NFL Teams Who Should Be Targeting Best Available Free Agents
For the most part the 2013 NFL offseason is over. However, there are still some available free agents who can immediately contribute.
Likewise, there are teams that could use the help of certain players.
This list was compiled by looking at specific player fits for teams. If a team has a need at a position and a reason to immediately address that position, it was considered. If, in addition to this, there is also a starting-caliber player available at that position, this team is probably on this list.
Most teams are done with free agency and rightfully so. But which teams should still be actively pursuing players?
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Though the Vikings seem likely to upgrade from within, Minnesota really should consider adding long-time rival Brian Urlacher into the fold. The team didn't upgrade at middle linebacker through the draft, and the position remains an area of weakness.
Erin Henderson seems likely to start in the middle, but he isn't really a great option as a starter. Henderson is much better suited as a backup.
Urlacher may not be anything incredible at this point. He is, however, still a strong presence and a terrific leader. He would almost certainly make Minnesota's defense better.
San Diego Chargers
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Even before Melvin Ingram tore his ACL, San Diego's pass rush was a notable weak spot. The team had Dwight Freeney in to visit, and for good reason.
Freeney played in a 3-4 defense for the first time in 2012, and though the results weren't great, he would serve as an upgrade for the Chargers. Even as age and injury begin to hinder Freeney, he is a legitimate threat off the edge.
The Chargers don't have a single pass-rusher capable of frightening an offense. Freeney may not be that guy anymore either. But he is closer than anyone San Diego currently has.
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Throughout the offseason, Tennessee has been linked to John Abraham. It makes sense—the team struggled to rush the passer in 2012 and didn't do much to upgrade—but as of yet, nothing has happened.
Despite playing at age 34 last year, Abraham still produced 10 sacks—3.5 more than anyone on Tennessee. Clearly, the Titans could benefit from Abraham's presence.
This move wouldn't suddenly give the Titans a great pass rush. It would improve the unit, however, and that subtle improvements often result in big gains.
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Right now, Tashaun Gipson—a 2012 undrafted free agent with 33 career tackles—is Cleveland's free safety. Granted, no one knows just what Gipson is capable of, but it's impossible to truly feel comfortable with him starting.
Conveniently, Kerry Rhodes, who last year started 15 games for Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton, is available. Rhodes started at free safety under Horton for two seasons and is still just 30 years old.
Few will confuse Rhodes for a star safety. He is a good player, though, and it's a bit baffling why he's still available, especially given the Browns' obvious need.
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Cordy Glenn is cemented at left tackle for the Bills. Unfortunately, Erik Pears is a bit of a liability at right tackle and the team would be well-served by replacing him.
For some unknown reason, Eric Winston is available. Winston rated as ProFootballFocus' No. 26 offensive tackle in 2012, well ahead of Pears at No. 62.
With a rookie quarterback and all-around shaky offense, Buffalo needs a strong offensive line. The loss of Andy Levitre to Tennessee already weakened the unit and an upgrade at right tackle could go a long way.
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With John Abraham apparently unlikely to return, Atlanta needs a replacement at defensive end. The team is starting fresh at the position with Osi Umenyiora, but Kroy Biermann isn't a great option opposite him.
Assuming Abraham is indeed out of the picture, Dwight Freeney is the team's best option. Freeney is better off in a 4-3 defense like Atlanta's, and he is still capable of providing a pass rush.
The Falcons don't have any great options here, but the acquisition of Freeney would improve a rough position. He shouldn't be too expensive for the team either.
New England Patriots
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After releasing defensive tackles Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love in back to back days, New England is in need of depth and starter talent along the interior defensive line. Fortunately, there are several available options.
Sedrick Ellis is one of these. The former top 10 pick is talented but never lived up to expectations. He would probably start next to Vince Wilfork.
If the team is interested in reviving the past, Richard Seymour is available. Seymour's play has declined with age, but he would be great depth in New England.
The Patriots' defensive tackle situation is in trouble. New England isn't new to defensive struggles, but this one could be easily remedied.
New York Giants
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Keith Rivers. Dan Connor. Jacquian Williams.
That is the Giants' starting linebacker corps. Both Connor and Rivers have struggled with injuries, and neither is great when healthy. Williams is a complete unknown.
While another injury risk, Daryl Smith is at least talented. He missed almost all of 2012 with a groin injury but was excellent in 2011. There are of course other options at linebacker, as well—Brian Urlacher and Nick Barnett remain potential upgrades.
There are no signs pointing towards New York bringing in a linebacker. The team's run defense would be thankful if it did, though.
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The Redskins are another team that could benefit from Eric Winston's services. Tyler Polumbus was, according to ProFootballFocus, the NFL's No. 77-ranked offensive tackle. Winston was considerably higher at No. 26.
Winston is a perfect fit in Mike Shanahan's zone blocking scheme, and he would provide a significant upgrade over Polumbus. This isn't a great offensive line, but Winston's presence would make it better.
Robert Griffin is returning from a torn ACL, and the team would like to keep him healthy in 2013. An improved offensive line would be a good start in achieving that goal.
Green Bay Packers
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It's no secret that Green Bay's defense has struggled in recent years. Returning healthier and with a couple new additions, the Packers have a chance to be much better in 2013. However, one position stands out as a weak spot.
Morgan Burnett has shown potential at strong safety, and he at least deserves a chance to start. The same can't be said for M.D. Jennings. It goes against Ted Thompson's beliefs to bring in free agents, but Kerry Rhodes or even Quintin Mikell could make a huge difference for the Packers.
It's tough to say just how good Green Bay's defense will be in 2013. On the other hand, it is easy to say that a simple free safety addition could make the unit noticeably better.