1 Move Each NFL Team Should Make Before the Regular Season Begins
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The NFL regular season will be sneaking up on us soon. However, before it starts, there is a move that each team in the league could really benefit from.
Whether it's a trade, a release or a signing, this move that each team needs to make will be of great benefit to its overall roster and, ultimately, its ability to succeed.
Some of these moves are obvious, while other moves may seem rather bold and surprising.
Here is one move each NFL team needs to make before the start of the regular season.
One Move to Be Made: Give Tyrann Mathieu the starting free-safety job.
In a division filled with talented playmakers like wide receivers Tavon Austin and Percy Harvin, the Arizona Cardinals need to counteract with talented defensive stoppers.
While Yeremiah Bell is a talented safety, he doesn't offer the potential for making huge plays that the rookie Mathieu does. During his time at LSU, Mathieu was often the one who made the game-changing plays when LSU needed them most.
He's dynamic with the ball in his hands and has the ability to constantly be disruptive to an NFL offense. By starting Mathieu at free safety, the Cardinals would have the dynamic playmaker they'd need to square off against the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams two times a year.
One Move to Be Made: Add depth to the receiving corps.
The Atlanta Falcons should once again boast one of the best offenses in the league. With wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White and running back Steven Jackson, the team should be able to put up points in bunches.
However, one move that Atlanta can make to become even more dangerous would be to add an experienced wide receiver to its depth chart. Behind White, Jones and Harry Douglas, the Falcons simply don't have experience at the receiver position.
While players like Drew Davis and Kevin Cone have potential, they don't have the experience that Atlanta needs. A veteran receiver like Braylon Edwards, Brandon Lloyd or Laurent Robinson would add another dimension to the Falcons offense.
One Move to Be Made: Add safety depth to the roster.
The Baltimore Ravens lost both of their starting safeties from their 2012 Super Bowl season. Free safety Ed Reed is now a member of the Houston Texans, while strong safety Bernard Pollard will be suiting up for the Tennessee Titans.
That leaves free-agent safety Michael Huff and rookie Matt Elam as the starting duo for the Ravens heading into this season.
While Huff and Elam will most certainly be the starters, the Ravens lack real depth behind those two players. Should either Huff or Elam get injured, it could be a long season for Baltimore defensively. That's why adding depth to the safety position with a player like Quintin Mikell or Atari Bigby makes sense.
One Move to Be Made: Give EJ Manuel starting job as soon as possible.
What the Bills desperately need is a new leader, and EJ Manuel is that man. He's already receiving high praise from his head coach, per the team's official Twitter account.
The only way this shouldn't happen is if Manuel is light years away from contributing, which would be a disaster for Buffalo.
The idea behind giving him the job as soon as possible is to boost his confidence and promote cohesion between him and his teammates.
The worst-case scenario for the Bills is that they struggle while Manuel gets extremely valuable playing time. Meanwhile, the best-case scenario with Kevin Kolb would be that they hover around .500 or lose in the first round of the playoffs. Going with Manuel early is the right choice.
One Move to Be Made: Trade DeAngelo Williams.
The Carolina Panthers have been stockpiling talent at the running-back position for the past few years, and it needs to stop now. The logical thing to do is to trade one back to a team in desperate need of one.
Enter running back DeAngelo Williams, who has been replaced by former backup Jonathan Stewart in the starting lineup. Sure, he is 30 years old and might not be worth much, but the Panthers could probably at least get a late-round pick for him.
Trading Williams would free up touches for Mike Tolbert and dynamic rookie Kenjon Barner.
If the Panthers fully believe in Stewart as their No. 1 back, anything they could get for Williams would be considered a win.
One Move to Be Made: Release Devin Hester.
This may sound like a drastic move, but it makes sense for the Chicago Bears.
For starters, Hester simply isn't going to be a successful receiver in Chicago. He's only combined for 49 receptions and two touchdowns in the past two seasons. If he hasn't made an impact by this point in his career as a receiver for the Bears, it's not likely that he will this year.
Hester has also lost his elite talent as a kick and punt returner. He didn't return a single kickoff or punt for a touchdown last year. Teams know not to kick in his direction, so he's seen a major drop in his overall production.
By signing Eric Weems last year, the Bears have a capable replacement in the return game for Hester. Considering that Hester's contract will cost the team nearly $3 million this year, it makes sense to release him before the season starts.
One Move to Be Made: Release Adam "Pacman" Jones.
While cornerback Adam Jones was quite good last year as a nickel cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals, this offseason, he was up to his old tricks.
Per ESPN, Jones was arrested last month for allegedly hitting a woman. While no charges have been filed, the fact that he was even accused of this is reason enough for Cincinnati to cut ties with him.
