SNIDER: NFC East unchanged by free agency

Rick Snider
March 19, 2020 - 3:58 pm
NFC East unchanged by free agency

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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The Redskins kept pace in the NFC East after opening days of free agency brought better defenses to division opponents.

The Philadelphia Eagles gained a strong cornerback in Detroit's Darius Slay in return for two mid-round picks while adding Pittsburgh defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in a $39 million deal. The New York Giants signed cornerback James Bradberry while the Dallas Cowboys inked Carolina defensive end Gerald McCoy.

Indeed, the Redskins added their own corner in Kansas City Chiefs' Kendall Fuller. Washington made plenty of sensible moves in mostly bolstering depth. Dallas could say largely the same thing, as the NFC East wasn't the big winner in free agency.

The AFC seemed the bigger victors. Cleveland is assembling an all-star team after adding Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper, offensive tackle Jack Conklin and even Washington reserve quarterback Case Keenum. Why, the Browns might even crack .500 this season. The Raiders are giving new Las Vegas fans something new to cheer with inside linebacker Cory Littleton and outside linebacker Carl Nassib. Miami spent $235 million on 10 players, but still has a hole at quarterback.

Meanwhile, the NFC mostly plugged along aside Tom Brady moving from New England to Tampa Bay, which will be the wise-guys' pick to win the conference. Oh, Detroit signed seven players for $129.8 million combined, but the Lions are still only the third best team in the NFC North behind Minnesota and Green Bay.

The NFC East balance of power remains pretty even between Dallas and Philadelphia, with New York getting slightly better. That leaves Washington still fourth best.

Dallas' biggest gain was largely keeping its own players, including receiver Amari Cooper from signing with Washington via a $100 million deal. Adding Anthony Brown solved a cornerback problem while re-signing safety Darian Thompson keeps the secondary intact. Franchise tagging quarterback Dak Prescott tightens the Cowboys salary cap into a choke collar for future growth, though. If Dallas is to get any better this season, it must come via the draft.

Philadelphia's defense – adding Slay and Hargrave, plus safeties Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills – should improve, but they still need linebackers. The Eagles also enter the draft looking for offensive linemen and a receiver.

The expected improvement of quarterback Daniel Jones along with running back Saquon Barkley should give New York enough offense, so they focused on franchise tagging Leonard Williams while adding Bradberry. That Redskins coach Ron Rivera didn't make a move for his former cornerback shows the Giants may have overpaid Bradberry at $43.5 million. New York is still eyeing Seattle pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, hoping time will lessen his expected $20 million price tag.

Overall, free agency proved boring for the NFC East. It's up to the draft to give Washington momentum this season.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks

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