NFC East: Who Will They Sign?

What are the top position needs of the NFC East teams ... and why? And who are they likely to turn to in the draft if they can't fill those positions through free agency? Find out inside...

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DALLAS COWBOYS
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TEAM NEEDS

1. Wide receiver: In Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, the Cowboys believe they have one of the top receiving tandems in the league. Both topped 1,000 yards last season. But they will be 34 and 33 next season, respectively, meaning the Cowboys need to start developing a lead receiver for the future. This will be a point of emphasis in the draft.

2. Free safety: Patrick Watkins was a typical rookie starter last year at free safety. He had his moments but he also was victimized for big plays. The Cowboys like his potential and think he has the chance to develop into a solid player. However, it's important that the Cowboys improve the position immediately because of the desire to take strong safety Roy Williams out of coverage and use him close to the line of scrimmage. 

3. Defensive tackle: The Cowboys like nose tackle Jason Ferguson but they have no depth behind him. They need help here.

DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY

The Cowboys have not selected an offensive player in the first round since tight end David LaFleur in 1997. This is not lost on owner Jerry Jones, who said he would be inclined to go offense first in 2007 if all things are equal. Add that to the fact that the Cowboys also recognize a need to develop a lead receiver for the future because of the advanced age of starters Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens. If the Cowboys go offense it will be receiver. A name to keep in mind is Dwayne Bowe of Louisiana State. If the Cowboys don't go receiver, then look for them to get safety Reggie Nelson of Florida. The Cowboys would love to find a true free safety to play opposite strong safety Roy Williams. It would allow them to use Williams close to the line of the scrimmage, giving him a chance to do what he does best while reducing his liability in coverage. If the Cowboys don't pick up Nelson in the first round, they could grab Texas' Michael Griffin is he's still on the board in the second round.

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NEW YORK GIANTS
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TEAM NEEDS

LB LaVar Arrington(Getty Images/Jamie Squire)
1. Outside linebacker: The loss of Arrington and Emmons, the uncertain status of Brandon Short (testing the UFA market), the continued disappointment of Reggie Torbor and the unknown quality of last year's rookie, Gerris Wilkinson, demands another athletic outside linebacker. 

2. Defensive tackle: The Giants got lucky with Barry Cofield, the first of two fourth round picks last year. He started all 17 games and played well. The veteran Fred Robbins had a career year, which should not be expected again, and the backup provided by former first round pick William Joseph is non-existent. 

3. Cornerback: In 2005 the Giants spent their No. 2 pick on LSU's Corey Webster. So far, the investment hasn't produced much profit. Injuries have hampered his progress and the other cornerbacks, including a few UFA guys last year (Sam Madison, R.W. McQuarters), have not played much better. It's time to re-load at a position relatively deep in this draft. 

DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY

Based on how the balance of the free agency period goes, the Giants could go a number of directions with their top picks. New York signed former Browns RB Reuben Droughns to pair up with 6-foot-4, 265-pound Brandon Jacobs. But they could look for a promising rookie deeper in the draft to plug in behind him. Most observers feel they are focusing on either a defensive tackle or an outside linebacker in the first round.

If they use their top pick on a defensive tackle, Amobi Okoye of Louisville or DeMarcus "Tank" Tyler of North Carolina State would be worth a look if they are on the board. But with their need for help at cornerback, Aaron Ross of Texas could be a first-round pick or Chris Houston of Arkansas would be worth looking at in the second round.

The linebackers were banged up last year; now, with the departure of Emmons and Arrington, there is paucity. Wilkinson might be an answer but he has had no chance to prove himself. Cornerback is another need, but with numbers and experience in the backfield it is not likely the Giants will spend their top pick there.
A suspicion exists that last year's top pick, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, might be shifted to strong-side linebacker. That would create a need for another end but eliminate the need for a first-round linebacker. If the Giants don't make that move, they could add Rufus Alexander of Oklahoma (or Lawrence Timmons of Florida State) with their first pick. But if they pass on LB in the first round, one must be found in the second or third round.

