Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Free Agency Report – NFC East

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The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off a banner season that culminated in a run to Super Bowl 57. Now that Nick Sirianni and his precious Birds have had a taste of near success, the challenge is going to be figuring out how to stay on top.

The Eagles go into the offseason as the team to beat in the NFC East, priced at +110 at the BetUS sportsbook The Dallas Cowboys nip at their heels as the next-best bet at +175. The New York Giants will be keen to make it a three-horse race, although they’re priced at a distant +500. The forever rebuilding Washington Commanders bring up the rear as the longshots of the division, tipped at +950 to win the coveted title.

In this column, we look at the free agency comings and goings that could enhance (or detract) from the NFL odds to win the NFC East division.

NFL Odds – To Win NFC East

  • Philadelphia Eagles +110
  • Dallas Cowboys +175
  • New York Giants +500
  • Washington Commanders +950

Eagles +110

  • Key Acquisitions: RB Rashaad Penny (Seahawks), CB Greedy Williams (Browns), QB Marcus Mariota (Falcons)
  • Key re-signings: C Jason Kelce, CB James Bradbury, CB Darius Slay, RB Boston Scott, DE Brandon Graham, DT Fletcher Cox.

It’s one thing to get to the top, another to stay there. In an effort to do so, Philly’s front office has been wheeling and dealing in earnest.

Prioritizing the standouts of their memorable 2022-23 campaign was the first order of business. Center Jason Kelce, defensive end Brandon Graham, cornerback Jason Bradbury and defensive tackle worked out deals that will see them in the City of Brotherly love for at least one more season. In the case of Graham and Bradbury, NFL News media outlets are reporting that they worked out team-friendly deals that will see both of them take less money. So, if that’s not an indication the players and team are all-in for the 2023 season, what is?

It wasn’t all good news for the Eagles. While they did add former Cleveland Browns cornerback Greedy Williams, key players leaving include defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (49ers), LB T. J. Edwards (Bears), safety Marcus Epps (Raiders), and C.J. Gardner-Johnson (Lions).

On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles made a splash by signing coveted running back Rashaad Penny, a former first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks. They also made a significant move to sign quarterback Marcus Mariota after losing Gardiner Minshew to the Indianapolis Colts. In many respects, Mariota is a clear upgrade on Minshew, easily giving the Eagles a very capable backup starter.

Cowboys +175

  • Key Acquisitions: WR Brandin Cooks (Texans, via trade), CB Stephon Gilmore (Colts, via trade)
  • Key re-signings: QB Cooper Rush, S Donovan Wilson, LB Leighton Vander Esch, OT Tyron Smith, CB C.J. Goodwin

Each and every season, America’s favorite team is among the top bets to win the Super Bowl as per the sports betting markets. And yet, time after time, the Cowboys flatter to deceive. This is especially true in the playoffs, where they are 2-4 straight up (SU) since Dak Prescott took over as the offensive pivot from Tony Romo in 2016.

There is nothing more than their fans fervently hope for than to see the Cowboys overcome this moniker. But it’s unlikely to come via the free agency market, where Dallas is notorious for taking a conservative approach. It’s about the deal rather than the splashy signing.

To date, the Cowboys have made only a few noteworthy moves. To begin with, they released running back Ezekiel Elliot last week after seven seasons in Dallas. However, that was to be expected after placing a non-exclusive franchise tag on Tony Pollard. Another move to shore up the offense included acquiring Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans via a trade.

The defense saw some activity both internally and in the market. Arguably, getting cornerback Stephon Gilmore via a trade with the Indianapolis Colts marks the biggest splash to date. But signing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, safety Donovan Wilson and cornerback C.J. Goodwin ensure continuity on the defense.

Giants + 500

  • Key Acquisitions: TE Darren Waller (Raiders), WR Parris Campbell (Colts), LB Bobby Okereke, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Buccaneers).WR Jeff Smith (Jets)
  • Key re-signings: QB Daniel Jones, WR Sterling Shepard, P Jamie Gillan, RB Matt Breida, WR Darius Slayton, LB Jarod Davis, LB Jihad Ward, WR Isaiah Hodgins

The Giants punched above their weight class in Brian Daboll’s first year as the head coach, defying the NFL odds to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The G-men bought into what Dabolll was selling, including quarterback Daniel Jones. The No. 6 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft had his best season ever and earned a lucrative new contract for his efforts.

Running back Saquon Barkley enjoyed a renaissance but his reward was a non-exclusive franchise tag instead. Whereas wide receiver Kenny Golladay was released on March 15 to help free up some much needed cap space.

To help Jones and give the offense an added dimension, the Giants scooped up tight end Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders. They also acquired former Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell, and former New York Jets receiver Jeff Smith and re-signed Darius Slayton to join a receiving corps that includes Isaiah Hodgins and Sterling Shepard, who both re-signed with the Giants, and Wan’Dale Robinson.

Former Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches are the biggest signings for the defense. They’ll join linebacker Jarrad Davis, guard Wyatt Davis and linebacker Jihad Ward, all of whom re-signed with the Giants.

Commanders +950

  • Key Acquisitions: QB Jacoby Brissett (Browns), OL Nick Gates (Giants), LB Cody Barton (Seahawks), CB Cameron Dantzler (Vikings), T Andrew Wylie (Chiefs), DT Abdullah Anderson (Falcons),
  • Key re-signings: DT Daron Payne, LB David Mayo, CB Danny Johnson, C Tyler Larsen

Hiring Eric Bienemy as the new assistant head coach and offensive coordinator has to be one of the biggest coups of the offseason and somehow the Washington Commanders managed to pull it off. However, the two-time Super Bowl-winning Chiefs offensive coordinator will have his work cut out in the nation’s capital as the betting online odds clearly suggest.

The Commanders released quarterback Carson Wentz after his uninspiring run in 2022. They signed former Cleveland Browns backup Jacoby Brissett to join a quarterback room that includes whippersnappers Sam Howell and Jake Fromm. Former Chiefs offensive tackle Andrew Wylie joins Bienemy in Washington to bolster the offensive line. Former Giants offensive lineman Nick Gates also signed with the Commanders.

The defense will see cornerback Danny Johnson and defensive end Efe Obada return to Washington. While former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton is a new addition to shore up the D-unit.

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