There were a slew of big signings in the NFC East, but nobody went harder than the New York Giants, which is a break from their usual M.O. After last season’s debacle, the Giants look like a much better team with a vastly upgraded secondary and offensive line. With a strong draft from Reese, the Giants could be the best team in the vision, but I’m a bit wary about putting them over the Philadelphia Eagles following my prediction last season (I had the Giants winning the NFC East last year).
It’s time to grade the Giants and the other teams in the division based on what they did so far during the free-agent period.
Philadelphia Eagles A-
It was a strong offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles, as Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly were able to keep their No. 2 and 3 receivers (all the more important given the trade rumors surrounding DeSean Jackson, as the ability to re-sign both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper helped make D-Jax expendable) and make upgrades to the secondary. There have been better offseason, but the Eagles did a nice job of keeping key players and adding solid pieces without overpaying.
Well, they did overpay for one player, and I wasn’t a fan of the Malcolm Jenkins deal at all. I haven’t seen him play at an above-average level in a couple of years, and he was terrible last season at free safety. He may be a converted corner, but I think he misses too many tackles and just isn’t consistent enough in coverage. That said, the Eagles didn’t want to pony up for Jairus Byrd, they desperately needed an upgrade at safety of any sort, and they have the ability to make Jenkins a plus player in their scheme.
Adding Darren Sproles was also a solid move, but what pushes the Eagles grade from a “B” to an “A” were the other moves they made. They recognized that they screwed up badly by signing Patrick Chung to a significant deal last offseason, so they cut him, kept the talented-enough Nate Allen, and had Jenkins in tote. The Eagles also locked up star offensive linemen to keep the league’s best offensive line secure financially.
Dallas Cowboys C
It was actually an average offseason for Jerry Jones and the ‘Boys, but that’s because signing defensive tackle Henry Melton was a huge saving grace for them. ACL tear early last season or not, I’m still amazed at how the Cowboys were able to sign him to such a favorable deal, especially given their cap conundrum and mediocrity last season (they only competed for a playoff spot due to the sad state of the NFC East). Melton chose the Cowboys over significant interest from the Seattle Seahawks and some interest from the Minnesota Vikings, and he is an even better player than departed DT Jason Hatcher (more on him later).
Terrell McClain and Brandon Weeden are two terrible players, so the Cowboys will hope they can be serviceable backups and improve in 2014. Jeremy Mincey is a nice situational pass rusher as a No. 3 DE, as he can put pressure on the quarterback on a relatively consistent basis. At the same time, the Cowboys should have been able to keep Anthony Spencer, because he is still a very talented player despite the fact that he may never be the same after needing microfracture surgery. It would have been better to sign him to a cheap, no-risk deal instead of only bringing in Mincey to replace him and DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys restructured some more contracts before the Ware release in order to free up cap, but that short-term navigation only helps them now; they need to make fiscally responsible decisions in the future (I feel like a broken record when it comes to talking about the Cowboys).
New York Giants A
It was an incredibly aggressive offseason for the New York Giants, and they signed some of the best free agents in the open market in Geoff Schwartz, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Walter Thurmond. While the Thurmond signing was a steal in every sense, the DRC deal is a gamble. It could pay huge dividends for the Giants and give them a true No. 1 corner over the next several years, but the worry is that he won’t respond well to a five-year deal. That worry led several teams to balk at his asking price, but the Giants did an excellent job of minimizing the risk of him busting out. If you look at the contract, he’s barely going to get paid anything in 2014, and his deal is severely backloaded. Hopefully his big-time play in 2013 and ability to appear in a Super Bowl cause him to be motivated as a shutdown corner in the coming years, but his initially vague comments during media days regarding a potential retirement raised some eyebrows.
Mario Manningham, Henry Hynoski, Stevie Brown, Trumaine McBride, and Rashad Jennings were five other solid moves, and the only deal that I didn’t like was the signing of John Jerry, who is a mediocre player and was part of the issues in Miami. It wasn’t an awful deal by any means, though, and the Giants really do need interior offensive line help. They made some big upgrades on the OL and in the defensive backfield, and it would be criminal not to give the Giants an “A” due to a slew of solid signings. But they also need to have a strong draft (add another WR) in order to make themselves the noticeable favorite to win the division.
Washington Redskins D-
I was incredibly disappointed with the offseason Bruce Allen and the Washington Redskins put together, and they were much worse than the Dallas Cowboys despite stealing away one of their rival’s best free agents. Jason Hatcher had a terrific 2013 season going after the quarterback, but the Redskins are paying a whole lot of money to somebody who might not be a true 3-4 DE and might never meet last year’s production. That said, he and Andre Roberts were still decent signings, and I loved Allen’s decision to keep both Brian Orakpo and Perry Riley around.
That said, how can the Redskins justify that awful Shawn Lauvao signing? Why on earth would they release Will Montgomery, who is a very solid interior lineman, in order to save just a few million, while being willing to sign a well below-average starting guard to a bigger deal? They came into the offseason with massive (that can’t be understated) holes in the secondary, and they simply didn’t do enough to address them. Re-signing DeAngelo Hall was OK even if he was too expensive, but I have no idea why they thought Tracy Porter was an adequate upgrade. He’s not, and he’s making a bit too much money as well. Re-signing Brandon Meriweather was their big move at safety, and that should embarrass Allen.