release players such as offensive tackle Marc Colombo, running back Marion Barber and corner Terence Newman to create some cap space if need be, but they should get in the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes. If they don't want to bring back defensive ends Marcus Spears or Jason Hatcher, then they also need to make a run at the Washington Redskins' Cullen Jenkins.
New York Giants
Re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw: The Giants have a nice two-headed monster in the backfield. However, Bradshaw is more valuable than Brandon Jacobs. It is going to cost the Giants more to re-sign Bradshaw now than it would have before the lockout, but it is worth it. If they lose out on getting Bradshaw to return, then they will have to turn to guys such as DeAngelo Williams or Jason Snelling. Still, keeping Bradshaw is the best option.
Sign at least one linebacker: The position group needs an injection of talent. I would take a close look at middle linebackers like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Barrett Ruud, the Buffalo Bills' Paul Posluszny or the Tennessee Titans' Stephen Tulloch. The middle linebackers are the quarterback of the defense and can make all the adjustments. If the Giants feel they can handle the middle with what they have, then an outside linebacker like the Washington Redskins' Rocky McIntosh might fit well in their 4-3 scheme.
Retain Kevin Boss: Travis Beckum is penciled in as the starting tight end and he is more of a complimentary H-back than a replacement for Boss. Last year, Boss averaged 15.2 yards per catch and has 10 touchdown receptions over the last two years. Unless they could sign the Oakland Raiders' Zach Miller in free agency, Boss needs to be brought back.
Sign or trade for a corner: Trading quarterback Kevin Kolb does not help the 2011 Eagles unless they get a quality corner in return, and I doubt they can pull that off. They could get offered a corner in a potential deal, but he might not be as good a player as they can get on the open market. Asomugha or the Cincinnati Bengals' Johnathan Joseph can be had for big money, and then Kolb could be moved for future considerations. If Kolb is dealt, the Eagles should consider signing Vince Young as the backup.
Find a safety: Right now rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett is penciled in at strong safety, and he will not be ready to take on the likes of Tony Romo or Eli Manning to say nothing about tight ends such as Jason Witten or Chris Cooley. Philadelphia should take a close look at guys like Baltimore Ravens safety Dawan Landry and the Indianapolis Colts' Melvin Bullitt.
Re-sign Stewart Bradley: Bradley has had some injury issues, but he is a key figure in the middle of the defense. Jamar Chaney is a hard-nosed player, but shouldn't be the opening-day starter. Posluszny, who played collegiately at Penn State, would also be an option.
Solve the QB dilemma: The Redskins have the division's least favorable quarterback situation and that spells trouble if they ever want to get to the playoffs. Donovan McNabb will not be traded with the contract he has, so he will probably be released. Rex Grossman is a free agent and a risk as a starter. John Beck is even more of a risk. Kyle Orton would upgrade and general manager Bruce Allen is the sort of dealmaker who could get it done.
Get offensive line help: The Redskins could re-sign Jammal Brown at the right tackle spot and continue to play Artis Hicks at right guard. However, the team would be better off going after the right side of the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line in tackle Tyson Clabo and guard Harvey Dahl. Those guys bring attitude and a toughness that the Redskins could use to establish a better running game.
Make a decision at cornerback:Carlos Rogers might not be the marquee name at cornerback in free agency, but the Redskins can't afford to lose him and not replace talent for talent. While DeAngelo Hall went to the Pro Bowl, Rogers was just as valuable to the team. Speaking of value to the team, it's time to get rid of Albert Haynesworth.