The Detroit Lions will make tons of moves this offseason, all with the expressed intention of building the strongest team possible to win the Super Bowl. While the Lions will do what they can to get there, in the end the moves the other teams surrounding them make will be just as important to their success this season.
Today, we take a look at the four team in the league’s most popular—and most mediocre—division, and where they stand heading into the 2020 offseason.
The Philadelphia Eagles managed to stumble their way into the playoffs with a division title despite a 9-7, injury-ravaged season. Quarterback Carson Wentz managed to make it all the way to the playoffs for the first time in his career, but was injured in the first quarter of the first game, and the team basically stood no chance against the Seattle Seahawks.
Now, they enter an offseason needing major upgrades. While Wentz is locked into the starting quarterback role, everyone around him will need to be upgraded. Neither Alshon Jeffery nor Nelson Agholor are anywhere near the players they were during the team's Super Bowl run in 2017, and they may need to revamp their entire receiving corps. A great offensive line is getting older and struggling to get healthy, and major changes will be needed there soon. The secondary is still a disaster and the front seven is heavily overrated.
Philadelphia enters the offseason with over $40 million in cap space, which is surely enough to make a few big moves. They can upgrade their defensive backfield, maybe add a decent receiver ,and then boost their receiving corps once again through the NFL draft.
The Eagles’ long-term health does not look great, but for now, they still have the pieces to compete if they can stay healthy. They also have enough resources this year to reload and be even better in 2020. Expect them to be preseason favorites once again this summer.
A franchise-defining offseason looms for the Dallas Cowboys. Their two most important offensive players are set to hit free agency and they will have to figure how to retain both without breaking the bank.
Quarterback Dak Prescott is set to get paid real money for the first time of his career. He was on a ridiculously-cheap deal after being selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, and now he is set to hit the open market where reports say he may be seeking upwards of $40 million a year. While they could always franchise tag their quarterback, that would just kick the Cowboys’ can down the road and makes things even more expensive in 2021.
Amari Cooper, the receiver who seemed to breathe life into the offense after arriving in a mid-2018 trade, is set to hit the open market as well. He set career highs with 1,189 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2019.
What the team decides to do with both will define them going forward. They hired head coach Mike McCarthy, who had a large deal of success with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the past, to hopefully get their offense to finally play at their peak. That move may not matter if Cooper and Prescott are playing elsewhere, though.
They have a gigantic decision to make on the defensive side of the ball as well, with cornerback Byron Jones set to hit the market. He should command a large salary as well, and played well despite the defense’s disappointing overall performance in 2019.
With nearly $74 million in cap space this offseason, the Cowboys should be able to retain all three key players if they want to. If they do, they should have the talent necessary to be a top level team in 2020, as the coaching failures of 2019 are in the rear view mirror. Expect them to compete for the playoffs once again this year, with potential to be a dark horse Super Bowl team.
New York Giants
The rebuild continues for the New York Giants, though the light at the end of the tunnel seems near. New York enters the offseason with the fourth overall pick in the draft and over $60 million in cap space. They can clear up nearly another $20 million if they release Alec Ogletree, Rhett Ellison and Kareem Martin. They have all the tools necessary to finally put together a decent team.
That being said, New York has tons of needs to fill this offseason, and it is hard to see them fixing all of them even with the amount of resources at their disposal. Almost their entire defense needs a makeover. The offensive line needs help and they may need a third wide receiver and a new tight end.
2020 feels like it might be a stepping stone towards something bigger in New York, but do not expect much from them this year. Daniel Jones still looks like he is far away from playing up to his draft status as a top 10 quarterback, and their young corps may need more time to develop. Unfortunately, the 11th hour of star running back Saquon Barkley’s prime may already be upon us, and they may not be able to afford to waste another year of the running backs career in this long-term rebuild.
Washington’s window is slammed and sealed shut, and they did not even do anything when it was open. A roster that featured some of the most talented players in the league, an elite defense, top-tier offensive line and the skill position talent necessary to take advantage of it is all gone. While some of the remnants of talent remain—mainly edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan—the team seems to be slipping into a void. They will be picking second overall in the 2020 NFL draft, and may pick higher in 2021.
Just looking at the team’s list of highest cap hits in 2020 can show you how dire the situation is. First is Alex Smith, a quarterback who will most likely never play professional football again. Second is Josh Norman, a once elite corner who is totally washed out. Third is Trent Williams, their future Hall of Fame tackle who sat out the entire 2019 season after he felt the team’s coaching staff was disregarding his personal health. And finally, Landon Collins, a huge 2019 free agent signing at safety that hasn’t worked out thus far.
They have $40 million in cap room this year, so they can afford to bring in some additional talent this offseason. The smartest decision would just be to hit the hard reset button. Let guard Brandon Scherff and running back Chris Thompson walk. Cut Norman, tight end Jordan Reed and tackle Morgan Moses. Give young quarterback Dwayne Haskins a pressure free year to develop and roll over as much cap space as possible into 2021, and enter that year with Haskins, Chase Young, and over $100 million in cap space.
There is a path to success for this team, but they need to be patient and no go all in this offseason once again.
What it means for the Lions
While neither New York or Washington should get in the Lions way when it comes to the playoff race, the top two teams in the division should worry them. If both the Eagles and Cowboys live up to their potential (which may be a lot to ask of those two), then one will end up competing for a wild card spot, limiting Detroit’s margin for error this year.