Although it's the offseason, NFC East storylines are just beginning to heat up. Will Dallas select a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft to replace Tony Romo, who is coming off an injury-plagued season? Is it safe to assume Kirk Cousins will be back in Washington next season? And, how has Ben McAdoo's approach with the Giants changed now that he's the head coach?
See what these division rivals had to say about those topics and more with free agency set to start next Wednesday.
Dallas Cowboys: Romo Is The Long-Term Answer At Quarterback
It's all about the quarterback for the Cowboys. After losing Romo for the majority of last season due to two collarbone injuries, the 2014 NFC East champs finished last in the division with a 4-12 record. However, owner Jerry Jones isn't concerned about Romo's status moving forward.
"What is the one unequivocable fact that you can count on relative to the preparation of this draft and on draft day is that I'm planning on Romo being the quarterback for the next four or five years," Jones said during an interview with ESPN. "That's a fact. You won't see a decision on draft day that will fly in the face of not believing, from our standpoint, that he'll be our quarterback for four or five years."
Head coach Jason Garrett also commented on the Romo situation at the NFL Scouting Combine, explaining that if the quarterback is named the team's starter he expects him to be the signal-caller for the entire season.
"He has had injuries, we have to be mindful of that, but you have to be mindful of that with any player on your team," Garrett said. "You have to build your team the right way. One of the things we've talked about as an organization is we have to handle the adversity of the season better. That starts with how we build our football team, how we coach our football team and how our players respond to adversity over the course of 16 weeks."
When asked specifically if the Cowboys are studying the top quarterback prospects, the coach explained that Dallas is looking and evaluating all players. With its No. 4 overall pick, the team is looking to add whomever it is that will be most valuable to the organization moving forward.
Whether that individual is a quarterback is still to be determined.
"Yeah, again we don't want to get too far ahead into the strategy of the draft, we're trying to find out about the players. We did get a chance to see four quarterbacks down at the Senior Bowl," said Garrett, who coached the North team in Mobile, Alabama. "We thought that was a good thing for us in the evaluation process. It'll continue here. We're going to interview a number of the guys over the course of the next few days. We'll see them work out.
"Typically we'll go visit them, work them out ourselves, go to their workouts and just find out more about the guys. Again, we don't want to talk about who we're picking when – it's way, way too early for that. We want to evaluate the players as best we can – at quarterback, but also throughout our team."
New York Giants: Will Giants Be Big Shoppers In Free Agency?
The upcoming season will certainly bring change for the Giants. With McAdoo, a first-time head coach, now in charge the team is looking to bounce back from consecutive 6-10 seasons and compete for the division title in 2016.
During his Combine media availability, McAdoo was adamant that he will not be the same coach as Tom Coughlin, who was at the helm for the past 12 years. Instead, he will keep ideals that worked in place and put his spin on aspects of the team he feels need improvement.
"We're going to change. As I've said before, I'm not going to try to be Tom. I'm not Tom. He's already taken," McAdoo said. "But, we're going to evolve a little bit. It's evolution, not revolution. If something works and we feel good about it and we like it we're going to stick with it. If not, we're going to make some changes. There are some things we've done in the past and we kicked around a lot of ideas within the staff and we're going to implement those moving forward and we're going to make it our own."
Another area of interest for this Giants team is the amount of available cap space it has headed into free agency. The team's general manager Jerry Reese confirmed the organization will take steps to make the team better, calling the cap situation a "pretty healthy" one at this point in time. According to OverTheCap.com, the Giants have the third-most space under the salary cap with nearly $57.8 million at their disposal.
The Giants will be targeting the top names, not necessarily just for their positions of need. At the end of the day, Reese was confident that catapulting a team toward success in one offseason is very possible.
"This is the National Football League. You can get well pretty quickly in the National Football League," Reese explained. "You can get players in free agency, you can get players in the draft, you can get players in trades. Again, we lost a lot of close games. A couple snaps here or there and our season could've been a different way. But it didn't.
"We have work to do obviously, but we're close enough to believe that we can compete for the NFC East. I don't think anyone is running away with it. I think the NFC East is a close division still. I think we can put together a team that can challenge for that NFC East crown next year."
Washington Redskins: Decision To Take Multiple QBs In 2012 Pays Off
On Tuesday, the Redskins took the first steps toward locking up Cousins by using their non-exclusive franchise tag. Washington has not been shy about its feelings toward the quarterback, who led the team to the NFC East title this past season.
Last week, head coach Jay Gruden spoke about Cousins and the improvement he's seen from the quarterback during his first year as a starter, improvement he believes will continue in 2016.
"We'd like to have Kirk back on our football team, no doubt," Gruden said. "He made serious strides and showed a lot of improvement throughout the season obviously and we feel great about his upside and let him be the starter from Day 1 in OTAs and Training Camp, and taking the job and running with it to see how much he improves.
"The more he gets in the same system, the better he's going to be. He's already showing the progress at a fast rate for a young quarterback in the system for the first time. I think the more he plays, the better he's going to get in situations, game-management obviously, in the pocket, his pocket skills and awareness, anticipation and touch – all those things – getting to know his receivers and tight ends, blocking schemes, the running game, getting us in the right run at the right time, all of those things."
In 2015, Cousins finished the regular season with a 101.6 quarterback rating, fifth best in the league, 4,166 passing yards and 29 touchdowns. What makes his rise all the more interesting is the fact he was drafted the same year as Robert Griffin III. Selecting two quarterbacks in one year is an uncommon method that seemed to work for Washington.
"Yeah, it is unusual. I wasn't here then, obviously, but you can never have too many good quarterbacks, for sure," Gruden said. "A lot of teams have learned the hard way when teams lose their starting quarterback, their team suffers significantly. You never want that to happen, so you want to have as many good quarterbacks as you can in the building. There aren't a lot of them out there, but if you can have the chance to draft one in the third, fourth and fifth round, you have to do it if you think he can help your team."