To-Do Lists for Every New NFL GM Hire
Each new NFL general manager has a tough road ahead of him. GM jobs do not become available after winning seasons and rosters filled to the brim with talent.
Instead, the seven men that have been hired will inherit teams in desperate need of transition and a new direction.
Which of the NFL's bottom-dwellers will look for a quarterback at the top of April's draft? How many new GM hires enter a situation where the cupboard is not completely bare?
Let's take a look at the to-do list for every new GM hire, starting in the desert.
Arizona Cardinals: Steve Keim
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1. Find a Franchise Quarterback
Let's just go ahead and label this point as obvious. Arizona has to find a franchise quarterback in order to move forward.
Be it through the draft, a trade or free agency, the Cardinals must decide who is going to take the snaps next season.
2. Just to emphasize the point...Arizona needs a QB
I could make this all five of Arizona's points, but it cannot be stressed enough. Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley all took turns this past season, and each seemed worse than the last.
There may have been a glimmer of hope for Kolb when Andy Reid flirted with the coaching job, but now even he is on the chopping block.
3. Draft or sign some tackles to protect that new signal-caller
Just like most teams looking for a new quarterback, the Cardinals also need to find players to protect him. Levi Brown is returning from tearing his tricep, but is due to be upgraded regardless. Nate Potter has proved ineffective as well.
Arizona needs more balanced offensive tackles who can shoulder the burden of both run and pass blocking. Brown and Potter do not seem to be the answer. And while they are certainly not the only reason that Arizona struggled last season, they were a definite problem.
4. Replace Paris Lenon
Should we be blunt about this? Paris Lenon is not worthy of a starting spot on any NFL defense. Statistically, he had one of the best seasons of his career with 102 tackles. Realistically, he is 35 years old and does not have the burst or quickness to move laterally against the run.
Lenon has just two forced fumbles and three interceptions in three years with the Cardinals, and an upgrade at inside linebacker is needed.
5. Decide what to do at running back
Does Keim believe that Ryan Williams can stay healthy long enough to be productive for an entire season? Maybe so, but that is a big risk to take. Williams looks great when he is on the field, so it is understandable to give him another chance.
Chris "Beanie" Wells, meanwhile, has been nothing short of abysmal. When he was not injured last season, he averaged only 2.7 yards per carry.
Keim needs to either stick with Williams or at least find a better No. 2 option should he get injured again.
Carolina Panthers: Dave Gettleman
1. Find Defensive Tackles
The Carolina Panthers are not deplete of talent, but incoming GM Dave Gettleman will have holes to fill, the most glaring of which is at defensive tackle.
Dwan Edwards is set to hit the open market, and as a result, Carolina desperately needs bodies to clog up the middle of the field.
2. Figure Out how To Stay under the Salary Cap
Big contracts to guys like DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton have helped put the Panthers $15 million over the salary cap heading into 2013.
Obviously, this is an issue that Gettleman must address. There is $89 million between Williams, Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart alone.
Gettleman must find a way to stay under the cap while addressing the other needs on this list. In other words, don't expect many free-agent signings. Carolina will be doing its heavy lifting in the draft.
3. Find a Cornerback Opposite Chris Gamble
Captain Munnerlyn is a free agent, and the truth is that he was not a stable option at cornerback opposite Chris Gamble anyway. Munnerlyn struggled in man coverage and was routinely beat over the top.
Cornerback is not a position that can be left vacant for long, so Gettleman needs to fill this hole early in the draft.
4. Address the Offensive Line
Jordan Gross is 33 years old, and his play is starting to show it. Similarly, guys like Geoff Hangarter and Byron Bell are holding this offense back from being even more dynamic and explosive.
Gettleman is in a tough spot because of the salary-cap issues, but Carolina has most of the offensive skill guys in place. It just needs better blocking up front.
5. Find another Wide Receiver
I said Carolina has "most of the offensive skill guys in place," but a new wide receiver needs to be brought in at some point.
Brandon LaFell had a decent 677 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season, but the Panthers could use a better No. 2 option and possibly even an eventual replacement for Steve Smith as the No. 1 guy.
Cleveland Browns: Michael Lombardi (sorta)
Note: The Cleveland Browns have opted not to hire a GM in place of Tom Eckert. Instead, former Browns executive Michael Lombardi will rejoin the organization as VP of Player Personnel and handle most of the decision-making.
1. Figure out what to do with Brandon Weeden
Mike Holmgren decided that Brandon Weeden was the long-term answer to the Cleveland Browns' QB problems.
