2010 NFL Free Agency Report: Who Is The Beast of the NFC East?
With the free agency period well underway, we are starting to see what teams in the NFL are making the necessary moves to better their team.
Whether it be a long-term solution or a "let's try and win a Lombardi trophy this season" solution—the signings and visitations of players are becoming a daily occurrence.
Being a lifelong Giants fan, I have grown accustomed to the teams in the NFC East.
As the free agency period started and as it continues, the teams in this division have already made statements.
In arguably the most competitive division in the NFL where each of the four teams have a strong possibility of making the postseason (remember in the '06-'07 and '07-'08 seasons when three of the four teams made the playoffs?), every move you make to enhance your team could be the difference between heading to the golf course or playing in the Super Bowl.
Since there have been quite a few moves in the NFC East so far, I want to evaluate how the teams' recent acquisitions have affected their chances of making their season-long battle on the gridiron into a postseason-long quest for glory.
Let's start with the team that won the division last season, the Dallas Cowboys.
The NFC East champions have actually done nothing so far. Unlike the three other teams, it appears as if the Cowboys are satisfied with their roster.
That should not be of comfort to any Dallas fans because they were by no means a runaway winner of the division last season.
With any team, there are problems to fix, and the Cowboys are no different. There are plenty of question marks in my opinion.
On offense, it wouldn't be a bad move to get an upgrade at wide receiver. Sure, Miles Austin had a breakout year, but where has Roy Williams been? I thought he was supposed to be the number one guy.
On defense, that secondary could use some help as they were ranked only 20th in passing yards against last season. Perhaps these Cowboys are waiting to pull the trigger until the draft or possibly afterwards.
Moving on to the team that finished second last season, the Philadelphia Eagles.
We can see another team, happy for the most part, with their current situation. The Eagles biggest moves have been the signing of their own players.
Fullback Leonard Weaver and wide receiver Jason Avant both signed extensions with the team, locking them up for three and five years respectively.
The Eagles also cut ties with some of their own—releasing offensive lineman Shawn Andrews and running back Brian Westbrook.
As far as additions via other teams' players, the Eagles signed running back Mike Bell and acquired defensive end Darryl Tapp from the Seahawks.
Looking into these moves, I think the Eagles are onto the right path to bettering their team.
While Weaver and Avant are not superstar players, they are key pieces to the ‘spread the wealth’ style of offense that is run through quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Cutting the cord from the Eagles to Westbrook was a tough decision to make, but I feel it was the right one.
Westbrook is injury-prone and with the play of LeSean McCoy, the Eagles just didn’t need the services of their aging offensive workhorse. Putting the ball in McCoy’s hands next season is the best move and signing a veteran like Bell will help McCoy grow into a stud on the field.
Third team in the NFC East last season was the New York Giants.
Going into last season, the Giants had questions pertaining to how they would cope without Plaxico Burress.
As the season progressed, the offense was not the problem—at least the receivers—but rather it was the defense unit that ultimately destroyed their postseason dreams.
That being said, the Giants wasted no time getting a huge boost in the defensive backfield by signing safety Antrel Rolle formerly of the Arizona Cardinals.
With the addition of Rolle and the return of Aaron Ross and Kenny Phillips, the Giants’ secondary just got a whole lot better.
The combination of Corey Webster, Ross, Phillips, and Rolle, in my opinion, makes that secondary unit one of the best in the league.
By improving the secondary like this, the Giants can press and contain the wide receivers of the opposing team much better than last season.
By having that factor under control, the opposing quarterback will be forced to hold onto the ball longer, which in turn leads to more pressure getting to the quarterback a la Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka.
In fact, I would say this one move may make the Giants one of the top defenses next season.
As for key departures, defensive tackle Fred Robbins did leave the team for former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his St. Louis Rams. Backup quarterback David Carr also left the team for the San Francisco 49er’s.
The real key to the Giants’ hopes this season will be replacing the heart and soul of their defense, linebacker Antonio Pierce.
Last but not least, the Washington Redskins have made some important improvements as well.
Most significantly, the Redskins signed quarterback Rex Grossman and running back Larry Johnson.
While at the moment these two signings look to be merely backups, don’t be shocked to see Grossman as the starting quarterback come week one of the regular season.
Do I think Larry Johnson will overthrow Clinton Portis as the starting running back? No way.
Portis is still a productive back and Johnson is not.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that Johnson will be the main backup and see his fair share of carries in the games.
Using Portis as the workhorse would just be foolish at this point, especially with his tendency to get hurt. Having Johnson could minimize this risk and also give them a security blanket if Portis goes down.
The most glaring problem with this offense is that they have no clear-cut number one receiver as Santana Moss has been terribly inconsistent and Antwaan Randle El left for the Steelers.
So how do I think the division will end up this season with the moves made so far being taken into consideration?
The NFC East champions will be the Giants, followed closely by the Eagles, the Cowboys in third and Redskins bringing up the rear.
This is no knock against the Redskins, but there is just too much talent in this division.
The Cowboys lack of moves will prove to bite them in the backside if they don’t start to show some interest in improving their team.
The Eagles will barely finish second to the Giants due to the fact that the defense of the Giants just got that much better and the offense will return generally intact.
Less than six months from now, we will see how my prediction plays out and what team is the true beast of the East.
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