The NFL offseason is officially upon us. Teams are already beginning to address their needs for 2014. They will continue to do so throughout the offseason, especially as we approach the 2014 NFL Draft. We have already looked at the biggest needs for the AFC East. Today we look at the NFC East offseason needs.
NFC East Offseason Needs: Dallas Cowboys
Biggest Needs: Pass Rusher, Safety, Defensive Line.
The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a world of hurt defensively this offseason. Their defense was gutted in 2013, in part to make space for the mammoth contract of Tony Romo. Undoubtedly, more free agents will likely be allowed to walk again this offseason too.
The team find themselves around $23 Million over the projected 2014 salary cap. Key players like DT Jason Hatcher, LB Anthony Spencer and G Brian Water are all in need of a new contract.
Hatcher, for example is coming off a career season. If the Cowboys want to keep him, they cannot rely on a hometown discount. Unfortunately, keeping any of these players is not guaranteed for the team.
Indeed, to make any splash in free agency, several key contracts will need to be restructured, or the players traded away or cut. This will only add to their needs. Chief among these are DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, who will not remain with the team at their currant salary levels.
With cap issues like this, the simple fact is, any improvement the Cowboys can hope to make will have to come through the draft. Fortunately, there is enough depth in the 2014 class for them to be able to address their biggest needs this way. They do not need to resort to big free agent signings.
Expect to see the three biggest needs addressed in the first few days of the draft.
NFC East Offseason Needs: Philadelphia Eagles
Biggest Needs: Outside Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, Defensive Linemen
Chip Kelly’s Eagles have quickly managed to turn themselves around, and are looking set to compete in 2014.
Although they have some key free agents—namely receiver Jeremy Maclin, and safety Nate Allen—they have more than $21 million in cap space to play with. They should be able to hone in on those players they want to keep around, while having a little in reserve to make a play at one or two outside free agents.
Targets could include the likes of defensive end Tyson Jackson, or safety, T.J. Ward, both of whom would add some much-needed athleticism and punch to the Eagles defense.
Some players will almost certainly be allowed to walk, like QB Michael Vick and receiver Riley Cooper. But these are losses which the Eagles can certainly overcome.
Kelly remains a college coach at heart, at least in terms of philosophy. Growing a young team through the draft will be no concern for the team. They will use the draft to add youth, speed, and athleticism to their defense, and help put them in a position to succeed for years to come.
Calvin Pryor, a safety out of Louisville, is the consensus first round pick for the team, and would be a great addition to the secondary.
NFC East Offseason Needs: New York Giants
Biggest Needs: Stability
Yes, stability isn’t a position. But with 27 potential free agents this season—24 UFAs and 3 added RFAs, almost anything else they do depends on whom they can bring back.
The team have six or seven must sign free agents, including defensive end Justin Tuck, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and linebacker Jon Beeson.
Many would consider a player like Nicks surplus to requirement. As he is coming off a couple of down seasons, they could allow him to walk. But with a lot of free agents, and only $16.3 million in cap space to play with, good value, affordable players with upside like Nicks will help pad out the roster for relatively low cost.
The team have a long list of players they could lose. So, who they are able to re-sign greatly changes how they approach the draft. Key areas of focus for the draft, no matter who is kept, are likely to be improving their offensive line, and secondary.
NFC East Offseason Needs: Washington Redskins
Biggest Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Defensive Overhaul
The Redskins are another team who find themselves in a very tough situation. Following personality clashes and power struggles between their head coach and franchise quarterback, the team now find themselves in full rebuilding mode.
New head coach Jay Gruden is an offensively minded coach, with plenty of experience as a coordinator. He is known for working with quarterbacks.
He should be in a position to bring out the best in Robert Griffin III, as he looks to rebound from a disastrous 2013 campaign. In order to do so, they will seek to offer RG III more protection, by bolstering their offensive line, and giving him much improved receiving corps.
Much of the Redskins $24 million in cap space will likely be eaten up by re-signing high priority free agents. These are linebackers Brian Orakpo and Perry Riley Jr., defensive lineman Chris Baker and corner DeAngelo Hall.
However, if they are clever in the structuring of these contracts, and with some careful cost cutting measures, the Redskins may have around $8-10 million left to chase outside free agents.
Adding a high-profile receiver like Anquan Boldin, or Hakeem Nicks through free agency would free up the Redskins to focus on other needs through the draft.
This will mainly focus on adding youth and depth to their aging defensive unit, but will also see them seek to bolster their offensive line, as they recognise the importance of keeping Griffin III upright, and the danger of continuing to use him as a dual-threat rusher/passer.