The lockout already seems like a pothole in the rearview mirror now that the mad dash of free agency is underway on the NFL Autobahn. I'm willing to forgive for now, but it's important not to forget, and my forgiveness won't persuade me to purchase any discounted jerseys or ripped up seats from FedEx field (a throwback Art Monk jersey and a seat at RFK would be more enticing). With all the moving and shaking, how's the NFC East shaping up?
Eagles: B+. Mike Vick's triumphant comeback last year sealed Kevin Kolb's ticket out of town. The Eagles wanted top dollar for Kolb and they got it. A Pro Bowl cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick (Kolb was selected by the Eagles in the second round). Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin was a great pick up adding more talent and depth to an already vicious defensive line. Vince Young to Philly works for everybody. If Vick goes down, and he will, Young's similar play style will be an easy transition. Young gets teachers and mentors in Vick and Andy Reid. Losing Quentin Mikell to the Rams stings, but the Eagles and Reid always seem to have some Bengay.
Redskins: B-. The best acquisition came before the lockout in former Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, a brilliant and crafty move by Bruce Allen. Since Sean Taylor's tragic passing the free safety position has been overlooked, I'd like to think out of respect, but it's finally been addressed. Bringing back Santana Moss was a smart and classy move by both sides, but this wide receiver convention won't make Beck better. An offensive line will, but even with a few signings it still looks like a patch-job-make-shift front five will get battered and bruised for 16 weeks. Defensively there's been quiet success and Jim Haslett is beginning to get some 3-4 friendly personnel. Cofield and Bowen are run stoppers that will allow the linebackers to make plays. But who is Fletcher's inside counterpart? Unlikely Rocky McIntosh. There's a shortage of good nose tackles in the league, and the Redskins know this better than anyone. Ending the McNabb and Haynesworth debacles was more than necessary. The circus could be over, but a new three ring circus could be starting with Beck, Grossman, and Clemens behind center. Regardless, the Redskins are younger, faster, and nearly drama free for the first time since Snyder took over.
Giants: C. Not sure what they're doing in New York. On offense they released two fixtures on the offensive line in Seubert and O'Hara to make some cap room. If they cannot resign Ahmad Bradshaw their running game is in trouble with an older and slower Jacobs their only viable option. Losing Barry Cofield to the Redskins hurts more with Osi Umenyora throwing another contract tantrum. Yet they seem content to chase Plaxico Burress even with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. Maybe they're waiting it out, but as a Redskins fan it's nice to see big blue have trouble tooting their horn.
Cowboys: D-. Roy Williams was a bigger bust than Haynesworth considering the Redskins didn't waste four draft picks to get him. It'll take years to pay that one off. Marion Barber, Leonard Davis, and Marc Columbo all cut. Four offensive starters gone off the bat. Dallas thinks the Redskins overpaid for Stephen Bowen, but they've had trouble signing a replacement and will probably end up overpaying themselves. Isn't Dallas "America's Team"? Doesn't everyone want to play there? I never believed that hype and it looks like players see it now too.The NFC East could be wide open this year. I see Philly as the early favorites to take the division and the Cowboys to sulk alone at the bottom. The Giants have dominated the Skins recently so I'll put them at two and the Redskins at three. Wishful thinking puts the Redskins at second in the NFC East with a possible wild card birth, but all of that wishful thinking is centered around Shanahan's gamble on Beck paying off big time.