New York Giants:
-Basically the consensus number one team all season, the Giants didn’t seem to lose their hunger after their Super Bowl victory. GM Jerry Reese has done a fantastic job of bringing in talent, either through the draft or free agency and trades. This is apparent, as the team didn’t seem to miss a beat, even with injuries forcing key guys out of the lineup.
The offense is built around the running game, although Eli Manning did a wonderful job of managing the game by not making crucial mistakes and taking over when necessary. He has definitely come into his own, and his name is starting to come up in discussions of the upper echelon of quarterbacks. The defense also managed to keep its identity of a fierce pass rushing unit, even though they lost Michael Strahan to retirement, and Usi Umeniyora didn’t play a snap all season due to injury. This team faces an offseason in which they may potentially lose their defensive coordinator, and one of their two 1,000 yard backs.
-QB David Carr: played well in the second half of their season finale, and they may want to keep him in case Eli Manning goes down with an injury.
-RB Brandon Jacobs: both he and Derrick Ward rushed for over 1,000 yards this season, and it looks as if the Giants will not be able to retain both. Jacobs is clearly the best of the two, but he has struggled to stay healthy for an entire season, and will come at a higher price than Ward. There is also the argument that Ward is successful because of Brandon Jacobs, and that he is more of a complementary back.
-RB Derrick Ward: (see above)
-WR Amani Toomer: has certainly lost a step, but with Plaxico Burress likely not returning to the team, he might be brought back.
Needs: WR, LB, SS, DT
-Everyone knows what happened with Plaxico Burress, and since he will probably never play another snap for the Giants, his production needs to be replaced by someone else, or by committee. Although Burress was largely ineffective this season, his presence opened things up for Domenick Hixon and Steve Smith. You could see that after the Plaxico was gone, the Giants’ WRs really struggled to get open, and as a result Eli Manning struggled. This also hurt the running game because teams could bring more players into the box when the passing game wasn’t working.
-The defense was outstanding again this season, but the Giants could still use an upgrade at the LB position. Besides Antonio Pierce, the LB corps is very average, and even Pierce is slowing down a bit. Also, safety is another position that they could use an upgrade at, as both Sammy Knight and James Butler are veteran stopgaps. Finally, the defensive line is really the strength of this team, but they are a little thin on depth at the DT position. Another big body or two inside, would allow them to get a good rotation going, and keep their guys fresher.
-The Eagles got hot down the stretch, and managed to sneak into the postseason. Considering how poorly this team, and Donovan McNabb, were playing earlier in the season, this is a big accomplishment. Fans were calling for Donovan McNabb’s head after their loss to the Ravens, which he was benched for the second half, saying how he was finished and needed to be traded. Sure enough, though, like all great players do, he fought through it, and finished the season playing excellent football, thus quieting the Phili faithful. You do have to wonder if jobs are on the line going into the postseason, and if the Eagles get bounced early, there could be some players, and coaches, getting their walking papers.
Andy Reid has been dealing with some family issues for awhile now, so you have to wonder if that is affecting his coaching ability. As far as McNabb, he is due a lot of money this offseason, and they have already drafted his future replacement. Also, stalwarts of the great Eagle teams like starting tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas, as well as defensive leader, Brian Dawkins, are all set to hit the free agent market. We may be seeing the end of an era in Philadelphia, but something tells me that this team will respond with a run in the playoffs, and you will see most of the familiar faces back next year.
-RB Correll Buckhalter: had a nice season, and is a legitimate threat on the ground and through the air. May search for a more prominent role somewhere else, but could realize that he is better off staying in Phili.
-OT Jon Runyan & Tra Thomas: have shown no signs of slowing down, and continue to play at a high level. With no young players waiting in the wings, look for the eagles to bring back their bookends, but maybe with shorter term contracts.
-S Brian Dawkins: made the Pro Bowl this season, and was a huge factor in Phili’s postseason-clinching game against the Cowboys. Look for the Eagles to reward him with an extension, but maybe for only a couple of years, as he is getting older.
-L.J. Smith: was franchised last year, but that proved to be a waste of money, and he will most likely be shown the door, after another unimpressive season.
Needs: RB, WR, TE, OL
-The Eagles could really use a power back to compliment Brian Westbrook, as he can’t seem to handle all the hits that a RB takes over the course of a season. Westbrook was playing hurt most of the year, and didn’t really come on until late in the year. Reggie Brown was a big disappointment this season, and neither Kevin Curtis nor Hank Baskett is a real number one threat.
DeSean Jackson had a nice season, but opponents seemed to figure him out down the stretch. He needs to put on more weight before he can actually be considered anything more than a slot receiver, because teams will just play him physically and jam him at the line of scrimmage. The one year McNabb had a real threat at WR (Terrell Owens) they went to the Super Bowl. As mentioned earlier the Eagles two starting offensive tackles are free agents, plus both are in their thirties.
