2012 NFL Free Agency: 10 Teams That Need to Rethink Their Plans
There's always next year. Only four teams are left in the NFL playoffs and for the rest of us fans, it is time for our favorite teams to rebuild and retool for next season.
It has been proven again and again that the best way to build a winner is through the draft. Just look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts and their seven combined rings won in the last nine Super Bowls.
That does not mean teams cannot find some quick fixes for some weaknesses via free agency. Here are 10 teams that need to correct some mistakes from the 2011 season.
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Who they need: Matt Flynn
I expect the Washington Redskins to make a move for either Robert Griffin III or Peyton Manning. If they do neither, Flynn is the guy they need.
I have been a Matt Flynn guy since his days at LSU. I thought he had efficient game manager written all over him, which is exactly what the Redskins need.
When Flynn set the Green Bay Packers record for passing touchdowns is a game (I can't wait for a few years to pass so I can start winning bar bets on that one), he proved he could be capable of even more. What the Redskins found out this past season is that Rex Grossman is too mistake-prone and that John Beck is too trigger-shy.
The Redskins have a solid defense and playmakers like Santana Moss and Fred Davis. They have as many as four running backs capable of picking up 100 yards on the ground on any given Sunday.
They could still use another receiver, but what they need most is a quarterback that can play mistake-free football and move the ball down the field.
Flynn is that guy.
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Who they need: Kyle Orton
I don't know if the Jacksonville Jaguars have, but I've given up on Blaine Gabbert already, and I am a guy that usually preaches patience when it comes to young quarterbacks.
My disappointment with Gabbert does not have anything to do with his arm or athletic ability. I have never seen a worse "chuck and duck" quarterback, a guy clearly afraid to be hit by oncoming pass-rushers, to the point where it affects his throws on nearly every pass.
Even if I am wrong about Gabbert and he learns to stand tall in the pocket (though I do not think that can be taught), they need to bring in some competition. He cannot spend the offseason thinking he is Jacksonville's guy, no matter what.
A veteran like Orton would push Gabbert to maximize his ability, and if he fails, Orton can come off the bench in an instant.
Orton has played the role of the babysitter before. It happened to him with the Chicago Bears, when he led the team to the playoffs, only to be replaced by Rex Grossman. Of course, it happened with the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow, and he came off the bench to hand the undefeated Green Bay Packers their first loss with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Orton would be a perfect fit for Jacksonville's quarterback situation.
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Who they need: Jason Campbell
I was a big fan of all the moves the Seattle Seahawks made last offseason—everything but quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson had by far the best season of his career, but still had more turnovers than touchdowns and a quarterback rating under 80.
The Seahawks brought in deep threat Sidney Rice, dependable tight end Zach Miller and lineman Robert Gallery to help solidify a young and talented offensive line.
I just do not trust Jackson. Generally, athletes do not peak after 25. Jackson will turn 29 in April and has done nothing to inspire trust.
Assuming they re-sign Marshawn Lynch, they have a great running back, solid defense and offensive line and good, young receiving corps. If Pete Carroll is still high on Jackson, they should bring in Campbell for no other reason than to push Jackson as the starter.
If Jackson plays his way out of the position (which I would expect), Campbell could step in as the better version of Jackson. Like Jackson, Campbell is mobile and has the big arm, but has a much better track record.
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Who they need: Anthony Spencer
The Arizona Cardinals have 35-year-old Clark Haggans starting at outside linebacker. The aging 'backer did not make a lot of plays in 2011, and it is time to find a replacement.
Spencer is 27 years old and could be overlooked as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys. They have a solid linebacking corps in DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Brady James, and will probably concentrate their efforts on improving a woeful secondary.
Spencer had six sacks and a career-high four forced fumbles this season. He would be a solid playmaker next to 23-year-old Sam Acho and help solidify a below-average defense.
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Who they need: Cory Redding
Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are great at getting to the quarterback, but are subpar at stopping the run. Having two of them means the Indianapolis Colts must almost exclusively must be playing with a lead, or they will suffer the consequences, as they did this season.
The Colts are ready to draft Andrew Luck and all but ready to say goodbye to Peyton Manning. A rookie quarterback, even one as highly touted as Luck, will not always be playing with a lead. The Colts need a defensive lineman who can stop the run.