Well, that was not the most popular decision in the world, and Weeden is already approaching the age of 30. Lombardi and new head coach Rob Chudzinski may want to put their stamp on the franchise by hand-picking their own franchise QB.
Or maybe they want to give Weeden a chance. Either way, a direction clearly needs to be decided before the draft.
2. Get a decent pass-rusher at linebacker
Quick piece of Browns trivia: Who led the team in sacks this past season? The correct answer is Jabaal Sheard with only seven.
The moral of this story? Cleveland needs players that can get to the quarterback if the defense is going to improve. Juqua Parker-Thomas is headed for free agency, and the Browns depth chart is looking increasingly thin.
3. Wide receiver depth is a must
Nobody drops more passes than Greg Little. Cleveland cannot allow Little to remain a No.1 or No. 2 wideout, and Josh Gordon's explosiveness is limited when there is not a legitimate threat lined up next to him.
Cleveland needs to bring in wide receiver talent to bolster the offense and help take some pressure off the shoulders of Trent Richardson in the backfield.
4. Re-sign the kickers
This point is simple, but still important. Kicker Phil Dawson and punter Reggie Hodges both need to be re-signed.
5. Decide a direction for the No. 6 pick in the draft
There are so many areas of need that Cleveland could quite literally do just about anything with the No. 6 pick in the draft.
Will Lombardi look for a franchise QB? Will a cornerback be drafted to line up opposite Joe Haden?
The No. 6 pick will be the first big move of Lombardi's second stint in Cleveland and could go a long way towards building a decent relationship with the fans if he gets it right.
Jacksonville Jaguars: David Caldwell
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1. Find a Franchise QB
You may notice a trend start to develop here. Bad teams tend to need good quarterbacks. It is impossible to succeed in the NFL without a good quarterback, and Dave Caldwell knows it.
So, does he believe Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne is the long-term solution? Well, Gabbert has refused to improve since being drafted. He is timid in the pocket, makes ill-advised throws and has already wasted too much of Jacksonville's time.
Henne, meanwhile, may not be the franchise guy, but he is a serviceable "stop-gap" solution until Caldwell brings in his leading man.
2. Stick to the decision to avoid Tebow
Caldwell's opening press conference was nothing short of epic. The way in which he quickly and defiantly shot down any chance of Tim Tebow joining the Jaguars was a great way to assert his control of the team.
Now that he has made that proclamation, Caldwell must stand by it. He cannot change his mind and give in to Tebowmania. If he does, it will look like he does not have firm control over his job or Jacksonville's front office.
3. Look for a defensive end...again
Jacksonville has been down this road before (here's looking at you Derrick Harvey). The Jaguars need pass-rushers that can cause problems off the edge and get to the quarterback.
No team in the NFL had fewer sacks than Jacksonville this past season. Jason Babin showed some signs of life, but even if he can sustain his play, one good defensive end is not enough.
Jeremy Mincey struggled and so did Andre Branch, It's always a risky proposition, but the Jaguars have to find an elite pass-rusher in the draft.
4. Find a shutdown cornerback
The Jaguars ranked 22nd in the NFL against the pass because there were simply not enough playmakers in the secondary, particularly at cornerback. Rashean Mathis is 32 years old, Aaron Ross struggles when he does not have help over the top and Derek Cox has battled too many injuries.
Can Jacksonville find a great cornerback in the draft? Could Caldwell possibly pull off the trade of the century and bring Darrelle Revis to Jacksonville?
Whatever route Caldwell takes, it needs to end with a new No. 1 cornerback on the depth chart.
5. Draft Jarvis Jones
This one goes at the bottom of the list because it is more of wishful thinking than anything else. We already said Jacksonville needs pass-rushers, particularly at the defensive end position, but outside linebacker is not exactly a strength right now and Jarvis Jones should be available with the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Jones is one of the few players in this year's class that truly stands out. He is explosive, instinctive and can make plays everywhere on the field. If the Jaguars want to make a draft pick that truly gets the fanbase excited, then Jones is the way to go.
Kansas City Chiefs: John Dorsey
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1. Figure out what to do with the No. 1 pick
Things are not as bad as they may seem in Kansas City. Sure, the team is coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but there are six Pro Bowlers on this roster and Andy Reid is a proven offensive guru.
That being said, new GM John Dorsey has his work cut out for him with the No. 1 overall pick. No one appears to be "the guy." There is no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in this year's class. Instead, there are lesser quarterbacks and one elite left tackle.
Does Dorsey reach for a Matt Barkley or Geno Smith? Or does he take the safe pick in Luke Joeckel?
