Bill Barnwell's offseason report cards: NFC East

CB Josh Norman unexpectedly landed in Washington this offseason, while the Cowboys and Eagles took risks in the draft with RB Ezekiel Elliott and QB Carson Wentz. ESPN Illustration

After months of endless rumors, mock drafts and the occasional actual transaction, the player-movement portion of the NFL offseason is basically over.

Sure, a few guys might get traded between now and August, but most moves are in the can. What your favorite team's roster looks like now is just about what it's going to look like for the 2016 campaign.

So, now that everything is settled, let's run through the NFL and take a bird's-eye view of each team's offseason, touching on the NFC East on Monday.

To go directly to your favorite team, click the links below:

Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Washington

Dallas Cowboys

What went right

They moved on from Greg Hardy. Granted, it appears more likely that the Cowboys decided against pursuing Hardy because of his issues fitting in with their locker room as opposed to his abhorrent behavior outside of football, but let's take this victory where we can get it.

Their forays into free agency made sense. Given where the Cowboys were weak coming into this offseason, their modest free-agent spending seemed to fit. Their biggest signing was Eagles defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, who started 45 games during the past three seasons and profiles as a run-stopper on the interior next to smaller penetrating tackle Tyrone Crawford. Dallas had the league's fourth-worst run defense by DVOA last season, so any help up front would be extremely appreciated.

Then, in need of a back to rotate in alongside Darren McFadden, the Cowboys gave Alfred Morris a two-year, $3.5 million deal with no guaranteed money after this season. Morris' yards per carry figures have gone down in each of the past three seasons, which is troubling, but he is an ideal fit for Bill Callahan's zone-blocking scheme and might very well benefit from playing behind Dallas' superior offensive line. The price is right. If Dallas had just stopped here and drafted a back like Devontae Booker in the middle rounds, things would be peachy. Instead ...

What went wrong

That draft. Ezekiel Elliott may very well turn out to be a fantastically productive running back behind that dominant Cowboys offensive line, but one of the reasons you build a line that good is to ensure that you can pay a back peanuts to run behind it. Teams are often overly optimistic about their ability to identify players who should be drafted way higher than the typical top prospects at their position, as recent examples like Trent Richardson and Reggie Bush can remind you.

While Elliott will help as a pass-blocker, nobody drafts a running back fourth overall because he can pass block. In addition, Tony Romo is the sort of quarterback who extends plays to the point where there really can't be anyone feasibly blocking, where he'll inevitably be hit by an unblocked rusher or green-dogging linebacker. That's both a feature and a bug.

Dallas used its second-round pick on a player with massive upside in Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, and given that the physician who performed Smith's surgery is Dallas team doctor Dan Cooper, the Cowboys may very well have more insight into Smith's knee than most other teams. It still seems likely that Smith will sit out the entire 2016 season, though, and that makes him a far less valuable proposition, given that the Cowboys took him early in the second round. Had Smith been taken at the end of the first round, the Cowboys could have drafted him and secured a fifth-year option as part of his deal. Instead, as a second-rounder, the Cowboys likely will lose Smith for a year and have him on rookie salaries for only a maximum of three years. Even if Smith comes back full force in 2017, that's a notably less valuable proposition.

The Cowboys are incurring opportunity costs in signing both these guys. It's not that Elliott isn't a good player or that Smith isn't worth taking a shot on. It's that a veteran team that went 12-4 in 2014 and hasn't had much of a secondary for a decade or so could have added Jalen Ramsey at pick No. 4 and a pass-rusher who could step on the field immediately (while Dallas' two top edge rushers are both suspended) at No. 34. Instead, the Cowboys will have to hope that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can coax magic out of Benson Mayowa, the highest-profile addition Dallas made to its pass rush this offseason. Third-round pick Maliek Collins could flash as an interior disruptor in tandem with Crawford, but the Cowboys desperately needed help on the edge and didn't get it.

Brandon Carr is still here. Seemingly on the verge of being cut for years, Carr's five-year, $50 million signing has been disastrous for the Cowboys. It seemed obvious that Dallas would cut Carr and create salary-cap space, but instead, the Cowboys agreed to terms with Carr on a pay cut, which lopped his base salary in half but also paid him a $1 million roster bonus. The Cowboys now owe Carr $10.2 million if he makes the team and will be responsible for $8.4 million in cap charges if he gets cut. Carr is part of a highly questionable cornerback trio, with Orlando Scandrick returning from a torn ACL and Morris Claiborne yet to deliver on his potential after the Cowboys traded up to take him in the first round of the 2012 draft.

