NFL Teams That Still Have Holes to Fill This Offseason
Nearly two weeks into the free-agent signing period, many NFL teams have made deals to bring in the pieces they feel will bring them a championship.
As the market starts to dwindle, teams with holes to fill are left to decide between the players remaining in free agency and the upcoming NFL draft, which is just about a month away.
Finding the right fit or the best replacement for a player who has gone elsewhere is essential this time of year.
We will take a look at 10 teams that will be faced with that very decision, along with some of the players they may be considering.
Hole to Fill: Quarterback
Clearly, the Buffalo Bills recognize they need to head in a new direction. That was made evident when they released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Buffalo obviously didn't feel Fitzpatrick was the quarterback to take the team into the future under new head coach Doug Marrone, but are they saying that Tarvaris Jackson is? If you're a fan of the Bills, you probably hope that isn't their plan.
In four years with the Bills, Fitzpatrick threw for 11,654 yards to go with 80 touchdown passes. Jackson has just over 7,000 yards passing in his entire six-year career.
Currently, Jackson and Aaron Corp are the only two quarterbacks on the roster. With players like Stevie Johnson, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Brad Smith, the Bills can be explosive on offense, but they need to find the kind of franchise quarterback who they have lacked since Jim Kelly retired.
The Bills hold the No. 8 pick in the first round of April's draft. They would probably love to get their hands on Geno Smith from West Virginia, who Marrone knows well from his days coaching in the Big East.
Smith has a strong arm and displays great ball security. He should easily be the first quarterback selected this year. With teams in need of a signal-caller in front of them, the Bills may have to draft their second choice.
Ryan Nassib is another guy Marrone is familiar with, mainly because he was also his head coach at Syracuse.
Nassib is an intriguing prospect, but he may not be worth a first-round draft choice. No one would know that better than Marrone.
Nassib shows strong leadership skills and good decision-making, but he doesn't have the strongest, most accurate arm.
Hole to Fill: Quarterback
No team dealt with more issues at the quarterback position in 2012 than the Arizona Cardinals. Yes, much of that was due to the offensive line, which the Cardinals must address as well, but the play at quarterback was just flat-out bad.
Between Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer, the team had 21 interceptions to go with a mere 11 touchdown passes.
The team recently made the decision to part ways with Kolb, despite signing him to a six-year, $65 million contract less than two years ago. Kolb reportedly rejected a restructured deal.
New head coach Bruce Arians was asked about the quarterback situation and said the position has already been addressed with the addition of career backup Drew Stanton.
That's sure interesting, considering the fact that Stanton has played in just 12 games in his career, throwing five touchdowns and nine interceptions.
An argument can certainly be made that the team needs to address the offensive line before it finds a quarterback, but how many games is Stanton going to win? Do the Cardinals just take their lumps this coming season in hopes that the 2014 draft produces a better crop of prospects? That is certainly a possibility.
Still, the team should consider Geno Smith at No. 7 in the first round of the draft.
Hole to Fill: Middle Linebacker
The Denver Broncos are easily one of the favorites to play in the Super Bowl next season, but if there is one hole on this team, it is a glaring one in the middle of the defense.
Joe Mays started the 2012 season at middle linebacker, but he had a disappointing season that was marred by this hit (video) on Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and ended early due to a knee injury.
Keith Brooking replaced Mays and gave what he could to the team, but he will be 38 years old this season.
The Broncos were eaten up by opposing tight ends regularly. Dennis Pitta and Greg Olsen each had one of their best games of the season against the Broncos. This is something that must be addressed.
Should the Broncos turn to the draft to fill the position, Jon Bostic out of Florida would be an excellent choice.
Bostic is a quick, athletic player who would be able to provide a boost in pass coverage while still being a complement to Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard.
However, Brian Urlacher remains an option as well. After recently departing (NFL.com) from the only team he has ever played with (the Chicago Bears), Urlacher seems undecided on where, or even if, he'll play again.
Urlacher, who will turn 35 in May, could come to Denver on a one- or two-year deal, looking to capture that elusive championship.
And even with his best days behind him, he would still be an upgrade over Mays and Brooking.
Green Bay Packers
Hole to Fill: Offensive Line
Despite giving up 51 sacks in 2012, second most in the NFL, the Packers still won the NFC North division and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs.
Still, you can only take so much of seeing Aaron Rodgers get dragged to the ground.
The Packers were also only able to gain 3.9 yards per carry, turning them into a one-dimensional offense in a lot of games.
The Packers need to address this in the upcoming draft. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the first round, but they need to find one or two linemen in April.
Protecting Rodgers will be key in 2013, and churning out more yardage on the ground in order to balance out the offense will make the passing game even more potent than it already is.
A more minor hole to fill is at the running back position. The Packers have a lot of good role players in DuJuan Harris, Brandon Saine, James Starks and Alex Green, but none of these guys should be in a feature role. For the most part, they've proven they're not all that durable.
Barrett Jones from the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide would be an excellent draft choice for the Packers, and one they could get in the second round.
At 6'5", 310 pounds, Jones is a very versatile player who can line up anywhere. He is solid in both run-blocking and pass protection, and he would make a lot of sense in Green Bay.
Kyle Long out of Oregon, son of Howie Long, is another potential prospect who Green Bay could mold into a solid NFL lineman. He looked very good at the scouting combine, running a 4.9-second 40-yard dash.
Long is a strong athlete and another player the Packers could get in the second or third round.
New England Patriots
Hole to Fill: Wide Receiver
It hasn't ever mattered who lined up at the wide receiver position in New England as long as Tom Brady was playing quarterback, but this coming season, it just might.
