Posted by: mdegeorge | August 9, 2011

NFL Free Agency Diagnosis: NFC East

The 2011 NFL season has come courtesy of an unprecedented time in the league’s history. Essentially two offseasons worth of transactions have been jammed into around two weeks to completely reshape the entire league in the blink of an offseason eye. Most of what you thought you knew about a team can be thrown out, with some teams having close to 40 percent of their rosters overhauled instantly.

Let’s try and bring some order to this mess, since the pressure is going to ratchet up starting Thursday when the first round of preseason games kicks off and the hot stove might cool a bit. Below are the lists of departures and arrivals for each of the 32 NFL teams and just what they mean for teams.

We’ll start going division by division with the NFC East.

Nnamdi Asomugha, the biggest free agent prize on the market, is headed to the NFC East. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Dallas Cowboys

Signed: S Abram Elam, OT Doug Free, DE Jason Hatcher, OG Kyle Kosier, S Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears

Lost: CB Alan Ball, RB Marion Barber, OT Alex Barron, DE Stephen Bowen, OT Marc Colombo, WR Sam Hurd, OT Leonard Davis, WR Roy Williams, K Kris Brown

Diagnosis: The Cowboys were a disaster last season, much to the surprise of many, so a shakeup isn’t shocking. What is, however, is their passivity in the market. The only player they brought in was Elam, who’ll provide some grit in the secondary but isn’t a game-breaker. Tearing up the offensive line was certainly a priority; they’ve made it clear who made the cut and who didn’t. Free and Kosier will slot in with first-round pick Tyron Smith in the rebuilt line, which could have some growing pains. The unit wasn’t that terrible last year – they allowed the 10th-least amount of sacks and can’t be held totally responsible for a poor running game – and could actually be worse this year. Defense was an issue a season ago for America’s Team, including allowing the seventh-most passing yards (3,894) and second most points per game (27.3) despite creating 30 turnovers. But the changes there are minimal, with the likes of Sensabaugh, Spears and Hatcher returning. I don’t see where improvement is going to come from here, and they’re threatening to remains stuck in mediocrity.

New York Giants

Signed: G David Baas, G Kevin Boothe, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, QB David Carr, WR Michael Clayton, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, TE Ben Patrick, DE Dave Tollefson, DT Gabe Watson, P Steve Weatherford

Lost: TE Kevin Boss, DT Barry Coefield, WR Derek Hagan, C Shaun O’Hara, G Rich Seubert, OT Shawn Andrews

Diagnosis: It’s been similarly underwhelming on the blue side of New York. They’re another team trying to retool their offensive front by dismissing long-time cogs O’Hara and Seubert. The new men in the trenches will have to face former teammate Coefield twice a year in Washington. They bring in two replacements in Baas and Boothe that have a combined 75 starts in 11 NFL seasons. Uncertainty, however, reigns in the Meadowlands. Defensive end/linebacker Osi Umenyiora wants out. First-round pick Prince Amukamara is out for two months thanks to a broken foot sustained after about two plays. Patrick, who was supposed to replace Boss, upped and retired as soon as the Giants picked him up. They’re suddenly thin at defensive tackle and asking a lot of Watson to maintain one of the top 10 defenses in the league. They managed to retain Bradshaw, but he could finds holes more scarce behind that front line. For a team that lacked grit and killer instinct the last two years, the improvements aren’t in step with what is needed in this division.

Philadelphia Eagles

Signed: CB Nnamdi Asomugha, DE Jason Babin, RB Ronnie Brown, DL Anthony Hargrove, OT Ryan Harris, WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, DE Cullen Jenkins, LB Akeem Jordan, DT Derek Landri, TE Donald Lee, G Evan Mathis, S Jarrad Page, QB Vince Young, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Lost: K David Akers, LB Stewart Bradley, LB Omar Gaither, G Max Jean-Gilles, S Quintin Mikell, CB Dimitri Patterson, P Sav Rocca, LB Ernie Sims, QB Kevin Kolb

Diagnosis: Ok, so “dream team” is a bit of an overstatement and indicative of just how many times Young got hit the last few years. But they’ve certainly improved more than many of their peers. They got excellent value for Kolb – who I don’t think is an elite starter in this league – in Rodgers-Cromartie, picked up the best free agent on the market in Asomugha and solidified most weak areas. Jenkins and Babin revamp the pass rush (though the status of Mike Patterson is a question mark), Harris and Mathis gives them options on the offensive line, Young is similar to Mike Vick as a backup, meaning plays and schemes could carry over more seamlessly if he’s hurt again, and Lee and Brown are interesting weapons to add to the arsenal. The only areas of concern that remain are turning over the kicking game to the headline-friendly rookie pair of kicker Alex Henery and punter Chas Henry and a thin linebacking corps. No one ever knows what’s going to happen on any given Sunday in the perpetually topsy-turvy NFC East, but the Eagles looked poise to bring order and dominance to the field.

Washington Redskins

Signed: LB H.B. Blades, DE Stephen Bowen, OT Jammal Brown, CB Phillip Buchanon, G Chris Chester, QB Kellen Clemens, DT Barry Coefield, S Reed Doughty, DE Kedric Golston, K Shayne Graham, QB Rex Grossman, RB Tim Hightower, OT Sean Locklear, LB Rocky McIntosh, WR Santana Moss, P Sav Rocca, WR Donte Stallworth, CB Josh Wilson, WR Jabar Gaffney

Lost: OT Stephon Heyer, C Casey Rabach, CB Carlos Rogers, DL Vonnie Holliday, DE Jeremy Jarmon, DT Albert Haynesworth

Diagnosis: Donovan McNabb is gone, leaving Grossman as the incumbent starter with Clemens and a host of others in reserve. He’s surrounded by a hodgepodge of weapons like Moss, Stallworth and Gaffney. The only major upgrade is Hightower at running back. One of the worst defenses in the league subtracts troublesome corner Rogers and linemen Holliday and Jarmon, replacing them with stopper Coefield and Bowen, and secondary help Buchanon, Doughty and Wilson (though Buchanon is suspended for the first four games). Perhaps the best aspect of their offseason is the ability to dump Haynesworth and get something for him. The defense will improve, but not enough to make them contenders in this division.

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