NFC East Preseason Grades
Key Acquisitions: WR Allen Hurns, LB Leighton Vander Esch, OT Cameron Fleming, WR Tavon Austin, WR Deonte Thompson, FB Jamize Olawale, DE Kony Ealy, OT/OG Connor Williams, TE Dalton Schultz
Key Losses: TE Jason Witten, WR Dez Bryant, LB Anthony Hitchens, OG Jonathan Cooper, CB Orlando Scandrick, RB Alfred Morris, WR Brice Butler, CB Bene Benwikere, LB Kyle Wilber, DE Benson Mayowa, WR Ryan Switzer, FB Keith Smith
Things are never quiet in Dallas, and while the Cowboys didn’t make many flashy moves this spring, change came suddenly in April when two franchise icons with a combined 14 Pro Bowls left in less than a two-week span. Dez Bryant’s departure (via release) was the Cowboys’ choice, but Jason Witten’s retirement caught more than a few by surprise.
What’s left is an offense that must be driven by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, though its stellar front five remains a constant. The O-line got reinforcements in Connor Williams -- who could start at left guard -- and swing tackle Cameron Fleming, before a record-setting extension for Zack Martin. Receiver and tight end remain a concern, however, with a grab bag of unproven or uninspiring options at both spots. Dallas was probably right to drop out of the Sammy Watkins sweepstakes, but where will the explosive pass plays come from?
The defense lost a few rotation pieces, but much of the same group returns for a unit that quietly ranked eighth in yards and 10th in yards per play last season. First-rounder Leighton Vander Esch should contribute early, but his arrival could be a bad sign for Jaylon Smith’s progress or Sean Lee’s longevity. There are concerns up front, too, as Demarcus Lawrence did not receive the multi-year contract he coveted and starting defensive tackles David Irving (suspension) and Maliek Collins (broken foot) could miss time.
Offseason Grade: C
FLM Take: The Cowboys took care of their O-line, but the skill positions took a hit and few upgrades were made elsewhere.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Key Acquisitions: RB Saquon Barkley, OT Nate Solder, LB Alec Ogletree, RB Jonathan Stewart, OG Will Hernandez, OG Patrick Omameh, LB Kareem Martin, CB William Gay, WR Cody Latimer, S Michael Thomas, P Riley Dixon, LB Lorenzo Carter, DT B.J. Hill; OLB Connor Barwin
Key Losses: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, OG Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, WR Brandon Marshall, LB Devon Kennard, LB Jonathan Casillas, CB Ross Cockrell, OG D.J. Fluker, OT Bobby Hart, RB Shane Vereen, WR Dwayne Harris, QB Geno Smith, P Brad Wing
New GM Dave Gettleman certainly doesn’t lack conviction. After concluding that Eli Manning still has a few quality years left, Gettleman went all-in on building the Giants’ offensive line and running game, sparing no expense in the process.
Nate Solder’s record-breaking contract ($15.5 million annually, most in NFL history) is tough to swallow, but if it upgrades both tackle spots -- with Ereck Flowers moving to the right side -- the Giants’ offense should be much better. Patrick Omameh (signed from the Jaguars) and second-rounder Will Hernandez will boost the interior, which has big shoes to will with Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg out the door. On top of it all, Gettleman bet big on Saquon Barkley while passing on a potential QB of the future. If Odell Beckham Jr. returns to 100 percent, and both sides work out a new long term contract, the pieces for an offensive turnaround are in place.
New York’s defense might need more work. Especially after it traded Jason Pierre-Paul, who had nearly a third of the team’s sacks in 2017. Acquiring Alec Ogletree filled a void in the middle, but pass-rush concerns are warranted, as third-round pick Lorenzo Carter remains very raw as a rusher. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be missed as well, especially with uncertainty about Eli Apple’s reliability.
Offseason Grade: C+
FLM Take: The Giants’ offense should be in for a significant rebound, and a better running game would take pressure off the defense. Still, Gettleman’s approach felt a bit antiquated, and he could rue passing on Sam Darnold.
