Offseason Advice for Every NFL Team
Is there anything worse on the planet than a person who asks for advice but then doesn't take it?
We all know a person like that. Maybe it's your buddy who keeps getting back together with the same girl. He asks you for advice, you tell him to move on, he swears he will and then his Facebook status changes back to "in a relationship" six hours later. It's annoying beyond comprehension.
Actually, there might be something worse than the person who doesn't take advice after asking for it: the person who gives advice that hasn't been requested.
For example, how insufferable is the person who offers unwanted career advice? He or she will just start telling you what's best for you and your financial future without even being prompted to give his or her opinion. It's boiling my blood just thinking about it!
Well, I've become that person. Because now, I'm giving offseason advice to all 32 NFL teams. And you know what? They'd be wise to accept my advice, because it's damn good.
Don't take it personally, NFL. Like the schmuck who can't help himself from giving unwanted advice, I'm looking out for your best interest.
Here is my offseason advice for every NFL team.
*All salary cap information courtesy of Spotrac.com.
Arizona Cardinals: Draft a QB...or Two
The Arizona Cardinals exceeded all expectations in 2013, going 10-6 and nearly qualifying for the postseason.
And they did so in spite of their quarterback, Carson Palmer, who threw 22 interceptions and looked like he was playing hot potato with the football.
The defense appears to be set; it finished ranked sixth overall and possesses a number of talented players. Skill positions on offense are in good shape as well, with receiver Michael Floyd emerging alongside Larry Fitzgerald and running back Andre Ellington looking set to break out in 2014.
My offseason advice for the Arizona Cardinals would be to draft a quarterback (or two) this May, because Palmer isn't the long-term answer. He'll turn 35 during this upcoming season, and the team needs to start thinking about his replacement.
I'm not suggesting the team should take a quarterback in the first round, a notion that Arians recently shot down to Bob McManaman of AZCentral.com, but investing a pick or two at the position would be wise and could greatly benefit the Cardinals moving forward.
Atlanta Falcons: Fix the Offensive Line
In a season in which many expected them to contend for the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons bottomed out, going 4-12 for a host of reasons, injuries chief among them.
But when it came to play on the field, no unit was more culpable for the team's failures than the offensive line, which allowed 44 sacks and the fifth-most quarterback hits. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Falcons had only one offensive lineman, guard Justin Blalock, finish with a "plus" rating in pass-blocking. That's not good.
Yes, the team did lose receiver Julio Jones for the season in Week 5, and fellow receiver Roddy White was hobbled all year by a high ankle sprain. But quarterback Matt Ryan still didn't play well, and a lot of that had to do with the foibles of his offensive line.
The advice to the Falcons? Fix the line! Whether that means signing free-agent tackle Branden Albert or drafting either Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews or Auburn tackle Greg Robinson, bring in an impact player who can keep your franchise quarterback upright.
Baltimore Ravens: Re-Sign TE Dennis Pitta and OT Eugene Monroe
The Baltimore Ravens followed up a Super Bowl championship with an 8-8 season that saw them miss the postseason for the first time since coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco came to town (2008).
Ultimately, it was the offense that did them in. They could never sustain a rushing attack, averaging a putrid three yards per carry on the ground and Flacco didn't have enough weapons in the passing game. It was a recipe for disaster.
This offseason, the Ravens have a chance to fix both problems by re-signing two of their own free agents: tight end Dennis Pitta and tackle Eugene Monroe.
When the team traded receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49ers last offseason, it was widely assumed that Pitta would step up in his place. But a dislocated hip limited him to only four games, crippling the aerial attack. And while a midseason trade for Monroe didn't fully stabilize the line, it was far from his fault.
My advice to the Ravens would be to bring back Pitta and Monroe. That would greatly help the offense bounce back in 2014.
Buffalo Bills: Coach Up EJ Manuel
The Buffalo Bills are a team on the rise, with talented young players strewn throughout the roster on both sides of the ball. But one player looms as significantly more important than the rest, and it's second-year quarterback EJ Manuel.
Injuries limited Manuel to only 10 games in his neophyte campaign, and he acquitted himself well, throwing 11 touchdown passes against only nine interceptions. But in an AFC East that's been dominated by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Manuel will have to step up his game to ensure the Bills start competing for the division title.
The offseason advice for the Bills and coach Doug Marrone is to coach up Manuel this offseason and make sure he's even better in year two. If he can take a step forward, the Bills could be a surprise playoff team in 2014.
Carolina Panthers: Add a Viable No. 2 WR
Ever since Muhsin Muhammad left town, it seems as if the Carolina Panthers have been searching for a viable second receiver to pair alongside No. 1 option Steve Smith.