What's next?

Re-sign Jeremy Mincey. Mincey was a useful rotation end for the Cowboys in 2014 before falling out of favor last season and eventually undergoing elbow surgery. With his market nonexistent and both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended for the first four games of 2016, the Cowboys could sorely use the veteran's assistance early in the season. They could also look at George Selvie, who was the Mincey of the team in 2013 and hasn't attracted much attention since leaving the Giants.

Grade: C

New York Giants

What went right

They took serious strides to upgrade their pass rush. Any way you slice the numbers, the Giants were downright meek against opposing quarterbacks in 2015. They were third-worst in the league in adjusted sack rate and left opposing quarterbacks 2.58 seconds to throw before their average pass, which was fifth-worst in the NFL. The Giants were 18th in pressure percentage, so they bothered opposing quarterbacks at close to a league-average rate, but Steve Spagnuolo's defense just couldn't finish the job.

If the Giants allow opposing quarterbacks to plant a garden in the backfield and watch it grow again next year, it won't be for lack of trying. After deciding against franchising Jason Pierre-Paul, they re-signed their embattled defensive end to a one-year, $10 million deal. JPP had seven quarterback knockdowns in eight games last season but mustered only one sack for obvious reasons. One would hope that another offseason of healing for his hand (and the removal of the club around said hand) would bring his sack percentage more in line with expectations.

To play across from JPP, the Giants replaced Robert Ayers with the best pass-rusher on the free-agent market, Olivier Vernon. Vernon's five-year, $85 million deal is a huge investment for a player who had just 7.5 sacks last season, but Vernon knocked down quarterbacks 36 times last season, the third-highest figure in football behind J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald. Huge knockdown totals are often a precursor for hefty sack totals, as was the case for Ezekiel Ansah last season.

The secondary, too. Nobody will accuse the Giants of being behind the times, that's for sure. With NFL teams throwing the ball more than ever before and defenses spending more time in their sub packages with five defensive backs than they do in their traditional 4-3 or 3-4 alignments, cornerbacks have become increasingly valuable. It's hard to think of a team that has more invested at corner than the Giants right now. After letting Prince Amukamara walk, the Giants found help for incumbent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie by signing Janoris Jenkins to a five-year, $62.5 million deal and using their first-round pick on Ohio State corner Eli Apple. They've also been linked to former Bengals corner Leon Hall to suit up in the slot. If third-round pick Darian Thompson can contribute as a rookie at safety, the Giants would seem to have a talented secondary either at or entering its collective prime.

What went wrong

They handled Tom Coughlin's departure in a bizarre manner. It's hard to reconcile the logic behind the Giants' decision to make a head-coaching change and their attempt to simultaneously maintain continuity by promoting Ben McAdoo to head coach. There's nothing inherently wrong with promoting McAdoo, who has done excellent work in revitalizing Eli Manning after arriving in Jersey two seasons ago, but the simultaneous goals of getting rid of the head coach while retaining virtually all of his staff don't add up. If Coughlin was the problem, why has it taken the Mara family so long to move on, given that he's been the same head coach with the same team for years now? And if Coughlin was only part of the problem, why didn't the family make more changes?

The right side of the offensive line is a disaster. After they cut oft-injured veterans Geoff Schwartz and Will Beatty, it seemed like the Giants would eventually address their line. That never happened, as they didn't draft an offensive lineman and added only Byron Stingily, who bounced around the Pittsburgh and Tennessee practice squads last season. As a result, John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse -- who were both brutally bad last season -- will be pressed into starting roles on the right side of the line. And you can imagine how bad things would be if one of them were to get hurt.

They paid a lot for a two-down lineman in Damon Harrison. Harrison was a useful nose tackle on the league's best run defense last season, but he was surrounded by superstars with the Jets, and the market for run-plugging tackles never really developed in the way the huge Harrison deal suggested it might. The Giants gave Harrison a five-year, $46.3 million contract; compare that to somebody like the aforementioned Thornton, who got four years and $18 million from the Cowboys, or Terrance Knighton, who got $1.75 million on a one-year deal to head to the Patriots. Harrison is probably the best player of those three, but the difference isn't necessarily clear enough to justify paying him that sort of a premium.

