- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In mid-October last season, Washington Redskins defensive linemen Ricky Jean Francois and Chris Baker had egocentric messages for whomever would listen.

“We run the damn East,” said Jean Francois in the tunnel of FedEx Field after the Redskins’ fourth consecutive win, this one against the Philadelphia Eagles. “Not Philly, not Dallas, not all of them. We run the damn East. Better remember we got that damn [title].”

Backing him was pal and fellow talker Chris Baker, who made his own proclamation that day.

“Y’all forgot who the real champs of the NFC East is.”

Turns out, the Redskins did not win the division last season. They finished third after losing a home game in the final week against division-rival New York, which had nothing to play for, and missed the playoffs because of it. Baker and Jean Francois are no longer with the team. It fired its general manager during the offseason with all the flair of a daytime drama. Washington’s quarterback appears to not want to remain with the team long-term.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league is moving along.

So, what have the other teams in the division been up to? Let’s take a look:

Dallas Cowboys

The headlines have been focused on the fate of quarterback Tony Romo, who remains on the roster presumably as trade bait, but the Cowboys have lost three starters, guard Ron Leary, strong safety Barry Church and defensive end Terrell McClain. McClain signed with the Redskins.

Dallas re-signed wide receiver Terrance Williams, added defensive lineman Stephen Paea, cornerback Nolan Carroll, defensive end Damontre Moore, running back Darren McFadden and retained backup quarterback Kellen Moore. The Cowboys have spent just $32.4 million in free agency, according to Spotrac, which is 23rd in the league. Most of that money went to Williams, who bagged a four-year, $17 million deal with $9.5 million guaranteed.

Now, the Cowboys have the looming Romo question. They don’t need to cut Romo to create salary cap space since they are not in pursuit of any high-priced options on the market. That means they can wait to see if a team like Houston, which perpetually needs a starting quarterback, would be willing to send a draft pick to Dallas for Romo’s services.

New York Giants

The Giants have brought in a few interesting names. Among them are Brandon Marshall and Geno Smith.

Marshall is 32 years old. Last season, he caught 59 passes for a New York Jets passing attack that finished 27th in the league. The season before, Marshall piled up 109 receptions, 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. Uniting Marshall with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard will give the Giants’ receiving group a jolt. It also adds another distinct personality for a group derided after its “yacht trip” to Miami during a day off the week of a playoff game last season.

New York also re-signed former Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson and extended the contract of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. He received a four-year contract.

In addition, the Giants signed tight end Rhett Ellison to a four-year, $18 million contract in an eyebrow-raising move. Ellison has 51 catches in five seasons. He’s regarded as a quality blocker, but one that has done little in the passing game behind Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota. New York is gambling that Ellison just needed a shot.

Smith is on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal. He will be fighting for a roster spot during training camp.

Philadelphia Eagles

Two notables are in at wide receiver: Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Once the price tag for Jeffery dropped, the Eagles snagged the former Chicago standout. The question is what they will receive from a 27-year-old receiver who has produced declining numbers for four consecutive seasons. In 2013, Jeffery caught 89 passes. That total moved to 85 the next season, then fell to 54 and 52 the last two seasons, respectively. Jeffery played just nine games in 2015 and 12 in 2016, which obviously puts a damper on his production. He claims good health is all that is necessary to regain his former form.

Smith signed a three-year, $15 million contract with just $500,000 guaranteed. He made just 20 catches last season in San Francisco and will be four seasons removed from his breakout season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

And yet, both receivers are viewed as significant upgrades that will help second-year quarterback Carson Wentz.

Also back is old friend Nick Foles. He will backup Wentz.

Out is starting defensive tackle Bennie Logan. He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

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