The upcoming NFL offseason is shaping up to be a grand one. A solid free agent market and an incoming draft class that boasts potential breakout stars two to three rounds deep will replenish any bottom dwelling team in a hurry.
While these three teams may have found the majority of their current talent via the draft, teams are now capable of supplementing a strong draft with loose purse strings in free agency, speeding up the entire process even more.
Here are five teams who may want to consider a few more trips to the ATM this offseason in order to return to relevance.
Do not make the mistake of thinking for one minute that the Jets failed 2011 free agent experiments will stop them from reaching out again this offseason.
The Jets have several internal contract issues they must resolve before going after more players in free agency, but the potential for doing so eventually is certainly there.
I will not be surprised at all when Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum makes a substantial effort to retain would-be free agent receiver Plaxico Burress. Burress’ 2011 production was not nearly enough to raise his value on the open market, but did provide enough of an occasional spark for the Jets to consider keeping him around to work with (knock on wood) a new offensive coordinator next season.
Potential free agent acquisitions for the Jets are very interesting, as they could go in several different directions given the right circumstances.
Considering the likelihood that this past season was the last for LaDainian Tomlinson in a Jets uniform, the Jets could certainly look for a solid rusher in free agency. Starting running back Shonn Greene has yet to prove himself as the legitimate every down back that the Jets philosophy requires.
The Jets' smash-mouth approach to the game leads me to believe that they are certainly capable of making a play for disgruntled Cleveland Brown Peyton Hillis. It is safe to say that an offensive backfield consisting of two bruising backs like Greene and Hillis would be custom-made for Rex Ryan’s ground-and-pound philosophy.
Notwithstanding the financial impact of such a move, the release of resident punk Santonio Holmes could also entice Gang Green to pursue one of the more tempting receivers in free agency. Players like Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston would be welcome additions to the anemic Jets passing attack. In the wide receiver pool, there is also the highly improbable possibility that stars Wes Welker and Jermichael Finley appear on the Jets radar screen.
There is also a plethora of defensive talent in this year’s free agent market, which of course falls right in head coach Rex Ryan’s wheelhouse. Defensive ends Cliff Avril and Calais Campbell could very easily bring their 11 and eight sacks respectively this season with them to MetLife Stadium without any complaints from Ryan.
In one fell swoop, and one visit to the operating table, the world of football in Indianapolis is in upheaval. The Colts are in a very advantageous position, though to repair the huge regression they suffered this season as they enter the 2012 offseason.
Holding the ace of all aces in its draft pocket, Indianapolis must decide how to manage the variety of options it has before heading to Radio City on April 27. The Colts must also do so, at least for the moment, without the leadership of a general manager.
The Colts very well could hand their first pick away in a blockbuster trade as the value of Stanford signal-caller Andrew Luck continues to reach stratospheric proportions. If they do retain their treasured first pick, they will have to turn their attention immediately to building Luck’s supporting cast.
Running back trio Donald Brown, Joseph Addai and Delone Carter has failed to capitalize on their fair opportunity to prove themselves as legitimate powers on the ground as a shortage of talent at quarterback this season should have inspired an emphasis on running the ball.
The Colts will not have any prime rusher available to them by the onset of the second round in the draft, so the legs carrying the ball on the ground for the team next season will have to come from elsewhere.
With huge first class free agent rushers like Ray Rice, Arian Foster and Matt Forte susceptible for poaching and even second tier backs like Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bush hitting the open market, the Colts could make an enormous splash with one (considerable) bank withdrawal.
This much can be said about the Carolina Panthers following their 2011 campaign: They have their franchise quarterback.
Next to that, there are still many questions to be answered and roles to be filled by the Panthers, who despite their record-setting rookie superstar still only mustered six wins on the season. It may be a drastic improvement from their ugly 2-10 season the year prior, but the fact remains that in order to become competitive in the highly talented NFC South, the Panthers will need to add to their team beyond the man with No. 2 on his jersey.
The Panthers have, and have always had, a solid running game. The tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both tip-toed around the 800-yard mark on the season and complemented Newton’s own talents on the run very well. There is no immediate need for additional help in the Carolina offensive backfield.
Where there may be a need for building is down the Carolina sidelines as their wide receiver corps lives and dies around the performance of one single player, Steve Smith. Smith’s career (and interest in staying a Panther) was revitalized with the arrival of Newton, racking up nearly 1,400 receiving yards on 79 receptions.
The irresistible force that plagues every NFL star is Father Time, and it is bearing down on Smith. Turning 33 years old before this upcoming season, Smith has many more games behind him than in front of him, and the Panthers must start planning for that eventuality.
The moment Denver Broncos Hall of Famer and Executive Vice President of Football Operation John Elway finally conceded and accepted Tim Tebow as the permanent quarterback of his beloved franchise, every pundit in the NFL world started forecasting what talent they would bring in to build around him.
The Broncos defense is clearly set for the near future. It is because of their performances, not Tebow’s, that they are in the playoffs this season. They are fast, aggressive, technically sound, and most importantly, young. The need to add to the Bronco defense would be excessive at this moment.
The real need in Denver is to form a much tailored corps of offensive talent around Tebow. Running back Willis McGahee, returning to solid running form this season with a 1,200-yard performance and second-year receiver Eric Decker are a good start, but more is needed.
Adding a short passing attack to the Tebow arsenal can be accomplished with one large bank check to Jermichael Finley.
Picking a marquee player from a division rival is always an additional benefit of free agency, and seeing Dwayne Bowe or Vincent Jackson in Bronco blue and orange would be a welcomed sight in Denver.
The Broncos have officially gone all-in on Tebowmania. They will rise and fall with the wildly unpredictable arm of their new signal-caller. It would be surely in their best interests to make sure he has every opportunity to prove all of his doubters wrong.
I could not resist including the Daniel Snyder-controlled Washington Redskins in this list. There is no reason to believe that 2012 will be the first season in forever that Snyder does not at least attempt to purchase half of the available free agents in the entire NFL.
The Redskins have spent the last decade showing how free agency in the sport of professional football is a haven for foolhardy excess. They spend cash as if it has an expiration date on the first item up for bid, and there is no doubt they will do so again this season and many more seasons to come.