NFL

Every NFL Team's Biggest Offseason Priority

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2014

Every NFL Team's Biggest Offseason Priority

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Football never sleeps. There is no offseason.

    The champagne hasn't dried at MetLife Stadium, but we are a scant few weeks away from the NFL combine, which precedes free agency by just another couple of weeks.

    What will be each team's priority heading into the offseason? Even the Seattle Seahawks, newly minted champions of the football world, have holes to fill.

    Click through to find out.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Shoring up Pass Protection

    The Arizona Cardinals were awful in pass protection, and that was before they traded away left tackle Levi Brown.

    Quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked 41 times this season, eighth most in the league. Offensive tackles Bradley Sowell and Eric Winston were major offending parties, allowing 14 sacks and a slew of total quarterback pressures.

    Sowell was the worst tackle in the league thanks to the worst pass-blocking efficiency, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Atlanta Falcons

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Pass Rush

    The Atlanta Falcons had several problems during "The Lost Season," all of which could vie for top priority this coming offseason. Their offensive line stunk, the secondary was suspect and quarterback Matt Ryan didn't have many weapons left once receiver Julio Jones went down with injury.

    Even tight end Tony Gonzalez is leaving, retiring for good this time.

    The offense should bounce back with the return of Jones and a little attention to that offensive line. The defense could use a lot of help, though, and fixing the pass rush could be a panacea of sorts.

    Defensive ends Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Massaquoi and Malliciah Goodman didn't get the job done last season, combing for just 11.5 sacks.

    Umenyiora was the best of the bunch with 7.5, but he is no spring chicken at 32. The Falcons need some help up front this coming offseason.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: A Time Machine

    The Baltimore Ravens might be tempted to take a spin back through time if Doc Brown showed up in a flying DeLorean. Incidentally, we are supposed to be one year away from flying cars and hoverboards. Step on the gas, inventors.

    Why would Baltimore want to travel back in time? Well, aside from experiencing the euphoria of Super Bowl victory just a year ago, more practical matters are at hand.

    Had the Ravens signed quarterback Joe Flacco to an extension before the 2012 season, they wouldn't have been forced to dish out a $120 million contract after his spectacular postseason run. General manager Ozzie Newsome has done a fine job dancing around Flacco's contract thus far, but the massive pact could come back to haunt them soon. 

    Newsome will need to give Flacco some weapons to throw to. The big quarterback has struggled after losing receiver Anquan Boldin in a trade and tight end Dennis Pitta to an injury for most of the season.

Buffalo Bills

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    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: A New Tight End

    Believe it or not, the Buffalo Bills are actually a pretty talented squad. While there are certainly holes to fill—as with any other team—there are plenty of good-to-great players all over the roster.

    One position where that is not true is tight end.

    Scott Chandler did a decent job holding down the fort for the past couple of seasons, but the 28-year-old is clearly no Jimmy Graham. He is also slated to hit free agency this March.

    If the Bills want to give young quarterback EJ Manuel a good shot at success, they need to get him some help over the middle.

Carolina Panthers

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Wide Receivers

    With a receiver seemingly from the antediluvian age and little else of value at the position, the Carolina Panthers need an upgrade in a bad way.

    Steve Smith has defied the odds throughout his career, but he is turning 35 this offseason. Behind him lies a wasteland of failed hope and broken promises.

    Brandon LaFell has been pedestrian at best—his best season being a 677-yard jog—and Ted Ginn Jr. has never lived up to that first-round status. 

    If the Panthers are going to build on their 2013 success, they will need to give quarterback Cam Newton some legitimate weapons.

Chicago Bears

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Secondary Help

    For the first time in a while, the Chicago Bears defense was a big problem. Perhaps the biggest reason why was a porous secondary.

    Specifically, safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte were abysmal in 2013. They were the worst and the fifth-worst safeties in the league, respectively, according to Pro Football Focus, allowing nine touchdown receptions and hauling in just four interceptions on the year. They also missed a combined 31 tackles.

    Quarterbacks had an NFL rating of 146.8 on passes thrown in Wright's direction. It was a mere 104.5 for Conte.

