I started thinking about handicapping Cofield's chances of landing with another team a few weeks before the draft, then held off figuring the pictures of other teams would be clearer. Little did I think we would make a move that would make it almost certain that Cofield will be gone. Between Fewell not being a DT rotation guy, to drafting Joseph and Austin, to paying Canty $7 million a year, to having numerous other free agents to pay, I am barely even going to consider him staying with the Giants. Is it possible? Sure. The DT market is not strong, with college teams playing 4-3 and half of pro teams playing a 3-4, you need less DTs. So perhaps we can resign him at a reasonable price (the original planned focus of my story), and we won't just hand the job over to our draft picks.
I think the most likely scenario under which we keep him is that there are simply no other teams that are interested in spending the money. Cofield is most likely considered as a 1-tech DT in a 4-3 alignment and a LDE in a 3-4 alignment. Those are not big money positions, except for the occasional star such as Pat Williams on the Vikings or Ty Warren on the Patriots. His height/weight is not ideal for a NT, but he has the skills for the position. He might have had a career-high four sacks last year, but he is not what teams are looking for when money is spent on a 3-tech DT.
Another issue is whether he leaves this year or next, and how he leaves. We have the second-round tender on him for now. But the rules could change with the new contract, and I'd bet against 5 year restricted free agents remaining (owners can give the players collectively less money if the players have individual chances of increasing their salaries earlier). In either case the short free agent time period will make it difficult to make trades or sign new players. I think we would take the second round pick rather than match an offer higher than our tender. If teams do not want to give up the second rounder, maybe there is a sign-and-trade agreement where he accepts the tender, we trade for a lesser pick, and he signs a contract extension with the new team. I don't think we would take less than a 3rd or a 4th, because if we lose him as an unrestricted free agent we get a compensatory pick, and value-wise it makes sense to hope for the 4th rather than take a lower safe pick. At 6th round comp pick money we may sign him regardless of our other DTs - it's Bernard-level money.
So below are the teams I see in the Cofield market. If these seem like reaches, it shows the limited demand for his services.
Denver Broncos (2011 & 2012) - Everyone knows they need DTs, probably two of them. Their run defense last year was awful, and Von Miller will be of little help there. Although Fox was long gone from the Giants before Cofield was drafted, he knows people within the organization, and is likely to feel comfortable signing a player like Cofield. Cofield will likely hear good recommendations on Fox. This is the best-case scenario for everyone.
Dallas Cowboys (I apologize, please choose carefully the object on which you will release your rage from reading this) (2011) - Spears is an unrestricted free agent at LDE and has never lived up to his 1st round draft status. Their top backup Bowen is also a free agent, along with another DE, Hatcher (who was drafted a round before Cofield, HAH!). Bowen also has five years in like Cofield. Barry would be a huge upgrade for them, Jerry has deep pockets, and it would be stealing from a division rival.
St. Louis Rams (2011 & 2012) - Spagnuolo knows Cofield and has not been shy about bringing in his former players from the Giants (but not the Eagles, interesting?). Many people talk about the bigger need being a future 3-tech to replace Robbins, but Robbins last year like Abraham in Atlanta did not look like he needs replacing soon. They have a couple young DTs at the 1-tech slot they are developing, but Spags could grab Cofield if he thinks the talent upgrade is worth it.
Houston Texans (2011 & 2012) - They are switching to the 3-4 and in my opinion have nobody to play NT or LDE. They did not draft a NT, and the guy they are talking about, Earl Mitchell, entered the NFL as a 285-lb. DT. I also think Williams and Watt are both RDEs, and in the last day there has been talk about giving Williams snaps at OLB, so perhaps an extra body that could play LDE would be useful as well. If the first season in the 3-4 has its problem on the DL, Cofield could be an option in 2012 if not now. Phillips has some familiarity with him from coaching Dallas.
Minnesota Vikings (2012) - Pat Williams is planning to return for another year, even though he is likely to be suspended for four games. I do not see interest this year, because it is unlikely they have the money to pay two guys for one position and Cofield does not need to be developed or taught. But they know the value of a good 1-tech and they are trying to rebuild their roster without starting from scratch, so Cofield would be a fit next year if Williams retires.
New Orleans Saints (2012) - The team that wanted Cofield last year. This year, they grabbed Shaun Rogers, and like Minnesota they do not have the means to pay two guys for one spot. But if Rogers becomes a 1-year rental Cofield could be in play next year.
San Francisco 49'ers (2011) - Franklin is a free agent at NT, but they want him back and the only major interest would likely be from Houston. He and Sopoanga at LDE have some age on them, and "Soap" is a two-down player only. But Cofield is hardly younger or a better rusher, and Harbaugh will be given time to build through the draft.
Seattle Seahawks (2011) - Their best DT, Mebane, is a free agent that they also want back. The assortment of other DTs is nothing special, and have some age, but they do not indicate a need and are also building through youth. Seattle runs many unusual fronts (DTs at LDE, for example) and seems to like the players they have.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2012) - They keep talking about Hampton retiring in the future at NT. They drafted Hood and Heyward to replace their older DEs, which is probably what they will do with Hampton, but if their veterans suddenly retire they may want a veteran presence on the team. Yeah, this is weak.
Tennessee Titans (2012) - This offseason they expressed a desire to get bigger on the DL, their roster is on the small side. Then they drafted 6-1 300 lb. Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug, the smallest DT on record. Maybe he plays LDE. Maybe Jason Jones plays LDE. It's hard to say because counting their free agents, they have a zillion DL on the team. Many have had decent stats but are no-name guys. They have injury concerns with some of them, think they will lose some of them to other teams, and question whether young guys like Marks will ever develop. So next year, if they are not happy with their DT play, Cofield becomes an option.
Indianapolis Colts (2012) - They have been told for years they need better run defenders at DT. And like this year with Nevis, they pick 3-tech pass rush DTs. The Colts are not a team that signs free agents from other teams. They build through the draft. But if run defense is still a problem, maybe they sign a known quantity if they get a good price.