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NFC East burning questions for 2024: Cowboys, Dak Prescott nearing end? Daniel Jones have enough to succeed?

The NFC East continues its unpredictability when it comes to finding a division champion, as there has been no repeat winner in the division for 19 consecutive seasons — shattering an NFL record. This is bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, who were the NFC East champions last season and are seeking a repeat.ย 

The Philadelphia Eagles were the last repeat champions of the NFC East, winning four straight division championships from 2001 through 2004, showcasing the incredible parity of this division every season. Remember, it was only two years ago the NFC East was the best division in football with three playoff teams making the divisional round of the playoffs. At the moment, there are two teams in the division determining the future of their starting quarterbacks and one team is in a rebuild.ย 

The Eagles are looking to get back into Super Bowl contention, the Cowboys are trying to get past the divisional round, the New York Giants aren’t sure what direction they are going in while the Washington Commanders hit the reset button and are rebuilding with a new head coach and franchise quarterback.ย 

There are some intriguing questions the NFC East must answer heading into the 2024 season, especially with training camp getting underway this July.ย 

Dallas Cowboys

Is this Dak Prescott’s final season in Dallas?

The Cowboys made their offseason significantly more interesting by not giving Prescott a contract extension and making sure he’s with the franchise for the next several seasons. Here’s the scenario Dallas put itself in because it didn’t sign Prescott:

  1. Let him walk after the season, making the 2024 season “Super Bowl or bust” while not having an answer at quarterback for 2025 and beyond.
  2. Make Prescott the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and be tied to him for several more seasons with an average annual salary of over $55 million a year.ย 

Prescott is currently tied for the 11th-highest paid quarterback in the league at $40 million per season, but has a cap number of $55,132,647 in 2024. Since Dallas decided not to give the 31-year-old Prescott an extension, the move (or lack thereof) hindered the franchise’s ability to add talent to the roster with the available cap space.ย 

Perhaps the Cowboys are ready to move on from Prescott after eight seasons, even though he was second in NFL MVP voting last season and led the league in touchdown passes with 36. Prescott is a good quarterback, but the 2-5 playoff record will be the knock on him until a deep postseason run is made.ย 

The Cowboys made this a “now-or-never” season with Prescott, who will get a massive extension by Dallas or another team. This didn’t have to be the case.ย 

Philadelphia Eagles

Will James Bradberry be on the team by start of training camp?

The Eagles will have a decision to make regarding Bradberry in the coming weeks, and his presence at mandatory minicamp could be an indicator on where things stand.ย 

Bradberry is still on the roster, but the Eagles can designate him as a post-June 1 cut and not owe anything toward the salary cap. Bradberry’s contract would carry $4.305 million in dead cap, but the Eagles could just eat the money if the 31-year-old isn’t in the team’s plans to start in 2024. The dead cap can be spread out over two seasons.

Bradberry isn’t a special teamer, and would make too much to be a backup. If Bradberry isn’t starting, there’s no sense for the Eagles to have him on the roster with their cornerback group. Bradberry would also like his future settled sooner rather than later, so he can find other employment opportunities with another team.ย 

The Eagles invested heavily in the cornerback position during the draft, draftingย Quinyon Mitchellย in the first round (No. 22 overall) andย Cooper DeJeanย in the second (No. 40).ย Darius Slayย is locked in at one of the starting spots, while Mitchell is certainly a candidate to start Day 1 on the outside. The Eagles also haveย Kelee Ringo,ย Eli Ricks,ย Josh Jobeย andย Isaiah Rodgersย competing for that job, and Rodgers has stood out during the early portion of minicamp. Ringo and Jobe are also good special teams players.ย 

Essentially, Bradberry has to start in order to have a future with the Eagles.ย 

New York Giants

Are there enough pass-catching weapons for Daniel Jones to succeed?

The easy question would be: What are the Giants going to do with Daniel Jones after the season as they can get out of that four-year, $160 million contract? Jones has a $47.855 million cap hit for this season, so he’ll enter the year as the starting quarterback with an uncertain future. Did the Giants give Jones enough help for him to have a fighting chance at retaining his job?

Malik Nabers was the right pick at No. 6 in the draft, giving Jones the best wide receiver he’s ever played with. Nabers should be Jones’ top target, as the Giants will pair him with Darius Slayton, 2022 second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinsonย and 2023 third-round pick Jalin Hyatt. Allen Robinson was also a free-agent signing.ย 

Darren Waller appears set to retire, so Daniel Bellinger and rookie fourth-round pick Theo Johnsonย will move up the tight end depth chart. Jones also lost his best offensive playmaker this past season in Saquon Barkley, who headed down I-95 to the Eagles. Devin Singletary was signed to replace Barkley as the No. 1 running back.ย 

On paper, this pass-catching group may be the best Jones has had. Will it be enough for Jones to throw more than 20 touchdown passes in a season and have a passer rating over 95.0? Even if Jones gets those numbers, is that enough to keep his job if the Giants don’t win more than eight games?ย 

How Jones progresses with these playmakers will be the key toward his future with the organization.ย 

Washington Commanders

How will Jayden Daniels fare in his rookie season?ย 

The Commanders decided to rebuild after a disastrous season in 2023, embracing a fresh start with Dan Quinn as head coach and rookie Jayden Daniels at quarterback. Kliff Kingsbury and Brian Johnson will be in charge of developing Daniels, whose dual-threat ability at the position will be a problem for NFC East defenses in Year 1.ย 

How will the Commanders utilize Daniels? Will they allow him to take off at will or hone him back a bit to keep him healthy for 17 games and develop him as a passer? If the Commanders let Daniels loose, he could put up some massive numbers on the ground and help the offense put points on the board.ย 

Daniels also has good wide receivers in Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson to lean on, a plus for any first-year starting quarterback. Having Austin Ekeler as a pass-catching option at running back and a reliable pass-catching tight end in Zach Ertz doesn’t hurt either.ย 

The Commanders are better with Daniels at quarterback. If Daniels can avoid the turnovers, the Commanders’ rebuild may go significantly quicker than expected.ย 

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Author: Jeff Kerr
June 3, 2024 | 12:15 pm

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