Roster Reset: Philadelphia Eagles ahead in NFC East

The Seahawks and Packers used the free agency period to put a stranglehold on the NFC North and NFC West, respectively. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have left the NFC East up for grabs after losing 2014 Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray to the division-rival Eagles.

For good or ill, Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly has dominated the transaction wire, retooling the roster in his own image since seizing control of the personnel department in January.

Buoyed by three wins in the final four games, the Giants have made only cosmetic changes after hiring Steve Spagnuolo to replace Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator.

The Redskins, by contrast, have overhauled the entire defensive line and tinkered with the secondary after replacing Jim Haslett with defensive boss Joe Barry.

If the Eagles and Cowboys are co-favorites after winning the last two division titles, the Giants and Redskins have potential to close the gap this season.

*Our Roster Reset series will rank each team by the strength of their roster. *

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Why they are better: It depends whether one believes Kelly knows what he's doing.

The Eaglesaren't satisfied with a 10-6 record and a shot at the division title. Their offseason moves were driven by a willingness to gamble on a higher ceiling, particularly with potential franchise quarterbackSam Bradford as an upgrade (perhaps quixotically so) on an increasinglyerraticNick Foles.

On the heels of LeSean McCoy's inefficient 2014 season, Kelly evaluated north-south hammers DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews as better backfield fits for his power-spread scheme. It shouldn't be a surprise if the Eagles' ground attack recaptures its 2013 success.

An already underrated front seven was bolstered by the addition of speedy linebacker Kiko Alonso, a revelation as a Bills rookie two years ago. Although the secondary should be improved with the additions of former Seahawks cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, this is still an area that should be addressed in the draft.

What's Next?

»*Get Bradford healthy:* Kelly specifically targeted Bradford for his offense. We never believed the Eagles would trade up for the opportunity to draft Oregon's Marcus Mariota, but Kelly can't be confident about his aerial attack until Bradford is recovered from his second ACL and turning heads in practice. That might not happen until training camp.

»*Figure out Evan Mathis' future:* The Pro Bowl left guard remains on the roster after being actively shopped in early March. If the Eagles find a trade partner during draft weekend, they will need a replacement.

»*Find Maclin's replacement:*Miles Austin wasn't signed to be a starter. The team's brass is reportedly high on 2014 third-round pick Josh Huff, but the former Oregon star managed just eight receptions as a rookie. Even if tight end Zach Ertz is featured more prominently in the passing game, wide receiver remains a need.

2. Dallas Cowboys

Why they are weaker:DeMarco Murray set the tone for Dallas' surprising surge to the top of the division, carrying the offense, relieving Tony Romo of pressure and keeping the defense off the field. Now that Murray is in Philadelphia, that formula necessarily changes.

Even with the addition of a Pro Bowl-caliber pass rusher in Greg Hardy, the middle-of-the-road defense can't be expected to show improvement if the offense can't consistently sustain long drives minus Murray.

This is a top-heavy team overly reliant upon its stars. An injury to Romo or franchise playerDez Bryant could send the season down the rabbit hole.

What's Next?

»*Draft a running back:* Owner Jerry Jones believes Darren McFadden can recapture 2010-2011 form, but that won't stop the Cowboys from targeting a more durable replacement for Murray early in the draft.

»*Figure out Brandon Carr's future:* The overpaid cornerback has balked at the idea of a pay cut on his $8 million salary, leaving his 2015 status up in the air. If Carr is released, a replacement will have to be identified in the draft.

»*New contract for Dez:*Cowboys fans have to be bracing for an offseason tug-of-war between Bryant and the team, as trust issues seemed to develop after the sides nearly reached agreement on an extension last August. Can they find common ground by the July 15 deadline for franchise players to sign long-term deals?

3. New York Giants

What's changed: Coach Tom Coughlin signed a one-year extension through the 2016 season. Spagnuolo's front seven got younger with the additions of linebacker J.T. Thomas and defensive linemen George Selvie and Kenrick Ellis, but the entire veteran safety corps is gone.

Eli Manning's offense added a new weapon in Super Bowl hero Shane Vereen, a passing-down complement to Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams in a well-rounded backfield.

The special teams got a short in the arm, as ace return specialist and gunner Dwayne Harris was signed away from the Cowboys.

What's Next?

»*Fix the safety position:* The plan was to let Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe, a pair of recent fifth-round picks, battle for a starting job. Who is left to compete now that Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps are off the roster?

»*Eli's contract:* Even though Manning bounced back with one of the best statistical seasons of his career in the first year of Ben McAdoo's offense, the Giants are not bending over backward to meet his contract demands. Is the organization comfortable allowing him to enter the season without a new deal?

»*Backup plan for Victor Cruz:* Coughlin acknowledged there is no guarantee Cruz will be ready for Week 1. Patellar tendon recoveries are notoriously more fickle than other knee surgeries. Rueben Randle closed out the season strong with back-to-back 100-yard performances, but the Giants might still opt for Cruz insurance in the draft.

4. Washington Redskins

What's changed: Under new general manager Scot McCloughan, the Redskins took a smarter, more measured approach to free agency. The defensive line is now stronger and more athletic with Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea and Ricky Jean Francois all signed to reasonable contracts.

The defensive backfield will also look different with veteran safeties Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark out of the picture. The Redskins traded for Dashon Goldson, took a flier on former Seahawks backup Jeron Johnson and shelled out big bucks for cornerback Chris Culliver.

On balance, McCloughan did a nice job of adding young legs to patch over gaping holes on a defense that finished 29th in points allowed last season.

What's Next?

»*RGIII's fifth-year option:* The Redskins insist nobody is giving up onRobert Griffin III, but they will also consider selecting a quarterback with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. In other words, they no longer have any idea what to believe about Griffin's future. That makes the $16 million option for 2016 a tricky proposition.

»*Move DeAngelo Hall to safety:* Coach Jay Gruden hinted that the move could be in the works, and it makes plenty of sense for a 31-year-old cornerback coming off two Achilles surgeries. The Redskins are deeper at corner and have been seeking a solution at safety for years.

»*Fix the O-line:* Between the swinging gates up front and Griffin's penchant for holding onto the ball, the offense won't have a chance unless the blocking is improved. Right tackle and guard should be addressed early in the draft.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast plays its newest game, 'What's your Fancy?' and debates if you'd trade Aaron Rodgers for Andrew Luck. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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