After years of being the laughingstock of the NFL, the NFC East turned the tables and became the best division in football in 2022. Every team in the division finished .500 or better and three teams made the postseason. Not only did those three teams qualify for the playoffs, but each of them reached the divisional round — the first division since the 1997 NFC Central to have three teams reach the divisional round of the postseason (first division since the 2002 realignment).
The Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) were one of the best teams in football, winning a franchise-record 14 regular-season games en route to the Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys (12-5) won 12 games for the second consecutive season and reached the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Dallas also reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2006 and 2007, winning a road playoff game for the first time since the 1992 season.
The New York Giants (9-7-1) finished with a surprising over-.500 record in Brian Daboll’s first year as head coach, winning a playoff game for the first time since capturing Super Bowl XLVI in the 2011 season. The Washington Commanders (8-8-1) didn’t make the postseason, but finished with a .500 record for the first time since the 2016 season.
Each of the four NFC East teams have top-end talent, yet enter the offseason with a lot of questions. Can the Eagles prove the 2022 season wasn’t a one-year wonder, even with franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts? Will the Cowboys go to the NFC Championship Game with Dak Prescott? Can the Giants build off their surprising season? Will the Commanders ever find a quarterback?
The NFC East hasn’t had a repeat champion in 18 years, the longest streak in NFL history. Three teams in the division will hope to continue that streak, while the Eagles look to repeat as division champions for the first time since the 2004 season.
Here’s an outlook at each team in the NFC East with the new league year and free agency approaching, along with team needs for each franchise.
Note: Salary cap figures courtesy of Over The Cap.
Needs: CB, RB, S
Projected cap space: $8.9 million (14th)
The Eagles will look to become the first team since the 2001-2004 Eagles to repeat as NFC East champions, but the journey to repeat is going to be difficult. This talented roster has plenty of free agents and won’t be able to sign them all, having to make some significant decisions on key players from this year’s conference championship team.
James Bradberry is one of the best free agents available and is going to command top dollar this offseason, so he’ll be tough to retain. C.J. Gardner-Johnson wants to return and is expected to be a top free agent priority while Javon Hargrave will also become a player the Eagles hope to sign to another contract. Longtime stalwarts Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox may have played their final game in Philadelphia as both players are in their mid-30s.
Miles Sanders is a free agent, but the Eagles may look to the draft to revamp the running back position. Isaac Seumalo is also a free agent, but the Eagles have a replacement at guard in Cam Jurgens (unless Jason Kelce decides to retire). They’ll lose depth at tackle if Andre Dillard seeks starter’s money elsewhere, which Dillard should get in free agency. Philadelphia could seek more depth at wide receiver with Quez Watkins underperforming and Zach Pascal hitting free agency.
Then there’s the looming Hurts extension, which the Eagles want to get done as soon as possible. Getting the Hurts extension done before Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson will be huge for Philadelphia going forward, as Hurts will be a top-five quarterback at top-10 market value.
The Eagles also have to replace both coordinators in Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon, as each was hired to become an NFL head coach elsewhere. Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson — who has a long relationship with Hurts and his family — is expected to be promoted to offensive coordinator while the Eagles are searching for more aggressive defensive coordinators to succeed Gannon.
Philadelphia will be busy this offseason, but the biggest question has been answered. The Eagles have a franchise quarterback.
CBS draft projections: The Eagles have two first-round picks in this draft (No. 10 and No. 30), with the first draft selection coming via the Saints in an offseason trade last year. CBS Sports draft analyst Ryan Wilson has Philadelphia taking Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 10 and LSU edge rusher BJ Ojulari at No. 30 in his mock draft. Chris Trapasso has the Eagles taking Iowa edge rusher Lucas Van Ness at No. 10 and Texas running back Bijan Robinson at No. 30.
Needs: OG, DT, LB
Projected cap space: -$7 million (21st)
The Cowboys are in a conundrum heading into this offseason, awkward for a franchise coming off consecutive 12-5 seasons. Dallas still hasn’t made the NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season and Prescott may have reached his peak as a quarterback as he turns 30 later this year. Dallas allowed offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to walk in January and hired Brian Schottenheimer to fill the position. Mike McCarthy will call plays for the first time since he coached the Green Bay Packers (2018), which seems to be a downgrade considering the Cowboys were second in the NFL in points per game in the four years Moore called plays.
Dallas has to retain Tony Pollard, who is a free agent. Pollard had the most yards per touch (5.9) in the NFL last season (minimum 200 touches) and has a career 5.1-yard-per-carry average, clearly the most productive player on the Cowboys and the most explosive running back in the NFL.
