The NFL free-agency period is one of the easiest ways for a team with big holes to make improvements for the coming season. Because it precedes the NFL draft, it gives general managers an opportunity to bring in proven veterans at positions where the prospect crop leaves something to be desired.
And for a handful of organizations, it's the perfect opportunity to make the significant moves that they need to improve their fortunes this fall.
One team that needs to make wholesale improvements to the offensive side of the football is the Arizona Cardinals. They ranked dead last in the NFL in yardage and first downs last year, thanks to the league's worst ground game (leading rusher LaRod Stephens-Howling ran for a meager 357 yards) and a passing offense that barely cracked 3,000 yards thanks to a revolving door of starting quarterbacks.
For new head coach Bruce Arians, those numbers simply will not do. Arians' 9-3 record as interim head coach of the Colts last year came from the success of a balanced offense. Larry Fitzgerald will be the team's top receiver once more, but a 1,000-yard running back should be a priority—as well as upgrading an offensive line that gave up an abysmal 58 sacks last year, most of any team league-wide.
The Detroit Lions dropped off in a big way in 2012, falling to 4-12 from 10-6 the previous year. The culprits were a running game that ranked 23rd in the league in yards, and a defense that ranked 27th in points allowed.
With Jahvid Best injured, Detroit had to rely on young Mikel Leshoure to carry their ground game, while only two Lions had more than one interception last season. Coach Jim Schwartz could use a bona fide running back like Reggie Bush to take the pressure off of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, while an improved pass defense would add some bite to a defense that already boasts a strong line.
One of the better teams in the league that needs to hit free agency in a big way is the New England Patriots, whose holes in the receiving corps and secondary have been exposed more than once over the past few years. Despite stockpiling tight ends in case of injuries to stars Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots' wide receiver situation remains shaky, with Brandon Lloyd a secondary option and confidence in Wes Welker fading fast.
The Patriots also need to address a core of defensive backs that lost all hope in the AFC Championship Game after Aqib Talib went down. With the team reluctant to offer Talib a long-term contract due to his behavioral and injury history, Bill Belichick needs to find another shutdown player who can lead his revolving door of inconsistent cornerbacks and safeties.
But the team that needs to make the biggest splash in free agency is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who seem to have holes everywhere. On the offensive side of the ball, the Jaguars ranked 29th in total yards, thanks to a subpar offensive line and pair of ineffective quarterbacks in Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville's defensive woes range from the front four all the way back. The Jaguars ranked last in the NFL in sacks, while the team has already cut defensive backs Aaron Ross and Dawan Landry for subpar performance last year. Just about anything that the team's front office does in the coming days should be an upgrade.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.