I am back, and as Mike and Mike like to say, better than ever. Yeah, of course I missed you guys. Won't ask if you missed me. Plenty of time over the coming weeks and months to invite that kind of abuse.
It was a lovely week off, spent relaxing and watching college basketball conference tournament games. I did keep half an eye on what was going on in the NFL, but the fact is, if you'd been reading this blog regularly, you knew way ahead of time that the Eagles were going to franchise DeSean Jackson and the Redskins were going to franchise Fred Davis. Will the Cowboys do the same with Anthony Spencer? We find out today.
We are eight days from free agency and 52 days from the NFL Draft, and the best way to embark upon an offseason odyssey like this is to fill up first with some links.
New York Giants
If Mario Manningham signs elsewhere as a free agent, the Giants are likely going to need someone from their current group of wide receivers to step forward and replace him. They don't necessarily need a repeat of what Victor Cruz did to replace Steve Smith last year, but they need someone productive. Domenik Hixon, re-signed in spite of having played just two games the past two years due to two tears of the same ACL, would like to be that guy.
Former Giant Mark Bavaro talked to the New York Post about his experience -- or what he believed was his experience -- with "bounty-hunting" defensive players during his time in the NFL. Not a new problem, but the Saints' story isn't going away anytime soon, either.
Jeff McLane is wondering what the Eagles will do at safety, where they've spent high draft picks but have received little production over the past couple of years. McLane seems to think it's likely that they'll stick with Nate Allen and his fellow youngsters, maybe adding a "second or third-tier" veteran in free agency. But he lists some of the higher-end targets anyway in case they decide to go big-game hunting. The first guy on his list, Tennessee's Michael Griffin, is probably getting franchised, according to Adam Schefter.
I did hear that there was a fair amount of chatter in Philadelphia last week about the possibility of the Eagles trading up with the Rams and drafting Robert Griffin III at No. 2 overall in the draft. Bleeding Green Nation doesn't think this will happen, and neither do I. I totally understand that Andy Reid loves to be deep at quarterback, and I'm not about to rule out the possibility. But given the competition the Eagles will have from teams who need Griffin to start for them next year -- as opposed to sit behind Michael Vick -- I don't see how it becomes worth it for the Eagles to spend their resources that way.
Calvin Watkins reports that the Cowboys will franchise Spencer, which would guarantee him $8.8 million this year. I know Watkins has believed all along the team would get a deal done with Spencer, and of course they still might. That's what the original intent of the franchise designation was, after all -- to hold a guy in place while you worked on a long-term deal with him. But if the Cowboys don't get a deal done with Spencer, this still isn't a terrible idea. Other than Mario Williams, who's likely to break the bank, there just aren't very many pass-rushers on the market who would qualify as an upgrade over Spencer, disappointing though he may be. And yeah, they can draft a pass-rusher, but even if they did, that would create depth and give them options a year from now when Spencer was up again. So, sensible move, even if it doesn't smell quite right to Cowboys fans.
Oh, and since we did this with the Eagles, let's briefly revisit last week's flare-up over Jerry Jones saying he wouldn't trade Tony Romo to move up to draft Griffin or Andrew Luck. It's draft season, so things get crazy, but it's important to remember that Luck and Griffin are basically children who, while they seem likely to succeed in the NFL, aren't guaranteed to be anything at all. If either of them is ever half as good an NFL quarterback as Romo already is, they'll be overjoyed, and so will the teams that draft them. Jones is the voice of reason here, folks. Ain't that something?
Are the Redskins the favorites to land that coveted No. 2 pick in a trade with the Rams? Could such a deal be agreed upon this week? Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks so on both counts, reporting that the Browns don't want to give up both of this year's first-rounders just to move up two spots and get Griffin. Thomas also writes that the Redskins, while willing to deal this year's first-rounder and next year's, are balking at the idea of adding this year's second-rounder to the deal, and that that's a hangup for the Rams. I think the Redskins should move up to get Griffin if it's at all reasonable. If all else is equal, he's their best option. Peyton Manning is a good option if healthy and if they can't get Griffin, but Griffin is the ultimate offseason prize for Washington this year. I think that, if they can do it for two first-rounders, they should. I also think they're wise to not jump to meet St. Louis' asking price just yet, since other suitors may drop out and reduce that price. But as for this week ... yeah, it makes sense that something could get decided this week (even if it couldn't be announced until March 13), because if the Redskins can't get that No. 2 pick, they're going to need to figure out how to get a quarterback in free agency which, as I've already mentioned, starts in eight days.
The Washington Post spoke with former Redskins players and coaches about the way the "bounty" system was administered during Gregg Williams' time there. The league is looking into Williams' time with the Redskins, but it sounds as though the Saints are the team in real trouble here.