With the NFL free agency looming next month, we look at the NFC East as a whole. Who are the free agents contained within this division and which ones could potentially be hitting the offseason catwalk in search of greener pastures? At the same time, we will identify the needs of every team that are likely to shape its free agency moves.
The 2022 NFL season was revealing in many respects, highlighting the potential and shortcomings of all four teams in the NFC East — yes, this includes the Philadelphia Eagles, who fell at the final hurdle, Super Bowl 57. Success just like failure carries an inherent set of realities, and General Manager Howie Roseman and Philadelphia’s front office will have a lot of tough decisions to make, not unlike their rival counterparts.
- Wide Receiver
- Running Back
- Offensive Line
On the face of it, the Cowboys have the look of a competent playoff contender. In reality, they perennially disappoint, especially in the playoffs.
In the last seven seasons, since Dak Prescott took over the offense from Tony Romo, they have just one losing season, three NFC East titles and made the playoffs four times. But when it mattered the most, they fell flat.
Since 2016, the Cowboys have just two postseason wins (2-4-0), one of which came during this year’s run when they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14 in the Wild Card round. However, in the ensuing Divisional Round, they lost to the San Francisco 49ers 19-12 – their second consecutive loss to the Niners in the postseason.
The core elements appear to be in place, from Prescott to burgeoning star wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, defensive superstar Micah Parsons and former Super Bowl-winning coaches in Mike McCarthy (Green Bay) and Dan Quinn (Seattle as a coordinator). They have an extensive list of unrestricted free agents to contend with, but with some savvy boardroom wheeling and dealing, they can avoid ruinous losses.
Cowboys are not winning anything until Jerry Jones spend money during free agency. Every team that wants to win the SB or wins the SB has made great moves in free agency. Example Rams SB team, Tampa Bay’s SB team even this season 49ers getting CMC or Eagles getting Suh.
— The G (@gommez4u) January 23, 2023
Addressing the holes on offense will influence decisions in 2023. So, too, will weighing the value of the list of unrestricted free agents in all facets of the game against equivalent younger, top-performing talent that will need to be rewarded in the next year or so. These include most notably Lamb and Parsons, who will be anticipating big paydays as their rookie contracts come up.
The passing game was an area that fell short in 2022 despite Lamb’s best efforts as the emergent No. 1 wideout. Michael Gallup appeared to be the choice at No. 2, but he struggled to establish himself in that role after returning from offseason knee surgery. Ultimately, that left the Cowboys’ offense without a true 1-2 punch in the passing game.
Protection around Prescott is another area that is sure to be a focus. Although they received adequate support from backup quarterback Cooper Rush in Prescott’s absence, ideally a team would want to avoid such a predicament altogether.
The running back position is in need of rejuvenating as well if the 2022 season is anything to go by. Ezekiel Elliott is one of the priciest rushers in the game, but his production isn’t proportional to his hefty price tag. In the meantime, running back Tony Pollard might be a more desirable option for the immediate future, but the unrestricted free agent will need to get paid. That is going to put a strain on Jerry Jones’ purse strings, especially seeing as Elliott can’t be released before June 1 – well after the free agency window closes.
- Unrestricted Free Agents (19): CB Anthony Brown, WR Noah Brown, Edge Dante Fowler Jr., LB Luke Gifford, CB C.J. Goodwin, DT Johnathan Hankins, WR T.Y. Hilton, K Brett Maher
G Connor McGovern, LS Jake McQuaide, CB Trayvon Mullen, LS Matt Overton, OT Jason Peters, RB Tony Pollard, QB Cooper Rush, TE Dalton Schultz, LB Leighton Vander Esch, DE Carlos Watkins, S Donovan Wilson
- Restricted/ Exclusive Free-Rights Agents (2): RB Rico Dowdle, OT Terence Steele
- Wide receiver
- Tight end
The Giants punched above their weight class, defying all expectations by reaching the playoffs and then advancing into the second round. Nevertheless, they face glaring needs across the roster as they enter their second year of a rebuild under General Manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll.
Quarterback Daniel Jones was a different quarterback under the Schoen-Daboll regime, but did the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent do enough to convince the establishment that he is the answer for the future? Maybe. Separately, running back Saquon Barkley enjoyed a standout season, likely doing more than enough to demonstrate his abilities and undeniable value.
Arguably, the most important decisions facing New York’s front office pertains to Jones and Barkley. How they deal with these two players – paying or franchise tagging one or the other or both — is going to impact their cap space, thus influencing the rest of their decisions in 2023. The Giants have 21 unrestricted free agents and while they have the most projected salary cap space of all the NFC East teams, it’s going to be impossible for them to satisfy everyone’s expectations.
The lack of depth on the offense is one aspect that some would raise in defense of Jones, arguing the fifth-year quarterback did the best he could while dealing with limited options on the continuous carousel of offensive players. If the G-men sign Jones to a long-term deal, they will need to weaponize the receiving corps and tight-end positions – the latter of which requires a true presence.
