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The NFC East Undergoes A Facelift

Posted Mar 22, 2018

The NFC East is in transition mode. A division that hasn’t had a repeat winner since the Eagles of 2003-2004 is changing faces in key places in this offseason, so let’s take look around the East to see exactly what’s gone on since the Eagles won the Super Bowl …

The NFC East is in transition mode. A division that hasn’t had a repeat winner since the Eagles in 2004 is changing faces in key places this offseason, so let’s take look around the NFC East to see exactly what’s gone on since the Eagles won the Super Bowl …

DALLAS COWBOYS

The Cowboys have a lot of business to clean up relative to the NFL’s salary cap before they can alter the roster in an extensive way with veterans. They are tight against the cap, which has limited any movement in this offseason. Dallas signed linebacker Joe Thomas, who was not tendered by the Green Bay Packers as a restricted free agent, and they inked wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who last season split time between Buffalo and Chicago and had 38 receptions and two touchdowns. Neither player is expected to move the needle, but you never know. It’s just that the Cowboys haven’t made many headline-grabbing moves – none, actually – after a very disappointing 2017 season.

What’s happened is that Dallas is still absorbing an $8.9 million cap hit from former quarterback Tony Romo’s contract, and that really hurts. Dallas also used the franchise tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, a hit of $17.143 million. Dallas has not played much in free agency for years, and instead of trying that route in this offseason the Cowboys tried to keep their own players like Lawrence, and like pass rusher David Irving, a restricted free agent who has a second-round tender on him.

But Dallas has also lost some talent – namely linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber, cornerback Orlando Scandrick and fullback Keith Smith.

It’s been a very quiet offseason for the Cowboys, which may or may not work for Dallas. A team that won the NFC East in 2016 crashed in 2017, and Dallas has question marks throughout the defense, with its pass catchers, and along the offensive line. Dallas needs some immediate help in April’s NFL Draft.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Pat Shurmur is the new head coach in New York and already the Giants have had some major moves, notably the trade of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay for, essentially, a third-round draft pick. The move allowed the Giants to move on from cap hits of $19.5 million in 2019 and $17.5 million in 2020, although the Giants do take a hit of $15 million in dead money this year by sending JPP to the Bucs. New York is undergoing perhaps the most dramatic transformation, changing the coaching staff, moving to a 3-4 front on defense, and, potentially, using the No. 2 pick in April’s draft on the quarterback of the future, replacing Eli Manning.

New York has been aggressive rejiggering the roster, signing left tackle Nate Solder to the most lucrative contract for an offensive lineman in the league. New York really needed the help up front. Also signed was Patrick Omameh, an offensive guard expected to line up next to Solder on the left side. The Giants added running back Jonathan Stewart in free agency. A few non-descript cornerbacks were signed to one-year deals. The Giants brought in wide receiver Cody Latimer, a speedy player who is excellent on special teams. New York overhauled its linebackers by trading for Alec Ogletree in a deal with the Rams and signing former Cardinals linebacker Kareem Martin.

And the end result is …?

We don’t know. So much depends on the draft. Do the Giants take their quarterback of the future? Do they take a pass rusher (North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, who is rated as a potential superstar)? Do they take a running back, namely Penn State’s Saquon Barkley? Do the Giants trade out of No. 2 and gather more draft picks?

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It’s a rebuilding program for the Giants, but they’re adding veterans with the idea of returning to the playoffs in Shurmur’s first season at the helm. No matter how you look at it, there is a ton of change going on for a franchise that has been resistant to it for many years.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Washington sent shockwaves through the NFL during Super Bowl week when it acquired quarterback Alex Smith from Kansas City in exchange for a third-round draft pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller. With that, Smith is the Redskins' quarterback and Kirk Cousins moved on to Minnesota via free agency.

Stunning.

Otherwise, Washington added Scandrick in free agency to bolster the cornerback depth and brought in wide receiver Paul Richardson to add speed to that group.

There hasn’t been change otherwise to a team that slumped badly in 2017, but the new man under center is certainly substantive enough. Washington believes that Smith gives the offense what Cousins did, minus the giveaway at a critical juncture.

Washington has the 13th pick in the first round of the draft and seven draft picks overall.

So, yes, it’s been an offseason of significant change for the NFC East. The Eagles have added some pieces to the defense – notably end Michael Bennett and tackle Haloti Ngata for the line, linebacker Corey Nelson, and cornerback Daryl Worley – and they’ve retained linebacker Nigel Bradham. Some familiar faces, among them defensive end Vinny Curry, defensive tackle Beau Allen, cornerback Patrick Robinson, tight end Trey Burton, and running back LeGarrette Blount – have signed elsewhere. Wide receiver Torrey Smith was traded. Tight end Brent Celek was released.

Look around the division and the names and the faces have changed quite a bit. It’s the way business happens in the NFL.

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