Free Agency  

 

Packers, Cowboys among teams yet to jump into free agency fray

Associated Press
Packers GM Ted Thompson (left) typically eschews free agency, but this is new for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

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That might be what fans of a handful of NFC teams are saying right about now.

A group of notable franchises, including one of the conference's strongest clubs and an upstart playoff participant, has been pretty quiet in the opening stretches of free agency.

So what's with Jerry Jones doing nada thus far? How about two other big-market teams in the NFC East? Or the always-in-contention Green Bay Packers?

Jones made a big move last offseason, signing cornerback Brandon Carr -- after trying like heck to do the same with Nnamdi Asomugha the year before. Yet this year, he and some of his biggest rivals have done diddley poo.

» Let's start with Jones' Dallas Cowboys. While everyone waits for Dallas to enter the fray, the reality is that Jerry and Stephen Jones don't have a heckuva lot of room to maneuver. They recently restructured the contracts of DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Jay Ratliff -- and cut defensive end Marcus Spears on Wednesday -- but those moves merely let the franchise keep its head above water.

The key for Dallas this offseason was to retain Anthony Spencer, an outside linebacker who posted 11 sacks in 2012 and is integral in terms of keeping pressure off Ware, the league's premier edge rusher. So the Jones boys applied the franchise tag to the Purdue product, which is currently set to cost them $10.6 million.

Some league observers didn't like the deal, but it does give the Cowboys a chance to see whether Spencer can fit into new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's 4-3 scheme.

In slightly less sexy news, the club re-upped the epicenter of mediocrity, center Phil Costa. Get excited.

» Speaking of getting fired up -- or not -- Washington Redskins fans have had little to jump up and down about regarding their team's free agency strategy (unless you count Thursday's addition of free-agent tackle Jeremy Trueblood). They probably won't be experiencing much in the way of exuberance going forward, at least not until April's draft. Of course, as is often the case, the tempered engagement is a result of available funds -- or a lack thereof.

When searching for the root cause of Washington's issues, start with the fact that the Redskins were docked $36 million over two years for the way they structured contracts over the uncapped 2010 season. (The Cowboys, it should be noted, were docked $10 million, as well.) It doesn't help matters that Washington was already cap-strapped.

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The team worked to get under the salary cap recently, releasing cornerback DeAngelo Hall to shed $8 million of excess weight. The Redskins also reworked the contracts for Santana Moss, Adam Carriker and Brandon Meriweather. What's left is not a lot of money, putting Washington in a situation akin to hitting Kay Jewelers with five bucks.

The Redskins did re-sign Sav Rocca and Kory Lichtensteiger. (Hey, everybody needs a punter and a guard.)

Don't forget: Owner Daniel Snyder has always been conservative in free agency. Or not.

» Yes, the New York Giants are kind of playing the role of "big spender," but that's been more about keeping their own than anything else. GM Jerry Reese signed tackle Will Beatty to a five-year deal worth up to $38.75 million, and he likely has dollars earmarked for lineman Kevin Boothe and restricted free-agent receiver Victor Cruz. It bears mentioning that Big Blue did also add Aaron Ross, Cullen Jenkins and Josh Brown, making New York a relative hotbed of activity compared to what the Giants' aforementioned divisional brethren are doing.

» Let's not just pick on the NFC East here, though, as one of the conference's most formidable clubs is not making much noise, either. Oh sure, we've heard rumors, but at the end of the day, Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson hasn't moved his chess pieces. And frankly, the prediction here is that he won't.

The Packers typically don't "do" the free agency dance. The organization rolled the dice on veteran center Jeff Saturday last offseason, and the results were less than stellar. Was he likeable? Yes. Benchable? Certainly.

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Thompson has avoided the big-time free agent marketplace like Jonah Hill avoids being actually funny. Ironically, Thompson recently released Charles Woodson, who, to this point, remains the most grandiose free-agent signee in Thompson's eight-year tenure as general manager.

This isn't to say the Packers won't take a chance on former St. Louis Rams workhorse running back Steven Jackson on the cheap. (UPDATE: Jackson's no longer an option for Green Bay; on Thursday, he agreed to join the Atlanta Falcons.) They could also push their chips to the middle of the table in the poker match for receiver Greg Jennings, who was visiting with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday.

We'll see. The teams mentioned above haven't done much thus far, but there's still plenty of action to be had in the NFL's version of March Madness.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

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