The linebacker position is another area that will require shoring up. The Giants’ linebackers struggled to defend the run and the defense was often exposed while defending the middle of the field in the passing game against quality opponents.
- Unrestricted Free Agents (21): RB Saquon Barkley, RB Matt Breida, ILB Landon Collins, ILB Jarrad Davis, DL Justin Ellis, C Jon Feliciano, OL Nick Gates, P Jamie Gillan, WR Richie James, S Tony Jefferson, WR Marcus Johnson, QB Daniel Jones, LS Casey Kreiter, S Julian Love, CB Fabian Moreau, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Darius Slayton, ILB Jaylon Smith, OLB Jihad Ward, DL Nick Williams, OLB Oshane Ximines
- Restricted/ Exclusive Free-Rights Agents (1): DL Henry Mondeaux
The contracts of 4 Philadelphia Eagles players void today. They are CB James Bradberry, LB T.J. Edwards, DT Javon Hargrave & LB Kyzir White. The respective dead money is $4.972M, $711,000, $11.956M & $1.172M. They will be UFAs on March 15 when the 2023 league year starts.
— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) February 20, 2023
- Running back
The dust has barely settled on Super Bowl 57, but the business of the offseason waits on no one. Dawdling isn’t an option, especially when Philadelphia’s front office is faced with two-thirds of its secondary and a number of the season’s biggest contributors on both sides of the ball going into free agency. Compounding matters is limited salary cap space, which hovers just around $10 million, and a quarterback whose value hit the roof after leading the Eagles to The Big Game.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts is entering his fourth year and Philadelphia must be mindful of next season’s pending contract decisions in his regard. If they are planning to pay him Patrick Mahomes-kind-of-money, then it’s likely going to come at the cost of the rest of the team.
Right now, the secondary is a more pressing need, unless GM Roseman is able to prevent the mass exodus on this front. The cornerback position needs attention given James Bradberry’s looming departure and Darius Slay’s age (32).
The running back position could be another focus area if the Eagles can’t re-sign Miles Sanders. Then there is the backup quarterback spot, which isn’t a top need necessarily, but it is a need nevertheless. Gardiner Minshew went 0-2 in relief of an injured Hurts and it remains to be seen whether Philly will try to re-sign him. After all, what’s the point of an insurance policy if it doesn’t provide adequate coverage in the event of a worst-case scenario.
- Unrestricted Free Agents (19): CB James Bradberry, DT Fletcher Cox, T Andre Dillard, LB T.J. Edwards, S Marcus Epps, S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, DE Brandon Graham, DT Javon Hargrave, DT Linval Joseph, C Jason Kelce, P Brett Kern, QB Gardner Minshew, WR Zach Pascal, DE Robert Quinn, RB Miles Sanders, RB Boston Scott, G Isaac Seumalo, DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Kyzir White.
- Restricted/ Exclusive Free-Rights Agents (1): TE Tyree Jackson
- New Owner
- Offensive line
What don’t the Washington Commanders need? No franchise needs a bigger overhaul in the league than the team from the nation’s capital. From change in ownership to wholesale staff and roster changes, the franchise needs to find its way back to some semblance of respectability, never mind contention.
In addition to QB Carson Wentz, #Commanders TE Logan Thomas could also be released this offseason, per the Washington Times.
Thomas is coming off a down season of 39 catches for 323 yards. But he was coming off a torn ACL injury from 2021.
In 2020, Thomas had 72/670/6 line. pic.twitter.com/bu0ocTv16N
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 21, 2023
Washington’s biggest need is at the quarterback position. Carson Wentz was a bust (again) and Taylor Heinicke is a wild card. While Washington might re-sign Heinicke, he’s not the long-term solution to a problem that has plagued Ron Rivera’s offense over the last three seasons. Rookie Sam Howell opened some eyes with his performance as a starter at the end of the season.
Washington’s offense underachieved last season due to inconsistent quarterbacking. That said, offensive linemen upfront and attacking depth are areas of concern. On the other side, the defense was a more reliable unit, finishing inside the Top 10, but it wasn’t without its own holes. Of all the areas, the linebacker position needs depth as does the defensive back position.
- Unrestricted Free Agents (18): LB Jon Bostic, QB Taylor Heinicke, LB Cole Holcomb, C Tyler Larsen, C Nick Martin, LB David Mayo, DE Efe Obada, DT Daron Payne, S Jeremy Reaves, G Wes Schweitzer, WR Cam Sims, K Joey Slye, G Trai Turner, , RB Jonathan Williams, TE Eli Wolf
- Restricted/ Exclusive Free-Rights Agents: LB Milo Eifler, CB Rachad Wildgoose
- Restricted Free Agent: LB Khaleke Hudson