    At cornerback, Charles Tillman might have been showing signs of age. After a great 2012 season, he had an injury-marred 2013 that saw his performance plummet. The 32-year-old allowed seven touchdowns on the year.

    The Bears were awful on defense all around, but it was a bloodbath in that secondary.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Michael Jordan's Magic Shoes

    Quarterback purgatory is an awful place.

    Sure, sometimes it can be nice. Especially when compared to quarterback hell, it seems nice. Your quarterback might even put up great fantasy numbers and get to the playoffs on a regular basis.

    But he isn't getting you very far in the postseason, at least not without a defense that rivals Baltimore's from a decade ago.

    Andy Dalton is that man for the Cincinnati Bengals, and they are going to have a tough time figuring out a replacement, or even some good competition, if they keep picking in the latter part of the first round in the NFL draft. Their biggest offseason need is quarterback, but they are in a bad position to address it.

    Dalton is going to need to capture some magic a la Joe Flacco if he is going to lead his team to the next level. 

    The Bengals have a solid roster, which is why they've made the playoffs three years running. Perhaps their biggest need outside of quarterback is cornerback, where Leon Hall is injury-prone and Adam Jones and Terence Newman are getting long in the tooth at 30 and 35 years old, respectively.

Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Quarterback

    From quarterback purgatory we descend into hell.

    Brandon Weeden. Brian Hoyer. Jason Campbell. Brady Quinn. Derek Anderson. Colt McCoy

    The list goes on, and it speaks for itself. 

    Not since Bernie Kosar have the Cleveland Browns had a franchise quarterback, and he was no Tom Brady. It seems that quarterback is a priority in Cleveland on a perennial basis.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: A Salary-Cap Enema

    It's a sad state of affairs in the front office for the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, the general manager is also the owner, and Jerry Jones isn't about to fire himself.

    Dallas is going to need to take a hacksaw to its roster this offseason thanks to some poor salary-cap management. The Cowboys are currently $26 million over the projected cap, according to Spotrac, though they will be able to rework some deals to get under it.

    After they get under the cap, the Cowboys will need to address plenty of issues around the roster. Perhaps the most important one will be the defensive front, which could lose DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher.

    Of course, not having much wiggle room under the cap means Jones will have to get creative and hit it big in the draft.

Denver Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: The Fountain of Youth

    They may have been blown out in Super Bowl XLVIII, but the Denver Broncos are still a great team.

    The Broncos need to locate Ponce de Leon's fabled Fountain of Youth if they really want to keep up this success. Quarterback Peyton Manning is the league MVP for a reason, but he is getting long in the tooth at 37. Not to mention the potential that he might retire this offseason if his neck examination shows a deterioration in the surgically repaired structure.

    Without Manning, the Broncos will be hard-pressed to come close to recent success. Does anyone think Brock Osweiler is going to lead Denver to greatness?

    If the Super Bowl highlighted anything, it was protection issues for Manning. Some of that will be mitigated by the return of left tackle Ryan Clady, but the Broncos would be well served shoring up the interior of that line as well.

Detroit Lions

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    It may not seem like it, but Caldwell is actually laughing here.
    It may not seem like it, but Caldwell is actually laughing here.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: A Mulligan

    Head coach Jim Schwartz lost control of the helm after righting the ship in Detroit a few years ago. The once 0-16 team made the playoffs just three seasons later, and it seemed the young, talented roster was destined for even better things.

    Two years later, the Detroit Lions find themselves here, mired in mediocrity. Schwartz got the axe for a myriad of reasons. A change was necessary in Detroit.

    But was Jim Caldwell the answer?

    The non-emotive head coach has had exactly one winning season between college and the pros when Peyton Manning wasn't his quarterback.

    Of course, the Lions can't really take a mulligan. So they'll take the next best thing—help in the secondary.

    Rashean Mathis had a decent season, but he will be 34 and a free agent next season. Meanwhile, cornerbacks Dwight Bentley, Darius Slay and Chris Houston were all subpar, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Green Bay Packers

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Safety Help

    It seems the Green Bay Packers are perennially trying to fix something on defense. Ever since their Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers—a win that capped a solid year for the defense to go along with that offense—defensive life has been difficult in Green Bay.

    The safety position has been particularly brutal. The Packers gave Morgan Burnett a big extension last offseason, and he rewarded them by allowing four touchdowns and intercepting zero passes.

