NFC East: 2014 NFC Offseason Wrap-up

Eagles offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Philadelphia Eagles' offseason moves.

Best move: The Eagles have lacked a hard-hitting safety since Brian Dawkins left via free agency after the 2008 season. They went out and signed free agent Malcolm Jenkins from the New Orleans Saints. Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward were available, but Jenkins looks to be a perfect fit in the Eagles’ defensive scheme. Jenkins can cover speedy wide receivers, intercept passes and make the big hit. Jenkins’ skills will allow the cornerbacks more freedom, and the entire defense will reap the benefits.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smith
Matt Slocum/AP PhotoTeam president Don Smolenski (left) and coach Chip Kelly present the Eagles' newest LB, Marcus Smith.
Riskiest move: Drafting Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith with the No. 26 pick in the first round has to be questioned. The Eagles easily could have gotten Smith in the second round and possibly later. Smith is a quality pass-rusher who registered 14.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a senior. Can he become a dangerous player in the NFL? Was he worth a first-round pick? Those questions will soon be answered. This much is known: The Eagles needed another quality pass-rusher.

Most surprising move: It has to be the release of three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The Eagles must find a way to replace Jackson’s 82 receptions, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns, not to mention his downfield speed. While the Eagles selected Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews in the second round and Oregon’s Josh Huff in the third round, they’re not at Jackson’s level. If the Eagles get off to a slow start, the decision to cut Jackson will become even more magnified.

Under-the-radar move: Special teams was a problem area last season, but the Eagles recognized it with a number of moves in the offseason. Adding cornerback Nolan Carroll, safety Chris Maragos and linebacker Bryan Braman didn’t light up the headlines, but they’re all quality special-teams players who will automatically enhance that unit. The Eagles’ draft class is unique because the players all have special-teams skills. Look for the Eagles to be much-improved on special teams in 2014.

Redskins offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
10:00
AM ET
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With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Washington Redskins’ offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins hope Trent Murphy, who had 15 sacks in 2013, can breathe life into the pass rush.
Best move: Improving the pass rush. Washington's rush the past two seasons was too inconsistent and lacked variety. Signing Jason Hatcher to provide an interior push and drafting Trent Murphy to add to the creativity part -- it gives the Redskins potentially three outside linebackers who can rush -- should make a difference. Murphy, obviously, has to prove his worth but the fact that they continued to address the rush is pivotal and telling. They also helped here by adding linebackers coach Brian Baker, a pass-rush specialist.

Riskiest move: Signing receiver DeSean Jackson. His reputation took a big hit after his release in Philadelphia, but the Redskins knew he was risky before certain stories were written. Jackson has major playmaking potential, but he also must prove the stories about his work ethic and approach aren't true. If so, he'll provide a big boost. The Redskins did mitigate the risk by giving him a contract that would provide cap savings after only two years if they cut him.

Most surprising move: Not doing more at safety. The Redskins signed veteran Ryan Clark to start at free and mentor young players, re-signed Brandon Meriweather and returned once-suspended Tanard Jackson. They did not draft a safety. They need the young players to develop or they'll be trying to stock this position again.

Under the radar move: Bolstering special teams. The Redskins signed a handful of quality special-teamers and found players in the draft who could provide immediate help in this area. They brought in linebackers Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward, who can provide help. They drafted Murphy and Bashaud Breeland, who should provide more. It wasn't talked about enough, but it's an important development.

Cowboys offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
10:00
AM ET
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With free agency and the NFL draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Dallas Cowboys' offseason moves.

Best move: The Cowboys could not make big splashes in free agency and their 8-8 record kept them in the middle of the pack in the draft as well, so the best move was not one regarding personnel. It was coaching. Elevating Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator after the Cowboys finished last in the league in 2013 was their best move. With the Chicago Bears, Marinelli had a difference-making defense that could create turnovers at will. He also had Pro Bowl-quality players such as Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. He does not have that in bountiful supply in Dallas, unless Sean Lee can stay healthy or Henry Melton returns to form from injury.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellWill the Dallas Cowboys regret not re-signing DeMarcus Ware?
Riskiest move: DeMarcus Ware put up 119 sacks with the Cowboys from 2005-13, but the club believed it was time to move on after Ware had just six in 2013. A quadriceps injury forced Ware to miss the first three games of his career in 2013 and he was slowed by other maladies. The Cowboys did not make an attempt to offer Ware a reduced contract and simply cut him. Within 24 hours he was signed to a three-year deal by the Denver Broncos with $20 million guaranteed. For this 4-3 scheme to work, there must be an accomplished right defensive end. The Cowboys believed Ware’s time as a dominant pass-rusher was over but did not pick up his replacement until the second round of the draft, selecting DeMarcus Lawrence.

Most surprising move: With the 16th pick in the first round, the Cowboys had a chance to select Johnny Manziel to be Tony Romo’s eventual successor. It seemed to be a perfect marriage of the attention Jerry Jones seeks and the spotlight Johnny Football enjoys. Jones passed on Manziel, recommitting his faith in Romo, who signed a six-year, $108 million extension last season, and making a smart move in picking up Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. He will be a Day 1 starter and give the Cowboys three first-round picks on their offensive line, which will help Romo and potentially help a defense if the Cowboys can control the clock.

Numbers game: The emphasis of the Cowboys’ offseason has been about the defense, but they have taken a quantity-over-quality look. They had some interest in Peppers and Jared Allen after releasing Ware, but only at a reduced rate. The Cowboys signed Melton, who is coming off an ACL injury, to a one-year deal with an option for three more years if he plays at a high level. They signed Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain to low-risk deals. They kept Anthony Spencer, who is coming back from microfracture surgery, on a one-year deal. They even signed Amobi Okoye, who did not play last season due to personal medical issues, in hopes a reunion with Marinelli will rejuvenate him. The flashiest addition might be Lawrence, and it is difficult to expect rookies to hit the league running.

Giants offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the New York Giants' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeGeoff Schwartz
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants knew they needed help on the offensive line, so signing Geoff Schwartz was a move in the right direction.
Best move: Signed to start at left guard after a season in which the interior of the Giants' offensive line crumbled completely and decimated the offense, Geoff Schwartz will be an immediate upgrade at a key position and should help the run game as well as Eli Manning's protection in the passing game. The Giants needed to make the offensive line a priority, and signing Schwartz at the start of free agency showed that they understood that.

Riskiest move: Letting defensive tackle Linval Joseph leave for Minnesota in free agency. Joseph is still just 25 years old -- younger than any free agent the Giants signed. He and Justin Tuck (who left and signed with the Raiders) were the Giants' two best defensive linemen in 2013. The Giants are hoping 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins can fill Joseph's shoes, but letting him go risked leaving the Giants too thin on the defensive line -- a position of renowned strength during their last two Super Bowls.

Most surprising move: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and in general the amount of free-agent attention the Giants paid to cornerback. They spent big to acquire Rodgers-Cromartie and also signed Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman at Trumaine McBride. They obviously needed to replace Corey Webster (who they should have replaced last offseason), but the extent to which they beefed up at the position was surprising for a team that appeared to need more help on offense than on defense.

Draft pick impact: First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. has a chance to make a rookie-year contribution as Hakeem Nicks' replacement at wide receiver if he can learn the offense quickly. Ditto second-round pick Weston Richburg, who has a chance to beat out J.D. Walton for the starting center job. And fourth-round pick Andre Williams, who led all of college football in rushing yards last year at Boston College, could get into the mix early at running back. The Giants are counting on their draft picks to help fill holes on the offensive side.

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