NFC East Free Agency Preview
NFL Free Agency Preview
The following is a 2019 NFL Free Agency breakdown written by Anthony Cervino. Throughout this NFL Free Agency preview, Anthony tires to identify team needs from each and every NFL franchise. He also takes a stab at trying to accuracy predict logical landing spots for impending free agents and connect the dots for some surprising moves that we may not see coming.
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NFC East Free Agency Preview
Salary Cap Space: $46,127,676
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- WR Cole Beasley (29)
- OT Cameron Fleming (26)
- DT David Irving (25) — retired/ suspended
- DE Randy Gregory — suspended indefinitely
- RB Rod Smith (27)
- DE DeMarcus Lawrence (26) — received the franchise tag
- FB Jamize Olawale (29)
- WR Tavon Austin (29)
- TE Geoff Swaim (25)
- LB Damien Wilson (25)
- RB Darian Thompson (25) — re-signed
- Terrance Williams (29) — released
Defensive End — Although the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence for the second consecutive offseason, the two sides are primed for a lengthy struggle to come to terms on a long-term deal. Pair that with the fact that Randy Gregory will likely be suspended for the duration of the 2019 season due to yet another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, and the Cowboys must find pass rush help to take some pressure off of Lawrence on the other side. While the Cowboys aren’t exactly strapped for cash, they have a plethora of their own players to pay that include Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and the before-mentioned Lawrence before they can go out and spend on the open market. Because they will prioritize paying their own guys first, spending up for a big-time pass rusher is likely out of the question. Like many teams, the Cowboys will try to find value on the open market. One name that sticks out to me is Benson Mayowa, who played in this system for two years from 2016-2017. The Cowboys could also spend another high draft pick on a pass rusher as Taco Charlton, 2017’s first-round selection, hasn’t exactly worked out as of yet. But since the Cowboys traded away their 2019 first round pick to acquire Cooper at the trade deadline last season, they’d likely have to wait until day two to get their guy and hope that a first-round caliber talent falls to them.
Tight End — While the Cowboys brought back Jason Witten following a one-year stint on ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast team, reports are suggesting that the 37-year-old will only play in a limited role this season — 20-to-25 snaps per game to be exact. And since Geoff Swaim is a free agent. Plus, the fact that Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers were average at best last season, drafting a tight end who can be a legit threat in the passing game is an evident need. In a deep tight end class, look for the Cowboys to select Witten’s heir apparent with a day-two or an early day-three pick. However, if they end up drafting a pass rusher or another position of need with one of their early picks over a tight end, targeting a player like Tyler Eifert in free agency could be another option. Although Eifert is injury prone, he is also one of the better red zone threats at the tight end position in the league when healthy. He will also come pretty cheap for a player with his upside. Pairing Eifert and Witten could vastly improve a Dallas TE unit that couldn’t find their way in 2018.
Running Back — While the Cowboys are one of the most talented teams on the exterior, depth could become an issue, especially at running back with Rod Smith an impending free agent. If the Cowboys lose Smith, they would also be losing Elliott’s primary backup since 2016. However, the Cowboys have reportedly shown an interest in acquiring Duke Johnson from the Browns, which would solve their problems at RB. However, if the Johnson inquiry falls through, the Cowboys could also bring back Alfred Morris, who played for the team in 2016 and 2017, for close to nothing.
- DT Daniel Ross — re-signed to a one-year deal
- WR Allen Hurns — Dallas picked up his 2019 option
New York Giants
Salary Cap Space: $28,252,094
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- S Landon Collins (25)
- G Patrick Omameh (29)
- DE Kerry Wynn (28)
- DE Connor Barwin (32)
- DL Mario Edwards (25)
- WR Bennie Fowler (27)
- WR Cody Latimer (26)
- WR Russell Shepard (28)
- TE Scott Simonson (26)
- CB B.W. Webb (28)
- K Aldrick Rosas (24) — placed with original round tender
- WR Corey Coleman (24) — tendered by Giants
- C Spencer Pulley (26) — RFA
- QB Alex Tanney (31) — RFA
Quarterback — Three years ago, the Giants were coming off of an 11-5 record and looked like the team to beat in the NFC East. However, a lot has changed since then. Not only did the Giants fire their then, general manager Jerry Reese and HC Ben McAdoo, but Eli Manning has looked like, well, garbage. And I hate using terms like that but I just don’t know what else to say. While the aforementioned 11-5 record was a bright spot, it was only Manning’s second double-digit win season in the past 10 years. In fact, looking even deeper, that 11 win season was Manning’s only season with a win/loss record above .500 in the past six years since 2013. With his arm evidently on the decline and the fact that he is a statue in the pocket of a weak offensive line, it is time for the Giants to bring in his heir apparent. Whether they get a quarterback to start immediately, or they target one that will sit for a year and let Manning have his last run in a lame duck season, I can’t imagine that the Giants let this need go any further. While Nick Foles could make a lot of sense for the Giants, he appears to be Jaguars-bound. And since there aren’t many options available on the open market — they could always trade for Josh Rosen (yuck) — I believe they will get their QB in the draft. Dwayne Haskins, a New Jersey native, could be selected by the Giant at No. 6 overall.
