|Kevin Liles/US Presswire|
|Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill could be an option for the Giants, whose WR corps took a hit during free agency.|
With the initial free-agency frenzy winding down, organizations are turning their attention to the 2012 NFL Draft. What are the biggest remaining holes for each NFC East team? Let's examine ...
Needs: WR, CB, S, TE
Losing two division games at the end of the 2011 season cost the 8-8 Cowboys a playoff berth. The team also lost two free agents on offense: receiver Laurent Robinson (who led the team with 11 receiving TDs) and reserve tight end Martellus Bennett. Quarterback Tony Romo would love the team to find a young receiver to go with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, as well as a promising pass-catching tight end to spell Jason Witten. Romo got help up front in free agency, with guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau now donning the Cowboys' star, and we might see more offensive linemen added through the draft.
Owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones used the franchise tag to keep linebacker Anthony Spencer playing across from DeMarcus Ware, and opened up the pocketbook to bring in former Penn State inside 'backer Dan Connor to play with another Nittany Lion, Sean Lee. Jones also signed former Chiefs starting corner Brandon Carr to replace cap casualty Terence Newman, but the depth behind Carr and Mike Jenkins is not exceptional. Brodney Pool also signed on to potentially start next to Gerald Sensabaugh at safety, though the Cowboys should continue to add talent there if they want to improve on their 23rd-ranked pass defense.
New York Giants
Needs: WR, RT, DT, MLB, TE, CB
It's easy to forget the Giants finished 9-7 last season after the way they sliced through the NFC and Patriots on their way to a Super Bowl victory. In fact, they scored fewer points than their opponents in the regular season (394 to 400) and rushed for only 89.2 yards a game. Even so, the Giants didn't add a lot to the offense via free agency. They signed Bennett away from Dallas to bolster the tight end group until Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum can return from ACL injuries suffered in the Super Bowl. But No. 3 receiver Mario Manningham took his talents to San Francisco, leaving a big hole that must be filled in the draft. Unless 2011 fourth-round pick James Brewer takes over at right tackle for Kareem McKenzie, or the team brings the veteran back, that position needs to be addressed, too.
General manager Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin built a champion through their defensive front seven and undoubtedly will continue to add strength in the interior line with free agents Rocky Bernard and Jimmy Kennedy possibly not returning. It would be a great story if cancer survivor Mark Herzlich could start at middle linebacker, as he did before a broken ankle ended his rookie season prematurely, but he'll probably see some competition. Aaron Ross' signing with Jacksonville makes finding more cornerbacks a priority in the middle rounds of the draft -- even with Terrell Thomas re-upping with a four-year, $28 million contract and 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara ready to make a larger contribution.
Needs: DT, S, OT, RB, TE, QB
Despite the Eagles' disappointing 8-8 season, it's not easy to find a lot of gaping holes in their roster. Trading a fourth-round pick (and a swap of third-round selections) to Houston for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans filled their biggest need on defense. Finding a space-eating defensive tackle would help keep Ryans and the team's other linebackers clean. It is not clear whether Kurt Coleman or 2011 second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett will grab a hold of the starting strong safety position, so don't be surprised if they get some young company.
Turnovers were the Eagles' biggest problem on offense (they tied for 30th in the league in differential), so having a healthy Michael Vick running an efficient show is key for 2012 success. If general manager/head coach Andy Reid isn't sure Mike Kafka or Trent Edwards can handle the duties if Vick is sidelined, another mid-round selection could be used to add to the competition. Right tackle Winston Justice was traded to Indianapolis, so some depth is needed behind starter Todd Herremans and left tackle Jason Peters. Finding second-string contributors at running back and tight end are other draft possibilities.
Needs: QB, OL, ILB, S, CB
Washington owner Daniel Snyder and head coach Mike Shanahan gave up first-round picks in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 drafts and this year's second-rounder to address the team's top priority: finding a franchise quarterback. They'll likely nab Heisman Trophy-winning playmaker Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick acquired from St. Louis. It was no surprise when Snyder opened the checkbook to overspend on free-agent receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, trying to give Griffin more targets than aging veterans Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney. Adding more talent on a leaky offensive line will also aid Griffin's development.
Though the Redskins' defense has improved the past few seasons with the addition of first-round pass rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, it is still only an average NFL unit up the middle. Finding players at inside linebacker for the team's 3-4 scheme must be the top priority, as London Fletcher, Keyaron Fox and Rocky McIntosh have not yet been re-signed. Former top-10 pick LaRon Landry was allowed to sign with the Jets due to uneven play at strong safety and an Achilles injury, and the team hopes Brandon Meriweather can beat out Reed Doughty for the starting spot. New defensive back Cedric Griffin, brought in from Minnesota, could fill in at free safety or corner.
Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @ChadReuter