Coach Ron Rivera realizes luck played a part in getting the under-.500 Washington Football Team to the playoffs last year. Just last month, he acknowledged his team was “fortunate” to benefit from a poor division as the NFC East was “not as strong as you’d like it to be.”
Rivera’s comment explains Washington’s aggressive approach to free agency this offseason: Standing pat, the thinking goes, is not going to be enough to bring the franchise another NFC East title — not with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys all making moves of their own.
Here’s a look at what the rest of the division has been up to:
New York Giants
Think Washington was aggressive in free agency? New York was even bolder. According to Over The Cap, the Giants have dished out $163 million in contracts since the Super Bowl — fifth-most in the NFL.
Only the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars have spent more.
The Giants, though, are betting big that an improved supporting cast can help get the most out of third-year quarterback Daniel Jones. New York’s most notable move was to give wideout Kenny Golladay a four-year, $72 million contract — giving Jones a true No. 1 wide receiver. Golladay is coming off a down season with the Detroit Lions, but he’s topped 1,000 yards in two of his four seasons. Interestingly enough, the Giants are now paying Golladay ($18 million per year) the same as what they gave Odell Beckham Jr. before trading him.
New York also invested heavily in defense, trying to build upon a scrappy unit that ranked 19th in defensive DVOA (efficiency) last year. The Giants gave defensive end Leonard Williams a three-year, $63 million extension and signed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (two years, $21 million) and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (three years, $39 million).
The Cowboys have committed $194 million worth of contracts this offseason — but $160 million of that alone went to quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott should be well worth the price. His return to the Cowboys is a strong reason why oddsmakers favor Dallas to win the NFC East in 2021. The Cowboys won six games last year — despite Prescott missing most of the season with a fractured ankle. The 27-year-old is on track to be ready for Week 1 and he has an elite supporting cast around him.
Elsewhere, the Cowboys tried to address their defense with a series of moves that included adding former Falcons safety Keanu Neal (one year, $4 million), edge rusher Tarrell Barsham (two years, $5.5 million) and defensive tackle Brent Urban (one year, $1.75 million).
The Eagles haven’t just been the East’s quietest team in free agency, they’ve spent the least since the Super Bowl, according to Over The Cap.
But they’ve had a busy offseason. On Friday, Philadelphia traded back in the draft — sending the sixth pick and a 2021 fifth-rounder to the Miami Dolphins for No. 12, a 2021 fourth-rounder and a 2022 first-rounder. This was after the Eagles sent quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts weeks earlier. By trading back, the Eagles could be putting them outside the range of landing one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. But Philadelphia has 2020 second-rounder Jalen Hurts returning and signed veteran Joe Flacco (one year, $3.5 million) as a backup.
The Eagles’ most notable free-agent move was to add former Vikings safety Anthony Harris on a one-year, $4 million deal. Harris turns 30 in October and had an inconsistent year with Minnesota, but he ranked as one of Pro Football Focus’ top safeties in 2018 and 2019 — meaning this could be a stealth signing that could very much boost the Eagles’ secondary.
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