Every NFL Team’s Biggest Free Agent Need Heading Into 2014 Offseason
Every NFL Team's Biggest Free Agent Need Heading Into 2014 Offseason
Only six NFC teams and one AFC squad have been eliminated from playoff contention through Week 14, making the 2014 NFL free agency period seem painfully far away for those fanbases.
Meanwhile, the edge of the AFC picture induces migraines when thinking about how many teams with absolutely no shot at contending still remain mathematically eligible. The Oakland Raiders and New York Jets stay in contention but it's hard to imagine their fans are more excited about their ability to make a dent in January than in the trading and signing period this March.
No matter how much your team is surging or fading it feels good to have an antidote for what's ailing the roster. In a game with 22 men on the field at any given time its become impossible to just be great everywhere, especially with the salary cap staring you down. Still, each team can hope their offseason moves do the trick to smooth over all the holes and rough edges.
Read through for the biggest weakness each team should address in free agency this offseason. I tried to stay away from quarterbacks when it came to front offices that could hit there early first round.
Left tackle: Bradley Sowell has proved miserable at the left tackle spot — holding Pro Football Focus' worst pass block grade at the position — almost making the team's blindside protection in 2012 seem acceptable. The Cards traded Levi Brown this year and should at least add a decent veteran in the mix to allow Carson Palmer time for Bruce Arians' favored long dropbacks.
Edge rusher: Osi Umenyiora has not replaced John Abraham's pass-rush capabilities in the slightest and that has left Atlanta as the league's most impotent when it comes to pressuring the quarterback.
Wide receiver: It's become blatantly apparent watching Anquan Boldin's new and former team that Joe Flacco needs this security blanket. The return of Dennnis Pitta helps, but a veteran possession guy could prove a key addition on the cheap.
Guard: Buffalo has struggled mightily to find push at left guard this year in moving down the depth chart. For a run-heavy Doug Marrone offense and an excellent backfield duo, setting up a powerhouse left side along with tackle Cordy Glenn is key.
Wide receiver: Cam Newton and Steve Smith have been partners in crime for a long while but can't continue doing it alone. Tight end Greg Olsen has really taken big step up this year and the other receivers have been serviceable at times, but Smith isn't getting any younger.
Safety: Both Chris Conte and Major Wright rank among the top 10 at safety in missed tackles. Too many good running backs in the NFC North for getting embarrassed at the second level.
Quarterback: Andy Dalton has bounced back nicely since the fourth quarter of Week 13 as Cincy's knocked off two playoff contenders. However, we also saw Bad Andy over the previous month. A solid veteran to challenge (and potentially replace) him might be wise. Hello Josh McCown?
Guard: Cleveland has consistently ranked near the bottom in rushing productivity because they lack real effective road graders on the line. Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz seem pretty locked in at tackle and Alex Mack at center, so looking at guard here.
Defensive back: Just watch the Bears game from last night. Or consider that they traded up in the first round for Morris Claiborne, who is not working out at all so far.
Defensive backs: With the number of injuries their secondary has suffered this year and the number of teams who must chuck their way back into games against Denver, adding one more quality vet to the secondary can't hurt. See final touchdown given up Sunday: Quentin Jammer on Justin Hunter is not what you want.
Wide receiver: Matthew Stafford's passing numbers have been great this year because Stafford has been extremely good, not because the receiving corps is adequate outside of Calvin Johnson. Kris Durham has the size and the college broship with Stafford, but also the 98th-ranked catch-to-target rate among receivers.
Green Bay Packers
Inside linebacker: Green Bay still has some cap locked up with AJ Hawk to worry about but must add someone inside with him and Brad Jones. Over the past few weeks, opposing fullbacks and linemen have turned the middle of Dom Capers' defense to roadkill.
Linebackers: Given Brian Cushing's injury history — which seems to collapse Houston's defense almost every year — inside or outside linebacker would do. It's also a shame that JJ Watt commands so much attention inside yet Houston has no effective edge rushers to take advantage.
