NFL Free Agency: NFC East's Updated Winners and Losers
Earlier in the month, this author listed the early winners and losers in free agency in the NFC East. The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys were the clear early winners, having made a clutch of positive moves to address major needs.
However, since then, the landscape has changed. Both the Cowboys and Redskins have been hamstrung by the league-imposed salary-cap penalties. The New York Giants have found themselves similarly restricted, due to a lack of cap space, while the Philadelphia Eagles helped their cause by retaining Evan Mathis.
With these realities and developments in mind, here is an updated list of free agency winners and losers in the NFC East.
Winners: Philadelphia Eagles
Key Moves: re-signed DeSean Jackson WR, Evan Mathis LG, King Dunlap OT
The Eagles had to ensure their offensive line remained strong and since the initial list, they brought back left guard Evan Mathis. The 6'5" 302-pounder enjoyed a successful first season in Philadelphia and is a key part of the front five.
The injury to Jason Peters has hurt, but the Eagles moved quickly to ensure some cover by re-signing King Dunlap. Add these moves to the low-key acquisitions of Steve Vallos and Mike Gibson and the Eagles can still feel confident about their offensive line heading into the new season.
Bringing back DeSean Jackson may have been controversial, given his issues in 2011, but he is a true playmaker who strikes fear into any defense.
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Winners: Dallas Cowboys
Key Moves: signed Brandon Carr CB, Brodney Poole S, Dan Connor ILB
They may have gone quiet while they engage in a legal tussle with the NFL, but the Cowboys remain winners thanks to the excellent early moves which strengthened the weakest areas of their team.
Carr was an ideal acquisition to provide better coverage in Rob Ryan's blitzing schemes. The same is true of Brodney Poole, who gives more speed and range to the safety position.
Connor will partner well with the dynamic Sean Lee and boost the run defense while the Cowboys await a full recovery from highly-touted youngster Bruce Carter.
Questions remain about tight end and third wide receiver, but the Cowboys can feel confident about answering these needs via the draft.
Losers: Washington Redskins
Key Moves: signed Pierre Garcon WR, Josh Morgan WR, Brandon Meriweather S
Presumptive draft pick Robert Griffin III will likely be grateful for the additions of wideouts Garcon and Morgan. However, the Redskins have failed to build on their great start to free agency.
Thanks to the $36 million cap penalty levied against them, the Redskins have struggled more than the Cowboys to acquire quality reinforcements for the weakest areas of their team.
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Meriweather and Cedric Griffin have been added to the secondary, but it remains to be seen if they are enough to significantly upgrade the unit.
The biggest causes for concern are the absence of new recruits for the porous offensive line and the failure to re-sign defensive leader London Fletcher.
Losers: New York Giants
Key Moves: signed Martellus Bennett TE; re-signed Terrell Thomas CB
They may have little cap room, but the Giants' decision not to use what resources they have to bolster the linebacking corps and an aging offensive line is a little baffling.
Bennett was a smart short-term pickup, but it's surprising that a similar type of deal hasn't been offered to a veteran middle linebacker such as Gary Brackett or Stephen Cooper.
Similarly, the loss of key players figures to weaken Tom Coughlin's strong team. Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham were both guilty of inconsistency, but they made big plays when it mattered most last season.
It may be too much to expect the offense to be as effective with Ramses Barden and Da'Rel Scott in their place.
The Eagles appear to have the fewest glaring weaknesses heading into the draft. The Giants have huge questions at linebacker and the Redskins are risking their prospects for improvement by not retooling the offensive line.
The fact that the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys lack the means to make any more big moves in free agency puts the pressure firmly on the GMs to orchestrate stellar drafts.
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