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NFC East free agency recap

Same division, different offseason

Washington Commanders Introduce Carson Wentz Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The NFL offseason is officially a week old. Normally that means a whole bunch of stupidity by the esteemed members of the NFC East. This year though teams were restrained in their dumbness. But they were still pretty dumb. Let’s review.

Dallas Cowboys

Needs: A time machine? Last year was the peak of the Mike McCarthy era. The Cowboys didn’t have the cap space to tread water and bring back every key player from last year’s one and done playoff team, let alone improve the roster.

So barring the inexplicable invention of a time machine by the Cowboys, they have to shop the bargain bin and bring in guys coming off down years and hope enough of them can bounce back to make up for the lost production.

Losses: Amari Cooper was traded to the Browns, Randy Gregory signed with the Broncos, Connor Williams and Cedrick Wilson signed with the Dolphins, and La’El Collins was released along with Greg Zuerlien and Blake Jarwin.

Re-signings: Michael Gallup, who is injured; Leighton Vander Esche, who is seemingly always injured; Jayron Kearse, Bryan Anger, and Dorance Armstrong; while Dalton Schultz was franchise tagged.

Additions: Donte Fowler, who had three sacks in 14 games with Dan Quinn in Atlanta in 2020; and James Washington, who had 735 receiving yards in 2019 and 677 since then for the Steelers.

Did they meet their needs? No.

The first week of free agency went as close to a disaster as could happen. Amari Cooper was traded for a 5th round pick and swap of 6ths. That was a steal by the Browns before free agency began, seeing the contracts given out in free agency to inferior WRs only makes the deal look worse. The Cowboys misplayed their hand. Still, it’s more than they got for La’el Collins, which was absolutely nothing when they cut him after unsurprisingly failing to find a trade partner for a guy who got suspended for repeatedly not showing up to take a drug test. They announced they had re-signed Randy Gregory before anything was actually signed, apparently insulted by the contract allowing the team to void his contract if he was fined or suspended, Gregory signed with the Broncos.

The players they all did actually re-sign all have their share of concerns. Gallup is coming of a torn ACL in Week 17, having previously missed seven games with a calf injury, now he’s being asked to be the #1 WR. Vander Esche had his fifth year option declined a year ago, which was a wise move by the Cowboys, his playing time in 2021 dropped accordingly. Is that the kind of player you want back? Kearse, having never been a starter, signed a one year prove it deal a year ago. The problem with signing guys to prove it deals is that in order to prove it the player had to have not been good and thus have something to prove, and then if he’s good you’re probably paying for a career year. Armstrong had 5 sacks last year, in the previous three seasons he had 2.5 total.

The early forays into external additions may seem like the buy low/high upside moves the Cowboys need to make, but they don’t hold up to scrutiny. Dante Fowler had the worst season of his career under Dan Quinn, registering career lows in sacks, QB hits, and tackles for loss despite being a starter. James Washington’s decline in production might be explained away by Ben Roethlisberger’s rotting carcass, but he also saw a decline in playing time, after playing a majority of snaps in his first two years, he played 44% and 41% in the last two.

The nicest thing you can say about the Cowboys offseason is that at least they didn’t try to schedule a meeting with Deshaun Watson based on the times he was giving a deposition, which is more than you can say about the next team.

Philadelphia Eagles

Needs: Anyone who can play defense and a WR taller than 6’0”.

Losses: Fletcher Cox was released, while Hassan Ridgeway signed with the 49ers and Alex Singleton with the Broncos.

Re-signings: Boston Scott and Anthony Harris.

Additions: Haason Reddick, who had 23.5 sacks in the previous two seasons, replaces the still unsigned Derek Barnett, who has 21.5 in his career. Zach Pascal is at least a replacement level WR which makes him an immediate upgrade over Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Greg Ward. Fletcher Cox, who was released by the Eagles, was signed to fill the void left by the team releasing Fletcher Cox.

Did they meet their needs? Barely, but yes.

Reddick is a good player at a premium position and a position of need on a reasonable contract. He improves the defense and assists the Eagles’ draft board. Prior to free agency it felt that the Eagles were guaranteed to take a pass rusher with one of their three 1st round picks. While they likely will still draft a pass rusher, the Eagles can operate without absolutely having to take one, which should keep all options open and prevent them from reaching for one. Should. Reddick doesn’t vault the Eagles from fringe playoff team to NFC contenders, but he gets them a step closer to a division title that is up for grabs without handcuffing the team in the short or long term. Good signing.