In addition, starting offensive guard Shawn Andrews has dealt with injuries and personal issues this season. Andy Reid loves to draft linemen, and he will need to do that this year again to shore up the depth and find some players who can eventually takeover for the pair of tackles in the future. As far as tight end, Brett Celek has shown promise, but L.J. Smith continues to get worse and most likely won’t be back.
-The Eagles are pretty much set at every position on defense. The only need would be some depth on the line, and maybe another safety.
-To say the Cowboys had a tumultuous season would be an understatement, and there could easily be a soap opera based on this team with the amount of drama that goes on. Jerry Jones’ habit of bringing in questionable characters finally backfired on him, as Adam Jones couldn’t stay out of trouble, and TO was well, TO. This team has all sorts of talent, but I really question whether Wade Phillips is the right man to manage all the personalities in that locker room.
Jerry Jones has said that Phillips will be back, but I believe that that is the case only because he feels that head coach in-training, Jason Garrett, is not yet ready to handle that role. We could be hearing a lot out of Dallas this offseason, as TO will surely try to grab some attention by saying something only TO would say. However, aside from the usual drama, look for “America’s team” to have a relatively quiet offseason, as they are right up at the cap and will not be able to afford to bring in any ex-cons this time around.
-DT Tank Johnson: with the emergence of Jay Ratliff, Johnson has become expendable. However, the Cowboys like to have a rotation of linemen, so he might be brought back at a cheap price considering potential suitors will be wary of his checkered past, and may be hesitant to bring him in.
-LB Zach Thomas: was a real steal from the Dolphins when they unloaded him because of concussion symptoms that proved only to be the result of a deviated septum. The Cowboys would love to have him back considering he was second on the team in tackles, and he is from Texas, so he would probably take a pay cut to come back.
Needs: WR, OL, S, ILB, DL
-TO is in his mid-thirties, and Roy Williams better show up next season or he will most certainly be cut. The Cowboys have some nice young players at the position, but the Cowboys must look to address this issue before it becomes glaring. With a team like the Cowboys, though, they will probably ignore this need, for now, in order to bring in guys that will contribute immediately, as their window is quickly closing. Most of the offensive linemen are under long term contracts, so they are not looking for potential starters, but they could use some depth at the position.
-Roy Williams has been a liability in coverage his whole career, and after getting hurt this year, the Cowboys may be looking to find a less one-dimensional safety to take over for him. Not to mention he has a big contract, and his back up, Pat Watkins, has been too injury prone. Bradie James has been a stud for them all season, and could have easily been considered for the Pro Bowl, but they need to find another starter for the inside. Zach Thomas is the short term solution, but even he is somewhat undersized for the 3-4, and may not be back next season. Jay Ratliff is a stud on the defensive line, but the two ends are good, but not great. If they lose Tank Johnson, they will need some more depth along the front three.
-The Redskins started out well, and looked like they were going to be the surprise team of the NFC East, but then they lost 6 of their last 8, to finish at .500. To make matters worse, the Redskins lost to the lowly Bengals, and the Rams this season. In addition, there are still question marks about the coaching staff, and it seems that their star player, Clinton Portis, is not too fond of first year head coach, Jim Zorn.
The two had a “war of words” through the media, where Portis sarcastically called Zorn a “genius” on a local radio show. After finishing last in the division it will also be interesting to see if owner, Daniel Snyder, goes back to his free-spending ways. Snyder has shown to be very impatient, and likes the quick fix of high priced free agents in favor of building through the draft, even though the former has not worked for this team in the past. The Redskins were very quiet last offseason, so we will see if Snyder has finally figured it out, and will stay the course, or if he revokes back to his old habits and signs the biggest free agent out on the market.
-OG Pete Kendall: has been outstanding for their running game, but is getting on in years, and may only bring him back at a discount.
-DeMetric Evans: is not a very good pass rusher, and will most likely be let go in favor of someone who is more of a threat off the edge.
-CB DeAngelo Hall: signed him after he was cut from the Raiders, and he responded by playing well for them. They will be careful in giving him an extension, though, after what happened in Oakland.
Needs: OL, DL, LB, CB
-The offensive line could really use an injection of youth. All the starters are solid, but it is time to start bringing in potential replacements, and depth, because older guys will get hurt more often. Aside from the offensive line, look for them to be more active at improving on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. Campbell is getting better, mind you, very slowly, and they spent high draft picks on receivers and a tight end last April, so they are seemingly set on this side of the ball.
-The Redskins had a top ten defense this season, but this unit could be much better with a significant pass rush. If Jason Taylor can stay healthy, he should help in that area, but they still should look to bring in some more talent. There are rumors of several veterans being cut to free up cap room, and names being mentioned are Shawn Springs, Marcus Washington, Cornelius Griffin, and Philip Daniels.
This probably means that the Redskins are going to go after one or more of the high profile defensive free agents. Possibilities include Albert Haynesworth, or maybe Karlos Dansby. They will probably address the offensive line with their first pick, or maybe go defensive end, but they should also look to add an OLB and another cornerback.