The NFC East was football's best division last season, and got even better in free agency. It was the only division where all four teams finished .500 or better and the first division since the 2002 divisional realignment to have three teams reach the divisional round of the playoffs. NFC East teams have set themselves up for an encore in 2023.
The Philadelphia Eagles lost some free agents, but they kept most of their core intact form their NFC championship team. The Dallas Cowboys made some key additions from a 12-win team that made the divisional playoffs while the New York Giants made sure they kept their franchise core players intact before the new league year started. The Washington Commanders are still searching for a franchise quarterback, yet have a roster good enough to compete for a playoff spot.
No longer the laughingstock of the NFL, the NFC East has established itself as a powerhouse again -- similar to the division's heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The only division where every team has won the Super Bowl, an NFC East team could hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2023 (three of the four can be considered contenders in the NFC).
How did each NFC East team fare thus far in free agency? All four earned strong marks.
Philadelphia Eagles: B+
- Players lost: Javon Hargrave (DT), Miles Sanders (RB), T.J. Edwards (LB), Isaac Seumalo (G), C.J. Gardner-Johnson (S), Marcus Epps (S), Kyzir White (LB), Andre Dillard (T), Gardner Minshew (QB), Zach Pascal (WR)
- Players added/retained: James Bradberry (CB), Jason Kelce (C), Brandon Graham (DE), Fletcher Cox (DT), Rashaad Penny (RB), Nicholas Morrow (LB), Justin Evans (S), Marcus Mariota (QB), Boston Scott (RB), Greedy Williams (CB), Terrell Edmunds (S), Brett Toth (T), Tyree Jackson (TE)
The Eagles certainly weren't going to retain all of their free agents this offseason, and had a plan in place for what they chose to accomplish. C.J. Gardner-Johnson was in those plans, but he declined a multi-year deal from the team and decided to test the market. Philadelphia then pivoted toward re-signing James Bradberry and working on an extension with Darius Slay (after attempting to restructure his contract). The Eagles decided to keep the league's best cornerback duo together for multiple seasons.
Paying Bradberry and Slay meant having to be wise spending at other positions. The Eagles chose to let Miles Sanders walk in favor of Rashaad Penny, a productive running back who fits the offense better -- when healthy. Terrell Edmunds should vill the void left by Gardner-Johnson while Nicholas Morrow can start at one of the linebacker spots in place of the departed T.J. Edwards or Kyzir White. Edmunds and Morrow are making a combined $3.115 million while Penny is making just $1.35 million.
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The Eagles also have in-house replacements from the 2022 draft class set to fill spots lost in free agency. Cam Jurgens is set to replace Isaac Seumalo at right guard while Nakobe Dean will replace T.J. Edwards or Kyzir White at linebacker and Jordan Davis is in line to start at defensive tackle for the departing Javon Hargrave.
Philadelphia also kept productive players over age 30 in Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, and Fletcher Cox -- all leaders on the team and franchise legends. While Cox isn't the player he once was, he still is a good starting defensive tackle in the league. Kelce is the best center in football and Graham is coming off a career year after a torn Achilles the year prior.
Despite the uncertainty of the offseason, general manager Howie Roseman did a fine job at keeping the Eagles roster on top of the NFC. The franchise is set up to give Jalen Hurts an extension and add more talent with four picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft (two in the first round). This team is still set up for another Super Bowl run in 2023.
Dallas Cowboys: A-
- Players lost: Connor McGovern (G), Dalton Schultz (TE), Luke Gifford (LB), Jake McQuaide (LS), Noah Brown (WR), Dakota Shepley (RG)
- Players added/retained: Brandin Cooks (WR), Stephon Gilmore (CB), Donovan Wilson (S), Leighton Vander Esch (LB), Terence Steele (T), Cooper Rush (QB), C.J. Goodwin (CB), Chuma Edoga (T), Rico Dowdle (RB), Dante Fowler (DE), Ronald Jones (RB), Trent Sieg (LS), Alec Lindstrom (C), Juanyeh Thomas (S)
The Cowboys typically aren't busy in free agency, saving their strong roster moves for the draft. That changed this offseason with the trade acquisitions of Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore.
Cooks is an excellent fit as a No. 2 wide receiver paired with CeeDee Lamb, giving Dak Prescott another option that can interchange between the outside and the slot. Gilmore is an upgrade over Anthony Brown at the No. 2 cornerback spot, pairing him next to Trevon Diggs and creating one of the most dynamic cornerback duos in he league. Gilmore could make a serious impact on Dan Quinn's defense, a unit already filled with playmakers with Diggs, Micah Parsons, and DeMarcus Lawrence.