    M.D. Jennings was worse, allowing an additional touchdown without swiping any passes.

Houston Texans

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Escaping Purgatory

    Matt Schaub has peaked, and he's not exactly rivaling Mount Everest.

    Perhaps the best example of quarterback purgatory is the Houston Texans, who have looked like a Super Bowl contender at times in recent years. The team didn't need MVP performances out of Schaub when the defense and running game were clicking, but things went south in a hurry last season.

    Much like the Bengals, the Texans have been stuck in quarterback purgatory. Unlike Cincinnati, however, Houston has a golden opportunity to escape.

    The Texans earned themselves the first overall pick in the draft with their tankapalooza of a season. Even if there is no Andrew Luck in this draft—and, really, how often does a once-in-a-generation prospect come out of college?—why wouldn't they take a shot at the top quarterback available?

Indianapolis Colts

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Fixing the Offensive Line

    An upgrade here and there could have the Indianapolis Colts right back in the playoffs. 

    Receiver Reggie Wayne's season-ending injury highlighted a need at receiver for Indianapolis, but Wayne should be back in full force next season. Still, the Colts will certainly want to address the depth and perhaps look to find Wayne's future replacement, as he is 35 years old.

    Nothing is more pressing on offense, however, than fixing woes along the offensive line. Specifically, the interior of the offensive line needs an upgrade. Guards Jeff Linkenbach, Hugh Thornton and Mike McGlynn all graded poorly over at Pro Football Focus, and Samson Satele was among the worst in the league at center.

    Perhaps fixing the offensive line will help running back Trent Richardson turn things around, though you shouldn't hold your breath.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stephen Morton/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: What Else? Quarterback

    The Jacksonville Jaguars are in the midst of a rebuilding phase. Well, they are in a new rebuilding phase after having to level everything halfway through the last rebuilding phase.

    Last offseason did not afford the team a good chance to upgrade the quarterback. But Jacksonville has seen enough of Blaine Gabbert.

    Chad Henne was a poor stopgap who could stick around as a backup, but the Jaguars need to address the most important position on the offense. Again.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Wide Receivers

    The Kansas City Chiefs were a mirage last season, a 9-0 ghost that blew away in the playoffs. The defense buckled after facing the Broncos, injuries and regression pulling the team under as the season wore on.

    But the offense needs more help.

    Receiver Dwayne Bowe got a fat contract last offseason, but he is not a No. 1 receiver of the highest caliber. Donnie Avery had a couple of big games, but he isn't exactly a top-flight option, either. Special-teams phenom Dexter McCluster is an average slot receiver at best.

    With so many receivers available in free agency and in the draft, there is no excuse for the Chiefs not to pay serious mind to the position.

Miami Dolphins

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Getting a Daytime Television Show

    The public-relations staff in Miami either deserves a huge pay increase or a round of pink slips. 

    Whether it was the scandal Jonathan Martin set off by accusing Richie Incognito of bullying or the "botched" search for a general manager, the Miami Dolphins can't get out of the NFL tabloids. In lieu of Hard Knocks, perhaps the Dolphins should star in their own daytime television show.

    Now, should it be more like Jerry Springer or Days of Our Lives

    In all seriousness, once the drama is behind Miami—assuming it stops upon the conclusion of the Ted Wells investigation into the Incognito-Martin fiasco—the Dolphins can get back to the business of football. 

    That would include overhauling an offensive line that allowed the opposition to get to quarterback Ryan Tannehill a league-leading and team-record 59 times this season.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Andy King/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Quarterback

    The Christian Ponder experiment is over—or at least it should be.

    The Minnesota Vikings were stuck between a rock and a hard place three years ago when general manager Rick Spielman took the plunge with the risky quarterback out of Florida State. Ponder hasn't panned out, to the point that fellow quarterback Matt Cassel might have wrested the starting gig away.

    The problem is that being in the No. 8 spot in the draft could be too low to invest in the quarterback position. Depending on how teams draft ahead of the Vikings, the best quarterbacks will likely be gone. That would leave them, once again, between a rock and a hard place.

New England Patriots

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: A Healing Mage

    Is Gillette Stadium the new hiding place for a Voldemort horcrux?

