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Eagles Are The NFC East Favorites: True or False?

Happy Friday. The Cowboys secured Dez Bryant's services, but are they the team to beat in 2015?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Each Friday Patrick and Dave discuss the week that was. It's Two Guys Internetting Football!

Dave: Bad news Patrick, we get at least three more years of Dez Bryant. Good news Patrick, since they're paying him $45M over three years they have the 6th least amount of cap space for 2016 and the least amount for 2017. (The Eagles are middle of the pack both years.) So much for all that awesome cap management the Cowboys are doing. They even have the least amount for 2018 thanks to Tony Romo's contract, but that's a long ways away.

Meanwhile for all their spending this season, the Eagles still have the 11th most amount of cap space. I was surprised to see that. It makes sense with Sam Bradford on the last year of his deal and Fletcher Cox on an expensive fifth year option in 2016 (I expect that cap hit to change on an eventual new deal) that you'd want a good chunk of space to roll over. But that makes me think, when Andy Reid did this he got killed for it, but this is another area where Chip seems to be bulletproof. If anything he's been praised for it... he signed multiple Name Players™ and the team is in good cap shape going forward. If Reid entered the season with so much cap space and half a dozen starting jobs up for grabs, rightly or wrongly the fan base would be calling him cheap. Or am I off my rocker?

™ by Jim Bouton in Ball Four when he jokingly told his expansion teammates "but I'm a name player" and they didn't find it funny. Great book.

Patrick: I think you have to look at the crop of available free agents. Of the few big names the Eagles didn't sign, we know they at least tried for a couple: true Eagle Frank Gore slipped away at the last minute, and Chip and Company reportedly tried hard to pry Devin McCourty from New England to no avail. Sure, some of that money could have gone to Jeremy Maclin, but that contract ended up being too rich for the Eagles' blood, and I'm fine with it--for now, at least.

Outside of those guys, who would have made sense? Maybe someone like Rahim Moore (who somehow got a smaller and shorter deal than Nate Allen) I guess, and if Chip had known how the Evan Mathis situation would end, I think we would have seen the Eagles go after one of the top interior guys. But spending money on free agents just because you can is how the Saints ended up in cap hell. And I'm in no hurry to go out and overpay Antrel Rolle just because the coaching staff doesn't seem to have any faith in Earl Wolff. In your hypothetical situation I think the fans' beef with Reid not spending would have been that those teams always felt like they were right there. This team feels stacked in several areas, but they aren't even the clear front-runners in the division.

Speaking of the division, the Dez Bryant signing makes me think about that cold, cold night in December. And that makes me unhappy. So as we inch closer to training camp, do you have any thoughts on which team is better? We heard your convincing argument that the Eagles are better than every team, but do you think they're better than every team enough?? I'll hang up and listen.

Dave: Haha. I do think they are the best team in the division. DeMarco Murray was the Cowboys MVP and that won’t be happening again, they should be back to their mediocre ways. Their defense is still bad, their RBs aren't good, other than Bryant their receivers are nothing special. And they’re coached by Jason Garrett. The Eagles have the best defense in the division, the best special teams, the best running backs, the best tight end and the best coach. The Cowboys have the best QB by far. Let’s just say for argument's sake that their OL is better too (though I think we both agree that while it’s very good it’s overrated), it’s not better by a significant amount. I’ll take Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson over Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Doug Free. Washington has the best WRs in the division, but no one to throw them the ball, a piece of lightly toasted bread as head coach and a pale imitation of Jonathan Pryce’s hilariously lame Bond villain that owns the team. Daniel Synder would absolutely start a war to raise advertising rates. Then he'd lose the war. The Giants can’t even count to five properly (yes that’s a JPP joke but not a JPP's hand joke) and to continue the theme of pathetic villains, a punter who looks like a generic husband who tries to hire someone to kill his wife in a Lifetime movie talking trash after they went 0-2 vs the Eagles. So the only real competition are the Cowboys, and the Eagles have the better 53 man roster and the better coach overseeing it.

Of course games aren't won on paper, but the Eagles should be the division favorites.

Patrick: I have to say I agree, although the quarterback situation does bother me. People like to say that Dallas is one play away from Brandon Weeden starting, but if that play never comes, that quarterback could be the difference between the Cowboys going 10-6 and 12-4. That said, I'm not going to bet against Chip, especially now that he has a team closer to the one he wants.

Talking Eagles-Cowboys and Chip Kelly got me thinking about MMQB's recent article on Kelly. If you missed it, Peter King's site recently named Kelly the third most influential person in the NFL for the 2015 season. In that article, former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said he's been giving Kelly advice on team building. This pairing makes a ton of sense: both were former college coaches who gained total control over the organizations. While Johnson obviously has the hardware advantage, he makes a perfect mentor for Kelly, who is always looking for as much information as he can gather.

In the interview, Johnson said that running the entire show can prevent an organization from playing it safe. As Johnson noted, rule by committee requires compromise, which often can prevent bold action. The quote made me wonder if Chip's master plan always involved him being the only decision-maker in the organization, and if this offsesaon's power struggle was something inevitable, regardless of who was on the other side. Granted, he seemed to have a good rapport with Tom Gamble, so maybe I'm reading into it too much. What say you?

Dave: I think it mattered who was on the other side of the struggle. All that "football guy" nonsense wouldn't have been said about everyone. He wanted one of his guys, unfortunately the power struggle was inevitable.

Johnson's reflecting on his time in Miami was sugar coated, one of the reasons he struggled there was free agency was foreign to him (which is something Nick Saban said in an interview yesterday at SEC Media Day yesterday was a difficulty for him when he was in Miami). Johnson had some killer drafts in part because he was able to fleece teams for picks for Hershel Walker and Steve Walsh, with free agency teams didn't need to trade for players. And as he has said many times before, he already had knowledge of players he was drafting from his recruiting days, by the time he got to Miami that no longer applied.

And I disagree with him that committee can't work. If there isn't the proper leadership and respect in place, then it will lead to compromise, which is why he left the Cowboys. But when there is a real hierarchy and a good.... culture.... among that hierarchy, you gain the benefit of the wisdom of the crowds. Ultimately there must be one "decider" but multiple voices can be good if the right system is in place. No one person has all the knowledge.

But Johnson was spot on about needing a lieutenant for in-season personnel. Kelly seems to trust Ed Marynowitz as his right-hand man there, another inevitable move was promoting him. What a waste of time that search was. Anyways, Kelly is of course extremely hands on, but he's also not a micro manager. He lets position coaches determine rotations, and he's fairly hands off with the defense though always with one eye on it with Azzinarro as his liaison. I think he takes more than a few pages from another one of his buddies Bill Belichick, who tells his subordinates exactly how he wants things done, then lets them go out and do it.

When you're doing things the way Jimmy Johnson and Bill Belichick did and like, you're on the right track.

Two Drink Minimum

Defending themselves against the notion that they colluded with the Cowboys to lower Dez Bryant and Demaryious Thomas' contracts, the Broncos said in a statement The suggestion our club may have colluded with another team about a negotiation is completely false and without any merit." No merit? Really?

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Jones explained to Bryant that the Calvin Johnson contract, which represents the current peak of the receiver market, has no relevance to other receivers because it was driven by the pre-rookie wage scale deal that Johnson signed when he was drafted by the Lions in 2007. And then Jones told Dez, per the source, that Jones talked to Broncos G.M. John Elway about the situation.

Go home Broncos, you're drunk.

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