All the Cowboys gave up for Cooks and Gilmore were two 2023 fifth-round picks and a 2024 sixth-round pick. That's worth taking on hefty salaries for a team that's won 12 games in consecutive seasons, poised to make a Super Bowl run of their own.
Releasing Ezekiel Elliott in favor of Tony Pollard being the No. 1 running back was the right move, but losing Dalton Schultz to the Houston Texans will hurt. Expect more three-receiver sets in Dallas this season. Retaining Donovan Wilson, Terence Steele, and Tyron Smith was also significant.
The Cowboys got better. Will that lead to their first NFC Championship game appearance in 28 years?
New York Giants: B
- Players lost: Julian Love (S), Nick Gates (C), Jon Feliciano (C/G)
- Players added/retained: Darren Waller (TE), Saquon Barkley (RB), Daniel Jones (QB), Bobby Okereke (LB), Sterling Shepard (WR), Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT), Parris Campbell (WR), Amani Oruwariye (CB), Jamison Crowder (WR), Matt Breida (RB), Casey Kreiter (LS), Jamie Gillan (P), Jarrad Davis (LB), Darius Slayton (WR), Jeff Smith (WR), Wyatt Davis (G), Lawrence Cager (WR), Jack Anderson (G), Isaiah Hodgins (WR), Tommy Sweeney (TE)
The Giants had a goal to sign Daniel Jones to a long-term deal. Check. They also wanted to retain Saquon Barkley in the hopes of signing him to a long-term deal. Check.
While Barkley has the franchise tag played on him, New York has until July to work out a long-term deal. The Giants keeping Jones and Barkley on the roster set the tone for a strong offseason, as the franchise could concentrate on adding talent around both players.
Trading for Darren Waller was an excellent move, as he's one of the best pass catching tight ends when healthy. Waller will be a matchup nightmare in the NFC, especially since the Giants like to prioritize targeting teh tight ends. Expect a lot of two tight end sets in New York this year.
New York upgraded at wide receiver with the additions of Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder, although neither are the No. 1 wideout that can change games. Retaining Slayton and Hodgins gives the Giants a lot of depth at the position, which should help an offense designed to distribute the ball around to multiple pass catchers.
Bobby Okereke and Amani Oruwariye are upgrades on defense, especially since the Giants needed help at linebacker and cornerback. The Giants have a good pass rush intact with Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari on the edge and Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams on the interior, so those moves should shore up the defense (even with the loss of Julian Love).
The Giants still have issues on the offensive line, as the interior has gotten worse with the loss of Jon Feliciano. They also need Evan Neal to make a major step up in his development in year two. Is this team good enough to get back to the divisional round of the playoffs, or is that their ceiling with Jones and Barkley?
New York is better, but can they compete for the Super Bowl? There's still some work to do.
Washington Commanders: B-
- Players lost: Wes Schweitzer (C), Cam Sims (WR), Taylor Heinicke (QB), Cole Holcomb (LB), Bobby McCain (S)
- Players added/retained: Jacoby Brissett (QB), Daron Payne (DT), Nick Gates (C), Andrew Wylie (T), Efe Obada (DE), Tyler Larsen (C), Cameron Dantzler (CB), David Mayo (LB), Jonathan Williams (RB), Danny Johnson (CB), Nate Gerry (LB), Jeremy Reaves (S), Cody Barton (LB), Abdullah Anderson (DT), Khaleke Hudson (LB), Milo Eifler (LB), Rachad Wildgoose (CB), Eli Wolf (TE)
With the pending sale of the team, the Commanders weren't going to be major players in free agency. Their biggest offseason move was hiring Eric Bieniemy to be offensive coordinator and play caller, a move that should pay huge dividends with their running backs stable of Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson along with the dangerous wide receiver trio of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel.
The Commanders did move on from Taylor Heinicke and signed Jacoby Brissett to compete with Sam Howell for the starting quarterback job. Are either of those two really going to move the needle and make Washington a contender for the NFC East? Remember, Lamar Jackson is still available.
Keeping Daron Payne was massive for the defensive line that has Montez Sweat and Jonathan Allen. Washington needs a healthy Chase Young to shut down the division's top quarterbacks, as the front four is the strength of their team. The defense improved at cornerback with Cameron Dantzler and Cody Barton will overcome the loss of Cole Holcomb at linebacker.
Washington should compete for a playoff spot, yet the Commanders would be significantly better with an elite quarterback. The franchise is banking a lot on Howell being the answer.