This is the fifth of eight stories examining NFL teams by division as they prepare for training camp. Today's installment focuses on the NFC East.
If at first you don't succeed, spend, spend and spend some more.
That seems to be the philosophy of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who has shown money is no object in his pursuit of a Super Bowl championship.
Snyder almost put himself on injured reserve with a sprained wrist after signing hefty checks for 16 free agents this offseason. If the new additions play up to expectations, Washington could be the NFC's most improved team.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made big offseason news of his own by luring coach Bill Parcells out of retirement. The Big Tuna is being hailed as a savior in Dallas, but he'll have to work a miracle to win immediately with a roster short on talent.
The Philadelphia Eagles haven't made their fans or quarterback Donovan McNabb happy by losing more free agents than they signed. But the defense is still championship-caliber and the offense still has McNabb.
The New York Giants made some nice improvements and believe they are ready to topple the Eagles.
Here's a review of the offseason moves by each club:
Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
What's new: The Eagles let Pro Bowl defensive end Hugh Douglas, playmaking linebacker Shawn Barber and potential Hall of Fame kick returner Brian Mitchell go without a fight, but they did re-sign all-pro safety Brian Dawkins. They are counting on first-round draft pick defensive end Jerome McDougle (Miami, Fla.) to fill Douglas' shoes. Linebacker Nate Wayne (Packers) could be as good as Barber. Middle linebacker Mark Simoneau (Falcons) replaces departed Levon Kirkland. Fullback Jon Ritchie (Raiders) brings toughness and versatility. The Eagles drafted tight end L.J. Smith (Louisville) and wide receiver Billy McMullen (Virginia) to give McNabb more receiving targets.
Key issues: Second straight year of defections might hurt the defense. The running back situation bears watching as Correll Buckhalter has recovered from a major knee injury and is expected to push starter Duce Staley. After losing the last two NFC championship games, McNabb needs help to get the Eagles over the top in 2003.
New York Giants (10-6)
What's new: After a special teams disaster in a playoff loss at San Francisco last year, the Big Blue made an effort to shore up that area by signing Brian Mitchell, kicker Mike Hollis (Bills), punter Jeff Feagles (Seahawks) and long-snapper Ryan Kuehl (Browns). Running back Dorsey Levens (Eagles) is the new backup to Tiki Barber; Ron Dayne likely will be released after June 1. First-round defensive tackle William Joseph (Miami, Fla.) could have immediate impact. The Giants think second-round defensive end Osi Umenyiora (Troy State) could be a small college find. Third-round tight end Vishante Shiancoe (Morgan State) will back up '02 rookie sensation Jeremy Shockey.
Key issues: Coach Jim Fassel knows a good start will be key to wresting the division title away from the Eagles. But do his players believe it? Shockey will have to adjust to being a marked man in his second year. Defensive end Michael Strahan and linebacker Mike Barrow lead a front seven that must be outstanding to take pressure off young secondary.
Washington Redskins (7-9)
What's new: The Redskins raided the New York Jets for wide receiver Laveranues Coles, kick returner Chad Morton, guard Randy Thomas and kicker John Hall. Snyder hopes Coles, Morton, wide receiver Patrick Johnson (Jaguars), running back Trung Canidate (Rams) and second-round wide receiver Taylor Jacobs (Florida) provide coach Steve Spurrier's offense with an infusion of speed it lacked last season. Quarterback Rob Johnson (Buccaneers) was brought on board to challenge second-year pro Patrick Ramsey. Thomas, guard Dave Fiore (49ers) and rookie guard/tackle Derrick Dockery (Texans) bring size, stability and depth to the offensive line. 'Skins signed five possible starters in defensive tackles Brandon Noble (Cowboys) and Jermaine Haley (Dolphins), defensive end Regan Upshaw (Raiders), cornerback Alex Molden (Saints) and safety Matt Bowen (Packers).
Key issues: Snyder is counting on his free spending finally paying off. Does Spurrier really believe he can win with Johnson or Ramsey at quarterback? Speedy Canidate is a better fit in the offense, but he's not in the same class as stud running back Stephen Davis, who was released. Defensive end Bruce Smith, who should become the NFL career sacks leader this season, makes farewell appearance in Buffalo on Oct. 19.
Dallas Cowboys (5-11)
What's new: Cornerback Terence Newman (Kansas State) was a safe pick at No. 5, which isn't the way Parcells and Jones usually operate. But Newman was the best at the position in the draft and a great addition to a promising young secondary. Center Al Johnson (Wisconsin) and tight end Jason Witten (Tennessee) could start as rookies, too. Linebacker Bradie James (LSU) has the size Parcells likes at the position. Linebacker Alshermond Singleton (Bucs) isn't big, but has the speed the defense needs. Re-signing tackle Flozell Adams and adding free-agent tackle Ryan Young (Texans) helps the offensive line. Another key offensive acquisition was wide receiver Terry Glenn (Packers), who was drafted by Parcells in New England. Mysterious death of running back Ennis Haywood tempers enthusiastic offseason.
Key issues: Everyone waits to see how long will the Parcells-Jones lovefest last. There is plenty of uncertainty at quarterback unless Chad Hutchinson or Quincy Carter convinces Parcells otherwise. Signing a veteran QB remains a possibility. Cowboys jettisoned all-time great Emmitt Smith, so Troy Hambrick can no longer blame a lack of opportunity if he fails as the featured running back. Pro Bowl defensive tackle La'Roi Glover needs help up front.
Next: NFC North.