Here are some brief notes as Charlie Bernstein takes you around the NFC in 1,000 words.
New York Giants- Injuries are the biggest issue for the Super Bowl champs as they lost tight ends Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe in the Super Bowl as both tore their ACL’s. They must replenish at that position and also at wide receiver as Mario Manningham will likely be lost in free agency. Third-round pick (2011) Jerell Jurnigan will likely step into Manningham’s role.
Dallas Cowboys- Leadership is the buzz word around Dallas after defensive end Jason Hatcher said in a radio interview that the Cowboys needed more leaders.
“I don’t want to comment too much on what Hatch said, but we certainly have very good leadership on our team,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Thursday.
“We have a lot of them now and we want more, just like every team in the league does.”
Philadelphia Eagles- As frustrated as the Eagles have been with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, they will not let him go for free. Jackson is expected to receive the franchise tag but the Eagles are willing to trade the big play threat. A league source says that Jackson’s trade compensation could be a second-round pick.
Washington Redskins- Mike Shanahan won’t be able to survive another poor season if he doesn’t have a plan in place at the quarterback position. The names we’re hearing are Matt Flynn, Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin or Ryan Tannehill. Washington will likely end up with one of those quarterbacks.
Green Bay Packers- The question in cheese country is “will they or won’t they?” The Packers have a decision to make on Matt Flynn as they could franchise the backup quarterback and then trade him next month. The risk in it is the Packers likely won’t receive a high draft choice as they have little leverage as teams know they can’t keep a $14 million backup.
Detroit Lions- The Lions first priority in free agency will be to figure out what to do with defensive end Cliff Avril. If they franchise Avril, they will have a significant percentage of their salary cap wrapped up in four players- Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril. This could keep them from being to upgrade key positions on the offensive line and in the secondary.
Chicago Bears- The Bears have to figure out a deal that makes sense for running back Matt Forte who was having a career year prior to a knee injury. Forte is expected to make a full recovery, but it is rumored that he and the team have significantly differing opinions on his free market value.
Minnesota Vikings- The Vikings need to make some important free agency decisions as they have 16 players that are no longer under contract. The Henderson family of linebackers, E.J. and Erin will be free and Minnesota is currently just $2.5 million under the cap. There are opportunities to restructure for additional room as guard Steve Hutchinson and cornerback Cedric Griffin have non-cap friendly deals.
New Orleans Saints- If you’re not getting better than you’re getting worse, and at this point it’s difficult to imagine the Saints will be better without free agents Carl Nicks, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and oh yeah, Drew Brees. They will make signing Brees a priority but they’re already tight against the cap and will likely lose the other three.
Atlanta Falcons- Atlanta seemingly has all the pieces in place for a run, but they need to get over the hump and win a playoff game (or more). Michael Turner seemingly ran out of gas at the end of the season and according to head coach Mike Smith, Turner will be on a “pitch count” in the hopes that he’s more fresh at season’s end.
Carolina Panthers- The Panthers are excited at the prospect of Cam Newton having a second season in the same system as they were able to retain offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula. Newton hasn’t played in the same system two years in a row since high school. They also understand the need to get better on the defensive line and on defense in general.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs haven’t had much of a chance to breathe as new head coach Greg Schiano is desperately trying to put together a coaching staff. The team needs to spend money on both sides of the football and Tampa has been mentioned as a potential target for Texans defensive end Mario Williams if he doesn’t get franchised.
San Francisco 49ers- San Francisco’s first order of business will be to get a deal done with quarterback Alex Smith. After six poor to mediocre seasons, Smith broke out in 2011 as the team won 14 games. Although 2011 second-round pick Colin Kaepernick is on the roster, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is fully committed to Smith.
Arizona Cardinals- The Cards have to make a decision at quarterback as it appears there will be an open competition between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Skelton has a salary advantage, as they could save significant money by jettisoning Kolb.
Seattle Seahawks- The Seahawks desperately need a pass rush, and Mario Williams could be the man that solves that problem. Head coach Pete Carroll didn’t rule out the possibility of the former first-overall pick (2006). Seattle will also look to upgrade the quarterback position and don’t count out a Carroll reunion with Mark Sanchez assuming the Jets go in a different direction.
St. Louis Rams- The Rams are having an open auction for the second-overall draft pick, and depending on what Cleveland, Miam, Seattlei or Washington do, they could have multiple suitors to drive the price up. If “stuck” at number two, the Rams will likely take USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie