Now that the offseason is in full swing, front offices of all 32 NFL teams have begun to assess priorities for the coming months. What areas should each team address? This sounds like a job for Maurice Jones-Drew. The NFL.com analyst and former All-Pro running back tries his hand at general manager and identifies three areas each team should tackle this offseason. Today, MJD examines the NFC East:
The Cowboys' greatest challenge is figuring out how to pay DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel ElliottandAmari Cooper in the next couple years. First things first: Jerry Jones needs to listen to my guy Bucky Brooks and lock up one of the league's best edge rushers. Lawrence is a game-wrecker, and the Cowboys will regret it if they let him go. (UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the Cowboys are placing the franchise tag on Lawrence.)
1) Sign Earl Thomas. Dallas, Thomas and basically all of us (except maybe Seattle) have waited for this marriage to happen, and I expect that it will. One of the best free safeties in the NFL, Thomas would be a great fit in Rod Marinelli's defense.
2) Fill the void left by Jason Witten. Witten was sorely missed in 2018, as Dak struggled without old trusty in the middle of the field. There are some options in free agency, but the draft -- which is loaded at TE -- is probably Dallas' best bet. (UPDATE: The Cowboys announced Witten is coming out of retirement to play a 16th season with the team in 2019.
3) Bolster the D-line. The Cowboys' defensive scheme requires a pass rush from the outside and inside. They are covered on the edge if they re-sign Lawrence, but then they should turn their attention to the interior.
NEW YORK GIANTS
1) Draft Eli's replacement. The most ideal quarterback to replace Manning is Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins. He should be there when the Giants make their selection at No. 6 overall -- well, unless another QB-needy team trades up above Big Blue, of course. Haskins has good pocket presence, accuracy and can extend plays, and his NFL development would obviously benefit greatly from having Saquon Barkley in the backfield.
2) Bulk up the pass rush. In 2018, the defense tied for 30th in the league in sacks. That has to change if the G-Men want to get back to the top of the division. The draft is a perfect opportunity to get some playmakers up front.
3) Improve the right side of the O-line. The left side of the unit is set for the future, with Nate Solder and Will Hernandez holding down the fort. The right side is a different story. Right guard Jamon Brown is set to hit the market, making this offseason the prime time to sign free agents and draft a guy or two. New York must protect Eli in the short term and build a dominant front for the future.
1) Address the defensive front. DE Brandon Graham, DT Haloti Ngata and LB Jordan Hicks are all hitting the free-agent market. That's a lot of bodies -- some significant ones, too -- to replace. There are a plethora of defensive linemen to choose from in free agency and the draft that could improve the pass rush and run defense. The question is: Can Philly afford to sign true difference-makers?
2) Build a competitive secondary. This unit also loses some talent this offseason, with Ronald Darby and Corey Graham headed for free agency. The Eagles -- who should get Rodney McLeod back next season, after the safety missed most of the 2018 campaign with a knee injury -- still have some depth, but they could use more talented young players to help the defensive backfield return to being the stealthy unit it was during the team's Super Bowl run.
3) Replenish the O-line with some youth. Nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters just turned 37 years old. He was phenomenal in his prime and solid the last few seasons when healthy, but Philly must start thinking about replacing its veteran left tackle.
The Redskins look nothing like the team that led the division midway through the season. Now, in late February, Alex Smith appears doubtful for next season, while the team's leading rusher (Adrian Peterson) is set to hit the market, along with 10 other offensive players. It looks like Washington could undergo a complete offensive overhaul.
1) Find a quarterback (again). Ugh, I thought Washington had found THE guy in Smith, but his traumatic leg injury leaves a huge question mark on this position -- for this season and going forward. Colt McCoy is QB1 as of now, but the Redskins should really look to upgrade. With the lack of talent in this free agency quarterback class, Washington should look to draft a guy in the first round.
2) Sign receiving threats. There's not a top-tier game-changer in this group right now, and Jamison Crowder's contract is up. The Redskins need to make it a point to sign receiving talent in free agency and draft a few guys (receivers or tight ends), because such additions will be instrumental in helping the quarterback and offense get up to speed.
3) Get a backup for Derrius Guice. Guice was turning heads in August ... before tearing his ACL in the preseason opener. By the look of this video, Guice's return for the start of 2019 looks promising. The Redskins should still sign or draft a spell back, in light of the free-agent departures of Adrian Peterson and Rob Kelley. Re-signing Peterson, who had 1,042 rushing yards in 2018, could be an option, but I'd wait to make that decision until the draft concludes.