FA Recap: NFC East

Looking at the additions and losses for each team, Mike Renner breaks down the free agency moves of the NFC East.

| 2 years ago

FA Recap: NFC East

As free agency starts to slow down, it’s time to take inventory of last week’s craziness. The moves were fast and furious (and perhaps a bit premature), as a few teams were extremely aggressive in pursuit of turning around their fortunes while others took to free agency with constraint. Here’s a look at where we stand after a week of free agency:

Dallas Cowboys

FA-Recap-bryantKey Losses:
RB DeMarco Murray
DT Henry Melton
OT Jermey Parnell
LB Justin Durant
WR Dwayne Harris
LB Bruce Carter

Key Re-Signings:
WR Dez Bryant
OT Doug Free
OG Ronald Leary
WR Cole Beasley

Key Additions:
RB Darren McFadden
CB Corey White
LB Andrew Gachkar
FB Jed Collins
LB Jasper Brinkley
LB Keith Rivers
ED Greg Hardy

The Cowboys were fairly quiet the first week of free agency, but then made the headline of Week 2 with the signing of Greg Hardy. It may not go over well with the fan base, but players of with Hardy’s talent are rarely allowed to hit free agency and he’ll be a boon for the Cowboys’ defense. His legal issues are well documented, but there shouldn’t be any question of his performance even after essentially taking 2014 off. Hardy graded in the Top 10 among 4-3 defensive ends his last two seasons and should be properly motivated on a one-year deal.

With Dez Bryant franchised, the Cowboys let the market shape up before going after DeMarco Murray and it ended with him heading to division-rival Philadelphia. Dallas’ philosophy of late would suggest they’re just fine with that. With all the investments they’ve made through the draft in offensive linemen, they believe they can get production out of almost any running back.

This philosophy held true this offseason when they prioritized Doug Free on a three-year, $15m deal. Free has been one of the best right tackles in football the past two seasons and been especially competent as a run blocker. The Cowboys also retained starting left guard Ronald Leary as an exclusive-right free agent to keep their starting line from a year ago intact.

To shape up the rest of the roster the Cowboys used the quantity over quality approach to improve their linebacker position. To replace Bruce Carter and Justin Durant they brought in Andrew Gachkar, Jasper Brinkley, and Keith Rivers. None was a starter last season, but they are more or less stopgaps until they can draft a true starter.

New York Giants

FA-Recap-pierre-paulKey Losses:
CB Walter Thurmond
S Antrel Rolle

Key Re-Signings:
DE Jason Pierre-Paul
FB Henry Hynoski
LB Mark Herzlich
CB Mike Harris
RB Chris Ogbonnaya
WR Kevin Ogletree
CB Chykie Brown
OG John Jerry

Key Additions:
LB J.T. Thomas
OT Marshall Newhouse
LB Jonathan Casillas
RB Shane Vereen
WR Dwayne Harris

You’d be hard pressed to find a less exciting free agent haul than the Giants signings to this point. Five new players worth a total of $20.3m guaranteed netted them zero impact starters. Shane Vereen figures to be the most influential addition, but he’ll likely be limited to the role of third-down and two-minute back.

The Giants also re-signed a handful of their own players, the most noteworthy being the franchising of Jason Pierre-Paul. After a down 2013, JPP was yet again on top of his game last season with a +16.9 overall grade. Grading positively against the run and the pass for all but one season of his career, the Giants couldn’t afford to lose his reliable impact along the defensive line.

If there is a silver lining for the Giants’ free agency so far, it’s that the losses have been negligible. Antrel Rolle is coming off one of the worst grades of his career at -13.9 and Walter Thurmond played all of 67 snaps in a Giants uniform.

Philadelphia Eagles

FA-Recap-murrayKey Losses:
RB LeSean McCoy
OG Todd Herremans
S Nate Allen
OLB Trent Cole
TE James Casey
WR Jeremy Maclin
QB Nick Foles
CB Cary Williams
CB Bradley Fletcher

Key Re-Signings:
OLB Brandon Graham
QB Mark Sanchez 

Key Additions:
QB Sam Bradford
CB Byron Maxwell
RB DeMarco Murray
LB Kiko Alonso
RB Ryan Mathews
CB Walter Thurmond
LB Brad Jones

The Eagles were the premier story throughout the first week of free agency. No team shuffled more critical pieces to and away from their team than Philadelphia in a roller coaster ride with Chip Kelly now making the personnel decisions. We initially thought there couldn’t be a move bigger than shipping LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for Kiko Alonso, then they went ahead and dealt Nick Foles for the Rams’ Sam Bradford.