The Panthers went 12-4 last season and won the NFC South, but quarterback Cam Newton clearly needs some more weapons in the passing game. Smith is still a very good player, but he turns 35 this offseason. It's time for general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera to address the position.
The team's precarious salary cap situation and impending free agency of pass-rushing demon Greg Hardy make it unlikely that it will be able to pursue a player like Eric Decker when free agency opens on March 11. But the Panthers do have the 28th overall pick in the draft, and there should be a number of options available, including Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin.
B/R's Russell S. Baxter agrees with my assessment that the Panthers must acquire a viable second receiver. That's my offseason advice for the Panthers.
Chicago Bears: Fix the Run Defense
The Chicago Bears went 8-8 and missed the postseason, largely because their rush defense resembled a moldy piece of Swiss cheese, allowing a preposterous 5.3 yards per carry.
That fact makes the offseason advice to the Bears an easy one: Fix the run defense.
The Chicago offense is set. Quarterback Jay Cutler inked a long-term contract, and he's surrounded by a number of explosive weapons. Running back Matt Forte is a stud, and Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery probably represent the best one-two punch in the league at receiver.
If the defense improves, the Bears will be a playoff team in 2014. Re-signing defensive tackle Henry Melton would be a smart move, as the defense fell apart after his season-ending injury in Week 3.
Cincinnati Bengals: Draft or Sign a QB to Push Andy Dalton
The good news is that the Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs for the third consecutive year last season.
The bad news is that quarterback Andy Dalton laid his third consecutive postseason egg, and the Bengals bowed out in the Wild Card Round once again.
Dalton might have set franchise records for passing yards and touchdowns, but don't let those statistics fool you. He's been wildly inconsistent and has been the albatross around the team's collective neck, holding it back from bigger and better things.
This offseason, the Bengals should either sign (Josh McCown?) or draft a quarterback to push Dalton. With the right quarterback, they could be a Super Bowl team. Since Dalton hasn't yet shown he can be that guy, the onus is on the team to find someone who could be.
Cleveland Browns: Add Multiple Playmakers on Offense
The easy joke to make regarding offseason advice for the Cleveland Browns would be to stop firing people and stay the course, but I'm above that sort of lowbrow comedy (am I?).
What the Browns must do this offseason is add multiple playmakers on offense.
Believe it or not, the Browns aren't far away from being a perennial contender in the AFC. They're flush with cap room and should be looking to bring in both a running back and a receiver. Ben Tate and Eric Decker would make a ton of sense.
Plus, the club holds two first-round selections in the draft, including the fourth overall selection. Drafting a quarterback like Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel would energize the franchise.
Imagine pairing Manziel with Tate, Decker, receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. That would be cooking with gas.
And new coach Mike Pettine will have the defense coached up, making the 2014 iteration a potentially dangerous Browns squad.
Dallas Cowboys: Get Under the Salary Cap
The Dallas Cowboys missed the playoffs once again in 2013, going 8-8 and losing in Week 17 in the de facto NFC East title game for the third consecutive year. And for their troubles, they are now about $21 million over the cap.
Nice job, Jerry Jones!
The team's owner now must navigate the club out of the financial mess and give it the ability to sign players that could push it back into the postseason.
In order for that to happen, tough decisions will have to be made. Quarterback Tony Romo will surely have to restructure his contract, and players such as linebacker DeMarcus Ware could be cap casualties.
It'll be up to Jones to make the numbers work so he can spend in typically aggressive fashion.
Denver Broncos: Forget About the Super Bowl
Two weeks ago, the Denver Broncos were annihilated in Super Bowl XLVIII by the Seattle Seahawks.
While that will likely sting throughout the offseason, the team must try to forget about the loss and reload for next season.
The Broncos' championship window will be open for as long as Peyton Manning remains the quarterback, so they have work to do to get back to the Super Bowl.
Executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway has his work cut out for him this offseason. Will he re-sign running back Knowshon Moreno and/or receiver Erid Decker? How will he add playmakers on defense?
Regardless of how it happens, it's in the best interest of Elway, Manning and the Broncos to turn the page as quickly as possible and start focusing on the task at hand: winning Super Bowl XLVIV.
Detroit Lions: Coach Up Matthew Stafford
The NFC North title was all but gift wrapped for the Detroit Lions. But much like the antagonist in the famous George Michael holiday tune, they gave it away, and the chief culprit in the mess was quarterback Matthew Stafford.