We've seen the NFL shift to being less lenient with troubled players in recent seasons. Simply put, the Bengals don't need the headache of whatever future shenanigans may come Jones' way.
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One Move to Be Made: Add a veteran receiver.
The Cleveland Browns are one of the younger teams in the league. There is plenty to be excited about due to the amount of talent on both sides of the ball.
However, the Browns could also use some experienced veterans, especially at the wide-receiver position. While receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon have loads of talent, they still have a lot to learn. A savvy veteran like Brandon Lloyd could be brought in to offer some leadership and guidance to the youth.
The nice thing about Lloyd is that he doesn't need to be the No. 1 option in Cleveland. At this point in his career, he can be a secondary option and still be of value to a team.
One Move to Be Made: Sign OT Eric Winston.
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys started offensive tackle Doug Free at right tackle. He struggled throughout the entire year, giving up the sixth-most quarterback hurries with 41 in 2012.
The offensive line has been a major weakness for the Cowboys in recent seasons. By adding a talented right tackle like Eric Winston, it could become a strength. Winston finished in the top 25 in pass-blocking, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
With Winston shoring up the right side of the offensive line, Dallas could easily boast one of the better offenses in the league.
One Move to Be Made: Bring back Brandon Stokely.
The Denver Broncos have plenty of talent at wide receiver, so signing Brandon Stokely doesn't make a lot of sense.
However, Stokely proved his value last year with 45 receptions, 544 yards and five touchdowns.
Despite being 37 years old, he still has plenty of value. He's familiar with Peyton Manning and would be able to step in right away and provide another option for the Broncos.
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One Move to Be Made: Start Ryan Broyles at wide receiver.
Wide receiver Ryan Broyles was injured coming out of college, but once he got healthy, he made quite the impact for the Detroit Lions.
While the Lions have the best receiver in the game in Calvin Johnson, they lack playmakers behind him. Veteran receiver Nate Burleson is decent, but doesn't nearly have the ceiling that Broyles does.
By starting Broyles opposite of Johnson, the Lions could have an extremely dangerous and dynamic group of first-team receivers.
Green Bay Packers
One Move to Be Made: Sign a veteran safety.
Few teams boast as complete a roster as the Green Bay Packers do. They have talent on both sides of the ball, including two of the best players in the NFL in quarterback Aaron Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
Still, if there is one weakness on this roster, it's the safety position.
While safety Morgan Burnett has shown flashes of huge potential, the Packers lack talent next to him.
With Burnett signing a contract extension earlier this week, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, he's clearly a part of the franchise's future. However, neither M.D. Jennings nor Jerron McMillian made much of an impact last year.
Bringing in a veteran safety like Kerry Rhodes would allow the Packers to let Jennings and McMillian sit on the bench and develop another year. It would also allow Burnett to play his more natural position of strong safety.
This is a win-win situation for the Packers and a move that could push them over the hump in the extremely talented NFC.
One Move to Be Made: Add some talent at inside linebacker.
The Houston Texans desperately need to add some more talent at inside linebacker before the start of the regular season. Sure, they have inside linebacker Brian Cushing, but there is a lack of talent behind him.
Right now, Houston is expecting to start Darryl Sharpton opposite Cushing. Sharpton has only 74 career tackles after three years in the league, so it's hard to see him making a huge leap in 2013.
Adding a fiery veteran like Bart Scott could be a good move.
While whomever the Texans sign shouldn't automatically win the starting job, it would be good to add some more talent to this unit.
One Move to Be Made: Sign an offensive lineman.
By drafting quarterback Andrew Luck last year, the Indianapolis Colts solidified the quarterback position for the next decade. Now, they need to do everything in their power to assure that he stays healthy.
Bringing in a talented offensive lineman is the move that they need to make. They had the second-worst offensive line in terms of pass protection in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Adding offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard Donald Thomas helps, but it certainly isn't enough. Signing someone like offensive guard Brandon Moore is the logical move and offers too much upside for Indianapolis to not do it.
One Move to Be Made: Sign FB Vonta Leach.
With either Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars this year, the team should seriously consider running the ball as often as possible.
The Jaguars have an extremely talented running back in Maurice Jones-Drew. However, after losing Greg Jones this offseason, they are missing a talented fullback to lead the way.
This is where Vonta Leach, who still holds the title as the best blocking fullback in the NFL, comes in. He'd instantly boost Jones-Drew's production and help Jacksonville field a somewhat-capable offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
One Move to Be Made: Free Dexter McCluster.
No, I'm not talking about releasing the wide receiver/running back. I'm talking about head coach Andy Reid taking the shackles off Dexter McCluster and letting him be more involved in the offense.
Line him up at running back. Let him return kicks and punts. Simply get the ball in his hands any way possible.
