National Football League
Beasts of the East: How rival Cowboys, Eagles stack up after offseason moves
National Football League

Beasts of the East: How rival Cowboys, Eagles stack up after offseason moves

Updated May. 14, 2024 5:26 p.m. ET

The NFC East may not have had a repeat champion since 2004, but it hasn't exactly been wide open since then. For most of the last decade, the division has belonged to two teams: The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

Those two have won nine of the last 11 division titles. That includes seven of the last eight and each of the last three. And in each of the past two seasons, they took their head-to-head battle for the title right down to the end.

But there has been at least the appearance of big change atop the division this offseason, as the Eagles loaded up in free agency while the Cowboys watched parts of their roster fall apart. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insisted he was "all in" on winning a championship. But the Eagles looked like the ones who really were.

How will that impact the balance of power in the division? Probably not enough to open the door for the Washington Commanders or New York Giants. But it sure looks like the Eagles are back after a 1-6 collapse ruined their 2023 season. And the Cowboys, after three straight 12-5 seasons, could be set up for a fall.


Here's a very early look at how the battle of NFC East titans is shaping up:

Key additions

Philly went on a wild offseason spending spree — at least wild for them. They started with what could be the highest-impact free agent on the market: Running back Saquon Barkley. Their hope is he can stay healthy and thrive now that he's finally playing behind a good offensive line, which gives a jolt to their offense and take pressure off quarterback Jalen Hurts.

But they didn't stop there. They added young pass rusher Bryce Huff (albeit at the cost of trading Haason Reddick) and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who in some ways was the heart of their defense during their Super Bowl run in 2022. They added veteran linebacker Devin White and signed two veteran receivers — Parris Campbell and Devante Parker — to compete for the third receiver role.

Then they somehow landed Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean — two of the top cornerbacks in the draft.

The Cowboys' list is far less extensive. Despite being in desperate need of a running back after losing Tony Pollard, they sat out that market until they reunited with Ezekiel Elliott, who'll be 29 in July. Their biggest free-agent addition was probably linebacker Eric Kendricks. And the draft most notably produced left tackle Tyler Guyton (first round) and center Cooper Beebe (third), meaning the Cowboys will probably be relying on two rookies to start on their offensive line.

Will Dak Prescott still be the Cowboys’ QB in 2025? Skip answers.

Key losses

The Eagles' losses don't figure to hurt very much. They let safety Kevin Byard go after his short, unproductive stint with them last season. They didn't re-sign middling linebacker Nicholas Morrow. And running back D'Andre Swift is gone. But they were all replaced by better players.

Their biggest loss was undoubtedly Reddick, who had 50 ½ sacks over the last four seasons. They traded him to the Jets because they were unwilling to meet the soon-to-be-30-year-old's contract demands. But before they did, they signed Huff, 26, who had 10 sacks last year. He's not quite in Reddick's class, but he'll certainly help.

Two other key losses for the Eagles: Both center Jason Kelce and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox retired, and the loss of two members of their famed "Core Four" will hurt in leadership. The loss of Kelce in the center of the line could be incalculable on the field, too. They can only hope that Cam Jurgens, a 2022 second-round pick, is ready to slide over from guard to fill that void.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, have an extensive and painful list of free-agent losses. Almost as soon as the market began they lost Pollard (to Tennessee), center Tyler Biadasz (Washington) and defensive end Dorance Armstrong (Washington). Left tackle Tyron Smith eventually signed with the Jets. And they lost some depth when corner Noah Igbinoghene signed with Washington and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins signed with Seattle. Linebacker Dante Fowler signed with Washington, too.

It's hard to argue that any of them have been adequately replaced. They claimed salary cap constraints caused their inaction, but that's their own fault since they've yet to negotiate expected extensions with quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver CeeDee Lamb — deals that would have undoubtedly given them a little bit more room cap room to plug some holes.

Will the Cowboys or Eagles win the NFC East?


The Eagles' strength looks to be what it's been for two seasons — the diversity of their offense. Only with Barkley in the backfield, it should be even better. They can throw it to two of the best receivers in football and Barkley is a capable receiver out of the backfield too. And Barkley's running ability will also allow the Eagles to use Hurts on the run a little less, which could help prevent the injuries that have nagged him the last two seasons.

They also now should have a strong and deep secondary, which was not the case last season. Even if they don't get a bounce-back season from James Bradberry, they'll have corner Darius Slay back at full health and two promising rookies in DeJean and Mitchell. Gardner-Johnson's return will also bring the energy and attitude that was missing on the back end last year.

The Cowboys' strength is still probably their defense, which lost some depth but returns otherwise intact, and will also get cornerback Trevon Diggs back. They have one of the NFL's most dangerous defensive players in Micah Parsons, one of the best secondaries in the NFL and a strong pass rush too. As long as they stay healthy, that won't change.

And on offense, they still have one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL in Prescott and Lamb. They are good enough to carry the Cowboys' offense on their own — which they will probably have to do.


Offensive line isn't exactly a weakness for the Eagles, but there sure are questions about how good that unit will be now that Kelce is gone. Replacing a future Hall of Famer won't be easy for Jurgens. There also is still the question of depth on offense, which really hurt them late last season. If they lose Brown, Smith, Barkley or tight end Dallas Goedert, there's an enormous drop off.

The pass rush also could be a weakness. Reddick was a huge presence for them, which gives Huff big shoes to fill. They're going to need a lot more of a consistent push-out of defensive tackles Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter and defensive end Josh Sweat.

The Cowboys' weakness is glaring. Their running game struggled in key spots last season and their solution to that was let Pollard go and replace him with an aging running back whom they cut one year earlier. They seem to think Elliott can still be a starting-caliber back. Not many others around the NFL agree.

Add in two rookies on the line and the running game sure looks like it'll be a problem, which could make the Cowboys offense even more one-dimensional than it's been. They can probably still win a lot of games that way, but winning a championship likely needs more balance.


It seems pretty obvious: The Eagles got better, the Cowboys got worse.

Given the state of the rest of the division, though — the Commanders are in the early stages of rebuilding and the Giants have huge quarterback issues — they are probably still headed towards a head-to-head battle for the division title.

The combination of Prescott, Lamb and the Dallas defense should keep the Cowboys in contention. But right now they don't look like they're in the same class as a healthy Eagles team. Philly can do too many things in too many different ways for a team built like the Cowboys to keep up over a long season.

They are both capable of winning double-digit games. They should both make the playoffs. But right now, based on the offseason moves, the NFC East is pretty clearly the Eagles' division to lose.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more