FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys believe their NFL Draft results will allow them to keep pace in the NFC East, even though the defending division champs sustained losses in terms of veterans from the 2021 playoff roster.
Meanwhile, the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants all think they improved through the draft and are on pace to make the division more competitive than it was a year ago ...
Our NFC East offseason grades ...
Key additions: Dalton Schultz, TE (franchise tag); Leighton Vander Esch, LB (re-signed), Malik Hooker, S (re-signed); Dorance Armstrong, DE (re-signed); Michael Gallup, WR (re-signed); James Washington, WR (FA); Jayron Kearse, S (re-signed); Tyler Smith, OT (draft)
Key losses: Amari Cooper, WR (trade), La’el Collins, OT (released); Connor Williams, OL (FA); Cedrick Wilson, WR (FA); Randy Gregory, DE (FA)
Offseason grade: C. The theme of the Cowboys’ offseason has been losing more players than they’ve gained. Key pieces from last season are gone from both sides of the ball including Cooper and Collins on offense, and Gregory on defense.
The offensive line was bordering on questionable status last season with age and injuries catching up with long-time staple Tyron Smith and the sub-par performance of center Tyler Biadasz. Dallas drafted Smith at No.24 but that’s commonly regarded to be a stretch. While it’s possible Smith works out, the pick seemed like a reach.
Dallas traded away Cooper and most of the receiver experience with him. It will rely on CeeDee Lamb—in just his third pro season—to take over. Tolbert was taken in the third round but if he can’t contribute immediately, this team is in trouble. Michael Gallup won’t be available to start the season because of his Week 17 ACL injury last season.
Biggest question: Can Dak Prescott stay healthy? Prescott started last season making an early case for MVP until he suffered a calf injury while throwing the game-winning overtime touchdown to Lamb against the Patriots. Prescott was never the same. Prescott needs to return to his early 2021 form and that will largely depend on the health and performance of the offensive line in front of him, which is also a big question. — Timm Hamm
Fantasy fact: Ezekiel Elliott finished seventh in fantasy points among running backs last season, and he’s now finished no worse than ninth at the position in every NFL season in which he’s played at least 15 games. Still, his second-half struggles and the emergence of Tony Pollard have Elliott’s 2022 ADP in the third or fourth round. He could be a steal. — Fabiano
Cowboys Country: More on Dallas’ offseason
Key additions: A.J. Brown, WR (trade); Haason Reddick, EDGE (FA); James Bradberry, CB (FA); Kyzir White, LB (FA), Zach Pascal, WR (FA); Jaquiski Tartt, S (FA); Jordan Davis, DL (draft); LB Nakobe Dean, LB (draft)
Key losses: Brandon Brooks, G (retired); Rodney McLeod, S (FA); Steven Nelson, CB (FA); Alex Singleton, LB (FA); Hassan Ridgeway, DT (FA); Genard Avery, LB (FA)
Offseason grade: A. Somewhat surprisingly, the Eagles went all-in on challenging for a Super Bowl this year, bulking up the defense and acquiring Brown, who is one of the top pass catchers in the game. They could have gone the draft route again for another receiver to pair with DeVonta Smith and waited for the development to happen but decided to deal for Brown and sign him to a $100 million extension.
Same thing on defense. The Eagles could have been content with putting a second-year CB such as Zech McPhearson or Tay Gowan opposite Pro Bowler Darius Slay and living with the growing pains. Instead, they signed veteran Bradberry to give the Eagles a pair of potential shutdown corners. The addition of Reddick and the return of veteran Brandon Graham from a torn Achilles that cost him his 2021 season should help a pass rush that finished next to last in the league with just 29. Davis is also expected to grow into a three-down player and will be a key piece in the middle of defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s odd-man fronts.
Biggest question: Will all the new pieces fit and can second-year head coach Nick Sirianni, who has been handed a team that looks like it could contend on paper, be able to manage expectations, which are off the charts in Philadelphia at the moment?