McCluster is too dynamic and too much of a weapon not to be used more than he has during his career. He has the ability to be a game-changing offensive player for the Kansas City Chiefs.
It's time they freed him and let him make the plays everyone knows he's capable of.
One Move to Be Made: Release Dan Carpenter.
Look, you can't draft a kicker in the fifth round of the draft and expect him to sit on the bench. Considering most teams sign undrafted free agents as their kickers, it just doesn't make sense to waste a draft pick on a kicker unless you expect to start him.
It also doesn't make much sense to keep two kickers on the roster when you really only need one. That's why the Miami Dolphins need to release veteran kicker Dan Carpenter and stick with rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis.
The Dolphins obviously thought highly enough of Sturgis to draft him, so they should absolutely start him.
One Move to Be Made: Start Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Minnesota Vikings drafted an extremely special player in wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson this year. He has the ability to become the best player from this draft class and an impact player for Minnesota.
Per Kevin Seifert of ESPN, Patterson has already received rave reviews throughout the spring. The next step is for the Vikings to start him opposite newly signed receiver Greg Jennings.
In Patterson, the Vikings have a legitimate game-changing weapon. He's so effective and explosive with the ball in his hands that he is literally a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
With the NFC North boasting some pretty versatile offenses, the Vikings could use all the weapons they can get. This is why they need to give Patterson the starting job early in training camp and let him prove what a go-to player he can be.
New England Patriots
One Move to Be Made: Sign a tight end or receiver.
The 2013 season could end up being rather difficult for quarterback Tom Brady. At this point, the New England Patriots lack many options for him at either tight end or receiver.
If the Patriots feel that tight end Rob Gronkowski is going to miss significant time, then signing a tight end like Dallas Clark makes the most sense. However, if Gronkowski is ready to go for Week 1, then adding depth at the wide-receiver position is the logical move.
Should New England fail to sign either a tight end or wide receiver, we could see Brady struggle mightily at the start of the season.
New Orleans Saints
One Move to Be Made: Trade a running back.
It doesn't matter which running back the New Orleans Saints decide to trade (my personal pick would be Pierre Thomas), but their backfield is simply too crowded for it to be successful.
With Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, the Saints don't have enough offensive snaps in a game to get them all involved. However, if they traded Thomas, gave the starting job to Ingram and only brought in Sproles on passing downs, they'd have a better chance of seeing an improved ground game.
While the Saints will never boast a run-first offense as long as Drew Brees is at the helm, it never hurts to have a trusted running game in the NFL.
New York Giants
One Move to Be Made: Release all other quarterbacks except Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib.
Technically, this would be two moves, as the New York Giants would need to release both David Carr and Curtis Painter, but I won't tell if you won't.
While no one is expecting the Giants to keep four quarterbacks on their roster heading into the regular season, it doesn't make sense to even keep three. Keeping either Carr or Painter to back up Manning could be a major hindrance to the development of Ryan Nassib.
It could also show that New York doesn't have complete faith in Nassib's talents as the primary backup to Manning.
The Giants obviously want to groom Nassib to eventually take over for Manning, so why not trust him with the backup job right now?
New York Jets
One Move to Be Made: Release Mark Sanchez.
Can we just get rid of Mark Sanchez already? All this talk of using rookie quarterback Geno Smith as a "change-of-pace" quarterback, per ESPN's Rich Cimini, is just absurd.
You aren't fooling anyone, Rex Ryan. In fact, you're just making yourself look ridiculous by sticking with Sanchez after he's done absolutely nothing for you.
It's time for the New York Jets to release Sanchez and start a new era with Smith.
One Move to Be Made: Don't start Charles Woodson.
Here's the problem with starting Charles Woodson: He'll be 37 years old in October, and he's rapidly declining as a player.
Sure, Woodson could provide a handful of impact plays during the season, but anyone from the Oakland Raiders expecting more is dreaming. The best role for Woodson is as a situational defensive player.
While this ultimately means that either Usama Young or Reggie Smith would start at free safety, it's a better long-term move for the Raiders.
One Move to Be Made: Trade Brent Celek.
Despite Brent Celek being the top tight-end option last year, the Philadelphia Eagles should make the bold move of trading him. While it's true that you can never have too many options on offense, it's hard to see how Celek fits into the Eagles offense.
With tight ends Zach Ertz and James Casey on the roster, the Eagles can do without Celek. Instead, Philadelphia should look to add some talent or draft picks by trading him.
The offense may take a little hit by losing Celek, but it could help this team in the long run.
One Move to Be Made: Sign a starting-caliber offensive tackle.
Neither Marcus Gilbert nor Mike Adams should be considered a Pro Bowl-caliber offensive tackle. While both have potential since they're young, adding a starting-caliber offensive tackle could pay big dividends this year.