The former No. 1 overall pick was much maligned in St. Louis after injuries and inconsistent play plagued his five NFL seasons with the Rams. The Eagles are banking on clean bill of health and a change of scenery brings out the potential that has gone unrealized for Bradford. With Jeremy Maclin shipping off to Kansas City after the first positively-graded season since his rookie year, Bradford will once again have to make do without a strong complement of receivers.

Everyone was quick to jump to the conclusion that Kelly didn’t value the running back position after shipping away McCoy. Then he went out and dropped $26m in guaranteed money on two running backs with extensive injury histories. DeMarco Murray earned our second-highest run grade of any back last season and will fit in swimmingly with the Eagles’ zone scheme. Ryan Mathews, on the other hand, has first-round pedigree, but has yet to have a season without a struggling offensive line and/or injury problems.

That brings us to the defensive side of the ball which was just as eventful. The Eagles kicked-off free agency by paying Byron Maxwell like a Top 5 corner in the NFL. While we don’t agree with that assessment after a -3.0 grade a year ago, the Eagles didn’t have many quality free agent options and were in dire need with the losses of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

Even though they may have overpayed for Maxwell, the Eagles pulled off a coup in bringing Brandon Graham back for just $6.5m a year. We’ve never hid our fanhood of Graham who led all 3-4 outside linebackers in Pass Rushing Productivity last year at 17.7. He’s never played more than 524 snaps in a season, but Graham has been utterly dominant in those snaps and also shown well in the few games he was given starters playing time.

Washington Redskins

FA-Recap-knightonKey Losses:
OLB Brian Orakpo
S Ryan Clark
WR Leonard Hankerson
RB Roy Helu

Key Re-Signings:
QB Colt McCoy
TE Niles Paul
OT Tom Compton

Key Additions:
DI Stephen Paea
DI Terrance Knighton
DI Ricky Jean Francois
CB Chris Culliver
S Jeron Johnson

The Redskins have quietly put together one of the most impressive free agent hauls thus far. They addressed the serious needs on defense without breaking the bank. The crowning achievement of the class is the big defensive tackle from Denver, Terrance Knighton. For just $4m next season, Washington got a premier run stuffer to man the middle of a defense that has been in dire need of a true nose tackle for years now.

Along that defensive line they also added Ricky Jean-Francois and Stephen Paea. Jean-Francois signed a big contract in 2013 despite limited playing time and never quite produced anything more than average play. The thing is, average is a welcome addition to the Redskins’ line. Paea isn’t much of a run defender, but he will bring value as a sub-package rusher as his 8.7 pass rushing productivity was fourth among defensive tackles a year ago.

They also addressed the corner position, which may have been even more of a need than defensive line last season. Chris Culliver was superb in his first year as a starter in San Francisco a year ago and looks to be the No. 1 corner in Washington. The limited starting time is a worry, but he always graded out well as a nickelback and is easily an upgrade.

The only disappointing free agency development for the Redskins is the departure of Brian Orakpo. The impact is mitigated by Trent Murphy’s breakthrough at the position, but Orakpo is a rare talent when healthy. The key there being the “when healthy” part as Orakpo has torn his same pectoral three times and was deemed too unreliable an option with a competent backup waiting in the wings.


Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_Mike

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Riffle,Rod&Fly

    I don’t see any of this working out well for the Eagles. Anyone could run well behind the Cowboys “Texas Hold ‘Em” O’Line. I’m not a doctor, but there is something about Murray’s gait that I don’t like… he is a bit duck footed and any physical flaw at the NFL’s most trying position is worrisome. He’s had a lot of mileage on him already as well.

    Finally, Bradford has literally been injured since before he was drafted. And has had one average/good season. Unless Kelly is BS’ing and Bradford is a pawn for the draft, I just don’t get it.

    Defensively, Trent Cole probably was NOT the guy to let walk either. Chip may be running back to college before we know it.

    • ComeOnMan

      The eagles OL is one of the very best without a doubt so i would worry about that. Your not a doctor, but NFL teams have doctors who might have noticed a physical flaw likely to be a problem. He has less mileage than Lesean, and the eagles have other backs to distribute the load among. Bradford had nothing in St. Louis for his tenure there. His receivers, rbs and OL were never very good. Introduce him to scheme fitting offense with good players around him and there is cause for optimism if the doctors agree his injuries shouldnt be recurring. Defensively Trent Cole is an excellent but aging player and Brandon Graham is expected to more than fill his role

    • Jaguars28

      I think Bradford can be a solid starter if healthy, and he should be an upgrade over Foles/Sanchez.