Yes, Brady still has his tight ends, oft-injured Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but with Deion Branch and Julian Edelman both free agents, the Patriots will have a completely different receiving corps next season.
Danny Amendola and Donald Jones were both brought in, but Brady needs another target. Amendola was signed to replace Welker in the slot position, but the Pats need another outside threat in order for that to work.
Justin Hunter is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year's draft. At 6'4" and 200 pounds, he would give Brady a big, athletic receiver with the ability to make tough catches.
Hunter is the type of receiver the Patriots haven't had for many years, and having him on the outside would make Amendola twice as dangerous.
The team should also consider bringing Branch or Edelman back for another season , if nothing else for their familiarity with the offense.
New Orleans Saints
Holes to Fill: Backup Quarterback, Secondary
Daniel never saw much action behind Drew Brees, and neither will anyone else barring injury. Still, the team needs to find someone to handle the duties.
Last season, the Saints gave up incredible numbers in the passing game, including 31 touchdown passes, which was tied for most in the league.
They were able to sign (ESPN) Keenan Lewis from Pittsburgh, which was a key move for them, but it may not be a bad idea to look for more depth so opposing offenses aren't throwing all over them next season, forcing a comeback effort nearly every single game.
Matt Scott out of Arizona and Zac Dysert from Miami of Ohio are two players the Saints could consider taking in the draft and grooming as Brees' backup.
Should they choose to sign a veteran to fill the spot, Jason Campbell and Rex Grossman are available.
In the secondary, Jordan Poyer could be a player to target in the draft. He has good ball skills and excellent instincts.
Though Poyer does need to work on receivers using a physical edge on him, he would add depth to the secondary and could challenge Jabari Greer at some point for a starting position.
Tyrann Mathieu, who played at nearby LSU, may come with some baggage, but he also may be well worth the risk.
Mathieu has terrific instincts and ball skills, and he makes up for his lack of size (5'9", 186 lbs) with athletic ability.
Aside from playing in the secondary, Mathieu will also be a tremendous special teams weapon for the team that takes a chance on him.
New York Jets
Hole to Fill: Running Back
Let's be honest: New general manager John Idzik has his work cut out for him with this team.
While the Jets likely have holes all over the place, we'll focus on the running back situation, which took a big blow when Shonn Greene left for Tennessee. Greene's departure was not unexpected.
It leaves the Jets with just Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson, Joe McKnight and John Griffin at running back. Unless the team is totally going to get away from Rex Ryan's ground-and-pound style, that quartet probably isn't going to cut it.
The Jets will likely have a shaky situation at quarterback all season, regardless of who gets the starting job, and they will need a guy they can rely on.
Turner is a bruising runner who has gained 7,338 yards on the ground over the course of his career. At 31 years old, Turner should still have another year or two in the tank.
Also available is former New York Giant Ahmad Bradshaw. Though durability would definitely be a concern, Bradshaw just turned 27 and has averaged 4.6 yards per carry on over 900 rushing attempts during his six-year career.
If the Jets turn to the draft, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell is built for the offense of the Jets.
Bell is a tough runner who is very good at running inside between the tackles. The Jets could likely grab him in the third or fourth round, and it would make a lot of sense if they did.
Hole to Fill: Offensive Line
Mike Vick had a very disappointing 2012 season, but some of that can be attributed to the play of the offensive line, which was just atrocious.
The Eagles gave up 48 sacks on the season, which was fifth-worst in the league.
With new head coach Chip Kelly coming in to install what will likely be a completely new offense, the offensive line will have to play much better in order for it to be successful.
The team still has Jason Peters at left tackle, but an upgrade over Todd Herremans at right tackle should be high on the to-do list.
Kyle Long, who Kelly coached at Oregon, has to be considered a strong possibility to come to Philadelphia through the draft.
Another name to watch is Menelik Watson, a tremendous prospect out of Florida State. He will need to develop his pass protection, but his run-blocking skills are very good.
Holes to Fill: Wide Receiver, Running Back
Are the Steelers on the downswing? One of the league's models of consistency missed the playoffs in 2012 and lost wide receiver Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall to free agency.
The Steelers have always promoted a next-man-up philosophy, but they need some more options at two of the main skill positions.
Aside from Burress, the Steelers will rely heavily on Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, but finding a young player in the draft would be a smart move, especially considering Burress will be 36 years old when the season starts.
With Mendenhall leaving for Arizona, the Steelers are down to Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Baron Batch at running back. All three are plodding, tough runners who fit the Steelers' style well, but a change-of-pace runner should be targeted.
Though they would have to use their first-round pick to get him, the Steelers should strongly look at Cordarrelle Patterson out of Tennessee.
Patterson has big-play ability and explosive athleticism. He and Ben Roethlisberger could form a dangerous combination in the passing game.
Later in the draft, the team could select Kenjon Barner out of Oregon.
Barner would fit in well with the rest of the Steelers' running back rotation, providing a great change of pace with his speed and quickness. The Steelers could probably find him in the fourth round.
San Diego Chargers
Hole to Fill: Offensive Line
Philip Rivers had a miserable 2012 season. Having to pick himself up off the field after being sacked 49 times was a major reason why.
San Diego holds the No. 11 pick in the first round of the upcoming draft, and it needs to improve the offensive line.
Jared Gaither has been playing the left tackle position the last two seasons, but that will likely change next season.
The Chargers would love to get their hands on either Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher in the draft, but both will likely be gone by No. 11.
The Chargers could consider trading up with a team like Oakland at No. 3 in order to ensure they get one of them, but if they can't make that work, selecting Lane Johnson from Oklahoma would be the next best thing.
Johnson is very smart and displays excellent footwork. He is also a versatile player who can easily line up at either tackle position.
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