The Biggest Hole Every NFL Team Still Must Fill After the Draft

Ryan Riddle@@Ryan_RiddleCorrespondent IMay 14, 2014

The Biggest Hole Every NFL Team Still Must Fill After the Draft

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    With the 2014 NFL draft over, rosters are fleshed out and early depth charts are being established. Yet, every team still has at least some holes left unfilled. Not even the best general managers can fill every hole at every position, especially in the era of free agency and the salary cap. 

    This slideshow takes a look at each team's biggest hole now that free agency and the draft are finally over and training camp awaits.

Chicago Bears

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: DE Jared Allen, OC Brian De La Puente, WR Domenik Hixon, DE Lamarr Houston, DE Israel Idonije, WR Josh Morgan, S Ryan Mundy, DE Willie Young

    Key Departures: WR/KR Devin Hester, QB Josh McCown, DT Henry Melton, DE Julius Peppers, DT Corey Wootton, S Major Wright  

    Key Rookies: CB Kyle Fuller, DT Ego Ferguson, DT Will Sutton, RB Ka'Deem Carey, S Brock Vereen, QB David Fales  

    2013 Record: 8-8

    Biggest Hole: RT


    While the Chicago Bears have Jermon Bushrod under a fairly lucrative contract at left tackle, he is still a guy they need to think about replacing sooner rather than later. Jordan Mills is still young and learning the position at right tackle, but he shows a lot of potential for improvement.

    When you pay a quarterback like Jay Cutler big money, you absolutely have to be able to protect him and keep him from any bodily damage. It doesn’t seem like the Bears have assembled the right set of tackles to get the job done, but it looks like that will have to wait another season.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: S Danieal Manning, QB Jason Campbell, OT Marshall Newhouse 

    Key Departures: OT Anthony Collins, WR Andrew Hawkins, DE Michael Johnson

    Key Rookies: CB Darqueze Dennard, RB Jeremy Hill, QB AJ McCarron 

    2013 Record: 11-5

    Biggest Hole: QB


    When you’re as talented as the Cincinnati Bengals are, finding the weak link may be a bit difficult. Fourth-year quarterback Andy Dalton clearly understands how to play the game and knows how to win. It’s these qualities that have allowed him to become a starter in the NFL and have the level of success that he’s had over his first three seasons. But Dalton’s limitations are beginning to hold this team back from moving on to something greater and taking that next step.

    Each year Dalton has been in the league, he has increased his passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating. It’s possible that he continues to improve, but one can’t help but to wonder what another quarterback could do with the weapons at his disposal.

    Perhaps the most unsettling thing about Dalton's game is the inconsistency and turnovers. He threw 20 interceptions in 2013 and 16 in 2012.

Buffalo Bills

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: LB Brandon Spikes, WR Mike Williams

    Key Departures: WR Stevie Johnson, S Jairus Byrd, DL Alex Carrington 

    Key Rookies: WR Sammy Watkins, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, OT Seantrel Henderson, OG Cyril Richardson, CB Ross Cockrell, LB Preston Brown

    2013 Record: 6-10

    Biggest Hole: Safety


    When the Buffalo Bills allowed safety Jairus Byrd to migrate to New Orleans, they left a gaping hole in the middle of their secondary. Their short-term Band-Aid for this issue is to plug in three-year pro Da’Norris Searcy. That could be a gamble. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Searcy 48th out of 86 safeties who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.

    Aaron Williams is a converted cornerback who's playing the other safety position. He does a pretty decent job and is a guy the Bills believe will continue to get better.

    That said, the weakness at safety shouldn’t be exposed too often considering opposing quarterbacks likely won’t have much time to throw. The Bills were second in the NFL in sacks last season with 57.

Denver Broncos

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: WR Emmanuel Sanders, DT Marvin Austin, CB Aqib Talib, S T.J. Ward, DE/LB DeMarcus Ware

    Key Departures: DE Robert Ayers, CB Champ Bailey, OG Zane Beadles, WR Eric Decker, WR/KR Trindon Holliday, RB Knowshon Moreno

    Key Rookies: CB Bradley Roby, WR Cody Latimer, OT Michael Schofield 

    2013 Record: 13-3

    Biggest Hole: ILB


    As loaded as the Denver Broncos are, they still are not without their faults.

