With the first wave of free agency in the books, the record-breaking contracts have been handed out and our snap judgements are in.
Good players will be available for some time — the NFL's shrewdest GMs will make impactful signings into the summer, and more known commodites will hit the market when teams tighen belts after June 1 — but we're breaking down how well every club has addressed its needs and managed its resources so far.
We begin in the NFC East.
Check out all of our team free agency grades here.
With his hands tied by Kirk Cousins’ franchise tag, Scott McCloughan has bypassed the usual flashiness of a Dan Snyder free-agent bonanza to focus on rewarding his own players. Aside from the addition of former Chargers DE Kendall Reyes — who's seven years younger than Jason Hatcher, the man he'll help replace — Washington has stuck namely to re-signing its own and moving on from players who no longer fit, like RG3 and Dashon Goldson. We like the decisions to re-sign Mason Foster and Will Blackmon, both addressing clear needs and having played well when given opportunities a season ago. Washington will have work to do in both backfields, where it’ll take more than just unproven Matt Jones and injury-hampered Duke Ihenacho to replace Alfred Morris and the Dashon Goldson-Jeron Johnson tandem, respectively. Washington added former Broncos safety and special-teams demon David Bruton on Tuesday, adding competition we envisioned being necessary to a transitioning safety corps.
We viewed Philadephia’s three biggest needs entering free agency as safety, corner and guard. After a slew of core re-signings and a pair of Houdini trade acts that left no doubt about the plan and its architect, they spent big at safety and guard and in volume at corner. Rodney McLeod might’ve been a sleeper before last week, but the Eagles didn’t bid against themselves to pay him $17 million guaranteed; the market bared it for a talented and versatile safety just entering his prime. Also factoring in Malcolm Jenkins' new deal, the Eagles have a lot invested at safety, not unwise when facing Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham, Jordan Reed twice per year and with Jim Schwartz’s expectations for that position. Brandon Brooks is a perfect fit and a massive (literally) guard upgrade. Doug Pederson is making the best of the QB situation by giving Sam Bradford both a chance and a strong push from Pederson's own guy, Chase Daniel.
New York: C+
Desperate or not, Jerry Reese has a plan. And we won’t fault him for attempting to mimic the formula that spearheaded both Super Bowls — build a monster up front defensively. The Giants undoubtedly overspent on Oliver Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins, who, along with Jason Pierre-Paul, commanded $114 million guaranteed, but filled three significant needs along the way. The problem is, those needs were there as a result of not hitting on previous high-round picks in the same spots — Prince Amukamara and Marvin Austin — plus a former third-round pass rusher, Damontre Moore. Reese has a Super Bowl QB and arguably the game’s best young receiver. He knew fixing the NFL’s worst pass ‘D’ and its No. 30 scoring unit was paramount to his team’s postseason aspirations and his own future in New York, but we can’t overlook the reason they’re in this spot.
The Cowboys have been busier restructuring deals than handing out new ones, a problem for a team with severe talent deficiencies at most positions. Not bringing back Greg Hardy is obviously the right decision, but equally obvious is the tenuous state of a Dallas pass rush that wasn’t good enough with him. Compounding that issue are numerous holes in the secondary, which veterans Leon Hall and Dashon Goldson are being courted to help plug. We like Dallas’ reported interest in Hall more than Goldson, but we’ll see where things go. Adding Cedric Thornton to the D-line is a nice move and shoring up their LB depth with Kyle Wilber behind Rolando McClain, who, like Morris Claiborne, inked a one-year deal, all makes sense. But do they make a big enough difference for an average ‘D’ that was overburdened with Tony Romo’s injury? And what’s the plan at running back and in the receiving corps after Dez?