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NFC East Roundup: Adrian Peterson is back, while Jason Witten wants to be

Here’s the need-to-know news around the NFC East this week

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Teams around the NFC East are navigating the uncertain time that falls before the NFL Combine on February 23 and the start of free agency on March 18. In the shuffling of players through releases, trades and contract extensions, NFC East players might just see some of their formal rivals wearing matching uniforms.

The Washington Redskins signed arguably their most consistent running back in recent history, Adrian Peterson, to a one-year contract for the 2020 season in a deal that elicited very little attention because it was the right one and didn’t require criticism. Meanwhile, the never-to-retire Jason Witten and the Dallas Cowboys are experiencing a slightly less straightforward situation.

The talks amount to rumors that Witten might just be hanging up the blue and white in exchange for blue and red and suggest Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones could be headed to division rival Washington.

Let’s dive into some of the stories we’re following around the NFC East this week.

Washington Redskins

Running back Adrian Peterson is coming back for a third year in Washington. On Wednesday, the Redskins exercised their club option on Peterson’s contract, signing the star running back to a $3 million contract for 2020.

“Adrian Peterson is the epitome of what it means to be a pro in this league,” said head coach Ron Rivera. “Adrian’s leadership and passion towards the game of football will set an example of what is expected of the players in this program moving forward.”

Peterson has rushed 462 times for 1,940 yards for 12 touchdowns since joining the Redskins. He has also caught 37 passes for 350 yards and 1 TD. At 34 years old, Peterson is one of the most decorated running backs in the NFL as a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, MVP award winner and 2012 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. He posted an 1,000-plus-yard season in his first year with the Redskins and racked up 898 yards last season.

Running back Derrius Guice was supposed to become a formidable back for the Redskins, but injuries have plagued his short career. Guice has already been placed on IR three times in two seasons. The Redskins therefore need Peterson if they want to continue to establish a strong run game on offense. But they should still be in the market for a consistent backup running back because Peterson is getting older and it would help the team long-term to have another weapon in the backfield.

Injuries have followed the Redskins all over the field. Tight end Jordan Reed was only just cleared from the concussion protocol after missing the entirety of last season due to a scary hit from Falcons safety Keanu Neal during the preseason. Despite suffering seven recorded concussions in his NFL career, Reed insists that he is “pumped up” to continue playing football.

He might be pumped up, but Reed should hang up the cleats before he suffers any more head injuries. The Redskins won’t re-sign him but perhaps it would be in his best interest that no other team signs him either.

Philadelphia Eagles

The biggest, but hardly least surprising news for the Eagles this week is the release of starting linebacker Nigel Bradham. The Eagles elected to release him instead of merely declining his 2020 option, meaning Bradham is now free to sign with any team and does not have to wait until free agency begins on March 18.

The Eagles helped Bradham out by releasing him a full four weeks before they were required to. Bradham can use this time before free agency to connect with teams and begin potentially negotiating a new contract.

Choosing to help Bradham illustrates what the Eagles thought about his time in Philadelphia. He was a crucial part of the team’s 2018 Super Bowl run, racking up a combined 97 tackles that season. In his four seasons in Philadelphia, Bradham started all 58 of the games he played in, recording 348 total tackles, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. Despite his consistent performance over the years, Bradham turns 31 years old in September and therefore is past his prime as a linebacker. Though some team should still consider scooping him up in hopes to squeeze a couple of more strong seasons out of him.

In addition to adding a cornerback to their roster, the Eagles are also in need of of a wide receiver and linebacker. According to Over The Cap, Philadelphia can expect to have about $40.9 million in cap space to work with, ranked 20th most in the NFL.

Our friends at Bleeding Green Nation also analyze the possibility of the Eagles releasing wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

The Eagles will not open up any cap space by moving on from Jeffery this offseason. Getting rid of him merely decreases their overall spending. If the Eagles do decide to move on from Jeffrey, trading him is a much better option than cutting him and losing $10.7 million. It’s hard to imagine many teams wanting to trade for an expensive 30-year-old player who is coming off of a mediocre season and a major foot injury. Orchestrating a deal like this would perhaps require attaching a draft pick. But considering the Eagles have made the fewest picks in the NFL over the past two years, sacrificing a draft pick does not seem like the smartest option.

Dallas Cowboys

The biggest question for the Cowboys this past week is Jason Witten. When the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end came out of retirement following the 2018 season, the Cowboys signed him to a one-year contract for 2019. Now, with that contract expired, the question remains what to do with Witten moving forward.

The veteran All-Pro says that he wants to continue to play with the Cowboys next season - the only team he has ever played for.

“Course, I want that to be with the Dallas Cowboys,” Witten said. “I will always be a Dallas Cowboy but I do understand with all the changes that might mean that I will have to go somewhere else.”

“I want to play,” Witten adds. “I think I want to explore that. I think it’s the right fit and the role and like I said, I think I have something to give.”

Witten said that he is going to re-visit the issue after the NFL Combine ends and before free agency starts on March 18. Until then, we have to consider the New York Giants as a potential landing spot for Witten 17th NFL season. With former Cowboys head coach Jason Witten joining the Giants this offseason as the team’s offensive coordinator, Witten already has a familiar face in New York that is comfortable with his style of play.

Rumors surrounding Witten’s departure from the Cowboys to the New York Giants are not the only NFC East tidbits circulating. Free agent cornerback Byron Jones is an appealing prospect for the Redskins, who just released Norman and have fellow cornerback Quinton Dunbar requesting to be traded. The NFC East might be swapping more players around than anticipated as the offseason moves forward.