NFL Free Agency | One Target for Each NFC East Team

by Connor Donald · Contracts & Free Agency

The NFC East is an intriguing division. The defending NFC Champion, the Philadelphia Eagles, is a team limited by a lack of cap space and loaded with departing free agents. The Washington Commanders arguably are a quarterback away. The Dallas Cowboys are, well, the Dallas Cowboys. Finally, the New York Giants massively overperformed in 2022 and have some deficiencies they need to solve to get to the next level.

What free agent should each NFC East team look at to take that next step?

Washington Commanders

QB Teddy Bridgewater

The Washington Commanders are in a unique position in free agency. They have almost no turnover of key players with defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne officially extended long-term. They are only losing three starters: RG Trai Turner, LB Cole Holcomb, and nickel corner Danny Johnson. But they are missing one major piece to the puzzle, a franchise quarterback.

Their defense took a major leap forward in 2022. They ranked No. 3 best in yards allowed per game, (304.6) and No. 8 best in points allowed per game (20.2). In 2021, they were No. 11 worst in yards allowed per game, (359.3) and No. 8 worst in points allowed per game (25.5). Sure, the most likely area they need to improve on the defensive side of the ball is the cornerback position. And, while Jamin Davis took a much-needed step forward at linebacker, the loss of Cole Holcomb will leave a void at middle linebacker. I just don’t see defense as the major red flag.

Sam Howell?

The prospect of rolling with Sam Howell. Now that is a red flag! After the Carson Wentz failure of last season and the mediocrity of Heinicke in 2021, the competition needs to be better.

I don’t expect the Washington Commanders to go big with Lamar Jackson. However, a veteran with both starting and backup experience plus accuracy is perfect! In steps Teddy Bridgewater. The Commanders’ weapons have suffered from brutally inaccurate quarterback play the last couple of seasons. In 2022, Carson Wentz ranked No. 25 in True Completion Percentage. And in 2021, Taylor Heinicke ranked No. 22 in True Completion Percentage.

Teddy Bridgewater Accuracy Metrics, PlayerProfiler

Bridgewater, from 2019-2021, when he played at least half the games in a season, ranked No. 13 or better in True Completion Percentage at over 72-percentage all three seasons. I don’t think he’s the answer to their quarterback problems. Nor do I believe the answer is yet in the building. The Washington Commanders aren’t positioned to draft one of the premier quarterbacks, and the free-agent pool isn’t great. Bringing in a safe, accurate, veteran quarterback will help with the competition in the building and with the implementation of Eric Bieniemy’s new offense.

New York Giants

IOL Isaac Seumalo

The New York Giants massively outperformed expectations last season. They are coming off a 4-13 season in 2021, which saw a new regime of Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll step in. The Giants finished 9-7-1 in 2022 and made the playoffs, losing in the Divisional round. What a turnaround.

Unfortunately, I will not say their start to the offseason has been great. Giving quarterback Daniel Jones a big $40 million per year extension, despite never having more passing touchdowns than games played in his career, is risky. The next move came when the Giants franchise tagged the most important part of their offense, running back Saquon Barkley. There are countless needs on both sides of the ball including urgently getting Jones to receive weapons (Editor’s Note: This was written before the Giants acquired Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders), but the above two moves are the driving force behind my choice.

While wide receiver is likely the biggest need, I’m not thrilled with the free-agent class of wide receivers. I don’t see many true, alpha WR1s out there that would warrant the Giants spending big. So, time to protect your potential franchise quarterback and franchise-tagged running back who accounted for 31-percent of the team’s offensive yards last season.

Lack of Depth?

The New York Giants are set at tackle, but when you come inside to center and right guard, it becomes a different story. Center Jon Feliciano is a free agent, but likely will be back to due his relationship with coach Brian Daboll. While right guard Mark Glowinski will be back due to his contract. The Giants allowed 212 total pressures last year. Glowinski ranked No. 2 on the team allowing 37 pressures. Feliciano ranked third on the team allowing 25 pressures.

