What’s The NFC East Pecking Order?

I’ve had a hard time accepting that Dallas can be better this year, after losing Amari Cooper and Randy Gregory. I don’t feel they have done much to replace those guys. Then you look at Philly, who went and got A.J. Brown in addition to DeVonta Smith. Washington upgraded their QB with Wentz and will be healthier on a very good defense, and the Giants feel like a team that could surprise people because they had a great draft. Dallas just seems like they lost the most and did the least to replace, I guess. What’s your thoughts on where we are going to be in the division? — JOSH HANSON / SAN ANTONIO, TX

David: I don’t disagree with anything you said, but I do think the Cowboys have one, big thing working in their favor: they have the best quarterback in the division by a very wide margin. I think quality quarterback play can do a lot to mask your deficiencies, and I expect Dak to play at that type of level in 2022. Having said that, I don’t think you can deny that all three NFC East rivals have closed the gap on Dallas in very meaningful ways. I still think the Cowboys are the team to beat, but it’s not a comfortable margin at all. If Jalen Hurts and/or Carson Wentz puts together a quality season, I definitely think either Philadelphia or Washington could take the division.

Rob: I still think Dallas is the best team on paper, followed by the Eagles, mainly because of Dak Prescott. He’s the best quarterback in the division and the only starting QB who has led his team to a playoff win. (Granted, Wentz has taken a team to the playoffs, but he has been injured in past postseason runs by Philly.) I agree that the other three teams clearly improved, and when you look at facing Washington and Philly four times combined this season, their defensive linemen can really challenge the Cowboys’ offensive line. And how the line fares this season is unquestionably one of the biggest factors in the way 2022 will go for Dallas.

Why don’t players like to be franchise tagged? I mean, you can get a $12 or $13 million dollar contract. I believe you can only do one year at a time anyway. 12 million dollars is a lot of money. Anyways, when they sign an extension, most of their money is made off bonuses. — STEPHEN GRAYSON / GREENVILLE, MS

David: It’s a simple case of wanting to be able to find the best deal possible. Of course $12 million is a lot of money. But would you rather be forced into a one-year, $12 million deal that offers little in the way of long-term security – or, would you rather have multiple teams bidding to pay you $14-15 million per year, with signing bonuses that will pay out $30 million or more over the course of your deal? To put it more simply: would you prefer that your employer decide what you’re worth, without getting any say in it? Or would you rather be able to let the market decide?

Rob: Because you’re not getting that big guaranteed money up front in a league with a 100% injury rate. Sure, a guaranteed $12 million deal for one year sounds great. Sign me up. But guys only have a certain window to maximize their earning potential. The second contract is a huge part of that. And the injury risk in the NFL is real.

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