    Had the New England Patriots not been cursed this season, the Super Bowl might have been a closer affair. Instead, the Broncos got smashed in a way that is difficult to imagine Bill Belichick would allow.

    Tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo were just some of the big losses the Patriots suffered this season. Various players were also out for extended periods of time.

    Once the Patriots get better, wide receiver seems to be the biggest position of need. Diminutive Julian Edelman was a pleasant surprise. Danny Amendola was a dud in his first season, however, and a host of rookies took turns on the outside.

New Orleans Saints

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Finding a Left Tackle

    Jermon Bushrod wasn't a brick wall at left tackle for the New Orleans Saints, but he was pretty good. Things got rough for quarterback Drew Brees once Bushrod left, though.

    His replacement, Charles Brown, was among the worst offensive linemen in the league this season. He was called for 12 penalties and allowed 49 total quarterback pressures on the year, per Pro Football Focus.

    The rest of the offensive line wasn't bad, but one bad apple can spoil the bunch. Brees needs a new blindside protector.

New York Giants

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    If you look closely, you will spot Eli Manning being swallowed by two giants.
    If you look closely, you will spot Eli Manning being swallowed by two giants.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: An Exorcism

    It might have been Denver quarterback Peyton Manning throwing backbreaking interceptions in the Super Bowl, but his brother, Eli, made that a near-weekly occurrence in the 2013 season.

    Eli was possessed by dispossession this season, leading the league with 27 interceptions. Pass protection was certainly a problem, but the younger Manning just looked like he was lost at times. 

    It wasn't the first time he has led the league in interceptions, though. In fact, he won a Super Bowl after throwing a league-leading 20 interceptions in 2007. He wasn't so lucky after throwing 25 in 2010, but he followed it up with another championship season.

    Manning will have to shake off those demons once again if the Giants are going to have a shot next season. New York would help him by upgrading the offensive line, particularly on the inside.

New York Jets

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Offensive Weapons

    The New York Jets defense can be scary good, particularly once the cornerback position is addressed. Antonio Cromartie crashed back to earth this season, Dee Milliner had a nightmare rookie year and Kyle Wilson is just not very good.

    But the offense needs far more work.

    Quarterback Geno Smith was thrown into the fire as a rookie, but he had no Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to help see him through. 

    Jeremy Kerley was probably his best receiver in 2013, and he only played 12 games. Kerley would likely be a third or fourth option on most teams.

    Stephen Hill has been an abject disappointment since coming into the league, his delectable combination of size and speed not paying off like it has for fellow Georgia Tech alums Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.

    It wasn't much better at tight end, where the Jets alternated between aging Kellen Winslow Jr. and injury-prone Jeff Cumberland, neither of whom strikes fear into opposing defenses.

Oakland Raiders

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: A Prime-Time Makeover Special

    To the surprise of some, the Oakland Raiders weren't the worst team in the league last season, despite alternating between Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin at quarterback.

    General manager Reggie McKenzie finally has a real opportunity to overhaul the roster this offseason after the Raiders were hamstrung in the draft and stuck in cap hell over the past two seasons. 

    Oakland has the most cap space—by far—heading into the 2014 offseason. With just under $60 million to spend, McKenzie will have his pick of the litter in free agency should he choose to be a big spender.

    The Raiders also have both their first- and second-round picks for the second year in a row.

    Change is coming to Oakland.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Safety Help

    The defense has been an Achilles heel for the Philadelphia Eagles for a few years now, particularly against the pass. Philadelphia sported the worst pass defense in the league in 2013.

    Specifically, the safety position needs an overhaul. Patrick Chung, Nate Allen and Earl Wolff combined for two interceptions last season, allowing nine touchdown passes altogether to boot. All three were negatively rated by Pro Football Focus, too (subscription required).

    The defense needs help in several spots, but grabbing a good safety could go a long way toward shoring up that secondary.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Offensive-Line Help

    The Steelers have put much effort into improving the offensive line, and they have seen little positive result.

    Part of that has been due to injuries, but their moves have not panned out as hoped in many cases. Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum and Mike Adams gave up a combined 21 sacks and 111 total quarterback pressures last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been a crash test dummy for years. The Steelers need to prioritize his protection this offseason once again.

