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NFC East: Sproles Is Highlight Among Low-Key Signings

Posted Mar 13, 2014


There’s a long way left to go in this free agency period, but with the smoke having cleared on the early frenzy of free agency – it’s not that scary.

As expected, all of the Cowboys’ divisional rivals were among the noteworthy spenders when free agency opened on Tuesday afternoon. All three teams have made signings, but to this point, those moves haven’t been anything that seems to make a significant impact on the division race.

If anything, the importance moves for the Eagles, Giants and Redskins – to this point – is that they’ve been able to hang on to some of their own.

With the majority of the big names off the board, I figured I’d take a look at the moves worth knowing within the NFC East.

Philadelphia: It took until Day 3 of free agency, but the Eagles were the first division team to make a splashy addition when they traded for Saints scatback Darren Sproles.

Now, before people get all bent out of shape, let’s slow the roll on anointing Sproles as a game-changing addition. The Eagles already have the NFL rushing king in LeSean McCoy, and Sproles’ abilities as a runner have dropped off significantly in the past two years.

Still, there’s no denying he adds something to an already-dynamic Eagles passing game. He’s caught at least 70 balls for at least 600 yards in every season since he went to New Orleans in 2011. I have little doubt Chip Kelly will find similarly scary ways to use him.

But the Philly backfield still runs through Nick Foles and McCoy.

Aside from that news, good for the Eagles that they were able to ink Jason Peters, Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Donnie Jones to new deals. They also dumped Patrick Chung, who was a disappointment last year in an atrocious Eagles secondary.

Speaking of, that’s where the other big Eagles news comes from – the birds signed former Saints first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins to a three-year deal on Tuesday afternoon. It was widely-speculated Philly would try to upgrade the safety spot, and the popular name was Jairus Byrd. The money was apparently too much, though, and Byrd wound up in New Orleans.

Jenkins looks like a definite upgrade from what the Eagles had, but as I said above, it’s not a signing that I think greatly improves their defense. Though it is a plus that it was an affordable deal – three years, about $16 million.

If that wasn’t enough, Philly also added former Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll to further bolster what was an atrocious secondary. Carroll started 12 games for the Dolphins last year and grabbed a career-high three picks. I imagine he’ll compete for a starting spot opposite Cary Williams.

Giants: A couple of noteworthy additions for a team that was awful at both running the ball and protecting the quarterback. The Giants signed Geoff Schwartz, formerly of Kansas City, on Day 1 of free agency.

It’s not exactly a blockbuster signing, as Schwartz has only started 16 games once in his five year career, and he started just seven for the Chiefs in 2013. It does bolster an interior line that was in absolute disarray last year.

With their running game a similarly large question mark, the Giants also signed Rashad Jennings to a four-year, $14 million deal. Again, Jennings isn’t exactly a headline-grabbing name, but he enjoyed what was undoubtedly the best year of his career with 733 yards and six touchdowns for Oakland last fall. He should have the opportunity to be The Man behind Eli Manning.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the loss of Linval Joseph – the Giants’ defensive tackle who was one of their defense’s best players last year. Joseph was widely considered an affordable target for the Cowboys, but he was signed away by the Vikings on Tuesday.

Within their roster, the Giants re-signed safety Stevie Brown to a one-year deal after his ACL injury last summer. Brown was the favorite to start next to Antrel Rolle before he got hurt, and youngster Will Hill excelled in his absence. The combination of all three gives New York a pretty enviable squad of safeties, even with Ryan Mundy leaving to sign with Chicago.

The Giants also re-signed cornerback Trumaine McBride, which could make him the favorite to start opposite Prince Amukamara.

Redskins: This one surprises me a little bit more than the others. It’s not like the Redskins had the most money to spend in free agency this year, but they certainly had enough to make some splashy additions. The fact that they didn’t is probably a good sign for Washington in the Jay Gruden era.

The biggest news in my mind is the re-signing of inside linebacker Perry Riley. Legendary linebacker London Fletcher decided to retire following 2013, so it was imperative to bring back his inside partner in Riley, who has been solid as a starter the past two seasons. 

Re-signing Riley, along with using the franchise tag on Brian Orakpo, assures that Washington will return the rest of its linebacker corps intact aside from Fletcher.

Behind that, the addition of a 44-game starter in guard Shaun Lauvao is a noteworthy addition. The Redskins ran the ball well in 2012 and 2013, but the pass protection was leaky – particularly when Robert Griffin III was under center.

If the line can protect him, it’s also no secret that Griffin needs weapons to get the ball to – other than Pierre Garcon. To that end, the Redskins made a cheap signing in receiver Andre Roberts, formerly of Arizona.

Again, Roberts isn’t an attention-grabbing name, and he cost just $4 million per year with $8 million guaranteed. His speed could make him a dangerous option alongside Garcon and Santana Moss. He grabbed 43 balls for just 471 yards last year – though he did manage a 64-catch, 759-yard effort for the Cardinals in 2012.

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