The Cowboys would like to add another wide receiver to take the pressure off CeeDee Lamb and prevent the league-leading 3.8% interception rate Prescott had last season. Dallas also has to shed some cap space, similar to last season when the Cowboys were forced to move on from Amari Cooper in a cost-cutting move. Tight end Dalton Schultz had an inconsistent year with injuries at the beginning of the season, so it’s unsure if he will be back.
Dan Quinn has returned to run the defense, so the Cowboys should be elite again on that side of the ball while forcing a lot of turnovers. Anthony Brown is the biggest free agent Dallas will try to retain, so cornerback could be a need heading into the draft. The Cowboys could also use help on the interior of the offensive line, especially if guard/tackle Terence Steele departs in free agency.
Dallas is a good team that should make the playoffs again, but the pressure is on McCarthy to get the Cowboys farther than the divisional round. His fate may be sealed if the Cowboys don’t get to the divisional round in 2023.
CBS draft projections: The Cowboys have the No. 26 pick in the draft as CBS Sports draft analyst Ryan Wilson has them selecting Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt. Chris Trapasso has Dallas taking Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders.
New York Giants
Needs: WR, TE, QB
Projected cap space: $46.9 million (4th)
The Giants were the surprise of the NFL this past season, as Daboll overachieved with a roster that won just four games in 2021. Daniel Jones evolved into an above-average quarterback with potential while Saquon Barkley had his best season since his rookie year (2018). Jones and Barkley could be franchise cornerstones, but both are free agents this offseason — making the Giants’ future murky.
Here’s the tough part with the Giants. General manager Joe Schoen is still trying to fix the mess Dave Gettleman created, even with the hefty amount of cap space available this offseason. Jones is going to get a significant raise while Barkley is set to become one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL. Do the Giants choose Jones, Barkley, both, or neither?
Is winning nine games the endgame for the Giants? Of course not, but can they get better paying Jones and Barkley with a lack of wide receivers and interior offensive line talent? The Giants will have to address which wideouts they want to keep with Richie James and Darius Slayton hitting the free agent market. Do they have enough cap space to go after a No. 1 wideout and help Jones out with his development? What about an Odell Beckham reunion?
Jon Feliciano would be a good offensive lineman to retain in order to help out the interior of that unit. They also have to develop Evan Neal heading into Year 2, needing him to become a good starter at right tackle. On the defensive side of the ball, Julian Love is the key free agent New York has to maintain after a breakout season.
New York’s offseason comes down to Jones and Barkley. Once the Giants make a decision on both of them, they can build their roster for a return trip to the playoffs in 2023.
CBS draft projections: The Giants have the No. 25 pick in the draft. CBS Sports draft analyst Ryan Wilson has New York taking Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba while Chris Trapasso has them selecting Florida offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence.
Needs: QB, CB, LB
Projected cap space: $8.3 million (15th)
Another offseason the Commanders enter with quarterback questions. Carson Wentz was a complete flop in Washington, getting injured and then benched for Taylor Heinicke, only to return and cost the Commanders an opportunity at a playoff spot. Rookie Sam Howell finished the season with a start in Week 18, but will the Commanders hand him the job?
Eric Bieniemy is the new offensive coordinator in Washington and a massive upgrade over Scott Turner. The first step for Bieniemy is to find a franchise quarterback, as the Commanders have a talented trio of wide receivers (Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson) and two solid running backs in Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson to work with. The Commanders have started 12 different quarterback since the start of the 2018 season, by far the most in the NFL. Can Biemieny lure a top quarterback to Washington?
The Commanders have one of the biggest free agents on the market in Daron Payne, who is going to command a hefty salary after a huge season at defensive tackle. While the Commanders need significant help on the back end of their defense (specifically at cornerback and linebacker), keeping Payne on a defensive line with Montez Sweat and Chase Young is paramount. Young has just 1.5 sacks in 12 games since he won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 and the Commanders need him to return to pre-ACL surgery form.
Washington appears to be a quarterback away from a playoff trip of its own, becoming a competitor for the division title. With three .500 or worse seasons under Ron Rivera, the Commanders head coach is certainly on the hot seat entering the 2023 season.
CBS draft projections: The Commanders have the No. 16 pick in the draft. CBS Sports draft analyst Ryan Wilson has Washington taking Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon while Chris Trapasso has the Commanders selecting South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith.
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