2. Find a franchise QB
This somewhat goes along with No. 1, but should Dorsey opt to go in a different direction than QB at the top of the draft, he will need to find a solution at some point.
Does he see which QB inevitably falls to the second round? Maybe make a play for a free agent or trade? These are all possibilities.
3. Draft or sign wide receiver help
If Dwayne Bowe does exit stage, left then this obviously becomes a more pressing need. However, even if Bowe stays on board, the Chiefs have virtually no depth at wide receiver.
The team's new quarterback is going to need weapons to spread the ball around to, and Jamaal Charles cannot be forced to run the ball on every play.
If Bowe leaves, Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston cannot be No. 1 and No. 2 on the depth chart once the season opener rolls around.
4. Sort out the defensive end position
Glenn Dorsey is set to hit free agency, and Tyson Jackson has a bloated contract that screams to be let go of.
So Dorsey needs to find some pieces to this puzzle and fast. Dorsey could be re-signed, but that is not a full fledged solution to the problem.
Kansas City could use speed on the outside to take pressure off Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
5. Draft an inside linebacker
Speaking of Hali and Houston, the Chiefs need someone to play between them along with Derrick Johnson.
This is not the most pressing issue seeing, as there is so much talent in this linebacking core, but there is a clear hole in the unit and the draft is the perfect place to find a developmental piece that can be taught by some of the best in the game.
New York Jets: John Idzik
1. Sort out the Darrelle Revis Mess
Taking on the circus that the New York Jets organization has become is no easy task, but the job must be taken one step at a time.
The first order of business will be deciding what to do with Darrelle Revis. There has been talk of a possible trade floating around, and Idzik needs to decide if that is the right course of action or if he wants to keep Revis on-board moving forward.
2. Figure Out How To Part Ways with Tim Tebow
If and when the Jets cut ties with Tebow, Idzik must figure out the best way to do it. There will be a media frenzy regardless of how the move happens, but Idzik needs to see what trade value Tebow has or if cutting him is the better option.
Either way, removing this distraction is a top priority.
3. Decide What Direction To Take At Quarterback
Then, once the strain of the Tebow/Mark Sanchez dilemma has been removed, Idzik can decide who will be under center next season. We know that Rex Ryan is in favor of Sanchez, but Idzik may feel differently.
Will he make a move for a guy like Alex Smith or Matt Flynn? Maybe look toward the NFL draft? These are all possibilities that Idzik has to look at.
4. Assess Potential Draft Picks
Quarterback is not the only need area for the Jets. New York must look at positions such as right tackle, running back and safety in April's draft.
San Diego Chargers: Tom Telesco
1. Quickly Fix Philip Rivers
Tom Telesco's first order of business with the San Diego Chargers absolutely, positively has to be fixing the erratic play of Philip Rivers. Hopefully that can be accomplished through the addition of Mike McCoy as head coach, but things are not likely to change without addressing item No. 2 on this list.
2. Draft Offensive Tackles
The Chargers' worst kept secret has to be the fact that they have terrible offensive tackles. Jared Gaither and Jeromey Clary are glorified pylons and deserve a healthy share of the blame for Rivers 15 interceptions this season. He can't complete long, vertical passes without time to throw the ball.
Drafting an elite tackle at the top of the draft seems like a logical solution.
3. More Issues on the Offensive Line...Sign Guards
It turns out that offensive tackle is not the only weakness along the Chargers front. Louis Vazquez and Tyronne Green are both free agents this offseason, and San Diego needs to ensure they both stay with the team.
Vazquez played much better than Green this past season, but signing them both avoids the need to completely revamp the offensive line. Instead, Telesco can focus on bringing in better tackles while retaining these two guards.
4. Find a Backup Plan for Ryan "always hurt" Mathews
There is a great running back inside of Ryan Mathews; the problem is that we rarely get to see it. Mathews is seemingly always injured, and while that is not his fault, the fact remains that he is a liability.
There are only so many collarbones that Mathews can break, so signing a durable veteran back makes sense, as does looking for a powerful runner in the draft.
Either way, relying solely on Mathews would be a mistake.
5. Look for Wide Receiver Help
Are Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander providing the one-two punch that San Diego needs in the passing game?
If Telesco thinks so then this is a non-issue. But the more likely scenario is that he sees Alexander's penchant for injury and realizes that Floyd is a third or fourth receiver at best.
While Rivers needs to be protected more than anything else, he also needs weapons to get the ball to. Alexander is good when healthy, but San Diego lacks that true No. 1 receiver.