Every NFL Team's Biggest Roster Flaw Ahead of Free Agency
The scouting combine has concluded and everyone is hoping their team can add a Jadeveon Clowney. There isn't a team in the NFL that couldn't use another impact pass rusher like him. He fills a hole for everyone.
Some teams cannot bank on what will be available to them in the draft, though, so they need to plan their year ahead by determining their path beforehand.
Before the draft, which gets pushed back until May this year, we have the new NFL year upon us in mid-March, which marks the beginning of free agency. We take a look at each team's biggest roster flaw heading into the new league year.
This 32-part, team-by-team slideshow is arranged according to draft position, starting with the Houston Texans atop the board and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at the bottom of it.
Houston Texans: Quarterback
Forget about the Houston Texans finding a starting quarterback in free agency. It is highly unlikely they hand their offense over to the likes of Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, Matt Cassel or Josh McCown.
They can draft one at No. 1 overall, but then they would be passing on the defensive end talent that is Jadeveon Clowney. Can you imagine a defense with J.J. Watt on one side and Clowney on the other?
Sounds like a team that would still need a quarterback to be competitive.
Washington Redskins: Strong Safety
The Washington Redskins need just about everything but a quarterback. Good thing they have that in Robert Griffin III, because he cost them the No. 2 overall pick that is now owned by the St. Louis Rams.
You can make a case RGIII needs some offensive line help, or perhaps a wide receiver, but count those as positions that will be drafted.
The free-agent safety market with the likes of the Buffalo Bills' Jairus Byrd, the Cleveland Browns' T.J. Ward or the San Francisco 49ers' Donte Whitner might be something the Redskins dip into after locking up their own free agent, Brian Orakpo, to a long-term deal.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive End
The Jacksonville Jaguars have holes everywhere, including at quarterback, right tackle and defensive end. Any one of those positions could be filled with the No. 3 overall pick.
But the Jags always pick near the top of the draft and never seem to find answers. They have a ton of salary-cap space this year—over $55 million, according to Spotrac.com—so it will be interesting to see where they might use it come mid-March.
If the Jags don't believe in Jadeveon Clowney, do not believe he will be there or believe they will take a quarterback early in Round 1, they could be the team that makes the biggest play for defensive end Greg Hardy.
Cleveland Browns: Running Back
Chalk up the Cleveland Browns as another team in the top five that desperately needs a long-term answer at quarterback. They might have enough pieces to compete on defense, but they need some offensive help after blowing a first-round pick on Brandon Weeden a few years ago.
Running back is a hole that might be the easiest to fix. You can draft a feature back in the middle rounds nowadays, but the likes of Knowshon Moreno, Darren McFadden, Ben Tate or even Chris Johnson—if he is released by the Tennessee Titans—don't figure to dent much of the Browns' projected $51.152 million of salary-cap space, according to Spotrac.com.
Oakland Raiders: Offense
The Oakland Raiders are yet another team that needs a quarterback...err...everything. They finally have the draft picks and salary-cap space—estimated to be the highest in the NFL at almost $66.5 million, according to Spotrac.com.
The Raiders might be the most likely team to consider No. 1 free-agent quarterback Michael Vick, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.
Using their cap space on Vick this year will allow them to draft a downfield weapon like Clemson's Sammy Watkins, especially if the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars or Cleveland Browns snatch up the likes of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles in the top five.
Atlanta Falcons: Secondary
Outside of that, they need everything else, including an offensive tackle, a premier pass-rusher—defensive end Osi Umenyiora didn't help much last year—and a whole new secondary.
The Falcons have a nice draft position at No. 6 overall, but cornerback or safety don't figure to be positions that will be taken that high this year. Bank on the Falcons targeting a back-end defender or a front-line pass-rusher before they make their first draft pick in May.
After all, only the Oakland Raiders gave up a higher quarterback rating to opposing passers last year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge-Rusher
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for Darrelle Revis last winter and signed Lovie Smith to be their next head coach this offseason, they made it clear that they are going all-in on defense. A premier pass-rusher is the missing link to what is already a good run defense and secondary.
Assuming the Bucs don't believe Jadeveon Clowney will be there when they pick, they could target one of the top edge-rushers like Greg Hardy, Michael Bennett, Brian Orakpo, Michael Johnson or Lamarr Houston, as ranked by Pro Football Focus.
Put any one of those quarterback hunters on that Buccaneers defense, with the likes of Smith's attacking schemes, and you will have yourself a defense that can rival those of the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers or the San Francisco 49ers.
Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback
You can make a case that the Minnesota Vikings need everything but a running back. The No. 1 thing to fix has to be a secondary that allowed the second-most passing yards in football last season. They gave up the most passing touchdowns in football, too (37).
Veteran pass-rushing defensive end Jared Allen is likely gone via free agency, so the Vikings will need to generate pressure and need back-end guys to defend the wide-open offenses of the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. When you play in the NFC North these days, it is about stopping the quarterback more than the run.
Bank on the Vikings adding a cornerback and/or a safety in free agency, because those holes won't be a priority at No. 8 overall in the draft.
Buffalo Bills: Offensive Line
The Buffalo Bills are rife with holes. Free-agent safety Jairus Byrd might stand to create another one.
When you have an offensive head coach like Doug Marrone, C.J. Spiller as your most dangerous weapon and second-year quarterback EJ Manuel as the franchise guy, you need to help your top assets with an offensive lineman.
There are many touting the Buffalo Bills as a good fit for Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, who renowned NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock suggests would be his No. 1 overall pick, as NFL.com's Mike Huguenin points out. If you are drafting defense, you need to address the offensive line, particularly right tackle, in free agency.
Detroit Lions: Secondary
The Detroit Lions have the same problem the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings have. The whole division needs to defend the pass better, especially with the likes of Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler around.
The Lions need a secondary wide receiver for Stafford to complement Calvin Johnson, but they need to use their limited salary-cap space—less than $9.5 million, according to Spotrac.com—to address a secondary that was in the bottom 10 of the league against the pass.
Again, a safety or corner doesn't figure to be a fit at No. 10 overall in the draft, so figure the Lions to address their holes in the secondary with some free-agent pieces.
Tennessee Titans: Pass-Rusher or Secondary
The Tennessee Titans figure to give Jake Locker, whose progression has been repeatedly beset by injury, another chance to prove he is the franchise quarterback. They have been putting the offensive weapons around him and need to let them to continue to develop, particularly the young wide receivers.
The secondary was a strength last year, so while a safety would be a nice fit in free agency, an edge-rusher might be a bigger priority.
The prospect of losing cornerback Alterraun Verner to the highest bidder, as The Tennessean's Jim Wyatt expects, will change things. When you play in a division that will be dominated by Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts for the next decade, you have to stay ahead of the curve at getting after the quarterback or defending the pass.
New York Giants: Center
It is no secret the New York Giants have a slew of holes along their aged and banged-up offensive line. Last year's No. 1 pick for the Giants, Justin Pugh, figures to be an answer a tackle, but outside of him, there are nothing but questions.
The interior offensive line is a weakness, a priority and an unlikely place to draft an answer at No. 12 overall. Figure the Giants to get help elsewhere with that pick and use free agency to get some veterans in the middle of their offensive line.
Eli Manning will thank them for that.
If you're looking at the free-agent options, the Cleveland Browns' Alex Mack is at the top of Pro Football Focus' list. He will be too expensive. The Green Bay Packers' Evan Dietrich-Smith or the New Orleans Saints' Brian de la Puente, who were career backups turned starters in front of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, should be affordable.
St. Louis Rams: Secondary
The St. Louis Rams have a lot of good players, but they are short on great ones. With the Nos. 2 and 13 overall picks, they figure to get a pair of them in the draft.
Fine tuning the secondary is listed as the Rams' biggest need, according to Pro Football Focus' Nathan Jahnke. If the Rams are not targeting Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with their second first-rounder, they could pick through the leftovers of the free-agent market to add secondary help.
Chicago Bears: Defense
What a difference a year and a switch from a defensive-minded head coach in Lovie Smith to an offensive-minded one in Marc Trestman make. The Chicago Bears went from one of the best defensive teams in football to one of the worst.
It certainly doesn't help that they are playing in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Those are four of the best offensive players in the game.
They need to address a defense that was brutally bad against the run—dead last—giving up over 400 yards more than the second-worst run defense. The Bears can draft a game-changer in the secondary, but expect them to use free agency to fill their holes on the defensive front, particularly if free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton doesn't return.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive Tackle
The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten old on defense, but free agency won't make you any younger there. That is what the draft is for.
Instead, the Steelers can use their limited cap space—they still stand almost $7 million over the limit, according to Spotrac.com—to help keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from running for the sake of his well-being.
Clearly, the Steelers have to be bargain hunters this winter. Offensive line might a place to find some stopgaps.
Dallas Cowboys: Salary-Cap Space
The Dallas Cowboys are a salary-cap nightmare. They stand almost $19 million over the cap, dead last in the NFL in that regard, according to Spotrac.com's latest estimates.