Paschal checks the box of a WR over 6’0”. His worst output in his career has been approximately the production of Jalen Reagor, but he at least adds a red zone dimension that no other WR on the team does, so even if he’s Jalen Reagor but with a few catches in the red zone he’s an improvement over Jalen Reagor.

However the decision to cut Fletcher Cox and then immediately try to bring him back is a glaring illustration of the string of bad contract decisions the team has made since winning the Super Bowl. In the beginning of the season the team restructured Cox’s contract, which made it difficult to trade him, a few weeks after that and again in the offseason they tried to trade him. Unsurprisingly they found no takers. The Eagles led the league in dead cap space in 2021, and they currently have the 5th most for 2022, and the most for 2023–the latter being entirely the dead cap charge for Cox’s contract.

The Eagles are on the verge of being in QB purgatory and are already in salary cap purgatory.

Washington Football Team Commanders

Needs: Someone for Carson Wentz to throw to besides Terry McLaurin. WASTEAM’s second most productive receiver was Adam Humphries, who did not catch a TD all year. Ricky Seals-Jones was the team’s top tight end in receptions, he averaged 9.0 yards per catch. Curtis Samuel missed 12 games through three multi-game stretches due to two injuries.

Losses: Landon Collins was released after failing to agree on a pay cut after the Wentz trade; Ereck Flowers and Matt Ionndinis were also released, with the latter’s agent saying “we don’t particularly care to be lied to our face”. Brandon Scherff was the one somewhat defensive signing by the Jaguars to kick off free agency, Tim Settle signed with the Bills, Ricky Seals-Jones signed with the Giants.

Re-signings: JD McKissic returned after nearly signing with the Bills.

Additions: Traded for Carson Wentz, signed Andrew Norwell.

Did they meet their needs? No, not yet.

WASTEAM traded for a QB who lost a must win game to the Jaguars and then did less than nothing to give him help having lost a pass catcher and adding none. In their defense the WR market in free agency went insane and there are still plenty of pass catchers available. But a week has gone by and they haven’t improved their team at all.

That’s not even the worst part of their offseason. WASTEAM completely misread the QB market. Almost immediately it looks like they overpaid for Wentz. The Falcons gave up Matt Ryan for the lesser of the Colts’ two 3rd round picks (the better of the picks being from, you guessed it, the Commanders). Ryan was never going to be an option for WASTEAM, but that he went for so cheap and that Baker Mayfield, on a cheaper contract than Wentz, is available, while Jimmy Garoppolo is out there as a plan B. And with the 11th pick in the draft a QB could very much be on the cards. But they just had to get Wentz, who stood a good chance of simply being released if they hadn’t traded for him. Have fun with that.

New York Giants

Needs: At the macro level, an entirely new roster; at the micro level, four starters on the offensive line hit free agency.

Losses: Evan Engram joined the Get Overpaid Party in Jacksonville, Logan Ryan signed with the Bucs, Austin Johnson signed with the Chargers, Lorenzo Carter signed with the Falcons, Keion Crossen signed with the Dolphins, while Kyle Rudolph and Riley Dixon, who contributed about as much to the Giants 2021 season as you did, were cut, along with Devontae Booker.

Re-signings: Korey Cunningham is the only player the Giants have re-signed, which makes sense because the Giants basically didn’t have any players you would want to bring back.

Additions: Tyrod Taylor improves the Giants backup QB situation and possibly their starting one as well; Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano, from the Colts and Bills, are the latest edition in the Giants revolving door of offensive linemen; Ricky Seals-Jones career numbers roughly equal Evan Engram’s over the previous two seasons.

Did they meet their needs? No, but yes.

New GM Joe Schoen walked into a terrible situation: his QB stinks and his team has no real cap space to remake the roster, on the eve of free agency they were in the bottom ten in cap space. He had two options: be like the Saints and punt a lot of money to future years, or sit there and take it. As shortsighted as the Saints method is, they at least had a winning record last year to build off. The Giants stink, and they’re going to stink again this year, Schoen wisely realized that the best course of action for his team this season is to sit there and take the pain.

Sometimes in sports simply not being the dumbest team in the room is enough to improve, which certainly applies to the Giants after the Dave Gettlemen experience.