Offensive Line — The Giants have had offensive line problems for years. In fact, I believe drafting Ereck Flowers with the ninth overall pick in 2015 set that franchise back light years. And while they finally moved on from Flowers in 2018, there is still needs along their front five. Despite bringing in LT Nate Solder last year in free agency and LG Will Hernandez in last year’s draft, they still have question marks at center as well as on the right side of their line. Once Flowers was run out of town, Chad Wheeler stepped in at right tackle and did a respectable job, but I doubt he played well enough to garner a starting role right out the gate in 2019. So look for the Giants to add a right tackle in free agency or the draft. A player like Cameron Fleming, who played with Solder in New England and spent last season with the Cowboys, could do the trick if he converts to the right side. And with depth always an issue, a player like Eric Kush, who can play guard and center, could be a quality addition to New York’s line as well.
Wide Receiver — While the Giants also have needs on the defensive side of the ball, adding a third wideout to their offense should also be a priority. Not only has Odell Beckham Jr. been rumored to be on the trading block for the second straight offseason, but the elite but sometimes off the rails wideout has missed a total of 16 games since 2017. Assuming OBJ remains in New York, which is the likeliest of scenarios, the Giants must add quality depth to their wide receiver corps in case he misses any time again in 2019. Because when Beckham is out, the only other wideout of note on the roster is Sterling Shepard, which makes them easy to defend. After failed attempts to find a WR3 in free agency — Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Corey Coleman — it wouldn’t surprise me if they targeted on day-two of April’s draft. However, if they do look to try to find one on the open market, Devin Funchess would make a lot of sense considering his ties to David Gettleman from their days together in Carolina.
Secondary — Since the Giants are expected to release CB Janoris Jenkins, plus, the fact that they could very well let S Landon Collins walk in free agency — they didn’t tag him — their needs across a secondary that finished 2018 ranked 23rd in total passing yards allowed (4,044) are indisputable. With players that include S Eric Reid and CB Captain Munnerlyn on their way out of Carolina, don’t be surprised to see them in a different shade of blue in 2019. Both Reid and Munnerlyn are dependable NFL starters who Gettleman is familiar with and won’t break the bank for a team with plenty of needs and the 16th most cap space.
- OG Kevin Zeitler — traded Vernon and a 2019 fourth-round pick to the Browns in exchange for RG Kevin Zeitler and a 2019 fifth-round pick
Salary Cap Space: -$16,004,935
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- WR Golden Tate (30)
- RB Jay Ajayi (25)
- DT Tim Jernigan (27) — team declined his 2019 option
- CB Ronald Darby (25)
- QB Nick Foles (30)
- DE Brandon Graham (31) — re-signed to a three-year deal
- LB Jordan Hicks (26)
- DT Haloti Ngata (35)
- WR Mike Wallace (32)
- G Chance Warmack (27)
- WR Jordan Matthews (26)
- S Corey Graham (33)
- TE Richard Rodgers (27)
- RB Darren Sproles (35)
- K Jake Elliott (24) — re-signed to a one-year deal
- QB Nate Sudfeld (25) — RFA
Running Back — Two years removed from a Super Bowl Championship, the Eagles need to replenish their team at quite a few positions. Starting with running back, I believe the Eagles need to bring in a reliable back due to all of the volatility at the position in a somewhat failed 2018 campaign. With Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi set to hit the open market, only Josh Adams, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood are left under contract for 2019. And while the Eagles enjoy using an RBBC, I just don’t think the pieces that remain are enough to get the job done and compete in an NFC East loaded with talent at RB (Ezekiel Elliott, Derrius Guice, Saquon Barkley). If they can’t land an experienced veteran like Mark Ingram in free agency, they could elect to bring in a back early in the draft and sign a low-end pass-catching option to fill the Sproles role like Ty Montgomery.
