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NFC East: Pressure On East Rivals To Make Splash?
Well, it seems we’ve dished enough about the Cowboys’ prospects – or lack thereof – in the impending free agency market. The Cowboys have a handful of courses they can pursue, and not a ton of money to spend either way.
That’s not quite the case within the rest of their division, where the cash is a little easier to come by. According to the latest projections, all three of Dallas’ division opponents rank in or near the top half of the league in available salary cap space, which could come in handy when free agency opens later today. The Eagles, Redskins and Giants sit eighth, 15th and 17th, with cap numbers of roughly $29 million, $20 million and $18 million, respectively.
It’s a little scary that the Eagles, who claimed the division crown last year, have that much money to throw around – even after the re-signing of offensive tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce. On top of that, they brought back receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.
The obvious focus should be defense, as the Eagles weren’t much better in that department. If any team can afford the large price tag that will reportedly come with Bills safety Jairus Byrd, it might be Philly. For a team that has a documented history of safety struggles similar to the Cowboys, that could be the home run swing.
It certainly doesn’t seem like the Eagles need any more weapons on offense, but the idea of potential free agent Darren Sproles linking up with Chip Kelly if the Saints do in fact release him. Sproles might be on the decline of his career, but adding him to a backfield that already includes LeSean McCoy sounds relatively terrifying.
A lot of the problems plaguing the Eagles are also issues for the Redskins – the difference is that one team won the division and the other tanked the second half of the season.
New Washington coach Jay Gruden at least has the core of his team accounted for. Robert Griffin III isn’t going anywhere, nor is Alfred Morris or Pierre Garcon. Franchise tackle Trent Williams is accounted for, for two more seasons. Brian Orakpo is around for at least one more year after taking the team’s franchise tag to stay on as the primary piece to the pass rush.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to build on – this team went 3-13, after all. The Redskins probably need a receiving threat to partner with Garcon. Reports on Monday had them linked to both Kenny Britt and Andrew Hawkins. The rumor that intrigued me the most is that Washington may want to add cornerback Aqib Talib, last seen with the Patriots. Coupling Talib with recent re-signee DeAngelo Hall would undoubtedly improve what was – yet again – a bad NFC East secondary.
The Redskins are in an incredibly similar situation to the Cowboys in regard to their safeties. Veteran Brandon Meriweather will likely occupy one starting spot, while the other could be up between two second-year guys, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo.
Thomas was injured for the duration of his rookie campaign, and Rambo didn’t do much to impress, which begs the question of whether Washington will look to address that position in the coming months.
New York seems like it undoubtedly has the most holes to fill – which makes sense, given the 0-6 start and 7-9 finish. It’s hard to pinpoint where exactly the Giants should start, but my best guess would be the offensive line. You can’t afford to have your franchise quarterback turn in a stinker of a season like Eli Manning did last fall. And he’s not going to have much of a chance to improve if the Giants can’t protect him.
It seems like the only certainty for that group is 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh is assured a starting spot. Offensive tackle David Diehl retired, and center David Baas was reportedly cut Monday evening. In their place, New York may be looking at Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith or New Orleans’ Brian de la Puente as a replacement.
The Giants stand to benefit from looking to their own, as well. It seems unlikely they’ll be able to hold on to long time pass rusher Justin Tuck, but they’d be well served to bring back safety Stevie Brown and emerging defensive tackle Linval Joseph – assuming they can afford both.