San Diego Chargers

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Cornerbacks

    One of the season's biggest surprises came out of San Diego, where the Chargers made an unexpected playoff run. But the success came in spite of the defensive secondary.

    The Chargers boasted the fourth-worst pass defense last season. They had three cornerbacks ranked in the bottom 10 at Pro Football Focus and another ranked in the bottom 20.

    It seems pretty clear that upgrading the pass defense will be a priority.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Offensive Weapons

    Some might say the San Francisco 49ers' biggest offseason priority should be to get quarterback Colin Kaepernick to wear his hats properly and undergo tattoo removal.

    On a serious note, however, Kaepernick needs some help on offense. Receiver Michael Crabtree returned from an Achilles injury midseason to give his team an offensive boost, but Anquan Boldin and Jonathan Baldwin aren't exactly top-flight options, though Boldin did have some big moments last year.

    Even Crabtree isn't a burner. The 49ers would do well to give Kaepernick a downfield option or two that can actually make a difference. Tight end Vernon Davis is currently that guy—he had a team-high 23 targets that were at least 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    Boldin had just 16 deep targets last year, and he was the only receiver with more than six; the receiver position has been lacking in that department.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Offensive-Line Help

    What do you get a team that has everything? 

    The Seattle Seahawks are the champions of the world, and they looked as complete as any Super Bowl team has. There is little turnover expected besides. But there are always holes to fill, even on the best team in the land.

    Seattle could use some help at receiver, but a healthy Percy Harvin makes that far less of a priority. That much was obvious during the Super Bowl.

    Their biggest area of need was also obvious: interior offensive line. The normally powerful running game was held in check for much of the contest because of poor guard play, an area of concern for the Seahawks all season long. J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter didn't rate well over at Pro Football Focus.

St. Louis Rams

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: A "Get out of Jail Free" Card

    What to do in St. Louis?

    Quarterback Sam Bradford has two years left on his massive contract, and he accounts for over $17 million of the St. Louis Rams salary cap this year. He hasn't exactly lived up to his No. 1 overall draft status, though he did play well in 2013 before being knocked out for the year.

    St. Louis also owns the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, courtesy of the Washington Redskins' generosity and ineptitude. That gives the Rams a shot at a top quarterback option, one that would be more difficult to justify if they decide to keep Bradford and that salary around.

    Do the Rams take the sure thing in Bradford, even though they run the risk he winds up like Matt Schaub—or worse? Or do they gamble with a young quarterback and forget about wasting resources on one position?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Pass Rush

    Head coach Lovie Smith is going to turn that defense around. But it's going to need some help.

    The pass rush was nonexistent for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past season. It's too bad former general manager Mark Dominik let defensive end Michael Bennett walk—he was dominant on that Seattle defensive front this year.

    Bennett's departure left a void at defensive end for the Buccaneers. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim was the worst 4-3 defensive end in the league, per Pro Football Focus, and Adrian Clayborn wasn't far behind at sixth worst.

    Tampa Bay had just 35 sacks, tied for 10th worst in the league. That needs to change, regardless of who is head coach.

Tennessee Titans

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Pass Rush

    Like the Bills, the Tennessee Titans have talent all around the roster, despite poor game results.

    There might be an argument at quarterback, but Jake Locker actually looked quite improved last season before injuries derailed his year. 

    Hence, the biggest area of need lies elsewhere. Specifically, the Titans need an upgrade at pass-rusher.

    Tennessee had just 36 sacks during the 2013 season. Jurrell Casey, a defensive tackle, had 10.5 of those. Defensive end Derrick Morgan did a decent job, garnering six sacks himself, but the rest of the defense had trouble pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

Washington Redskins

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    Biggest Offseason Priority: Safety Help

    The safety position in the capital city has been abysmal for years now. Brandon Meriweather is the defense's best bet, and his main claim to fame is a propensity to lead with the head and injure opposing players.

    The Washington Redskins had three safeties rate in the bottom 10 in the league at the position over at Pro Football Focus—E.J. Biggers, Bacarri Rambo and Meriweather—and Reed Doughty ranked 14th worst. There was zero quality play in the middle of that defensive backfield.

     

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