Key Acquisitions: DE Michael Bennett, WR Mike Wallace, DT Haloti Ngata, TE Dallas Goedert, TE Richard Rodgers, LB Corey Nelson, WR Markus Wheaton, WR Kamar Aiken, RB Matt Jones
Key Losses: DE Vinny Curry, CB Patrick Robinson, LB Mychal Kendricks, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Brent Celek, TE Trey Burton, WR Torrey Smith, DT Beau Allen, S Corey Graham, P Donnie Jones; LB Paul Worrilow
Many Super Bowl teams get gutted during the ensuing free agency, but the Eagles weathered the storm pretty well, managing to re-sign linebacker Nigel Bradham while letting several rotation players walk. Perhaps the two most talented departures came via release, as Philly let Vinny Curry and Mychal Kendricks go to save cap space.
While some players walked out the door, GM Howie Roseman wasn’t shy about bringing a few in, restocking a deep defensive line with veterans Michael Bennett (via trade) and Haloti Ngata (free agency). He also replaced Torrey Smith with a cheaper, more versatile deep threat in Mike Wallace, while the duo of Richard Rodgers (free agency) and Dallas Goedert (draft) should offset the losses of Brent Celek and Trey Burton at tight end.
The team navigated its delicate quarterback situation well, extending Nick Foles through 2019 while giving him a nice bonus as thanks for helping the team to a Super Bowl LII title. All signs point to Carson Wentz being cleared from his torn ACL to play in Week 1, which should keep Philadelphia in position to again contend for the Lombardi Trophy.
Outside of Goedert, the Eagles didn’t draft many players who are likely to contribute early, and they were one of only two teams (along with the Titans, who had four) to come away with fewer than six selections.
Offseason Grade: B
FLM Take: Few GMs manage the cap as effectively as Roseman, who did well to keep a Super Bowl-caliber team mostly intact. Here's a look back at his strategy when taking over for Chip Kelly in 2015.
Key Acquisitions: QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, OLB Pernell McPhee, DT Da’Ron Payne, RB Derrius Guice, CB Orlando Scandrick, QB Kevin Hogan, DT Tim Settle; CB Adonis Alexander
Key Losses: QB Kirk Cousins, CB Kendall Fuller, CB Bashaud Breeland, DE Trent Murphy, C Spencer Long, S DeAngelo Hall, WR Ryan Grant, WR Terrelle Pryor, LB Will Compton, OLB Junior Galette, TE Niles Paul
You can criticize Washington for bungling Kirk Cousins’ contract situation in previous offseasons, but the team did the best it could this spring by landing Alex Smith in the QB carousel. Whether or not the cautious but steady signal-caller will fit perfectly in Jay Gruden’s aggressive offense, Washington was smart to grab a stable chair long before the music stopped.
Other than Smith’s extension (four years, $94 million, $71 million guaranteed) and the signing of wideout Paul Richardson (five years, $45 million), Dan Snyder’s wallet took less of a hit than usual, an approach that should yield compensatory picks for Cousins (third-rounder), Spencer Long (fifth), Ryan Grant (sixth) and Terrelle Pryor (sixth) in 2018. Richardson’s health will be key for a thinned out receiving corps, and 2017 sixth-rounder Chase Roullier must step up to replace Long at the pivot. Getting the dynamic Derrius Guice, who could quickly become an offensive centerpiece, late in Round 2 was a coup.
On defense, rookies Da’Ron Payne and Tim Settle could provide a similar boost to a poor run defense, and talented but injury-prone Pernell McPhee was a great buy-low candidate. The team also re-signed linebacker Zach Brown, but major questions remain at cornerback, where Kendall Fuller (part of the package for Smith) and Bashaud Breeland (unsigned) are gone. 2017 third-rounder Fabian Moreau must step up, especially considering Orlando Scandrick’s decline in recent years.
Offseason Grade: B-
FLM Take: It might not bear out in a tough division, but Washington did well to reload despite losing significant talent.