In fact, they paid a lot for just about everybody. I can't be too harsh on the Giants for paying a premium for top-tier talent, given that I've criticized GM Jerry Reese for going after replacement-level talent in free agency in years past, but it's hard not to see Reese's offseason and think of what Mike Maccagnan did with a ton of salary-cap space for the Jets last season. Maccagnan spent liberally to bring in the likes of Darrelle Revis, Marcus Gilchrist and Antonio Cromartie before the 2015 season, and it worked; the Jets went from 21st to fifth in defensive DVOA.

The problem is that those deals don't look very promising a year later. Cromartie has already been cut. Revis was still very good, but he slipped notably from his lone season in New England. And with the Jets capped out this year, they lost Harrison to the Giants, couldn't come to terms with Muhammad Wilkerson on an extension, and still don't have a quarterback.

The Giants almost surely will be better on defense this season, and in that sense, the moves will work. But they don't have anything resembling the homegrown talent the Jets had before importing those veterans from free agency, and in most cases, they gave out deals above market value. They're paying Jenkins to be a Pro Bowl ball hawk at corner, Vernon to be a truly elite pass-rusher and Harrison to be a dominant run-stopper.

Those guys have each shown flashes of being that talented, but even in the best-case scenario, it's almost impossible for them to outplay their deals. Those are usually contracts that teams regret. The Giants will be better in the short term, which is important for a GM whom some fans wanted fired this offseason, but unless these moves return New York into the playoffs, they may not look so helpful a year from now.

What's next?

Bring in veteran offensive line help. The options will be limited this late in the offseason, but it wouldn't take much for McAdoo and Reese to upgrade the right side of this line. Beatty is still a free agent if the Giants want to bring him back at a reduced salary. Louis Vasquez started for the Broncos last year and is still just 29. Ryan Wendell, recovering from a knee injury, was a useful utility lineman for the Patriots. Something -- anything -- would help.

Grade: B

Philadelphia Eagles

What went right

They offloaded the mistakes from the Chip Kelly era and somehow picked up draft picks in the process. I still can't really believe this happened. After a disastrous return on Kelly's one and only free-agent class, the Eagles managed to get out of his two biggest mistakes and pick up draft capital in the process. Philly shipped off Byron Maxwell to Miami and DeMarco Murray to Tennessee, swapping draft picks as part of both deals. Kiko Alonso doesn't fit in the same category -- he didn't work out as a 3-4 inside linebacker in Philadelphia under Kelly, but on a rookie contract, he's still a net positive -- but even if you consider Alonso as part of the costs of getting out from under these deals, sacrificing a middle linebacker the Eagles didn't need was well worth the value in moving up from 13 to eight.

They restored the interior of their offensive line in free agency. Kelly's bizarre decision to let starting guards Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis leave without signing or drafting replacements was a mistake. New (old) general manager Howie Roseman rectified those concerns by signing Texans guard Brandon Brooks, who was the second-best interior lineman in free agency after Kelechi Osemele, and Jaguars utility lineman Stefen Wisniewski.

They brought in Jim Schwartz. While it remains to be seen whether Doug Pederson will be an upgrade on Kelly as a head coach, bringing in Schwartz as Philadelphia's new defensive coordinator should be a comfortable upgrade on Bill Davis, even if Davis still had the Eagles at 17th in DVOA last season. While Schwartz's time as a head coach in Detroit was uneven, he got that job after an excellent run as the defensive coordinator in Tennessee. He then helped the Bills post the second-best defensive DVOA in football during his lone year as coordinator in Buffalo before Rex Ryan replaced him with Dennis Thurman and the Bills fell to 24th in DVOA.

What went wrong

They took an enormous risk in moving up for Carson Wentz. It's reductive and short-sighted to say that Philadelphia's move up to grab the second pick and Wentz will be worth it if Wentz succeeds and not worth it if he fails. We don't know what will happen with Wentz, but we do have an idea of what happens when teams make these sorts of trades, and we know that it's usually a bad idea. I thought Chris Brown put it wisely in pointing out that the historical 50-50 chances of such a trade working out are more meaningful than your organization's specific insights into a specific player.

They re-signed and then did not trade Sam Bradford. I would not blame you if you were sick of reading about Bradford. The deal to re-sign Bradford before free agency wasn't great for a guy who has been a below-average starting quarterback during his time in the NFL, and after the decision to trade for Wentz, the decision to hold on to Bradford as a lame-duck starter was even weirder. The Eagles badly need to recoup some of the picks they lost in the Wentz trade, and they should have taken the best offer available to them during the draft.