There is no room to add anyone outside of their own draft picks. They are going to need to find places to trim the fat off the books. Wide receiver Miles Austin is one. Edge-rusher DeMarcus Ware might be another. Restructuring Tony Romo's mega-contract could be a third option.
Baltimore Ravens: Offensive Tackle
When you rush for a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry—despite being a franchise that prides itself on running the football—you clearly have issues on the offensive line. Oh, and the Baltimore Ravens just happen to have left tackle Eugene Monroe and right tackle Michael Oher headed for free agency.
The Ravens are in a precarious position to have to sign and/or draft two offensive tackles. That is a position famously costly to fix. The good thing is that the Ravens are now in the top half of the NFL in cap space, according to Spotrac.com.
New York Jets: Wide Receiver
The New York Jets are not convinced Geno Smith is the long-term answer at quarterback, but no matter who takes snaps under center next season, they need some targets to throw to.
Those cuts could make the Jets arguably the most aggressive team in free agency this spring. Wide receiver and offensive line are the biggest priorities. They need to help their long-time awful quarterback situation.
Miami Dolphins: Offensive Line, Particularly Tackle
The Miami Dolphins offensive line was a mess before Richie Incognito and Johnathan Martin unleashed a scandal upon them and the entire NFL. Both of them are gone, along with guard John Jerry and pending free-agent tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie.
The only thing the Dolphins have going for them on the offensive line is Mike Pouncey, who has had his own off-the-field issues.
You cannot draft an entire offensive line, but the Dolphins currently have the fifth-most salary-cap space, according to Spotrac.com, so expect them to buy one.
Arizona Cardinals: Left Tackle
Winning 10 games was equal parts blessing and curse for the Arizona Cardinals. It is nice to prove to be competitive, but they still missed the playoffs and now have to try to fill their No. 1 hole at left tackle, despite drafting behind the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins.
Those three teams could all pick a tackle ahead of the Cardinals, who draft 20th overall. That makes winning the Brandon Albert free-agent sweepstakes all that more important. Count the Cardinals to be an aggressive player there, along with the Dolphins.
Green Bay Packers: Free Safety
The Green Bay Packers are in a unique position. They are one of the lucky teams that have the quarterback position figured out—Aaron Rodgers is a nice luxury to have—and yet have a lot of salary-cap space.
According to Spotrac.com, the Packers have the sixth-most space, behind the likes of the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins. Of those teams, only the Colts have a stable quarterback in place, but they have considerably more premium free agents of their own to retain and arguably more holes.
The Packers, if they choose to break away from their frugal free-agent history, can be big players in the free-agent market all over the defense. When you play in a division with the passing offenses of the Detroit Lions and Marc Trestman's Chicago Bears, you need to find a ball-hawking free safety to keep up.
Philadelphia Eagles: Safety
When you have a hurry-up, spread-offense guru like Chip Kelly at the helm, you have to figure you're going to have answers on the offensive side of the ball. That attack tends to put your defense in uncompromising positions, though.
It is no surprise, then, that the Eagles finished with the worst pass defense in football last season.
Expect the Eagles to address their secondary woes in the draft and in free agency. If they draft a safety, expect them to sign a corner. If they draft a corner, expect them to sign a safety. Whichever it is, they need it all.
Kansas City Chiefs: Free Safety
When you are challenged in the division by the likes of a record-setting Peyton Manning and a resurgent Philip Rivers, you need to have solid, if not elite answers on the back end.
The Kansas City Chiefs have Eric Berry at strong safety, but Berry is an in-the-box player who needs help behind him at free safety.
With Manning on the tail end of his career and the Chiefs not far from competing, you might expect the free-safety answer to come in free agency as opposed to the draft—because the player needs to be able to help right away. Expect the Chiefs to have to pick through the free-agent leftovers at safety.
Cincinnati Bengals: Secondary
The Cincinnati Bengals have edge guys Michael Johnson, a pass-rushing defensive end, and Anthony Collins, a pass-blocking left tackle, headed for free agency, but they figure to try to retain them. Regardless of their departures, the Bengals need help for a secondary that was banged up for most of last season.
As much as the Bengals need secondary help, it will be more along the lines of fine tuning. Only the Seattle Seahawks' world champion Legion of Boom allowed fewer yards per pass attempt last year. That is some company, even if much of the responsibility can be placed on the weak passing teams of the AFC North. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are more run-oriented teams.
