NFC East – Excuse me

Excuse me…Biggest Questions for every NFL Team.  

One division at a time.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

What’s the deal with Dak Prescott’s contract?

At this point it’s become something of a cliché.  The Cowboys and a top-tier talent are haggling about value and it’s starting to feel…uncomfortable. 

Dak Prescott wants to reset the market for QB’s on the strength of his outstanding statistical 2019 season, but this offense is driven by running back Ezekiel Elliott, who just got a huge contract, and the Cowboys went 8-8 last season, despite what was likely the best season of Dak Prescott’s young career. I’m not saying that Prescott is being greedy, quite the opposite.  He’s clearly a top ten quarterback in the league, and he should be paid as such, but that mediocre finish last season and his 1-2 career playoff record gives Jerry Jones and the Cowboys brass plenty to nitpick about. 

The Cowboys hit him with the franchise tag for 2020, which if signed would net him something like $31 million.  It’s a decent starting point, and roughly $29 million more than he made in 2019, but Dak is holding off on signing for now, reasoning that they can come to a deal this summer rather than renegotiating after next season. 

He’s smart to try to force Dallas’ hand. 

Another mediocre season for the team could easily depress his value in the owner’s eyes, not to mention what a major injury could potentially cost him.  It’s in the interest of both sides to sort this out before it drags on too much longer.  Unfortunately, it looks like neither side sees the benefit of cooperation here. Despite saying he wants to be a Cowboy, Prescott has already turned down a five-year deal at $35 million per year, which would have equaled the yearly salary of Russell Wilson in Seattle, the league’s highest per annum value. 

Prescott, for his part, likely wants to see what happens in Houston with Deshaun Watson, and perhaps what value Patrick Mahomes gets when he and the Chiefs completely reset the quarterback market.  But the longer the tension lasts, the less likely this situation is to be resolved to mutual satisfaction.  It’s not hard to see how a little bit of friction could easily become the fire that burns the relationship to the ground.

New York Giants

Can the defense hold up its end of the bargain?

We know that the Giants should be better on offense in 2020.  Saquon Barkley isn’t going anywhere, and Daniel Jones was actually better than advertised last year (3,027 yards, 24 TDs 12 INTs, 61.87 completion % in 13 games).  The Giants focused on the O-line and secondary exclusively with their first five picks in the draft, grabbing two offensive tackles, a guard, a safety and a cornerback, highlighted by the fourth overall pick, Georgia’s big OT, Andrew Thomas fourth overall.  After that they went all-in on defense, selecting four linebackers with their next five picks. 

Good choice. 

The Giants allowed 451 points last season, more than everyone but Miami and Carolina.  But have they done enough? Free agency wasn’t exactly a high point for Big Blue’s defense this offseason, but they did bring in James Bradberry to shore up the secondary and Leonard Williams to provide some depth and power along the defensive line.  Here’s hoping that they’ve done enough to get that defensive unit back on the rails for 2020. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Can Carson Wentz stay healthy?

Unfortunately, this might be the question of his entire career, not just the 2020 Eagles season. 

Wentz has shown scintillating upside potential, but full seasons have been hard to come by.  The game that should have been his signature moment a few years ago, a Super Bowl win over the Patriots was instead a spectator sport for the young quarterback.  That game proved instead to be the spark that reignited backup Nick Foles’ career.  Since then, Foles has sputtered around the league, never really finding a home. 

Meanwhile Carson Wentz, for all his potential, leaves Eagles fans biting their nails, wondering when, not if, the next big hit is going to lay him low.  Last season it was in the wildcard round of the playoffs against the Seahawks when Wentz completed just one pass for three yards before leaving the game with a concussion.  Journeyman backup Josh McCown came in to relieve him, but the damage was done, and the Eagles lost the home playoff game 17-9.  So, for 2020, the Eagles hopes rest once again on Carson Wentz, the question is: for how long?

Washington

Does Washington have enough weapons to elevate Dwayne Haskins?

Washington finished in the NFC East basement in 2019, in large part due to an unsteady defense (especially in the secondary) that allowed a whopping 435 points.  They took action to fix that, snagging Ohio State’s Chase Young to solidify the defensive line. 

That’s great. 

But it overlooks a bigger problem that was staring Ron Rivera in the face. 

Washington had the worst scoring offense in the NFL last season.  By the time Dwayne Haskins won the gig, the ship was sinking and there was nowhere to go but down.  In his second year, Haskins looks poised to improve mightily, and he should be aided by some new faces, including running back Antonio Gibson, who flashed both speed and steady hands in a dual role for Memphis. 

Washington also picked up WR Antonio Gandy-Golden from Liberty University in the fourth round, and he could absolutely become the alpha dog wide receiver that Washington fans have waited for.  He’s a second-round talent that would have been off the board far earlier in many years, but the crowded WR field in this year’s draft resulted in a pretty surprising slip.  A Yahoo Sports poll of over one-hundred college coaches named Golden-Gandy the steal of the draft.  I’m not sure that Ron Rivera can fix the problems in Washington in his first season but having weapons like these for Dwayne Haskins is a huge step in the right direction.  

For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.

Image Source: AP Images

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