Interior offensive line: It's probably wise to stick with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus at the tackle spots next year but something needs to be done about the interior if this run game is to produce. Indy coaches say they want an offense that can grind things out and Ryan Grigson gave them no interior linemen that can do that, at all.
Edge rusher: Gus Bradley does not have a dominant player for the LEO role currently on roster. The Jags could try their luck with landing Jadeveon Clowney in the draft or make a splash in free agency.
Kansas City Chiefs
Wide receiver: Dwayne Bowe became instantly sluggish after getting his big contract and Donnie Avery is not an ideal WR2. I've been down on Alex Smith a lot this year, but over the past month he's earned some shiny new toys.
Everything left of center: The Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation might have just wiped away their left guard and tackle spots forever more, which is a shame as it came together nicely during the first couple weeks.
Defensive backs: Outside of second-year safety Harrison Smith and rookie Xavier Rhodes, things are pretty bleak back there for the Vikings secondary. Just take a look at Joe Flacco's final two touchdown drives in the snow Sunday.
New England Patriots
Edge rusher: Bill Belichick's defenses historically don't need to rely a dominant pass rusher, though the past few seasons you could argue they need one. Chandler Jones is a nice complement and good defensive end, but so far has been a couple notches below a Von Miller or even Elvis Dumervil kind of force.
New Orleans Saints
Defensive backs: This one was difficult, as even with Drew Brees' massive contract the Saints are so well set up for the future. The weak areas, like left tackle, have raw and incredible talents learning the ropes like rookie Terron Armstead. Kenny Vaccaro makes that secondary as a whole better each week. Perhaps you could add a cheap veteran inside linebacker with coverage skills to mix in the rotation, as David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton struggle in that regard.
New York Giants
Edge rusher: It feels crazy saying this about the Giants but that's what Jason Pierre-Paul's — frankly frightening — injury issues have done to this line. Justin Tuck's having a renaissance year and Big Blue's getting nothing else from PFF's fifth-worst graded pass rush.
New York Jets
Wide receiver/tight end/any receiving option anywhere: Geno Smith's a very raw rookie so it might be early to challenge him for the job with a free agent expecting to start at quarterback. The 2013 campaign has been brutal at times and not everyone is Russell Wilson, who also had his share of growing pains last year. Better yet, get Smith some capable receiving options that can stay healthy as he develops in year two.
Defensive back: You could mark the Raiders down for almost anything but I'll go with the secondary. Tyvon Branch is a nice piece but DJ Hayden's still green, Charles Woodson's pushing 40 and the rest serves as decent depth options.
Safety: The Eagles have been brutalized by their safety position for years, each ranking in the bottom half of PFF grading again. After adding a couple decent corners this offseason it's time to make another secondary upgrade.
Left tackle: The Steelers have learned the hard way that Mike Adams struggles on both sides while Kelvin Beachum hasn't proved a resounding answer at left tackle. Big Ben is getting too old for this.
San Francisco 49ers
Wide receiver:Even with Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, it's amazing how quickly this offense became crippled without Michael Crabtree. Especially given Boldin's age and Mario Manningham's injury history, it might prove worthwhile to add another legitimate deep threat.
Offensive line: What do you get for the team that already has everything? Well, almost everything. Though Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are perfect for offsetting poor line play, Seattle could stand to upgrade at OL anywhere besides LT and center.
St. Louis Rams
Wide receiver: The Rams do not boast a receiver inside the top 80 best in drop rate. They've devoted draft picks here but it just has not proved fruitful.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Edge rusher: The Bucs have some elite pieces on defense but no defensive end within the top 50 in PFF's pass-rush productivity metric, among players with more than 10 rushes on the season.
Middle linebacker: Tennessee hoped 2011 fourth-rounder Colin McCarthy would be the guy and then tried Moise Fokou in the spot this year, with neither really producing — which is a shame behind the dominance of Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug up front.
Defensive backs: Not a single member of this secondary has a positive PFF grade for 2013. DeAngelo Hall as your CB1 was dicey even back in his prime. Not getting docked $18 million in cap space will certainly help there.