One of the most unpredictable divisions in the NFL every year is the NFC East, and the 2021 season shouldn’t be an exception. I should say that the NFC East is in fact a predictable division as in it’s always impossible to predict how each team will perform each season. No team in the NFC East has worn the division crown in back-to-back seasons since 2004, showing the everchanging nature of the division.
For the time being, the Dallas Cowboys are favored to win the division due to the return of Dak Prescott at quarterback. Dallas has the best quarterback in the NFC East by a wide margin, which is why everyone sees them running away with the division. But there could be moves made in the coming weeks and months that change the outlook of the division.
In light of that, let’s take a look at one trade target for each team in the NFC East ahead of the trade deadline all the way in November.
Dallas Cowboys: Stephon Gilmore, CB, Patriots
It is no secret that the Cowboys were dismal on the defensive side of the ball last season under Mike Nolan. Dallas has since fired Nolan as their defensive coordinator, replacing him with Dan Quinn. Quinn is going to be coaching a defense that has an inexperienced secondary, especially at the cornerback position. Trevon Diggs, Kelvin Joseph, and Nahshon Wright could all be leaned on at some point in the season.
Provided that, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Cowboys to make a splash move for a cornerback. Jerry Jones has never shied away from making blockbuster trades and Stephon Gilmore could be available via trade. Gilmore wants a new contract with the New England Patriots, but there hasn’t been much progress at all for a new deal.
Given the depth that New England has at the cornerback position, they could look to move Gilmore to a team like the Cowboys. Adding Gilmore would improve their chances of taking the NFC East.
New York Giants: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Texans
In recent seasons, the New York Giants have been seeking a pass-rushing duo that can produce at the level that Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora once did for them. While it would be tough to replicate what Tuck and Umenyiora did, finding at least one player that can consistently create pressure would be a welcomed start for the Giants.
Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are slated to start for the Giants as edge rushers this season, with rookie Azeez Ojulari sprinkled in the rotation. Given the lack of consistency off of the edge, New York could turn to the Houston Texans for help in the pass-rushing department. Whitney Mercilus has been spoken about as a potential trade candidate, and with the Texans rebuilding, he could be on his way out of Houston in the coming months.
Philadelphia Eagles: C.J. Henderson, CB, Jaguars
It’s hard to gauge how good the Philadelphia Eagles could be in 2021 and whether they could surprise us and compete for the NFC East title. Besides the hiring of Nick Sirianni as head coach, the Eagles are moving forward with Jalen Hurts as their new starting quarterback this season. Seeing that Sirianni didn’t draft Hurts, I don’t believe the Alabama product has a firm hold on the starting job for years to come. If Philadelphia sputters in 2021 like most believe they could, then the Eagles could be entering a rebuild right now.
With the team looking for young players to build around, they should consider any trades that lands them a player that can develop into a long-term fixture on the team. Despite the presence of Darius Slay and Steven Nelson, C.J. Henderson would be an ideal trade target for Philadelphia. Henderson has been surprisingly mentioned as a trade candidate just one year after being selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Washington Football Team: Zach Cunningham, LB, Texans
Ron Rivera has put together a winning mentality in the nation’s capital, but the roster is still incomplete. Ryan Fitzpatrick does give Washington a short-term solution under center and Curtis Samuel/Dyami Brown could improve the aerial attack. However, Washington will need to find a franchise quarterback at some point, which should be as soon as next offseason.
On the defensive side of the ball, Washington has the potential to be one of the best groups in the NFL. The defensive line is comprised of first-round picks in Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and Daron Payne. As for the secondary, the team has Kendall Fuller, William Jackson III, and Landon Collins to rely on. When it comes to the linebacker position, rookie Jamin Davis is going to be leaned on for consistent production. To pair Davis with a reliable linebacker, Washington could add Zach Cunningham.
Rivera always loves to have a group of linebackers he can rely on (a la Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis on the Carolina Panthers), so Cunningham would address the lack of experience at linebacker. Adding Cunningham could make the Washington defense even better as they look to win the NFC East for the second year in a row.