Ultimately, though, the Eagles stole the free agency and trade shows, acquiring LB Kiko Alonso in a trade, RBs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews in free agency and seeing a changing of the cornerbacks.
The defending divisional champion Cowboys are saying they are confident in Darren McFadden as Murray’s replacement, but it won’t be easy for him to replace the league’s top rusher in 2014 or return the Cowboys to the second-ranked rushing offense.
The Redskins weren’t their usual lavishly-spending selves, but they could be building a roster the right way, even if it doesn’t bear division-winning fruit just yet.
So what were the significant offseason moves in the NFC East?
Vegas over/under on 2015 wins: 9½
Top free agent signings: The Cowboys rolled the dice on signing DE Greg Hardy and were rewarded with him getting a 10-game suspension. They also re-signed Rolando McClain and T Doug Free, WR Cole Beasley, and added RB Darren McFadden. Losing LB Justin Durant to Atlanta and DE Anthony Spencer to New Orleans will hurt, but the Cowboys’ hardline money stance with RB DeMarco Murray could be one of the deciding factors for them … and the Eagles.
Needs entering draft: RB, DE, DT, S, CB, OLB
Draft picks: First-round pick Byron Jones should compete for a starting job, as well as second-round pick Randy Gregory. The Cowboys also did a good job of bolstering at least the depth on their offensive line in the draft with T Chaz Green, but they really won after the draft by signing La’el Collins, who fell not only out of the first round but out of the draft altogether over legal concerns. The Cowboys gave him a guaranteed contract to win the deep bidding war on him and he could make an immediate impression.
What’s left at need areas: While they filled some remaining needs in the draft, the Cowboys were stubborn in not taking a running back to compete with Darren McFadden, and they didn’t address the interior of their defensive line.
Vegas over/under on 2015 wins: 8½
Top free agent signings: The Giants were relatively docile in free agency, concentrating mainly on their running game that ranked 23rd last year. They added RB Shane Vereen and re-signed Henry Hynoski. They also took DE George Selvie and WR Dwayne Harris away from the Cowboys, along with DT Kendrick Ellis. The Giants had a ton of their own free agents, but putting the franchise tag on DE Jason Pierre-Paul was the big move.
Needs entering draft: G, S, DT, LB, DE, TE
Draft picks: The Giants drafted for need through most of the selection process, and the plan could be to convert first-rounder Ereck Flowers from tackle to guard. Several other needs were addressed on the defensive side of the ball, including S Landon Collins at the top of the second round, edge rusher Owamagbe Odighizuwa in the third round and S Mykkele Thompson in the fifth round.
What’s left at need areas: After trading up to get Collins, the Giants limited themselves later in the draft, and that leaves some significant questions at linebacker, defensive tackle and tight end. They just don’t appear very deep at several positions and that could prove costly in a competitive division.
Vegas over/under on 2015 wins: 9
Top free agent signings: The Eagles went on a personnel binge, adding to the perception of the mad-scientist version of Chip Kelly. They traded for QB Sam Bradford and LB Kiko Alonso, losing RB LeSean McCoy in the process. Their salve solution for that was taking RB DeMarco Murray away from the Cowboys after already signing RB Ryan Matthews. But, besides Murray, some of the bigger additions were on defense: cornerbacks Byron Maxwell (Seattle), Walter Thurmond (Giants) and E.J. Biggers (Washington). But they also lost CB Cary Williams to Seattle and CB Bradley Fletcher to New England. They re-signed LB Brandon Graham, which might turn out to be their most underrated move because of all the others. But how much will the loss of WR Jeremy Maclin to the Chiefs hurt?
Needs entering draft: WR, S, G, CB, QB, T
Draft picks: Precision route-runner Nelson Agholor was a fit right away in the first round and should form a solid rotation with Riley Cooper and Miles Austin. Second-round pick Eric Rowe could play cornerback or safety, but either way he should give them much-needed help in a secondary that was second-to-last in pass defense last year. But those are probably the only immediate starters to come out of the draft.
What’s left at need areas: If Rowe plays cornerback, it leaves a void at safety, or vice versa. The guard situation is also unsettled after the Eagles were reportedly shopping Evan Mathis without success, and the offensive line in general could use at least reinforcements, if not replacements. That’s not an ideal situation for an injury-prone quarterback like Sam Bradford.
Vegas over/under on 2015 wins: 6½
Top free agent signings: The Redskins made a couple of big signings on defense, literally. They concentrated on their defensive line, added NT Terrance Knighton (335 pounds) and DT Stephen Paea (300 pounds). That should help their 23-ranked defense from 2014, along with CB Chris Culliver (San Francisco) and trading for S Dashon Goldson. The only gotta-have starter the Redskins lost in free agency was LB Brian Orakpo, but he was also their biggest free agent. Will adding to the interior defensive line make up for that?
Needs entering draft: OL, LB, S, WR
Draft picks: First-round pick Brandon Scherff should step in immediately at right tackle and could be used at guard or left tackle in the future, too. Second-round pick Preston Smith should win the outside linebacker spot opposite Ryan Kerrigan, but the other draft picks might have to wait to advance to even the second line of the depth chart.
What’s left at need areas: The normally free-spending Redskins entered their bizarro world with 10 draft picks, despite finding good value in free agency. Most of those don’t fill immediate needs, but those young picks develop nicely, it could lead to the slow build-up of the Redskins roster over the next couple years. They tried to add to their depth at receiver with mid-round picks Jamison Crowder and Evan Spencer, but their linebacker corps and safeties not named Goldson could use upgrades.