The NFC East has accounted for a pair of Super Bowl titles over the past decade, both by the New York Giants. But despite this postseason success, no one team has really dominated the division since the Dallas Cowboys in the mid-90s and the Philadelphia Eagles in the early 2000s.
Since 2004, when the Eagles started to decline, no team has repeated as NFC East champion, and in recent years, the division hasn't exactly been among the league's elite. Every time it looks like one team is going to build on a strong year to really secure the division, it goes the other way.
New York won the Super Bowl in 2011, then Washington took the division in 2012 on the back of new quarterback Robert Griffin III. Then it was the Eagles, riding a hot streak from quarterback Nick Foles in 2013, looking like they were prepping for sustained success. This past season, the Cowboys took the division with a 12-4 record, which is the best record for an NFC East division winner since 2008.
Dallas was coming into a year in which everyone suspected very little of them. Most thought head coach Jason Garrett was going to be fired in the offseason, but the Cowboys were actually in on the conference's top seed until the final weeks of the season. But will the success continue into 2015-16? With all of the big moves of free agency essentially in the books, have any of the other teams done enough to unseat Dallas? We take a look.
First, we need to take a look at Dallas. The Cowboys managed to win the division late in the season, holding off the Eagles, who finished the season 10-6. It was a long time coming, but the Cowboys managed to put everything together, looking like a complete team on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, Dallas was unable to retain running back DeMarco Murray, who was a huge reason for the team's success last season.
Murray led the league in rushing with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns, but the Cowboys elected to use the franchise tag on wide receiver Dez Bryant rather than Murray. We'll talk more about where Murray ended up later, but retaining Bryant when the next receiver on the team, Terrance Williams, only had 621 receiving yards, was key.
Unfortunately, Dallas hasn't been particularly active since that point. It signed running back Darren McFadden and will try and kick the tires on him, but lost guys like Henry Melton and Bruce Carter to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dallas did manage to address its biggest need by signing pass-rusher Greg Hardy recently, though Hardy still has potential discipline from the NFL over off-the-field issues coming his way. With the NFL Draft around the corner, the Cowboys have big needs at running back, defensive tackle and safety.
Philadelphia was expected to be one of the top offensive teams in the league, and despite the issues at quarterback, it still was. But there were still significant issues on both sides of the ball, and head coach Chip Kelly used this offseason as a means to revamp the roster to his liking. The Eagles changed fairly drastically, it should be noted.
The Eagles started the offseason by trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for Kiko Alonso. By doing so, they unloaded a significant contract and added one of the best young defensive players in the league. That in itself was huge, and then the Eagles went out and signed both DeMarco Murray and running back Ryan Mathews, giving them the best backfield in the NFL in just a couple moves.
But they didn't stop there -- they re-signed Brandon Graham, and signed cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, addressing two huge needs. Then they traded quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford, which doesn't necessarily solve the quarterback position but he's capable when healthy. Philadelphia still needs help at wide receiver and safety, and will likely need to address the positions in free agency.
New York Giants
The Giants missed the playoffs for the third year in a row last season, but there were definite bright spots. With the emergence of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants needed to add some extra pieces to the offense and help a defense that ranked 30th in the league against the run. They didn't do much to address defensive needs, but they did manage to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul, one of the more crucial moves of the offseason.
To help at defensive tackle, the Giants signed Kenrick Ellis, and they brought in J.T. Thomas, Jonathan Casillas and re-signed Mark Herzlich to address issues at strongside linebacker. Still, there are some big question marks at cornerback and both safety spots that they'll need to address in the draft. Eli Manning should have an easier time on offense with Marshall Newhouse joining as the team's new right tackle, though.
Robert Griffin III isn't gone, and neither is the head coach. Washington came into the offseason with big needs and a big question mark at the quarterback position. But Washington is staying the course, for now, re-signing Colt McCoy and focusing primarily on the defensive side of the ball in free agency. As usual, they signed a ton of defensive linemen, landing Ricky Jean Francois, Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton, all three of whom should be starters.
They also brought in safety Jeron Johnson and cornerback Chris Culliver, but still need another safety and another cornerback. Many feel they'll go that direction when the NFL Draft rolls around, but that's an awful lot of attention paid to the defense. The team did nothing of note at any of the offensive skill positions, outside of re-signing tight end Niles Paul.