The left tackle is also a crying need, unless the Giants are willing to allow guard David Diehl to make the transition (he probably won't do it well), and the fact remains that if Levi Brown of Penn State or Tony Ugoh of Arkansas are available, that might well be their first-round decision.

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
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TEAM NEEDS

1. Safety: Free safety Brian Dawkins still is playing at a high level, but he's 33 and can't be counted on beyond next season. The Eagles drafted Sean Considine (fourth round, '05) as a possible eventual replacement for Dawkins, but the jury still is out on him. He started 10 games at strong safety last year after Mike Lewis got benched, and often got manhandled.

2. Cornerback: Lito Sheppard is a legit Pro Bowler, but their other starter, Sheldon Brown, is better suited to play nickel. The Eagles re-signed William James with the hope that he might push Brown. But at the very least, they need to add some depth here.

3. Middle linebacker: Jeremiah Trotter turned 30 in January, but nine NFL seasons have taken a significant toll on his knees. He doesn't have much range anymore and is a major liability in coverage. The Eagles feel Omar Gaither, who started five games at WILL last year as a rookie, can move inside as Trotter's eventual replacement. But at just 230 pounds, Gaither doesn't have ideal size to take on guards and centers in the middle.

DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY

Pittsburgh CB Darrelle Revis (Getty Images/Jamie Squire)
The Eagles own the 26th pick in the first round, but have traded up twice in the last four years. So that's always a possibility with them. Most of their biggest needs are on defense and that's expected to be the direction they'll go in the first round. They need to address both cornerback and safety early in the draft, and there will be some first-round-worthy candidates at both positions at 26. 

The top-rated safety, Louisiana State's LaRon Landry, is expected to be a top-10 pick, but the second-rated safety, Florida's Reggie Nelson, could fall into the Eagles' neighborhood. Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis of Pittsburgh and Aaron Ross of Texas both also could be on the board for them.

The Eagles haven't taken a linebacker in the first round since 1979. With the team not counting on middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter beyond next season, they would have to think long and hard if Mississippi's Patrick Willis, the draft's top-rated inside 'backer, is on the board when they pick.

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WASHINGTON REDSKINS
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TEAM NEEDS

1. Defensive end: Andre Carter looked like a free agent bust with just two sacks in the first 11 games, but Carter recorded four sacks the final five weeks to finish with a team-high six. That's one more than fellow ends Phillip Daniels, Demetric Evans and Renaldo Wynn combined to post. Hence the pressing need for a true pass rusher.

2. Guard: The loss of Derrick Dockery to Buffalo leaves Mike Pucillo, Taylor Whitley and Ross Tucker competing at left guard. Their 53 combined starts are 10 fewer than Dockery has. They're all more backup material than regulars. That's why the Redskins would like to trade down and pick up a second- or third-rounder to use on a guard.

3. Cornerback: Despite adding Fred Smoot, Ade Jimoh is still one injury away from being the nickel corner. That's not a positive. Tackle, tight end, outside linebacker, defensive tackle and safety are also possible second-day needs to address for a team with no choice after sixth overall until the fifth round.

DRAFT SCOUT SKINNY

Coach Joe Gibbs has spent almost his entire career on offense, but the Redskins have taken a defensive player with their top choice in each of the three drafts -- free safety Sean Taylor (fifth overall, 2004; cornerback Carlos Rogers, ninth, 2005; outside linebacker Rocky McIntosh, 35th, 2006) -- since his return to Washington.

This year should be no different. Other than left guard where they need to replace departed free agent Derrick Dockery, the Redskins are pretty set on offense. But their defense, which added two regulars -- middle linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Fred Smoot -- in the first week of free agency in hopes of rebounding from an ugly 2006 season is still in serious need of a pass rusher.

Washington will consider Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch, but the choice figures to come down to ends Gaines Adams of Clemson and Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas. Adams might be faster, but Anderson's combination of size and speed will carry the day.


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