Grading the NFC East offseason: Eagles maintain a strong hold on the division
Philly followed its Super Bowl victory with a solid offseason; here's how the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants and Redskins fared
The NFC East is home to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, who added several players during the offseason a year ago that eventually became important contributors to their championship-winning run: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Tim Jernigan, Chris Long, and Patrick Robinson, among others.
- Key additions: WR Allen Hurns, WR/RB Tavon Austin, OT Cameron Fleming, DE Kony Ealy, AST Coach Kris Richard
- Key losses: WR Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten, TE James Hanna, LB Anthony Hitchens, CB Orlando Scandrick
- Key rookies: LB Leighton Vander Esch, OG Connor Williams, WR Michael Gallup, TE Dalton Schultz
The Connor Williams selection in the second round was a master stroke, as the Cowboys stacked on top of their biggest strength with a player who was a projected first-round pick before struggling with injuries in 2017. He should slot in immediately as the team's starting left guard and solidify what was a very weak spot on the line last season.
Michael Gallup is a potential steal in the third round as one of the most well-rounded receivers in the class, and he should be an excellent fit with Dak Prescott's style of play. Cameron Fleming is a solid swing tackle and Kony Ealy a solid rotational end.
The issue here is almost everything else that happened with Dallas. Jason Witten and James Hanna retired, leaving Geoff Swaim and his nine career catches as the most experienced player at tight end. The Cowboys waited until two weeks before the draft to cut Dez Bryant, meaning the most impactful receivers they signed were Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson. They became the latest coaching staff to fall in love with Tavon Austin, who has never done anything of note. Terrance Williams got arrested. Cole Beasley released a rap album. Terrell Owens (again) and Dez (sort of) .
And Season 3 of "All or Nothing" was kind of weak.
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New York Giants
- Key additions: OT Nate Solder, OG Patrick Omameh, LB Alec Ogletree, LB Kareem Martin, HC Pat Shurmur
- Key losses: C Weston Richburg, OG Justin Pugh, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, LB Devon Kennard
- Key rookies: RB Saquon Barkley, OG Will Hernandez, LB Lorenzo Carter, DT B.J. Hill
Even if you think Saquon Barkley will turn out to be the best running back of all time, drafting a running back with the No. 2 overall pick was not a wise decision. Thehave been enumerated by, like, everybody; so I won't bore you by explaining them in depth. (The short version: it's not cost-efficient; highly-drafted running backs are historically no more effective than those drafted anywhere else; and rushing performance tends to have little to no effect on wins.)
But by taking a running back at No. 2, the Giants also by definition did not take a quarterback, and that was likely an even less wise decision. Wea couple weeks ago:
There were 33 quarterbacks who threw at least 500 passes between the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined. Among that group of 33, Eli Manning ranked 21st in completion percentage, 29th in touchdown rate, 18th in interception rate, 31st in yards per attempt, and 28th in passer rating. In 2017 he ranked 20th among 32 qualified passers in completion percentage, 30th in yards per attempt, 26th in passer rating, 23rd in Football Outsiders' DVOA and DYAR, and 24th in ESPN's QBR. In other words, he is a clearly well below-average starting quarterback. And he's 37 years old. He's not getting any better.
All the Giants have behind him as the "future" at the position is 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb and 2018 fourth-round pick Kyle Lauletta. Here is the complete list of quarterbacks since 2000 who were drafted after the second round, started one game or fewer during their rookie season, and eventually became their drafted team's full-time starter: David Garrard, Josh McCown, Trevor Siemian, Tom Brady. That's it. That's the whole list. It's not a viable option.
Coming out of this offseason without a surefire quarterback of the future was a mistake, and it pretty much overrides whatever else the Giants did that you think was good. Signing Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh and drafting Will Hernandez to solidify the offensive line was good ... but the Giants also let their two best in-house offensive linemen (Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh) walk and they're apparently planning to play the very upset and very bad Ereck Flowers at right tackle. They gave up draft value for Alec Ogletree, who is not good. They lost one of their best pass-rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul and did not do much to replace him.
Barkley should be exciting and the offensive line can't possibly be worse, but the Giants could have done more with what they had available to them this offseason.
- Key additions: WR Mike Wallace, DT Haloti Ngata, DE Michael Bennett
- Key losses: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Torrey Smith, TE Trey Burton, DE Vinny Curry, DT Beau Allen, CB Patrick Robinson, AST Coach Frank Reich, AST Coach John DeFilippo
- Key rookies: TE Dallas Goedert, CB Avonte Maddox, DE Josh Sweat
The Super Bowl champs lost two important contributors (Vinny Curry and Beau Allen) from the best unit on their team, but somehow their defensive line might actually be both better and deeper than it was a year ago. They brought in Haloti Ngata to play a run-stuffing role on early downs and swung a trade for Michael Bennett that gives them yet another versatile piece who can play anywhere along the line, in any situation. Add to that the drafting of the underrated Josh Sweat and what was arguably the best defensive front in football should still be quite strong in 2018.
They replaced Torrey Smith with Mike Wallace and drafted Dallas Goedert to replace Trey Burton. The loss of Patrick Robinson in the defensive backfield will hurt, but healthy seasons for Ronald Darby and 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones should help mitigate his absence. Plus fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox has elite athleticism and could turn into a real player with time.
The Eagles were able to pay and keep Nick Foles just in case Carson Wentz's rehab doesn't go exactly as planned, and they didn't screw up their cap situation to do it. If they're really as confident in Wentz's rehab as they say they are and , that was a mistake. But this team did everything else well, so they get what is easily the division's highest grade.
- Key additions: QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, DL Pernell McPhee, CB Orlando Scandrick
- Key losses: QB Kirk Cousins, OG Spencer Long, DT Terrell McClain, LB Trent Murphy, CB Kendall Fuller, S Su'a Cravens
- Key rookies: DT Da'Ron Payne, RB Derrius Guice, OT Geron Christian, S Troy Apke
The Redskins rebounded well from the impending departure of Kirk Cousins by landing Alex Smith, but they still wound up giving Smith nearly as much guaranteed money as Cousins ($71 million vs. $84 million) along with a greater cash flow over the first two years of the deal. So, that's not great.
The idea of Paul Richardson has long been better than the reality, as his career-best season last year produced just 40 catches for 703 yards and six scores. He has often missed time due to injury and has a catch-rate south of 60 percent for his career. And Washington gave him a contract equal to that of Marvin Jones -- a far more accomplished receiver both now and at the time he signed his deal.
That said, the Redskins did well with the rest of free agency, picking up solid players who don't count against the compensatory pick formula like Pernell McPhee and Orlando Scandrick. The drafting of Da'Ron Payne to play in the middle of the defense next to his former college teammate Jonathan Allen was a nice move, and they took advantage of Derrius Guice's odd slide to the back half of the second round. Were it not for the losses of Kendall Fuller and Su'a Cravens in trades to two teams in the AFC West, this grade would likely be higher.
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