Free agency is just a month away. The NFL Draft is just a month after that. Before you know it 32 NFL teams will have addressed many of their offseason concerns as they gear up for the 2019 season. Some teams are hating life right now. For example, the Oakland Raiders recently shipped off their best players in exchange for draft picks. They have a lot of needs. Recently, Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated ranked all 32 teams in terms of which organizations need the most help this offseason. He also identified what each team’s primary need is. How did the Dallas Cowboys rate? Before we spoil the surprise, let’s check in with their NFC East foes and see what ails them this offseason.
5. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
2018 RECORD: 7–9 | PRIMARY NEED: DEFINED WIDE RECEIVER | CAP SPACE: $17.7 MILLION
With Alex Smith expected to miss 2019 with a right-leg injury, Washington will rely on a rookie or journeyman QB. Coach Jay Gruden, who is great at creating opportunities for receivers through wrinkles in formations and route combinations, needs a receiver with length or speed to build his scheme around. Josh Doctson, a 2016 first-rounder, isn’t that guy, and slot maestro Jamison Crowder is a free agent.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago when the Washington Redskins were faced with the decision of who they wanted at quarterback – Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins. Now, both are gone and the team signed Alex Smith to a four-year, $94 million deal to be their guy. Unfortunately, a leg injury has taken him out of the equation for the upcoming season.
The Redskins finished third in the division, but they are tagged as the neediest team in the NFC East. The team doesn’t have any good receivers or someone to throw them the ball. That’s not good. On the plus side, they should get their young running back, Derrius Guice, healthy next season.
12. NEW YORK GIANTS
2018 RECORD: 5–11 | PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK | CAP SPACE: $27.3 MILLION
The Giants will almost certainly let journeyman cornerback B.W. Webb walk in free agency, leaving a hole on the right side opposite Janoris Jenkins, who had a down season. Coordinator James Bettcher loves to blitz (up the middle or from the slot), and with New York’s lack of edge rushers, he will rely on those tactics in 2019. Aggressive corners are critical for backstopping blitzes.
Remember when the New York Giants gave Janoris Jenkins a big contract to be their shut-down corner? Or what about when Eli Apple was selected 10th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft? Everyone expected them to be stacked at cornerback, but just a couple years later, that position has become their biggest need.
And let’s not forget that the team still has Eli Manning as their starting quarterback. Eventually, they’ll need to find someone new, but Cowboys fans are perfectly content with them taking their sweet time with that.
20. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
2018 RECORD: 9–7 | PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK | CAP SPACE: MINUS-$16 MILLION
Philadelphia had one of the NFL’s most expansive running games in 2017, ranking fourth in yards per carry (4.5). Last year, with Jay Ajayi tearing his left ACL in Week 5 and Darren Sproles missing Weeks 2 to 12 with a pulled hamstring, Philly ranked 30th (4.0). Even if Ajayi and Sproles, both free agents, are retained, a multidimensional three-down back would give the Eagles unlimited options behind their skilled O-line.
Best potential free agent signing: None
The Eagles have traded away of lot of draft picks to rent the services of players like Jay Ajayi and Golden Tate. The team also has quite a bit of money tied up in players as they’ve made several acquisitions over the last two season. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan are two of their top three cap hits for 2019. The Eagles aren’t as needy a some of their divisional foes, but it’s a good thing because they don’t have any money. Philadelphia is in the hole and will have to make some roster cuts to get under the salary cap.
And the least neediest team in the NFC East is…
22. DALLAS COWBOYS
2018 RECORD: 10–6 | PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER | CAP SPACE: $46.1 MILLION
Cole Beasley IS a free agent who may have burned his bridges in Dallas by criticizing the front office early this offseason. Tavon Austin is also a free agent and could draw decent interest given the rising popularity of jet sweeps. Finding another Beasley, who had the body control and understanding of defensive leverage to consistently separate underneath, is critical to continue the development of quarterback Dak Prescott.
We would be talking about how the Cowboys are in bad shape at wide receiver if the front office didn’t get ahead of that problem and trade for Amari Cooper midway through the 2018 season. People are already preparing for the departure of Cole Beasley and that’s probably a realistic expectation so the team could be looking his replacement.
It’s shocking that tight end isn’t identified as the primary need as the team has relied on an ordinary cast of characters in a committee approach since Jason Witten retired. The new draft class is expected to be rich in tight end talent with players that can upgrade the position.
The team has a lot of cap space, but they have a history of not splashing around very much in free agency. Plus, they have a lot of young talent who will need second contracts real soon. It’s a good feeling that the team is trending up, but it’s also good that they currently aren’t viewed as a team with several glaring needs.