Cornerback is still a mess. While Philly was right to move on from Maxwell given his contract, the moves it made otherwise didn't do much to help its cause. Importing Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks from Buffalo gives them two corners who are familiar with Schwartz's scheme, but I'd be skeptical that they'll be above-average starters in their new digs. 2015 second-rounder Eric Rowe can only go up from last season, which is promising in a way. The Eagles added safety Rodney McLeod from Los Angeles, which helps, but the idea of covering Dez Bryant or Odell Beckham Jr. with this cornerback group is going to keep Schwartz up late at night.

What's next?

Re-sign Fletcher Cox. Arguably Philadelphia's best player at any position, Cox is a devastating disruptor on the interior and about to break the bank as he enters the option year of his rookie deal. Schwartz's successful defenses have all had dominant interior penetrators -- Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee, Ndamukong Suh in Detroit and Marcell Dareus in Buffalo -- and Cox should be the next player on that list. It's ironic, too, because Dareus' six-year, $96 million deal is one of the contracts the Eagles will be negotiating off in signing Cox to an extension.

Grade: B-


What went right

It franchised Kirk Cousins. It was hard to imagine Cousins going anywhere after his stunning second half in 2015, but Washington was probably right to franchise its starting quarterback instead of giving him a long-term deal. Cousins took a massive leap forward by virtue of drastically cutting down his giveaways. After throwing 27 picks in 635 pass attempts to start his career, from the famous "You Like That?" Buccaneers game on, Cousins threw just three interceptions in 315 tries.

Cousins won't average one pick every 100 attempts because nobody does that during an extended period of time, but if he can keep the interception rate at or below league-average, Cousins should keep most of the gains he made last season. If the interceptions come back, he would be borderline unplayable. He's young enough that Washington should be able to believe that Cousins has changed his stripes for good, but it's also worth waiting a year to find out.

It swapped out Chris Culliver for Josh Norman. Excellent Washington general manager Scot McCloughan got lucky with Culliver, who had $8 million in guaranteed money for 2016 voided after being suspended for a game during the 2015 season. Culliver subsequently tore his ACL, making it easy for Washington to justify getting out of his deal.

It also helped that Washington had a franchise cornerback hit the market unexpectedly. You can find flaws in Norman -- he's turning 29 in December; he's played at a Pro Bowl level for only a year and a half; it's probably not a good sign that the Panthers were up close with him for years and didn't think he was worth top corner money -- but signing Norman is a defensible risk at worst.

Norman signed a five-year, $75 million deal with $36.5 million guaranteed at signing and $50 million throughout the first three years of his deal. The aforementioned Janoris Jenkins is a year younger, but his five-year, $62.5 million deal with the Giants nets the former Rams starter $28.8 million guaranteed and $39.7 million during the first three years. Norman makes more, but the difference between Norman and Jenkins on the field is far larger than the difference between their respective paychecks.

What went wrong

The rushing attack is still very questionable. Washington finished last in the league in rushing DVOA last season, and it's hard to figure how it'll be significantly better in 2016. Its most notable move was to cut Alfred Morris, and while Morris may have worn out his welcome in Washington, the organization's faith in Matt Jones may be misplaced. In addition to fumbling five times on 169 touches during his rookie season, Jones was horribly inefficient as a runner. He finished last in Football Outsiders' individual rushing DVOA statistic, which is an imperfect measure of individual performance but still a blurry sign of how he struggled to bring much to the table.

Even more distressingly, he averaged 3.4 yards per carry on his 144 rushing attempts. A look at the running backs who posted rushing averages as dire as Jones' over 100 or more attempts as a rookie yields Le'Veon Bell, Thomas Jones, Ricky Williams ... and a lot of failed running backs. Washington used a seventh-round pick on freak athlete Keith Marshall, and it's too early to give up on Jones, but this would be a natural landing point for a veteran back like Arian Foster or Ahmad Bradshaw.

What's next?

Trade or cut Andre Roberts. Roberts fell out of favor with the coaching staff and is owed $5 million in 2016, with Washington saving $4 million by moving on from a player who is at best the fifth wideout on its roster after the arrival of Josh Doctson. Roberts was a useful contributor in Arizona and could still help a receiver-needy team such as the Bengals or Chiefs.

Grade: B