Around the NFL  

 

NFC East Offseason Overhaul: Can Cowboys maintain?

Print

The power structure of the NFC East seemed to shift dramatically last year with the emergence of two Dallas Cowboys rookies: quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. However, the presumption that Ben McAdoo's Giants, Jay Gruden's Redskins and Doug Pederson's Eagles will somehow be under the Cowboys' collective thumb for the next decade is pie-in-the-sky thinking by Dallas fans.

The best part about the NFC East is the near-constant parity. Since 2010, every team but the Giants has won the division twice -- and the Giants beat the division-winning Cowboys twice in 2016. This offseason, the Eagles improved significantly while the Giants managed to retain almost everyone on defense (waiting on you, Johnathan Hankins). The Cowboys were poached on defense and the Redskins lost both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Washington continues to walk a dangerous tightrope with its kind-of, sort-of franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins, who may or may not be with the team at this time in 2018. In short, this is a great division to cover, because it never feels like a team is in full rebuild mode.

FREE AGENCY NOTABLES

BIGGEST ADDITION: Alshon Jeffery, receiver.
Old team: Chicago Bears. New team: Philadelphia Eagles.

This is a win-win-win for the Eagles, who plug in the top wide receiver on the market at a time when they desperately need help at the position. The 27-year-old Jeffery is also in his prime and playing on one of the best deals in football: the one-year prove-it contract. Jeffery has every motivation to bring the house down and cash in next offseason like he thought he would this offseason. The trial-run contract has been gold for a few teams over the years.

BIGGEST LOSS: Barry Church, safety.
Old team: Dallas Cowboys. New team: Jacksonville Jaguars.

Pierre Garcon, who left Washington for San Francisco, might be a more valuable player in a vacuum, but Church held together a Cowboys defense that was not phenomenally talented on paper and helped turn it into one of the more formidable units in the league. We knew Dallas would get picked apart this offseason, and the Cowboys ended up allowing Church to escape to Jacksonville while Morris Claiborne signed with the Jets. Dallas has plenty of field generals, and safety Byron Jones is still there. But when Orlando Scandrick is your best cornerback, there will be some holes in the secondary too large to patch.

SLEEPER ADDITIONS (tie): Chance Warmack, guard and D.J. Fluker, guard/tackle.
Old teams: Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers. New teams: Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.

Both teams are desperate for help across the offensive line and both ended up taking a flier on a potentially high-upside player still in development. The two former first-round picks were both part of a disastrous 2013 draft (Warmack was taken 10th overall and Fluker went 11th), but we've seen offensive linemen start blooming later and later in their careers. We've also seen linemen come alive in different systems, and Fluker could find some respite in the Giants' mock-Packers offense, which encourages getting the ball out quickly.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Dallas Cowboys: Finding the war daddy. Owner Jerry Jones drooled over a next-generation running back and found one. His latest obsession is a game-changing pass rusher. Personally, I would have been interested to see what Dallas would have done if Joey Bosa had been available at No. 4 overall -- where the Cowboys snagged Ezekiel Elliott -- in 2016, but now the Cowboys will be tasked with finding their next DeMarcus Ware with a late first-round pick (No. 28 overall). This defense is going to take some time to build back up.

» Resetting their expectations. Dallas has two young stars who have already experienced an unbelievable amount of success. One of them doesn't seem to be handling it all too well. If this roster is going to work, head coach Jason Garrett will need to figure out a way to erase 2016 and the Cowboys' offseason Pro Bowl tour.

New York Giants: Re-sign Johnathan Hankins. The construction of this defensive line will be rendered meaningless if the Giants do not have a second big-bodied run-stuffer next to Damon Harrison. Their simplistic but brilliant combination of two traditional 3-4 nose tackles alongside Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul wreaked havoc on teams trying to establish the run early (like the Cowboys). New York shouldn't lose that over a few million dollars it's going to spend anyway.

» Draft a quarterback: This is the perfect draft for teams perennially picking later to find their quarterback of the future. The Cardinals, Giants and Steelers all have a chance to get a first-round-caliber passer and may regret not jumping on the opportunity.

Philadelphia Eagles: Catch up with Carson. Carson Wentz has, by design, spent time away from the team in this, his first offseason as a professional -- one of the most critical development periods in the young player's life cycle. By all accounts, Doug Pederson has been pleased with the updates he's received, but soon it will be time to get his hands on the 2016 No. 2 overall pick. The division is ripe for the taking this year, and external expectations for Wentz will be unreasonable.

» Complete the overhaul: The shedding of the Chip Kelly era is nearly complete, and the Eagles are going to start resembling more closely the Andy Reid-esque vision of Howie Roseman and Pederson. The next piece of the puzzle? Another game-breaking wide receiver to pair with Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles recently brought in Shelton Gibson for a pre-draft visit. Gibson's pre-draft comps? DeSean Jackson.

Washington Redskins: Clean up the mess. An ugly breakup with general manager Scot McCloughan obscured the fact that Washington has woefully misplayed its hand with quarterback Kirk Cousins and will almost certainly not be able to keep him after this season if the two parties cannot reach an agreement on a long-term deal this offseason. And even if they do, it will be far more expensive than Washington originally had hoped.

Print

Fan Discussion