2012 NFC offseason grades
Evaluating each team on how much it has improved via FA and the draft
With NFL training camps beginning later this month, it's a perfect time to take a look back at what every team did this offseason. Did teams fill their needs in free agency? Did they re-sign their key players who were free agents? Did they plug any remaining holes in the draft?
To put it simply: Is each team better or worse than it was at the end of the 2011 season?
Continuing with the NFC (AFC on Monday), I've graded every team's offseason based on how well it acquired new talent and retained key parts in free agency, plus how well it drafted.
Analysis: A year ago, everyone was raving about all the fantastic free-agent moves Philadelphia had made. But to me, this is the year they'll pay off, and the Eagles very well could end up as my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles did lose Jason Peters, who might have been the best offensive lineman in the NFL in 2011, to an Achilles injury, but I think the signing of Bell still leaves Philadelphia with one of the top five to 10 offensive lines in the league. And the rest of this high-powered offense remains pretty much intact. Although wide receiver and guard were not pressing needs, the Eagles landed two very nice value picks late in the draft in McNutt and Washington. Yes, Michael Vick needs to stay healthy, but this will be his first true offseason since 2006 as the starting quarterback. I also expect Jeremy Maclin to explode in 2012.
But it's the Eagles' defense that has me so excited. It took far too long in 2011, but the Eagles look to have finally figured out the best way to use their defensive personnel, particularly their cover men. With the drafting of Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry, I think that Philadelphia has the best defensive line in the NFL (edging out the Giants). Just think of the foursome the Eagles will field on throwing downs to rush the passer: Jason Babin and Trent Cole on the outside with Cox and Cullen Jenkins attacking up the middle. Plus, the line depth is just superb, so they should always be fresh.
Linebacker was a massive problem last season. Although Ryans might no longer be a Pro Bowl-caliber 'backer, he does fit the Eagles' scheme much better than the 3-4 he comes from in Houston. In addition to Ryans, picking Kendricks (at No. 46) should yield immediate dividends on the outside with the rookie's great blend of explosion and speed.
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