      • Riffle,Rod&Fly

        When has what little we’ve seen of “good Bradford” been even close to what “good Foles” can offer? All I see is another NFL team peak at the right time who is getting ready to do the league a favor by moving to a bigger market.

        • Stewart

          Bradford won OROY on a terrible team then that team got worse for 3 years and he got beaten up foles played average on a already good team foles is also injury prone (never had more than 10 starts in a single season) with a whole new offense built around volume/speed of plays while running it like crazy behind a very good offensive line should keep bradford healthy and playing well.

    • James Thomas

      Do you do any research or do you just really want certain things to be true & then just decide that they are…. Trent Cole in his final year under Andy Reid in 2012 put up 24 tackles & 3 sacks in 16 games… He is Not a 3 -4 asset & his stats were IDENTICAL to Brandon Graham’s in 2014 but Graham put up his #’s in half the snaps. Graham is much younger & has blossomed under Kelly. Easy choice there, you don’t keep the older player…
      You assessment of Murray is laughable as well. The Eagles O-Line was the NUMBER ONE run blocking unit in the NFL – not the Cowboys. They graded out # 1 overall & the Eagles graded out # 2 overall, but there is NO question the Eagles run blocking is BY FAR the top Run Blocking Unit. Also, Murray has 527 FEWER career carries than LeSean McCoy. In Addition, in Kelly’s Offense, it is CRITICAL to never have runs for no gain or minus yardage – it is absolutely crippling b/c contrary to the morons in the national media who think Kelly dreams of a scrambling QB, the Philly Offense is predicated on the Power running game. McCoy, with his east / west – I don;t wanna get hit any more style, Led the NFL in runs for NO gain or minus yardage… Murray, the RB with MUCH less wear on his body was 2nd in the NFL in yardage gained AFTER contact. LeSean McCoy’s #’s were fraudulent NOT Murray’s… And I can prove it. In 2012, the year before Kelly arrived McCoy ran for a total of 840 yards on a 4.2 average – same as his career average. Murray on the other hand has a 4.8 career average and actually averaged OVER 5 yds per carry BEFORE Dallas developed this O-Line. Murray is a PERFECT fit for Kelly’s Offense & w/ the addition of former #12 overall pick Matthews, both will flourish and lengthen their careers. McCoy who would rescue his yds per carry average with a meaningless long run once a game is not a RB you want in an offense that MUST generate first downs. Dallas is CRAZY to think they can just plug any RB behind a massive O-LINE b/c the people in Phila just saw that it doesn’t work that way. Murray is a consistent sledgehammer back and he was the Absolute # 1 reason Dallas had the year they did last year. Their D sat on the side lines & Romo did not have to contend w/ safeties & LB’s in coverage b/c the opponent was worried about Murray more than ANY other player….
      As far as Bradford, the guy was sacked 70 TIMES his first two years and had no players on offense. Like McCoy AND DeSean Jackson AND Maclin, Foles did nothing in 2012. All 4 of these players exploded in Kelly’s system and just as McCoy will struggle in Buffalo w/ a coach who doesn’t care to know anything about Offense, Foles – with the slowest wind up delivery in the League – is going to struggle under Fisher, another coach who knows nothing of Offense & just wants to win 8 or 9 games a year so he can keep a job…
      Take heed & Listen to Hall of Famer Michael Irving when he said Jerry Jones was crazy to let Murray walk for a few million dollars & Dallas can forget about the Super Bowl next year b/c they took a MAJOR step back. By signing two ACTUAL NFL Corner Backs, Philly has put themselves on par with Seattle & Green Bay in the Eastern Conference….

      • Riffle,Rod&Fly

        I like the eagles more than any other team in this division so it is certainly not wishful thinking on my part. Bradford has been a disappointment in this league and should have never been taken #1 overall coming off of a year in which he saw no action due to injury. Foles had a rough start to this season but was playing well right before the injury. He’s already done far more in this league and showed more potental than Bradford. He will be back, bone trauma is not nearly as much of a problem as ligament trauma. I can speak from experience on that part.

        I know football and these players well enough to see a problem with these trades. This can be spun either way at this point and we won’t truly know until next season. One of us is wrong. If it is you, rest assured that I will be back to remind you.

