The Dallas Cowboys seem to have found what they needed. They “reached” for Ezekiel Elliott early in the NFL Draft and he was always expected to be a game-changer. Whoever made the full in-house workup on Dak Prescott for the Cowboys prior to the draft needs every raise the team can legally give him, because the Cowboys were flat-out dominant last season thanks to a safe, balanced offense and a strong defense.
It’s a division that has shuffled winners several times over the years, but the Cowboys are looking a lot like they may be the team to beat going forward. The New York Giants did the thing they like to do every other year, which is come on strong late, but they ultimately came up short.
The Philadelphia Eagles might be on the right track with Carson Wentz and Washington does have some talented players, so maybe the Cowboys won’t have a hold on things as well as I’ve suggested.
Below, we’re going to take a look at the four teams in the division and their biggest needs going into the free agency period. Figuring out the needs of every other team is crucial in figuring out the landscape of the entire NFL and what it means for the 49ers. We’ll cover the rest of the divisions over the next several days.
Needs: Defensive end, wide receiver, cornerback
Dez Bryant is great, and the Cowboys look set with Prescott and Elliott ... but Terrance Williams is set to be a free agent and wasn’t a great No. 2 receiver to begin with. The team’s biggest need is at defensive end though, like most of the teams in this division.
Randy Gregory has a problem with suspensions and the Cowboys need some help opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. One issue that’s kind of hard to quantify is cornerback. Morris Claiborne has been a huge disappointment his entire career ... until late last season. He played quite well, but it was a contract year, so who knows what that means for Dallas?
New York Giants
Needs: Linebacker, defensive end, tight end
Oof, the Giants are just terrible at finding good help at inside linebacker. Keenan Robinson is bad and they really could use not just one, but two more linebackers at this point. Like the Cowboys, they also have a need at defensive end depending on what happens with Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s showed plenty to earn a big deal and the Giants may not be able to keep him around.
Their biggest need is tight end. It’s a position that seems like it’s being undervalued of late after a nice renaissance thanks to the two-tight end sets run by the New England Patriots. It just seems like there are more mediocre tight ends in the NFL now than ever before. And the Giants have a bunch of them.
Needs: Quarterback, defensive end, linebacker, running back
Obviously, the biggest concern is at the quarterback position. Kirk Cousins had a really good season, but he’s going to immediately command high-end franchise quarterback money. Is Cousins worth that? I still don’t know, and even if they use the franchise tag it’s still a whole bunch of money. Also on offense, they need a new running back. Robert Kelley isn’t exactly getting it done.
Like the other two teams mentioned thus far, Washington also needs a defensive end. Actually, they need two of them. Chris Baker is set to become a free agent and even if they manage to bring him back, they’ll need more at the position. And like the Giants, they need some help at inside linebacker next to Mason Foster.
Needs: Wide receiver, cornerback, running back, defensive tackle
Carson Wentz is in town, now they should really get him some dudes to throw the ball to. Jordan Matthews is good and all, but I don’t think he’s a top-tier receiver in the NFL. Other than that, they also need to find a running back they can actually count on because they keep switching between a slew of ineffective guys.
On defense, they don’t need a defensive end, unlike the other teams on this list. But Bennie Logan is set to become a free agent on the interior of that line and they need to retain or replace him. The biggest weakness comes at the cornerback position, where they are just awful and could use one, two or even three new bodies at the position.