One name that sticks out is Jared Gaither. Although his work ethic is an issue, he's got loads of talent and could step in from day one as a starter. Ben Roethlisberger has been banged up recently, so anything that can be done to protect him in the pocket should be a high priority.
San Diego Chargers
One Move to Be Made: Sign a veteran running back.
By trusting the trio of Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown at running back, the San Diego Chargers could have some difficulty with their ground game.
For starters, Mathews hasn't proved that he can stay healthy, Brown is old and Woodhead doesn't have what it takes to be an every-down running back.
What the Chargers need to do is sign a veteran running back with some mileage left on his tires in case they run into a worst-case-scenario situation.
A running back like Willis McGahee makes a lot of sense. He'd be a cheap option for San Diego and has plenty of experience as a full-time starter.
Even if Mathews does stay healthy, adding a player like McGahee as an insurance policy would hardly hurt this team.
San Francisco 49ers
One Move to Be Made: Trade Kendall Hunter.
A torn Achilles ended running back Kendall Hunter's season prematurely last season. He should be healthy for the start of the season, but rookie LaMichael James played extremely well in Hunter's place.
In fact, James played so well that he could steal a ton of backup carries from Hunter in 2013.
The San Francisco 49ers also drafted Marcus Lattimore this year. Simply put, they have too many talented running backs on the roster.
Hunter is young and talented enough to garner plenty of interest if he is on the trade block. The 49ers could continue to build their dynasty by getting quite a bit in return for Hunter.
One Move to Be Made: Start Bruce Irvin at outside linebacker.
Everyone laughed when the Seattle Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick of the 2012 NFL draft. However, the Seahawks showed just how genius they were once Irvin went on to post eight sacks as a rookie.
Now, Seattle is looking to move him to outside linebacker for the upcoming season, according to Eric D. Williams of The News Tribune. He's currently behind Malcolm Smith on the depth chart, but he shouldn't be.
Even though Irvin is raw in a number of areas, his ability to get after the quarterback is special. Look at what outside linebacker Aldon Smith did for the San Francisco 49ers in his second year in the league. While Irvin might not have that huge of an impact, he could certainly post double-digit sacks this year.
St. Louis Rams
One Move to Be Made: Start Zac Stacy at running back.
After losing running back Steven Jackson to the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, the St. Louis Rams now have a trio of young running backs looking to take his job. Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead are entering their second year in the league, with the rookie Stacy also in the mix.
While Richardson and Pead showed potential last year, Stacy is the one who should get the starting job. He possesses a significant amount of talent and the ability to be a weapon in the passing game, too.
Throw in the fact that Pead is facing a one-game suspension to start the season, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, and the decision to start Stacy becomes even easier.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One Move to Be Made: Sign a running back.
Other than second-year running back Doug Martin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lack depth at the running-back position.
While Martin figures to once again see the majority of the carries this year, it'd still be nice to have a solid second option on the roster. Signing a veteran running back to a relatively cheap deal makes quite a bit of sense for the Buccaneers.
Former Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner would be a solid move. While he's 31 years old, he still has value in short-yardage situations and near the end zone.
The Buccaneers shouldn't be looking for competition for Martin, just an experienced back who can give him a rest once in a while.
One Move to Be Made: Release Nate Washington.
With all the improvements across the offensive line this offseason, the Tennessee Titans figure to rely on the run pretty heavily this year.
However, the Titans also boast loads of talent at the wide-receiver position. From Kenny Britt to Nate Washington to youngsters Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright, quarterback Jake Locker has plenty of options.
In fact, he may have too many options.
By keeping a veteran like Washington on the roster, the Titans are slowing the development of Hunter and Wright. Both of those players have a much higher ceiling than Washington and should be given the chance to shine.
Sure, it's nice to have depth in case Hunter or Wright struggle, but the Titans also have veteran Kevin Walter buried on their depth chart. Releasing Washington could make Tennessee's passing offense more of a threat than it is as currently constructed.
One Move to Be Made: Don't rush Robert Griffin III back.
I'm not sure if this really qualifies as a "move" that the Washington Redskins need to make, but it's wise advice anyways. There is no need to rush your franchise quarterback back from a serious injury.
Even though all reports point to Griffin being ready for Week 1 (heck, even backup quarterback Kirk Cousins told NFL AM that he'll be on the bench, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk), the Redskins need to be extremely cautious with him.
If there is even the slightest chance that Griffin isn't 100 percent for Week 1, Washington needs to sit him. Besides, it has a talented backup in Cousins who is capable of keeping the team competitive for a few weeks.
The last thing the Redskins need is for Griffin to get hurt again. Take it slow—that's all I'm saying.