In the team's final four games, all losses, Stafford threw two touchdowns against five interceptions, and his mechanics seemed to degenerate down the stretch. His poor play helped prompt the firing of coach Jim Schwartz and the hiring of new coach Jim Caldwell, known for his work with quarterbacks.
The Lions are a team ready to win now. With the right offseason tinkering, they should be able to contend with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in the NFC North. But unless Stafford raises his level of play, the Lions have no chance.
The offseason advice for Detroit is to coach up Stafford and make sure he's better in 2014 than he was in 2013.
Green Bay Packers: Sign a Viable Backup QB
The Green Bay Packers rolled the dice at backup quarterback this offseason, and the move came up snake eyes when Aaron Rodgers was forced to miss seven games with a broken collarbone.
Although Rodgers returned in Week 17 to beat the Bears and win the NFC North, the whole shebang should serve as a precautionary tale for coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson. They must sign a viable backup quarterback.
Whether it's Matt Flynn, who guided the Packers for the majority of Rodgers' absence, or someone like Josh McCown, the team must have a backup capable of filling in and winning games.
Re-signing Flynn would be an easy solution. That's the offseason advice for the Packers.
Houston Texans: Draft a Quarterback with the First Overall Pick
The Houston Texans completely bottomed out in 2013, losing their final 14 games to "earn" the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
The losing cost coach Gary Kubiak his job, and noted offensive mind Bill O'Brien was hired to replace him. O'Brien's first move must be to acquire a franchise quarterback.
Last year, Matt Schaub and Case Keenum combined for 19 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. Schaub was awful, throwing pick-sixes as if he was trying to hit a contract escalator, and Keenum didn't prove capable of being the long-term answer.
With the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, the team must select a quarterback. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is a hell of a player, but he can't be the pick. It must be a signal-caller.
Whether it's Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or UCF's Blake Bortles, quarterback is the way to go for Houston.
Indianapolis Colts: Get Andrew Luck Some Help at WR
The Indianapolis Colts offense was never the same after receiver Reggie Wayne was lost for the season in Week 7.
By playoff time, the Colts receiving corps prominently featured the likes of Griff Whalen, Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill. That's not good.
Wayne will be back in 2014, and T.Y. Hilton is a good player, but they need more.
With a stud quarterback in Andrew Luck, it would behoove general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano to surround him with more weapons at receiver.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Stay the Course
Last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars suffered through another losing campaign, going 4-12 in the first year of coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell's regime.
The team has a bevy of salary cap space this offseason, and the temptation is to splurge and lavish money upon a variety of free agents in an effort to upgrade a substandard 53-man roster.
But the offseason advice for Jacksonville is to stay the course.
Bradley and Caldwell know what they're doing, and patience needs to rule the day among Jaguars fans. The two men prefer to build through the draft rather than go nuts in free agency.
The best advice for the Jaguars would be to keep with the plan and not veer off course. Good things will be on the horizon for the team if that occurs.
Kansas City Chiefs: Draft or Sign an Impact WR
The Kansas City Chiefs followed up a 2-14 season in 2012 with an 11-5 campaign and wild-card berth in 2013. A major reason for that improvement was the play of quarterback Alex Smith, who threw 23 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions.
Despite those impressive numbers, the Chiefs still have work to do to bring their passing attack up to snuff. The only real viable receiver is Dwayne Bowe, and while he's a solid option, he's not going to remind anyone of Calvin Johnson.
The Chiefs have several impact players on defense, a solid offensive line and one of the best running backs in the league in Jamaal Charles. Adding an impact receiver in either free agency or the draft is the best advice for the Kansas City brain trust.
Expect the team to take a long, hard look at Eric Decker.
Miami Dolphins: Change Public Perception
The Miami Dolphins' season was marred by the bullying scandal between guard Richie Incognito and tackle Jonathan Martin. The story reached its zenith this week when independent investigator Ted Wells released a 144-page report on the subject.
This much is clear: The Dolphins are the biggest embarrassment in the league. Browns fans who were depressed about their ownership would surely rather have Jimmy Haslam than clueless Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, and it's not even close.
Coach Joe Philbin was apparently unaware of the bullying, which is stunning. If that's true, Ross should consider firing him. And if Philbin knew about it and didn't stop it, Ross also should consider firing him. It's a messy situation.
More so than anything that could help the on-field product, the Dolphins must change the public perception that they are a total joke. This needs to be a drama-free offseason from this point forward in South Beach.
Minnesota Vikings: Draft a QB in the First Round
The Minnesota Vikings crashed and burned in 2013, going 5-10-1. The losing cost coach Leslie Frazier his job, with former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer now the man in charge.
