Free agency in the East: Defensive tackles

Our position-by-position series on potential four-year unrestricted free agency in the NFC East took the weekend off, but it's back, baby, and better than ever with a look at the defensive tackle position.

NFC East teams in need

Redskins: Not sure if you heard or not, but Albert Haynesworth balked last year at the idea of playing nose tackle in Jim Haslett's new 3-4 defense. And since they weren't able to find a non-Haynesworth answer in 2010, the Skins remain on the lookout for someone who can fill that crucial role on their defensive line. Haslett's scheme puts a premium on versatility, which means he likes to be able to shift the defensive linemen around depending on the play and the responsibilities it requires. But that said, a big, dominant nose tackle would be a nice anchor for the pieces that are still being put in place.

Giants: Linebacker remains a bigger need, but if the Giants don't bring back free agent Barry Cofield, they may need to add someone at this spot. Linval Joseph (2010 draft pick) and Marvin Austin (2011 draft pick) represent (the Giants hope) their future at the defensive tackle spot. But unless you're Ndamukong Suh, it takes a little while to develop into a top-flight NFL talent on the interior of the defensive line. If Cofield leaves, the Giants cold use some veteran help there.

Eagles: Antonio Dixon is an emerging star, and the team believes new defensive line coach Jim Washburn will coach improvement out of Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson and Trevor Laws. I don't get the sense that Philadelphia considers this a position of need, though there has been some noise about Washburn wanting to reunite with Haynesworth, who was a star for him when both were in Tennessee.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent defensive tackles.

1. Aubrayo Franklin. The top available 3-4 nose tackle in this class, Franklin would be a perfect fit for Washington and is almost certainly at the very top of its wish list. The 49ers will attempt to keep him, but the Redskins have money to spend.

2. Cofield. It's unclear what the Giants intend to do about Cofield, who believes the drafting of Austin is a sign that they plan to move on. It could be, or it could have been just a way to give them coverage in case he leaves and some leverage in their contract negotiations. With Mathias Kiwanuka and offensive keys such as Ahmad Bradshaw, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss needing new deals, the Giants will have to make some tough choices, and parting ways with Cofield could be one of them.

3. Brandon Mebane. A 4-3 run-stopper who showed enough as a pass-rusher to play on three downs in Seattle last year, Mebane will have to prove his legs are fully healthy. But assuming he does, he'll be right there with Cofield as 4-3 teams look to beef up inside.

4. Anthony Adams. He might not be on the open market for very long. The Bears' decision to cut teammate Tommie Harris in March was likely tied to their efforts to re-sign their best run-stuffing defensive lineman.

5. Pat Williams. He's 38 years old and this time last year was talking retirement. But there's no doubt that the longtime Vikings star could help a contending team that could put him into a rotation that would ease the burden on his body. You also have to think he could help as a mentor for young defensive linemen. At the right cost, he might fit what the Eagles or Giants are looking for, if those teams do end up looking for defensive tackle help.

Predictions that mean nothing: Redskins sign Franklin, Giants bring back Cofield, Eagles add a cheaper veteran such as Williams (if he's cheap) or Remi Ayodele.