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Linebackers On the Move In the NFC East

The Eagles added punch to their defense this week by adding Buffalo's Takeo Spikes and the Giants reshuffled their deck at linebacker by bringing in Kansas City's Kawika Mitchell.

Dallas basically was quiet on the linebacker front but the Redskins already have made major moves in that area and there are suggestions of additional possibilities. All of a sudden, then, it appears the NFC East is the place to be if you're an established linebacker looking for a new address.

The Redskins already have added middle linebacker London Fletcher from the Bills and the reports about the possibility that Lance Briggs of the Bears may be heading to Washington aren't going away.

The Redskins have discussed a trade for the disgruntled Chicago linebacker, reported Wednesday.

The talented Briggs has told the defending NFC champs he may sit out the 2007 season after Bears placed a franchise tag on him.

According to the report, Briggs' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told a Chicago-area newspaper: "The two teams have talked and it's in their hands now."

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, in Phoenix for the NFL meetings, said there was no timetable for such a proposed deal. Briggs and Angelo met in Phoenix on Monday, as has been widely reported.

As the franchise designee, Briggs, a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker, would earn $7.2 million in 2007 from the Bears, the average of the five highest salaries at his position.

Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs told reporters in Phoenix Wednesday that a deal involving Briggs is not "imminent."

For now, the Redskins hold a precious pick-No. 6-in the first round of the April 28-29 NFL Draft while the Bears' first-round pick is far down the line at No. 31.

Chicago has tried to work out a long-term deal with Briggs but has not been successful. When the Bears applied the franchise tag on Briggs, they prohibited him from going on the open market. Those events did not sit well with the linebacker, it's fair to say.

According to reports, on Monday Briggs met briefly with Angelo and the player called the meeting a "positive" step.

The 26-year-old Briggs, who played his college ball at Arizona, is regarded as one of the NFL's top young linebackers. Of this, there is little doubt.

He's coming off two straight Pro Bowl years with the Bears, who possess one of the NFL's toughest defenses year-in and year-out. That defense has been spearheaded by outstanding play from linebackers Brian Urlacher and Briggs.

In the offseason, the Redskins made efforts to upgrade their linebacker group by reaching out for Fletcher, who figures to start in the middle, where Lemar Marshall had been stationed.

Marcus Washington was injured in the latter stages of 2006 but has been working his way back into shape for 2007.

Marshall and second-year player Rocky McIntosh are also in the mix for assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams and new linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.

So far, in a survey of the NFC East, Fletcher, Spikes and Mitchell have been the big names on the move in terms of linebackers.

New York had some level of interest in Denver's Al Wilson before settling for Mitchell. He'll move outside with Antonio Pierce remaining in the middle. Also, the Giants parted company with LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons.

Philly has struggled at linebacker and Spikes, part of the trade that cost the Eagles defensive tackle Darwin Walker, could be an answer. In another linebacker transaction, Shawn Barber left Philadelphia for Houston.

It's become a position regarding which you really have to stay tuned. As things now stand, the Redskins are hoping Fletcher is the linebacker who turns out to have the most significant impact.

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