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NFC East Notebook: Cowboys want fans in stadium, Eagles face pressure with Zach Ertz and drama continues in Washington

Let’s check out the news around the division this week

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Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It was clear Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was not going to let the pandemic bring him down when he was seen making draft selections during the 2020 NFL Draft from his $250 million yacht.

So perhaps his announcement this past week that the Cowboys plan to allow fans at games for the 2020 season should not shock us.

But given the nature of the the time in which we are living, Jones’ decision is surprising. Two of the division’s teams, the New York Giants and Washington Football Team have already said that they will not allow fans at their stadiums in 2020.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced on July 20 that “continued concerns for the health and safety of fans, team members, and staff dictates that our executive order limiting outdoor gatherings does apply to sporting events, including training camp.”

Washington announced its decision with state and county officials and said that the decision will be reevaluated if the situation around the pandemic improves.

“We are fortunate to host the best fans in the NFL year after year, but the wellbeing of those supporters, along with that of our players, coaches and each and every member of our gameday staff is simply too important, and the current knowledge of COVID-19 too unpredictable, to welcome our fan base to FedExField to start the season,” said Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder.

The Eagles meanwhile, have not made an official announcement yet. But it is hard to imagine them having fans at games when large gatherings have been outlawed in the city for the rest of the year. It remains unclear whether that guideline applies to the team.

The Cowboys are therefore the first (and perhaps only) team in the division planning on having fans in 2020.

Every team’s situation is different based on their respective states so the majority of teams around the league have not made an official announcement on whether or not they will be having fans this season. Dallas is one of the few teams to say definitively that it plans to have fans in attendance.

The state of Texas is limiting venues to 50 percent capacity, putting AT&T Stadium at 40,000 fans for a home game. AT&T Stadium is, of course, the largest in the league.

“We will have our challenges,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday. “The people that will be there will be there at their own volition, just as the players that are on this field out here for the Cowboys are here because they have chosen to be here. Our fans will be in the stadium because they have chosen to be there. … I’m confident that we’ve got a very educated situation, and that our fans can come and have a safe experience at our stadium along with, of course, our players having the safety they’re required on the football field.”

How will the Cowboys pull this off?

Reporter Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported the idea of “pods.” This would involve seating parties of as big as 10-15 people together and socially distancing them from others in the stands.

Only time will tell how, or if, this will work out.

Dallas Cowboys

As much as the Cowboys offense has received praise ever since the drafting of wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, the secondary has faced speculation.

The Cowboys tried to fix that this past week when they signed four-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Everson Griffen. Griffen spent a decade in Minnesota before this and signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys.

The 32-year -ld veteran will join Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and DeMarcus Lawrence in the trenches. Now with the addition of Griffen, the Cowboys’ secondary is shaping up to be more than what it initially looked to be.

Griffen also joins a group of talented free agent signings for the Cowboys.

All of these signings are on defense, disproving the idea that the Cowboys’ only invested in offensive weapons this offseason. When you add in defensive draft picks Trevon Diggs, Neville Gallimore, Reggie Robinson II, and Bradlee Anae, it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys as weak on that side of the ball.

Philadelphia Eagles

In some good news, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was cleared to return to the practice field this week after testing positive for COVID-19.

And then in some dramatic news, let’s shift focus to Eagles start tight end Zach Ertz, who has yet to extend his contract. The veteran has been signed through 2021, but the George Kittle contract extension this past week has to have the Eagles wondering what it would take to keep Ertz.

Kittle and the San Francisco 49ers have reportedly agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $75 million with more than half guaranteed. The previous tight-end league-leader was Hunter Henry who signed a contract with a $10.6 million annual value.

It has been previously reported that Ertz “turned down a deal more lucrative” than the $10.5 million average the the Cleveland Browns gave to Austin Hooper in free agency this offseason.

Ertz will not make more than Kittle but Kittle’s deal only helps him moving forward, so that he can push for more than what he was previously offered.

Washington Football Team

If this offseason has taught us anything, it’s that there is never a dull moment in Washington.

This past week, reports began to circulate that minority owners are pressuring team owner Dan Snyder to sell the team, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This news follows news that broke last month first by Pro Football Talk that three minority owners of the team were looking to sell their shares. The owners—Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Frederick W. Smith—bought their shares back in 2003. Rothman is a chairman and CEO of the investment company Black Diamond Capital. Schar is a chairman of NVR Inc., the country’s fifth-largest home builder and Smith is a chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx.

FedEx, of course, is the namesake of the team’s stadium and was one of the first major financial backers to insist that Washington drop the name, “Redskins.” Together, the three owners make up about 40 percent of the team.

The Wall Street Journal said that Snyder has no intensions of selling the team, and multiple buyers have passed due to their inability to secure an option to eventually purchase a controlling interest in the team.

It remains hard to imagine that Snyder would sell the team that he has now owned for the past 21 years. But this past summer has been tumultuous for Washington at best, given the sexual assault allegations of 15 female former team employees as reported by The Washington Post, and the pressure to retire an 87-year old moniker that has long been considered by many to be a racial slur.

This summer though, has also taught us to ‘Never say never’ in Washington. Snyder once had the following to say to USA Today Sports regarding the Redskins name change.

“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER - you can use the caps.”

That was seven years ago. Look where we are now.