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With the exception of right guard, where Brooks’ retirement will open a battle to start between Isaac Seumalo and Jack Driscoll, the starting spots are mostly solidified, so camp will be spent identifying depth behind the starters, especially at receiver, tight end and linebacker. — Ed Kracz
Fantasy fact: In the first six weeks of last season, the Eagles offense ranked 10th in pass percentage and 23rd in rush percentage. Over their final 11 games, however, they ranked dead last in pass percentage and were tops in the league in rush percentage. With the addition of Brown, fantasy fans have to hope the team uses a more balanced attack in 2022. — Fabiano
Eagles Today: More on Philadelphia’s offseason
Key additions: Carson Wentz, QB (trade); Jahan Dotson, WR (draft); Andrew Norwell, OL (FA); Trai Turner, OL (FA)
Key losses: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB (retired); DeAndre Carter, WR (FA); Brandon Scherff, OL (FA); Landon Collins, S (released)
Offseason Grade: B-. Washington didn’t do a whole lot with its offseason, opting for one large move rather than many small ones. With Wentz adding $28 million to the cap space, there wasn’t a whole lot of wiggle room to make any more moves. While there were other potential quarterback upgrades to make this offseason, Washington opted to make an affordable one in terms of assets, trading two third-round picks for their new quarterback. Wentz has one year to prove himself. If he doesn’t, the Commanders can tap into 2023’s loaded QB class.
Biggest question: Will the Commanders sign a veteran linebacker? Ron Rivera has alluded numerous times this offseason about wanting to add a veteran linebacker. The team drafted Jamin Davis in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but he has migrated to his more natural position on the outside. Cole Holcomb has gotten the lion’s share of the first-team reps, but it doesn’t appear as if he’s won the starting job. He’ll have to do so in training camp, otherwise the team may look outside the organization at a linebacker like Anthony Barr or Deion Jones. — Jeremy Brener
Fantasy fact: Antonio Gibson finished 10th in fantasy points among running backs last season, but he was terribly inconsistent. In fact, he scored fewer than 12 points seven times and was limited to single digits in six of those games. With J.D. McKissic in the mix and the selection of Brian Robinson in the draft, Gibson’s 2022 touch share could decline. — Fabiano
Washington Football: More on Washington’s offseason
NEW YORK GIANTS
Key additions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge (draft); Evan Neal, OT (draft); Daniel Bellinger, TE (draft), OC Jon Feliciano (UFA), G Mark Glowinski, G (UFA)
Key losses: Austin Johnson, DT (UFA, Chargers), Logan Ryan, S (released), Evan Engram, TE (FA), Keion Crossen, DB/STs (UFA, Miami)
Offseason Grade: B-. New GM Joe Schoen was significantly hamstrung, thanks to the prior regime’s bold yet unsuccessful gamble to stretch the salary cap to acquire veteran help. Schoen did stockpile draft picks, filling them with prospects that address numerous holes on the roster. He also weeded out veterans such as Ryan who were no longer in the team’s long-term plans to straighten out the cap moving forward. It’s going to take time for everything to come together, but the early feelings are that Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll have a long-term vision similar to how the Bills, their former team, were built from the bottom up.
Biggest question: Can Daboll and Schoen save Daniel Jones? After co-owner John Mara admitted the previous regime did everything possible to screw up Jones, Schoen and Daboll have done everything possible to reinforce what’s around him to give him the best possible chance at success. That includes a system that Jones himself also contributed to developing, a better offensive line and the freedom to return to his rookie-season gunslinging ways. But can Jones take that long-awaited step forward and be the quarterback the organization has always envisioned him becoming? If he can, he’ll land a nice payday, and the Giants will be set moving forward. If he can’t, the Giants are potentially looking at starting again with a new franchise quarterback in 2023. — Patricia Traina
Fantasy fact: In his first two seasons in the NFL, Saquon Barkley averaged 4.8 yards per rush and produced a combined 3,169 scrimmage yards in 29 games. In his last two seasons, he has averaged a mere 3.5 yards per rush with a combined 950 scrimmage yards in just 15 games. Barkley is still going in the top three to four rounds in most fantasy drafts. — Fabiano
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