        • Kaedwon

          Bradford is more accurate than Foles, and that’s the key to that trade. If the OL stays healthy then Bradford stays healthy; also a healthy OL means plenty of holes for Murray and Mathews, which takes a lot of pressure off Bradford too. If Bradford gets hurt and Sanchez has to play again, nothing else will matter b/c he’ll find a way to lose.

          • Riffle,Rod&Fly

            More accurate than Foles? How, When?? Bradford is broken and has been since college. Those are serious injuries he has suffered and not something that you ever fully recover from. Ligaments do not heal like bone does, they stretch, deform and are never made like new again. There is absolutely no good reason to believe anything will be different in Philly.

            The Rams are going to show up in Los Angeles with the best QB in their division and that is the only part of this deal that is not surprising.

            I feel for Philly fans. They’re diehard enough to sacrifice a QB and still fill the seats. This is how the league has worked for at least the last two decades: Team moves to a bigger market. Owners rejoice in the greater earnings they will all dip into and the moving team finds near immediate success in their new home.

          • eYeDEF

            You think Foles is going to be the best QB in their division? That seems like wishful thinking. He has to first prove that the 7 games he played last season were a fluke and that his ’13 season wasn’t a product of being in Kelly’s system before he’s even got an even chance of being a legit signal caller in the league, much less the best QB in his division.

          • Steve

            Broken since college? so he was broken when he set the NFL record for completions by a rookie QB??? how’s that for an answer to ‘when’ was he more accurate than Foles?

          • James Thomas

            I feel sorry for Ram fans – Foles will NEVER play 16 games & he is a Very slow decision maker who does Not move off his initial read… Kelly’s offense confused teams that first year & their were wide open targets all over the field… Foles is a back up Qb at best – especially under a defense first coach like Fisher – who I like, but he needs a dynamic QB to win… ACL’s are common place in the NFL now days… However Bradford is still a Risk but Kelly was starting Sanchez over Foles Anyway, so I believe that Kelly feels like Bradford is a good risk… He was one of the most accurate passers I’d ever seen coming out of college but injuries killed him but he has the Talent – Foles does Not… He’s going to get crushed in St/ Louis or L.A. or wherever the Rams will play & finish in last place next year… Phila is a top 3 NVC team w/ Sanchez & a Super Bowl contender w/ Bradford – Phila is LOADED to the Gills on BOTH sides of the ball…

        • James Thomas

          Foles was terrible & Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin ALL had BY FAR their best years under Kelly – RECORD setting seasons for that franchise – yet they each had average to sub par seasons just the year before Kelly came & got Andy Reid Fired… Kelly was supposed to be a “run & Shot” offense only coach – that’s what the so called Media advertised him as… Instead he slowly rebuilt that Defense & established a Smash mouth run game that Reid NEVER tried – Anyone remember Foles filling in for an injured Vick & throwing 50 times in his First start under Andy Reid??? FIFTY passes for a Rookie QB… Foles is NOT an NFL starter…. Bradford is a risk b/c of his health, but Kelly NEVER liked Foles in his offense… Sanchez isn’t great but w/ McCoy gone, Murray (500 fewer carries than McCoy) & Matthews are going to DESTROY teams & their Defense looks like a BEAST for the 1st time in 5 years… They look like Seattle truthfully… I’m SO impressed by what Kelly did there… You CAN NOT listen to ESPN – they create story lines to bend narratives… You must do the research for yourself & last year Phila had a TOP 5 front 7 – it was their secondary & Shady McCoy who killed them – WATCH the Seattle game on YouTube – that Monster O-Line ripped open holes & Shady did NOT want to get hit… Beast Mode did nothing but Russell Wilson ripped apart that Horrific secondary… Kelly signed a STUD corner in Maxwell (don’t forget he took the 6’4” Browners job away in Seattle) & Eric Rowe is considered a can’t miss corner… Those are MAJOR upgrades over Carry Wilson & Bradley Fletcher… Phila is Super Bowl contender w/ Green Bay & Seattle if Bradford works out but even w/ Sanchez they’ll win that division & get a bye week – Dallas losing Murray was a MAJOR loss…

  • Jeff

    Also another boon to the Redskins is the hiring of Bill Callahan as offensive line coach. For those thinking that Dallas’ offensive line will be just as dominant as last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t. Like Kubiak has done wherever he has coached, their offensive line would get a big boost.

  • JR

    This discussion bores me. All I know is the Redskins had the best offseason hands down. They will have the BEST defense in the division and if we can get consistant QB play we will be leading the division next year.