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Scout’s eye: How did free agency musical chairs affect the NFC East?

Cowboys, Eagles still look like best teams in the division

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
Will Cam Newton land in Washington?
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The NFL is changing so fast, so it is a little risky to evaluate moves to date, as some of this analysis could change by the time these words hit your eyes. But it also seems safe to say that the initial tidal wave of free agency has hit, washed over us and has passed. More personnel moves continue to roll in, but it has certainly slowed down. Usually, this is when the NFL franchises take a step back, regroup, and reassess their roster, salary cap and ability to fill further needs with stress on preparing for the upcoming draft.

First off, the quarterback musical chairs pretty much lived up to the hype. Heck, Tom Brady is now playing for the Buccaneers! Speaking of the Buccaneers, it looks like Jameis Winston could be the quarterback that doesn’t have a chair to sit on now that the music has stopped. Brady’s old team, amongst a few others, could be in the market for a starting veteran quarterback with guys like Winston, Cam Newton, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton and maybe Derek Carr possibly still on the move. The most interesting aspect of the Brady Saga wasn’t where the future Hall of Famer was going to land, but rather what approach will Bill Belichick take at this position post-Brady. That still hasn’t been answered.

One move that very well could be coming shortly that would make a ton of sense is Newton rejoining Ron Rivera in Washington. This leads us to how this first wave has affected the Giants competition in the NFC East. If Newton does, in fact, replace Colt McCoy (a logical pickup by New York by the way), that absolutely could send Dwayne Haskins to the bench. Haskins has a lot of promise, but there were also some disturbing trends to his rookie season. We don’t know that Newton will join his former coach and such speculation also still applies to Trent Williams’ future in Washington. For the most part, the Redskins played it pretty close to the vest. They look to be quite solid at the guard position now by with franchising Brandon Scherff and the addition of Wes Schweitzer. The defense got some reinforcements such as Sean Davis, Thomas Davis, Kevin Pierre-Louis, and Nate Orchard, but the huge addition is sure to come in the form of Chase Young with the second pick in the first round. Overall, the Redskins are looking to build a team and culture from the ground up and are not being too hasty.

There were huge moves in Dallas, but not huge changes to the roster. Amari Cooper is now locked up for the long-term and after being franchised, the Cowboys are hoping to do the same with Dak Prescott. That pitch and catch combination should remain a huge chore to play against for the Giants and the rest of the NFC East as well, especially with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and an excellent offensive line paving the way. It should be noted that Blake Jarwin could be a breakout tight end candidate as well. On defense, Robert Quinn and especially Byron Jones could really be missed. Gerald McCoy’s addition should make up for the loss of Maliek Collins, as will Ha Ha Clinton Dix taking over for Jeff Heath for now. The Cowboys would be wise to focus on their defense in the upcoming draft. That side of the ball isn’t as strong now after the first wave of free agency, but Dallas’ offense should once again contend for being the best unit in football in 2020. Can the Giants win shootouts against Dallas?

With all respect to Dallas, the Eagles are the team to fear most in the division. After winning the Super Bowl two years ago, no team has been hit harder by injuries than Philadelphia. Such things almost always go back to the mean. The loss of Malcolm Jenkins could have major ramifications with leadership as well as his ability to wear many hats from his safety position. Linebacker is also a spot that could use help still. That being said, the additions of Javon Hargrave and Darius Slay are massive gains for this team. The Eagles very much believe in building their defense from the front to back. Hargrave is an ascending player that should complement Fletcher Cox perfectly. Coming from the Steelers, some miscast Hargrave as just a space-eating nose tackle. He is far more than that and should align perfectly as a 1 Technique in Philadelphia’s attacking front while also helping a great deal in run defense. But the trade for Slay is the key here. Finally, the Eagles have a true number one cornerback that can follow guys like Cooper and other top receivers from Philadelphia’s upcoming opponents. With Slay, the Eagles should play more man coverage while having the ability to give their other corners more help because of Slay’s presence. Also, the Eagles are now in a great position to land a major wide receiver talent in a draft that is very rich in this commodity as well as another defensive back prospect. Such a receiver would complete Philadelphia’s offense, making this a very well-rounded football team from top to bottom.

While there is a lot to get excited about concerning the Giants, as it stands, it looks like Dallas and Philadelphia are still the strongest teams in the NFC East. But things do change very quickly in this league.