Ronnie Brown

Ronnie Brown Credit: Getty Images

A division which typically has two or three teams fighting for the top spot may have one squad that is head-and-shoulders above its rivals. At least, that's how it looks on paper. Catch up here with the NFC East's major acquisitions for 2011:

Dallas Cowboys
Addition by subtraction has been the Cowboys' means of improvement. Gone are RB Marion Barber, WR Roy Williams, G Leonard Davis and OT Marc Colombo. Their replacements are apparently going to come through the draft — third-round pick RB DeMarco Murray, fourth-rounder G David Arkin and first-rounder OT Tyron Smith will add youth to what had been an aging roster. A team still brimming with talent, Dallas may be better served by not making a big splash in free agency, for once.
Grade: B-

New York Giants
The loss of TE Kevin Boss to the Raiders might not hurt as much as it seems. While seven of his 10 touchdowns the past two seasons were caught inside the red zone, Boss had just eight red-zone catches during that span. That production can be replaced by likely starter TE Travis Beckum. Longtime offensive linemen C Shaun O'Hara and G Rich Seubert were released, insuring that much of QB Eli Manning's protection will look different. The signing of ex-49ers C David Baas is a decent start to reshuffling the O-line. They might be one step behind the Eagles, though.
Grade: C+

Philadelphia Eagles
A flurry of off-season activity has been led by the acquisitions of four star defenders. CBs Nnamdi Asomugha (five years, $60 million) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (acquired with a 2012 second-rounder from Arizona for QB Kevin Kolb) improve a coverage unit which wasn't as bad as standard pass-defense numbers show (their 31 passing touchdowns allowed were tied for second-worst last year). DEs Jason Babin (five years, $28 million) and Cullen Jenkins (five years, $25 million) help a pass rush that was already above-average. The signings look good now but Asomugha, Babin and Jenkins are 30 or older. QB Vince Young and RB Ronnie Brown give the offense more versatility; Brown is a dynamic pairing with RB LeSean McCoy.
Grade: A-

Washington Redskins
The typically absent-minded Redskins made one of the craftiest 2011 free agent signings by inking ex-Ravens CB Josh Wilson to a three-year, $13.5 million deal. He and CB DeAngelo Hall form an impressive playmaking duo. DT Barry Cofield was signed from the Giants at six years and $36 million to be the nose tackle for the 3-4 defense; he could also play defensive end, if necessary. Watch for RB Tim Hightower, traded from the Cardinals. Head coach Mike Shanahan's one-cut-and-run-up-the-field philosophy fits Hightower's rushing style.
Grade: B

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