Redding can play end or tackle and comes from an organization known for stopping the run, the Baltimore Ravens. He would make a great complement to, or replacement for, their own free agent, Mathis.
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Who they need: Marques Colston/Vincent Jackson/Dwayne Bowe
If the Denver Broncos are serious about moving forward with Tim Tebow as their quarterback, they need to find him some weapons.
If there is one pass Tebow can make, it is the deep ball. Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There are three primary receivers adept at tracking down deep throws on the free-agent market in Colston, Jackson and Bowe, and the Broncos should have a chance at prying one of the three from their current teams.
The New Orleans Saints could get distracted by working on new contracts for Drew Brees and Carl Nicks, the top lineman in the free-agent class. Jackson has had dispute after dispute with the San Diego Chargers. The Kansas City Chiefs are in a state of change, and brought in a first-round pick with similar talents in Jonathan Baldwin.
The free-agent trio can all get up for the jump ball, but are also rangy (all are 6'2" or taller) and make a big window to snag Tebow's inaccurate passes.
New York Jets
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Who they need: Peyton Hillis
The New York Jets pride themselves on a "ground and pound" offense, but found little of that in 2011. They thought they had a rising star in Shonn Greene, but he is not the guy to carry an offense. LaDanian Tomlinson is contemplating retirement, but even if he returns, is no longer a feature back.
Peyton Hillis has likely burned too many bridges to return to the Cleveland Browns. He was expected to be the star of a resurgent Browns offense, but left them high and dry with mysterious illnesses and injuries.
It is clear Hillis wants a big contract, and New York is the city to get one.
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Who they need: Jermichael Finley, TE
The Oakland Raiders have plenty of speedsters on the outside, but no one who can run a precise route and pick up a tough first down. Kevin Boss is a solid tight end, but does not have the ceiling of Finley.
Besides, just ask the New England Patriots how a two-tight end system can work out.
Finley has the ability and athleticism to be the next great player at his position. If he wants to maximize his individual talent (not to mention his paycheck), he needs to get out of Green Bay. There, he will be nothing but one of Rodgers' toys, along with Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb.
Besides, the Packers have already won a Super Bowl without Finley, and will not enter a bidding war.
Finley would be a perfect presence in the middle of the field, opening up room for Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore makes the big plays.
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Who they need: Curtis Lofton, LB
The Pittsburgh Steelers are not know for flashy free-agent signings. However, they have holes that need to be filled, and not all of it can be done in the draft.
The Steelers have to get creative, as they played this season $25 million over the cap. They have 11 free agents, but only three that should be seen as necessities: Mike Wallace, Byron Leftwich and maybe Max Starks, pending the team's opinion on the health of right tackle Willie Colon, and whether or not Marcus Gilbert can make the switch to left tackle.
If they need to, the team can say goodbye to both Hines Ward and James Farrior, who are staring retirement in the face, to save cash for Lofton.
Lofton actually reminds me of their last two big splashes in free agency: Farrior was one, but he is 37 years old and only capable of tackling those who run right into him. The other was Ryan Clark, who has been an excellent match next to Troy Polamalu.
Both were underrated free agents who came to their own in Pittsburgh. Lofton had 147 tackles this season and would fit perfectly into the team's 3-4 scheme.
How could that fly under the radar? Well, Farrior was the NFL's second-leading tackler when the team signed him a decade ago.
If you're not a fan of an NFC South team, ask yourself, have you ever heard of Curtis Lofton? And did you know he was that good of a player?
Probably not, and that is what makes him a perfect Steelers signing.
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Who they need: Stephen Tulloch
Point blank, the Philadelphia Eagles need a middle linebacker that can tackle, something they have not had since I started watching football nearly 20 years ago.
Seriously, I do not know when these guys will learn. They have had a great secondary and solid defensive line for years, but just keep overlooking the linebacker position. Tulloch had over 100 tackles for the Detroit Lions last season and would be a great fit in the middle of their 4-3 scheme.
The Lions have plenty of work to do in the offseason, like re-signing playmaking defensive end Cliff Avril and extending Calvin Johnson's contract. A team like the Eagles could easily swoop in and steal Tulloch.
This team needs a linebacker that can make some plays, now. Tulloch fits the bill.