The NFC East is one of the most unpredictable in the league. No one would have foreseen the Redskins winning the title in 2012, nor would many expected the Giants to miss the playoffs.
Dallas will be making some big changes on defense for 2013, and the Chip Kelly experiment will begin in Philadelphia. What moves will be made in the NFC East this offseason?
While it seems to popular move when revamping a defense is to move to a 3-4, the Cowboys are heading the opposite direction, as the play to install a 4-3 defense for the 2013 season. They've got some big pieces that will make that transition smoother, but the defense will still likely be the focus of this offseason.
There were plenty of problems on the Cowboys' defense this season, but issues at both safety positions stood out most prominently. Gerald Sensabaugh may have been the most disappointing for Dallas fans. He was solid and 2011 and deserved the contract extension he received, but he was horribly inconsistent this season and hardly looked like the same player.
Sensabaugh may not be replaced, but it's likely that there will be a new face along side him, at least. Charlie Peprah, Danny McCray, and Eric Frampton all saw significant time in the secondary, and all were let downs. They'll all be free agents. Barry Church will remain on the roster, but he's trying to return from a torn Achilles and he's certainly far from a lock to be the starter.
DeMarcus Ware will be an elite pass rushing threat regardless of whether he's coming at the quarterback from the outside linebacker position or from defensive end. Anthony Spencer would figure to be pretty successful from a defensive end position as well, but he's going to be very expensive free agent he'll likely be far out of Dallas' price range.
Victor Butler is a largely unproven player but he's shown some very good potential. He's a free agent the Cowboys should try to retain. Even if they are able to re-sign Butler, there's still a big need here that should be addressed early on in the offseason.
One of the most interesting aspects of Dallas' move to a 4-3 will be how the use their existing groups of linebacker in their new defense. Sean Lee probably wouldn't make it on the outside in a 4-3, but should project well to the middle linebacker spot. Bruce Carter isn't a natural fit to play outside in a 4-3, but he should have the skill to make it work anyway.
That still leaves a minimum of one hole to fill, if not more. Depth has been an issue at linebacker for several seasons anyway, and remainder of this group are underwhelming fits in 4-3 defense. The Cowboys have some significant salary cap constraints, but they'll need to find a way to add some better options at linebacker.
DeMarco Murray is talented enough to be the starter here, but can he stay healthy? That's certainly not a safe bet with his injury history. Felix Jones is a free agent and could be upgraded as a backup anyway.
New York Giants
The Giants have a talented roster, and yet key holes led to the team missing the playoffs in 2012 for the third time in four seasons. With some big players nearing the end of their original contracts, New York will need to be smart about any additions they make as they try to gear up for another Super Bowl run.
New York's pass defensive was awful last season. That was due in no small part to a poor pass rush, which will also need to be addressed. However, there's no getting around the fact that play at cornerback was a massive issue for the Giants in 2012.
Corey Webster's poor play was no where near deserving of his $7 million cap 2013 cap number, and rookie Jayron Hosley was dealt with a very harsh introduction to the NFL. Webster probably won't be on the team in 2013 and Hosley isn't ready to play outside. The Giants need at least one new starter here.
To put it bluntly, at the very least the Giants need to upgrade starters Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn. Both have appeared to reach the end of the productive portions of the careers, and the Giants needs to rid themselves of those liabilities in the starting lineup.
New York does have some younger players behind them on the depth chart. Mark Herzlich and Jacquian Williams could have bright futures ahead of them, but if they weren't able to surpass Boley and Blackburn in 2012, when will they be able to earn a starting spot?
An argument could easily be made that defensive end is a bigger priority for New York than the offensive line, and it's a argument that wouldn't be without merit. The fact is however, that the offensive line is a unit that is dangerously close to becoming a disaster for the Giants.
Both left and right tackles (Will Beatty and Sean Locklear) are free agents, as is left guard Kevin Boothe. David Diehl is another candidate to be released due to salary cap problems. Chris Snee is coming off a significant hip injury. This is a unit that could look dramatically different in 2013.