Zimmer's first order of business must be to stabilize the quarterback position. The three-headed signal-calling monster of Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman didn't inspire confidence and did more to harm the team than help it.
The Vikings hold the eighth overall pick in the draft, and taking a potential franchise quarterback there must be the play. One of four options seems likely: Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, UCF's Blake Bortles or Fresno State's Derek Carr.
In today's NFL, teams cannot win without a quarterback, and right now, the Vikings don't have one. The offseason advice for them is to make sure it acquires one.
New England Patriots: Bring in More Weapons on Offense
In retrospect, it's simply unbelievable that the New England Patriots reached the AFC Championship Game, given their lack of weapons on offense.
Star tight end Rob Gronkowski only played in seven games. Aaron Hernandez continued to rot away in a prison cell. Rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson faced a steep learning curve and never truly put it together. Receiver Julian Edelman had an excellent season, but he didn't have a ton of help.
Coach Bill Belichick needs to get some more weapons for quarterback Tom Brady.
The advice for the Patriots is to restock the offensive cupboard. Look for the team to draft a pass-catching tight end and to bring in a wide receiver in an effort to beef up the passing attack.
New Orleans Saints: Bring Back Jimmy Graham at All Costs
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had a sensational season, hauling in 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was a main reason why the Saints advanced to the divisional round of the postseason.
Now, he's a free agent. The offseason advice for the Saints is simple: Make sure Graham remains on Bourbon Street in 2014 and beyond. Whether it's via the franchise tag or a long-term deal, the Saints must keep Graham in the fold.
New York Giants: Add More Good Players
Many people have wondered how the New York Giants finished 7-9 in 2013 and missed the postseason. The answer is simple: because they didn't have enough good players.
Think about it. The offensive line was a disaster. They need at least one new running back. The receiving corps was average at best. They got nothing out of Brandon Myers at tight end. The defense needs help across the board.
General manager Jerry Reese hasn't done a good enough job in recent years of filling the roster with talent, but you rarely hear him criticized. Winning two Super Bowls in the past six years will buy you some time, but Reese's is running out. He needs to have a successful offseason.
The Giants need to add impact players on offense, defense and special teams. The advice for Big Blue is to make sure the roster is much better in 2014 than it was in 2013.
New York Jets: Get Help for Geno Smith
New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith didn't have a great rookie season, tossing 12 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions. But it's not like he had a dazzling supporting cast to work with.
Gang Green's leading receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who caught 43 passes. Running back Bilal Powell was next with 36. We're not exactly talking about Jerry Rice and Roger Craig here.
So yeah, Smith didn't play well, but he wasn't given an opportunity to truly succeed. If general manager John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan are serious about Smith as their franchise quarterback, they'll get him some help this offseason.
The advice for the Jets would be to use the draft and free agency to upgrade the offense. The defense is already solid. Now. it's time to move the offense out of the Stone Age and into the 21st century.
Oakland Raiders: Sign a Multitude of Good Players
The Oakland Raiders have strung together back-to-back 4-12 seasons under general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen, but this offseason, they're poised to finally make some noise, as they possess about $70 million in cap space.
For a Raiders team in dire need of help across the board, the advice is to sign a number of good players as opposed to two or three "elite" options.
The Raiders have the worst 53-man roster in the league and have no chance of competing in the ultra-tough AFC West without upgrading across the board. McKenzie needs to have a big free-agent haul if Oakland is to reach the .500 mark next season.
Philadelphia Eagles: Improve the Defense
The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East in coach Chip Kelly's first season, but they did so with a stunning disparity between the two sides of the ball.
The offense finished ranked second overall, while the defense came in 29th. And while the latter played better as the season moved on, there's no question that the unit needs to improve in 2014 if the Eagles are to be a true Super Bowl contender.
The offseason advice for the Eagles is to improve the defense, via the draft and free agency. Another pass-rusher would be nice, and the secondary needs upgrading as well. If they can accomplish these goals, the Eagles could be looking at another division title next season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Re-Sign Jason Worilds
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds came on in a big way last season, leading the team with eight sacks. He'll be a free agent this offseason.
More so than improving the offensive line, the offseason advice for the Steelers is to make sure Worilds is back in the fold. He's that important to their defense.
Linebacker Jarvis Jones didn't sparkle as a rookie; while he has a ton of potential, the team can't count on him to be a force. Battery mate LaMarr Woodley is a Steelers legend but has battled injuries over the past few years and only has nine sacks since 2012.
While re-signing Worilds would likely spell the end of Woodley's time in the Steel City, it has to happen. The Steelers must bring him back.