But getting out of the AFC North wasn't the problem for the Bengals. Getting up to the likes of Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos, Tom Brady's New England Patriots or Andrew Luck's Indianapolis Colts is part of the bigger picture. This is a passing league, so expect the Bengals to add secondary help with their estimated $29 million-plus salary-cap surplus, per Spotrac.com.
San Diego Chargers: Cornerback
Few teams have as glaring a hole at one position as the San Diego Chargers. They desperately need two starting corners, particularly when you consider that they are trying to play keep-up with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
Because the Chargers have one of the tightest salary-cap budgets in football, as Spotrac.com reports, expect them to draft one cornerback at No. 25 overall and sign another.
Indianapolis Colts: Wide Receiver
Reggie Wayne would be the oldest starting wide receiver in football at age 35 and he is coming off reconstructive knee surgery. Needless to say, Andrew Luck deserves a premier target to grow with over the next decade.
Since the Indianapolis Colts are a win-now contender, the immediate answer at wide receiver might come via free agency versus the draft, since wideouts tend to take a few years to fully develop. T.Y. Hilton is a nice piece long-term, and Wayne is perhaps a decent possession guy for one more year, but Luck needs a true go-to man.
New Orleans Saints: Jimmy Graham's Free Agency
Yes, the New Orleans Saints need a cornerback, but when a once-in-a-generation talent like Jimmy Graham is a pending free agent and your franchise is cap-strapped, tight end also stands to be your biggest hole.
The Saints need to find a way to retain their free agents on the offensive line, and Graham, before they can consider spending money on their defense.
Carolina Panthers: Wide Receiver
Some teams have some very clear holes to fill via free agency. The Carolina Panthers at the wide receiver position is arguably the clearest of all.
Cam Newton is an all-world talent, but Steve Smith is on the outs and a franchise quarterback cannot throw and catch the ball. Consider the Panthers to be the biggest players for a top-flight target for Newton this spring. A return to North Carolina for Hakeem Nicks almost seems like a certainty.
New England Patriots: Everything but Quarterback and Running Back
You could list just about every position but quarterback as a priority for the New England Patriots. Good thing Tom Brady still has a few good, if not great, years ahead of him. He can overcome a lot of deficiencies.
The Patriots have cornerback Aqib Talib headed for free agency, along with 100-plus-catch wide receiver Julian Edelman, linebacker Brandon Spikes and running back LeGarrette Blount. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off another career-threatening injury, and Aaron Hernandez is long gone from the roster. Also, the Pats struggled to defend the run last season, finishing third worst last year.
There are holes everywhere, and that's after a young receiving corps frustrated Brady to no end last season. Pick a position and the Patriots need it.
San Francisco 49ers: Wide Receiver
A full year of health from Crabtree, tight end Vernon Davis and an expected return of veteran Anquan Boldin, as NFL insider Adam Schefter tweets, might not be enough for the 49ers to overtake the Seattle Seahawks' Legion of Boom.
Those three almost, but not quite, got the job done in the NFC Championship. They need one more downfield threat if Colin Kaepernick is truly going to become a Super Bowl winner.
Denver Broncos: Secondary
The Super Bowl made it seem like the Denver Broncos need some help protecting Peyton Manning, but the reality is that he made his offensive line work to the tune of the most prolific offense in NFL history.
If the Denver Broncos struggled anywhere in the regular season, it was defending the pass. They were sixth worst in the league, despite playing in a division with Philip Rivers and a couple of weak passing teams.
Corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Harris and Quentin Jammer are potential free agents, and Champ Bailey is coming off an injury-plagued year and is going to be 36 in June. Those are potential holes, and the safeties were worse last season.
The Denver Broncos might lose wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Knowshon Moreno, but they might be a better team if they can add some help in the secondary.
Seattle Seahawks: Wide Receiver
Cris Carter might not have been a popular person in Seattle when he called the Seahawks' wide receivers mere "appetizers," as Jayson Jenks of The Seattle Times chronicles. But he is was right.
The Seahawks had a great defense and a very good running game. They were just 26th in the NFL among passing offenses.
The Seahawks cannot get better defensively or at running the ball, and the quarterback is not going to change. It is Russell Wilson for years to come. It is the wide receivers that need to improve.
A year of health from Percy Harvin would help, but an injury to him is as much of an annual guarantee as income taxes. Injury-plagued Sidney Rice will be gone, as Adam Schefter tweeted a week ago, while Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are both free agents.
Bringing back both Tate and Baldwin, while hoping for a year of health from Harvin, won't be enough. The Seahawks need even more help at the position than that...or a downfield threat at tight end.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.