Today we continue our segment breaking down each teams’ needs and what they need to do in Free Agency. The NFC East dropped off a bit last year, only sending one team to the playoffs, and seeing underachieving seasons from the Giants, Cowboys, and Eagles, but all four teams in the division have a lot of talent. There is a lot of potential in this division to regain control of the NFC East, but a couple of holes need to be fixed in each team. Below we discuss what positions these four teams need to fill.
Needs: OT, OLB
The Cowboys are in need of an upgrade of their offensive line. They gave up 36 sacks last year and struggled to protect Romo from the pass rush. They are in need of an upgrade at almost every position on the line, but will likely turn to the draft to stock up and avoid long-term commitment and heavy paychecks. Anthony Spencer will likely depart this offseason, which will leave a massive void in terms of Dallas’ pass rush. Spencer forced offensives to take some of the attention off of DeMarcus Ware, but both proved disruptive as the duo had little trouble getting to the quarterback in 2012, combining for over 22 sacks.
Bronco’s OT Ryan Clady would have been a good fit for the Cowboys, but Denver recently slapped Clady with the franchise tag. With that said, I think a healthy Sebastian Vollmer would also be a good fit in Dallas. Vollmer is a very solid right tackle and he has the skill set to make the transfer to left tackle, especially on a team like the Cowboys. OLB Connor Barwin experienced a down year in 2012 watching his sack total drop from 11.5 to 3 in only one year. Barwin showed he still has the ability to get to the QB at times, but his play was overshadowed by the emergence of JJ Watt who always seemed to get their first. At only 26 years of age, Barwin certainly isn’t on the decline. I fully expect a bounce-back year and think Dallas would be a great fit.
The Eagles’ offensive line surrendered a whopping 48 sacks in 2012. Whether it was Michael Vick or Nick Foles under center, the quarterback never looked safe wearing a Philly uniform. Chip Kelly will likely stick with Vick as his starter heading into the 2013 season, but if Kelly wants Vick to play all 16 regular season games for only the second time in his career, he will need to make vast changes to an abysmal offensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals OT Andre Smith is a name that has been circulating around several team’s front offices over the past few weeks. Smith experienced a breakout year in Cincinnati in 2012, but teams still seem unwilling to pay top dollar for him. People question his motivation on the field, especially if he were to ink a large deal. There have been inquiries about weight problems that have come and gone throughout his career. I don’t think it would be a problem if he were to be signed, and I also believe the athletic Smith would be a good fit on an offensive line that loves to use dynamic sets via the run and pass games.
The Giants failed to return to the playoffs after their Super Bowl victory just a year earlier, and now there’s work to be done. This work mainly needs to get done on the defensive side of the ball, as the offense is far from the problem. It looks like they have another year before offensive line veterans start to be plagued by age, so defense will be the motto during this off-season.
Even if the Giants don’t bring back Osi Umenyiora, their defensive line will still have the ability to be dangerous although they need to get some more quality depth at the position. Still, their bigger issues on defense right now are centered around the middle linebacker position as nobody on the active roster has been good enough to take the job.
Look for the Giants to really focus on improving the linebacker position, which in return will take pressure off of the defensive line. Also the secondary will take a big hit if they don’t re-sign safety Kenny Phillips, so all in all the Giants will be working just about everywhere on the defensive side of the ball.
Needs: S, OT
For the Redskins to pick up where they left off after an impressive, yet surprising 2012 season, they’ll obviously need Robert Griffin III to get healthy. How his rehab goes after tearing his ACL in just his second career playoff game will go a long way in determining whether the Redskins can repeat as NFC East Champions.
However, areas of the defense particularly in the secondary, will need improvement for the Redskins to stay a contender within the NFC.
Brandon Meriweather has a hard time staying healthy (currently trying to heal a torn ACL) so look for the Redskins to try and bring in a talented safety via free agency to help aid the depth chart at this position, as Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes aren’t ideal options to start, which was evident last season.
A safety is the biggest need for this team, but a way to keep RGIII healthy in the future would be to shore up the offensive line while the free agency class is strong. Going after a right tackle, and giving up on Tyler Polumbus (although he would come back cheap) could end up being just as important as improving the safety position that’s in shambles at the moment.