St. Louis Rams: Draft Sammy Watkins
It appears as if the St. Louis Rams will keep quarterback Sam Bradford, with general manager Les Snead telling ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner that the team remains "committed" to the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft.
If that is indeed the case, then Snead and coach Jeff Fisher must focus on giving Bradford some explosive weapons in the passing attack. With the team holding the second overall pick in the draft, the answer is obvious: draft Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Watkins is an absolute stud, and as B/R's Matt Miller noted in his recent scouting notebook, the Rams have interest (and correctly so).
Watkins would add pop and sizzle to an offense in desperate need of it.
San Diego Chargers: Add an Impact Pass Rusher
The San Diego Chargers overachieved in 2013, going 9-7 and advancing to the divisional round of the postseason. And they did it despite possessing a pass rush that only accumulated 35 sacks on the season.
The offseason advice for the Chargers is to acquire an impact pass-rusher who could potentially post a double-digit sack campaign, as no player came close to that total last year for the Bolts (end Corey Liuget led the team with 5.5 sacks).
With Peyton Manning set to return as the Broncos quarterback, the best way for the Chargers to eclipse their AFC West rivals is to bring him to the ground. Whether it's via free agency or the draft, look for San Diego to bring in pass-rushing help.
San Francisco 49ers: Extend Colin Kaepernick
The San Francisco 49ers came oh so close to a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII, and it's not a stretch to suggest that they would have beaten the Broncos and won it all had they gotten there.
One of the main reasons why the 49ers came within inches of the Super Bowl was the superlative play of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He's 21-8 as the 49ers starting quarterback (including postseason) and nearly won the Super Bowl following the 2012 season. He's the real deal.
For a tremendous breakdown on the subject, check out this column from B/R's Chris Trapasso.
Kaepernick is a stud and is both the present and future at the quarterback position for the 49ers. The offseason advice is to make sure he's a 49er for years to come.
Seattle Seahawks: Keep Michael Bennett
The Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII on the strength of one of the most dominant defenses of the past 30 years.
While it's the ballyhooed "Legion of Boom" secondary that receives the most credit, the pass rush was a major reason why the team won it all. And defensive end Michael Bennett was a large part of that success, accumulating 8.5 sacks in the regular season and playing very well in the postseason.
Bennett is a free agent, having inked a one-year deal last offseason to come to the Pacific Northwest. It won't be cheap to keep him, as he told the NFL Network last week (h/t Kevin Patra of NFL.com) regarding a potential "hometown discount" to stay in Seattle: "There is no such thing as discount. This isn't Costco, this isn't Walmart, this is real life."
The advice for the Seahawks is to do what they can to make sure he remains in the fold next season and beyond. He's proven to be a championship-caliber player.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Figure out the QB Position
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new head coach in Lovie Smith, and the question now becomes if they'll have a new starting quarterback as well.
Mike Glennon was the best rookie quarterback in 2013, tossing 19 touchdown passes against only nine interceptions. He showed he has the skills and moxie to succeed at the NFL level.
But the Buccaneers aren't yet sold, as new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford told 98.7 The Fan in Tampa (h/t Justin Pawlowski of CBS Tampa Bay) regarding Glennon being the 2014 starter, "I think (that's) really premature."
The advice for the Buccaneers is to figure out quickly if Glennon is going to be their guy. Former coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik learned the hard way what happens when you pick the wrong quarterback. They went with Josh Freeman and lost their jobs at the end of the season.
Tennessee Titans: Re-Sign Alterraun Verner
The Tennessee Titans struggled through a 7-9 season that cost coach Mike Munchak his job, but there is talent throughout the roster, including standout cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Verner, who finished 2013 as the 12th-rated cornerback by Pro Football Focus (subscription required), is an ascending talent and a potential building block of an outstanding defense. He's also a free agent, and the Titans would be wise to keep him.
While the Titans don't expect to use the franchise tag on Verner, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, the option of a long-term deal still exists. The tea leaves seem to point to Verner taking a big-money deal elsewhere, and that would be a mistake by the Titans.
The offseason advice for new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt? Find a way to keep Verner in the fold.
Washington Redskins: Coach Up Robert Griffin III
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had a sophomore season to forget.
Coming off his torn ACL last January, Griffin clearly wasn't the same player. He only started 13 games before being benched and looked like a beaten man in the latter stages of the season.
Enter new coach Jay Gruden, whose directive is clear: Fix Griffin and return him to the form that made him a rookie sensation and helped the Redskins to the NFC East title.
You can talk about Washington needing to fix its defense. You wouldn't be wrong. But ultimately, the best offseason advice for the Redskins is to make sure Griffin regains his confidence and swagger in time for the 2014 season.
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