Secondary — Since the Eagles re-signed Brandon Graham, an immediate need for a pass rusher isn’t there even though you can never have enough. The glaring need on Philadelphia’s defense is in their secondary. Not only is the Eagles’ secondary coming off of an injury-plagued campaign in which they surrendered the third-most yards passing (4308), but it got so bad that they had to sign bodies off the street toward the end to the year. Although they’ll get CB Jalen Mills (foot) and FS Rodney McLeod (knee) back in 2019, I believe bringing in a stud corner and/ or safety is a necessity to compete in a passing league.
Quarterback — Since the Eagles are letting Nick Foles walk on the open market, a need for a reliable QB2 has opened up. And while they could tender Nate Sudfeld, I doubt they want to enter 2019 with a signal caller who has only thrown two regular-season passes in his career as Carson Wentz’s immediate backup. Due to Wentz’s injury history, the Eagles must land a veteran backup who can go out and win games. While quarterbacks don’t grow on trees, the Eagles can go out and sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to serve as a reliable and proven insurance policy for Wentz.
- C Jason Kelce — re-signed to a one-year deal
- Draft Compensation — Received a fifth-round pick from the Patriots in exchange for DE Michael Bennett and a seventh-round pick in 2020
Salary Cap Space: $17,719,921
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (26)
- WR Jamison Crowder (25)
- OT Ty Nsekhe (33)
- LB Pernell McPhee (30)
- LB Preston Smith (26)
- RB Adrian Peterson (34)
- WR Maurice Harris (26) — RFA
- RB Rob Kelley (26) — RFA
- RB Byron Marshall (25) — RFA
Wide Receiver — While I am labeling this need “wide receiver,” we can probably rope tight end into this equation as well. Since parting ways with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, Washington’s pass-catching corps has been sub-par at best. Not only is Josh Doctson shaping up to be a bust — when you draft a payer 22nd overall, you need more than an 81/1,100/8 career stat line in 33 games — but Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson, last offseason’s “splash” signing, spent most of the year dealing with their respective injuries. And when they were on the field — Crowder and Richardson played in a combined 16 games — the production just wasn’t there. Whether it was on them or on Washington’s QB room, the Redskins need more from their wide receiver position to be competitive. When the oft-injured Jordan Reed is your leading receiver with a 54/558/2 line at this juncture of his career, you know you’re in trouble. With limited cap space and a laundry list of needs, I don’t think the Redskins can go spend-crazy on the open market with a big-name signing. Perhaps targeting a receiver early in the draft along with a low-end/ moderate-upside free agent signing could do the trick until the situation improves. Since Crowder is a free agent likely to walk, it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to rope Pierre Garcon back in at a value deal. A veteran presence like Garcon could help groom a young receiving corps for the future, especially if the Redskins take one with a high pick. And due to Jardon Reed’s volatility plus the fact that Vernon Davis is on the back-nine of his career, I’d also expect the Redskins to draft a tight end in one of the deepest tight end draft classes we’ve seen in a long time.
Pass Rusher — Since Preston Smith and Pernell McPhee are likely going to test the open market, their potential departures would pose an immediate need for a pass rusher. And while the Redskins could also use help in the secondary, employing a stronger presence to terrorize the enemy quarterback is higher on the priority list. Pressed up against the cap, look for the Redskins to find pass rushing help in the draft. If they are desperate, they could also bring in a veteran like Conner Barwin if he still wants to play at the age of 33, though he probably wouldn’t add much sizzle. Barwin is nothing more than a situational depth player at this point of his career who recorded just one sack in 15 games in a declining role with the Giants last season.
Quarterback — Since the Redskins are planning as if Alex Smith will not be available in 2019 due to a gruesome leg injury suffered in Week 11 last season, a need for a starting quarterback has reared it’s ugly head for the second straight offseason. And while HC Jay Gruden told the press that he has confidence in Colt McCoy, I don’t think anyone is buying it, not to mention that McCoy saw his 2018 season end to a broken leg as well. Therefore, Washington is very much in the QB market. Since they will still be on the hook for Smith’s contract, going out and signing a quality veteran to start is likely out of the question. It seems like they have three choices. They can roll with McCoy, draft a quarterback or trade for one on their rookie deal. Which leads me to Josh Rosen. At the combine, reports have loomed stating that the Redskins have had talks with the Cardinals about Rosen should they decide to trade him and select Kyler Murray No. 1 overall. Landing a QB on their rookie deal would give the Redskins a QB1 at a value rate and a little more breathing room to make their team better at other positions.
- QB Case Keenum — acquired from Denver for a sixth-round pick in 2020
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