Isaac Seumalo PlayerProfile, PlayerProfiler 

Not only would signing Isaac Seumalo steal a starting offensive lineman from a division rival. He also proved versatile playing right guard to a high degree of effectiveness this past season. Seumalo played predominantly left guard and some center. He only allowed one sack last season and had a pass-blocking efficiency of 98.2. Daniel Jones’ offensive line ranked No. 25 in protection rate last year. If the team invests $40 million per year, the Giants better ensure they protect him and provide him opportunities to make plays.

Philadelphia Eagles

S John Johnson III

The Philadelphia Eagles have 18 impending free agents this season including eight defensive starters. They also have less than $10 million in salary cap space. I would say there will be just a little bit of change this off-season in Philadelphia.

It has become a tradition for Howie Roseman in the offseason to take a recently released veteran defensive back, with a record of success, coming off a bad year, and give them a prove-it deal. Two years ago, it was Steven Nelson. Last year, it was James Bradberry. This year I think the Philadelphia Eagles will make an effort to get the future of their cornerback room in the draft.

Secondary Need

However, the Philadelphia Eagles may be losing two starting safeties to free agency, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Marcus Epps. While Epps looks to be out the door, the Eagles seem to be staying close to Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson was very important to the defense and was dearly missed when he went down with a lacerated kidney in Week 12 that cost him five weeks. Even if the Eagles can bring Gardner-Johnson back, his injury exposed the lack of depth at the safety position.

John Johnson started his career well with the Los Angeles Rams. He stayed healthy in three of four seasons. Johnson logged 70+ tackles, 20+ stops, and allowed less than 10 yards per reception. He also produced nine interceptions and 24 pass breakups across the four seasons.

John Johnson III Tackling & Coverage Metrics, Pro Football Focus

Then he signed a three-year, $33.750 million deal with the Cleveland Browns, which included $24 million in guarantees. The Browns have released him this offseason and took a $12.6 million dead cap hit. In two seasons in Cleveland, his missed tackle rate went up. He’s allowed over 11 yards per reception and only produced four interceptions and five pass breakups over two seasons in Cleveland.

A fresh start is needed and an opportunity will likely be provided. Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles sound like the perfect spot to provide it and shore up one of their arguably weakest positions.

Dallas Cowboys

LB Bobby Wagner

Based on all reports the Dallas Cowboys are going to make a run at Bobby Wagner. They also have been linked to Bobby Wagner in the past as well, so this is not a surprise. Add in the fact they are likely allowing two of three starting linebackers to walk in free agency and Wagner makes more and more sense.

(Editor’s Note: This article was written before the news of the Cowboys re-signing Leighton Vander Esch broke.)

Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr, who each played over 700 snaps last season as starters for the Dallas Cowboys at linebacker will be free agents. Barr has been average at best and age doesn’t seem to be his friend. An elite, veteran presence in the middle of the Dallas Cowboys defense could be a big difference-maker!

Bobby Wagner will be 33 next season, but his play has not skipped a beat and his health is very much still intact. He has played 1,000 snaps in eight straight seasons. Well, in one of those seasons, he played 999 snaps, so I’m rounding up. He tied a career-high in sacks with six last season but has had two or more in nine of eleven seasons. With a guy like Micah Parsons drawing a ton of attention, the Dallas Cowboys could get creative with a guy like Wagner.

Bobby Wagner Career Stats, Pro Football Reference

Bobby Wagner has also had 100 plus tackles in all eleven seasons including 50 or more stops in 10 of 11 seasons. And his coverage, for a linebacker, is not a deficiency or costly to his team.
For Bobby Wagner, age is just a number. For the Dallas Cowboys, Wagner’s age should just be a number. A three-year deal guaranteeing the first two seasons could squeeze out what’s left of Wagner and provide a major anchor for this Cowboys defense.