The key need here is to find a replacement for Justin Tuck. He's clearly just a shell of his former self and offered little in 2012. Jason Pierre Paul is still a great pass rusher, but he needs help on the line.
The addition of Chip Kelly will make the Eagles one of the most interesting teams to watch both during the offseason and the regular season. They've already made one sizable move in signing Michael Vick to a one year contract. What's next for Philadelphia?
In hindsight, it's pretty safe to say that sending Asante Samuel to the Falcons was perhaps one of the worst moves that the Eagles could have made. Samuel continues to play at a high level in Atlanta, while Ndami Asomugha and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie both had extremely disappointing 2012 seasons.
Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent, and Asomugha is likely to be a cap casualty. Brandon Boykin had a good first year playing in the slot, but he shouldn't be a candidate to move to the outside. Brandon Hughes and Curtis Marsh may get the first looks as starters for 2013, but the Eagles will definitely be looking to make some additions here in the coming months.
The Eagles will be transitioning to a 3-4 defense moving forward, that while they do have a pretty good base for that move already on the roster, there's still a few moves that need to be made. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham will be fine standing up, and both Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox should excel at their new positions at end.
The biggest need is at nose tackle. There simply isn't one on Philadelphia's roster currently, and it'll be crucial that the interior is addressed during the offseason.
Nate Allen was a second round pick in 2010, but he's been a tremendous disappointment so far. He struggled both in coverage and in run support in 2012, and there's no reason he should be a starter again in 2012. Kurt Coleman wasn't as big of a letdown, but he plays the game with the mentality of a special teams gunner instead of a starting safety.
If Coleman can play smarter instead of always looking for the knockout hit, he could be a serviceable starter in 2013. Allen is most likely a lost cause though, and the Eagles need at least one new safety.
The pairing of Michael Vick and Chip Kelly should be entertaining, but the reality is the re-signing of Vick is only buying Kelly time to find a long term answer at quarterback. Nick Foles isn't a fit anymore, and should be traded prior to the draft. The Eagles will need to begin their hunt for their quarterback of the future.
Up until the final minutes of their season, the long term picture in Washington was looking positive for the first time in years. The knee injury Robert Griffin III suffered raises some serious questions about 2013, but there's still plenty to look forward to if you're a Redskins fan.
The Redskins have plenty of needs on the defensive side of the ball, and those will certainly be addressed. Their top priority, however, needs to be protecting RGIII, and that means finding a new right tackle will be at the top of their off season wish list.
Tyler Polumbus was forced into a starting role in 2012, and he didn't handle it particularly well. He's a free agent and it wouldn't be surprising if he's allowed to walk. Jamaal Brown was a big money free agent signing two years ago, but he's been limited by injury and poor play and isn't likely to get another chance. There's a strong possibility that the Redskins will address this need early on in the draft.
On paper this could have actually been a position of strength for the Redskins. However between Tanard Jackson's year long suspension and Brandon Merriweather's torn ACL, it turned into one of the team's biggest weaknesses. A pieced together group of Madieu Williams, Reed Doughty, and Jordan Pugh took over, but the results were quite underwhelming.
Both Jackson and Merriweather are talented enough players, but the Redskins just can't feel confident in them moving forward. This is a team with high aspirations in the future, and at the very least depth here must be greatly improved.
Brian Orakpo is great when he's healthy, but quietly there has to be some serious concern about his ability to stay on the field. He never really returned to his old form after he first tore his pectoral muscle and now that he's torn it a second time he's become somewhat of a question mark.
Orakpo's abilities are a huge key to what makes the Redskins' defense work and Washington should fully plan to have him at full strength in 2013. But they also need to be prepared for him to go down again, and that means getting another player they'd be comfortable with starting for the majority of the season.
Free agent Fred Davis should be back for 2013, but the recovery from an Achilles injury is a long one and he may not be at full strength. There's not much talent behind Davis on the depth chart and this could become a weakness if Davis isn't retained.