If nothing else, the NFC East is never boring. The New York Giants were sitting pretty at 6-2, but a late-season collapse knocked them out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins rallied behind Robert Griffin III and won seven straight games down the stretch, including a Week 17 thriller over the Dallas Cowboys to clinch the division. The Philadelphia Eagles? Well, they exist.
At any rate, this division is full of talented but flawed teams, and it looks to be an entertaining offseason as these fierce rivals look to one-up each other. Let's take a look at what would be the perfect offseason — in other words, what moves or upgrades could bump a team into legitimate playoff contention. Let's start with the team that may or may not be America's:
Another year, another disappointing finish for Jerry's crew. This time, he identified the defense as the culprit and fired Rob Ryan. Taking his place will be Monte Kiffin, and with that comes a switch from the 3-4 to his legendary Tampa 2 scheme. In addition, the team is nearly $20 million over the cap thanks to penalties from the 2010 uncapped year. Doug Free is a possible casualty or restructuring candidate — he was a disaster at right tackle, but is competent enough to play inside. Just not at his current $7 million salary.
Safety and defensive end are among the biggest concerns on defense, partially due to the scheme transition and partially due to a plain lack of talent. Gerald Sensabaugh took a huge step backwards, and there's no real starter next to him in the secondary. Up front, Jay Ratliff is a potential release candidate after an injury-riddled season and a clash with Jerry Jones. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter have talent, but aren't natural fits in a 4-3.
Blogging the Boys took an in-depth look at how the Cowboys may allocate their limited resources this offseason to fill their holes.
Dallas' offseason priorities are pretty clear at the moment — free up some money, find young talent to fit Kiffin's scheme, and possibly invest in the offensive line to keep Tony Romo upright. Running back is another concern, with DeMarco Murray an injury risk and Felix Jones expected to walk.
Perfection: Clear bad contracts off the books, add young 4-3 talent through the draft, give Romo more help up front.
New York Giants
New York's second-half collapse left many fans scratching their heads, but it's not hard to see where it came from. Simply put, the defense is getting too old and too expensive. It's time for a real injection of youth.
Corey Webster was one of the biggest disappointments, and is not worth the $7 million he's owed in 2013. He should be one of the first cuts in the offseason. David Diehl is another cut candidate with a $7 million salary. With that money cleared, it may be worth it to go after an Aqib Talib or a Captain Munnerlyn in free agency. If that doesn't materialize, then re-signing Will Beatty, Martellus Bennett and Kenny Phillips should be priorities.
Webster and Diehl are two cap causality possibilities, but they are just two possibilities as Ed Valentine of Big Blue View noted in a detailed look at the Giants' salary cap situation.
In the draft, the Giants could find their replacement for Justin Tuck in Ezekiel Ansah. Xavier Rhodes and D.J. Fluker are also possibilities at the No. 19 spot.
Perfection: Cut Webster and Diehl, upgrade defensive line/secondary through draft, re-sign key starters.
It's going to be fascinating to watch Chip Kelly rebuild the Eagles in his image over the offseason. He got an early head start, bringing back Michael Vick on a one-year deal, but they still have work to do to get out of cap hell.
Cornerback is the most glaring hole on the roster. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will likely walk in free agency, while Nnamdi Asomugha continued to disappoint and is due a prohibitive $15 million next year. He's almost certain to get cut. Brandon Boykin had a promising rookie year and could be ready for a bigger role, but the Eagles will still be looking for at least one starter. Look for them to be frugal here after their last big free-agency splash backfired.
Another position of need is in safety, where Nate Allen was a disaster. Kurt Coleman was slightly better, but Philadelphia needs a complete overhaul in their secondary. That's to say nothing of their offensive line, which had Vick and Nick Foles running for their lives. Speaking of Foles, he's a poor fit in Kelly's offense and could end up getting traded in the spring.
The Eagles are in a full rebuild, but they hold the No. 4 pick and there are lots of great O-line talents to be had at that spot. If Luke Joeckel falls to them, Eagles fans should do backflips. If he doesn't, they can take Eric Fisher and nod in approval.
Perfection: Take BPA lineman in draft, overhaul secondary, trade Foles for mid-round pick.
Obviously, RGIII's knee is the biggest concern going into next season, but the Redskins have other needs to address if they want to stay in the playoff picture.
The defense was one of the biggest culprits in Washington, as the unit crumpled when Brandon Meriweather and Brian Orakpo went down for the year with injuries. This is Orakpo's second torn pectoral in his career, and his health is now officially a concern.
Normally this is the part where I list off potential draft picks, but the Redskins don't hold a first-rounder thanks to the deal for RGIII. Their options are limited unless they find a way to trade back into the first round. They don't have much money to play with, either, being right up against the cap. Expect them to approach DeAngelo Hall about a restructured contract. Other than that, they're limited to bargain-hunting for cheap veterans and probably won't be able to afford any big names.
Not being able to afford big names could be an issue, but as Dan Ciarrocchi of Hogs Haven wrote, the Redskins could also buy time until they have more flexibility.
But the way the Redskins secondary played last season, almost anything would be an improvement. Championship teams aren't built overnight, and instead of finding an ideal fit at safety, maybe it's in the Redskins best interest to just find a capable one first while they can afford one. Then worry about taking the next step once they have the footing to do so.
On the offensive side, the No. 1 focus should be protecting RGIII, and in that regard Tyler Polumbus has failed. The team needs a real upgrade at right tackle.
Perfection: Bring in cheap free-agent veterans to upgrade secondary, look to restructure Hall's contract, find a way to trade back into first round.