    Denver could surely use an upgrade at the middle linebacker position, which is currently held by Nate Irving and Jamar Chaney. Chaney, coming from adequate duty during his time with the Eagles and Falcons, is merely a stopgap prospect to fill an immediate need. L.J. Fort is also at the position.

    Denver may have so much surrounding talent that covers up this problem, but it's still a weak link on their roster.  

Cleveland Browns

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: WR Nate Burleson, LB Karlos Dansby, WR Andrew Hawkins, RB Ben Tate, S Donte Whitner

    Key Departures: QB Jason Campbell, LB D'Qwell Jackson, S T.J. Ward, QB Brandon Weeden 

    Key Rookies: CB Justin Gilbert, QB Johnny Manziel, OT/OG Joel Bitonio, RB Terrance West, CB Pierre Desir

    2013 Record: 4-12

    Biggest Hole: WR


    Wide receiver might not have been such a big hole had the incident involving Josh Gordon never happened. But after testing positive for marijuana, Gordon is facing a possible year-long suspension, and the Browns did nothing in the draft to make up for it, as noted by Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer:

    But who will take the place of Gordon?

    The answer is no one, given the fact Gordon led the NFL in receiving yardage. He is the big-play guy, averaging 18.9 yards for his 87 receptions.

    Supposedly, the Browns front office was aware of Gordon's suspension before the draft. So they passed on Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins knowing that Gordon was facing a suspension.

    The Browns will likely be looking for a way to bring in a veteran off the street. Santonio Holmes is a free agent who might be able to help if the situation gets dire.

    Besides, Johnny Football will need some weapons in order to thrive. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: OT Anthony Collins, OC Evan Dietrich-Smith, WR Lavelle Hawkins, DE Michael Johnson, QB Josh McCown, DT Clinton McDonald, CB Alterraun Verner, S Major Wright

    Key Departures: OG Ted Larsen, CB Darrelle Revis

    Key Rookies: WR Mike Evans, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, RB Charles Sims

    2013 Record: 4-12 

    Biggest Hole: Pass-rusher


    Head coach Lovie Smith and Co. had a solid first draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, loading up with wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

    Their most glaring need now appears to be another edge-rusher. In a passing league, a team can never have too many pass-rushers, and it seems the Bucs only have one in free-agent arrival Michael Johnson. And Johnson is coming off of a slow statistical year.

    William Gholston does not have the speed around the edge to create constant pass rush, but he can be serviceable in containment and the occasional bull rush. Besides, cycling in fresh legs throughout the game keeps players fresh and increases effort.

    Maybe Da’Quan Bowers emerges and provides the team with the pass rush it desperately needs.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: TE John Carlson, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR Ted Ginn, OT Jared Veldheer

    Key Departures: LB Jasper Brinkley, CB Javier Arenas, LB Karlos Dansby, WR Andre Roberts 

    Key Rookies: S Deone Bucannon, TE Troy Niklas, DE Kareem Martin, WR John Brown, QB Logan Thomas

    2013 Record: 10-6

    Biggest Hole: QB


    When the season starts, Carson Palmer will be a couple of months away from his 35th birthday. While there are certainly older starting quarterbacks, they’re also significantly better.

    Palmer’s performance over the last few years—and even throughout his career—has been showered with poor decisions. Even his decision to sit out rather than play for the Bengals (who are now one of the most talented teams in the league) could be considered a poor choice.

    In 2013, Palmer threw 22 interceptions and had a passer rating of 83.9. It’s safe to assume his days of being able to elevate this team rather than hinder it are long over.

    The Cardinals drafted a project QB in Logan Thomas this year, but he is years from being ready—if he's ever ready. Unfortunately, Arizona will live and, more likely, die by the arm of Carson Palmer.

San Diego Chargers

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: RB Donald Brown

    Key Departures: CB Derek Cox, WR Lavelle Hawkins

    Key Rookies: CB Jason Verrett, LB Jeremiah Attaochu, OG Chris Watt, NT Ryan Carrethers, RB Marion Grice, WR Tevin Reese

    2013 Record: 9-7

    Biggest Hole: OLB


    The San Diego Chargers’ defensive front operates from a base 3-4 scheme, and their bookends are a couple of slow, aging veterans in Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney. Obviously, Freeney was once one of the greatest defensive players in the league, but he is now playing a position that doesn’t appear to feel natural and is slowed from years of wear and tear.

    Johnson has always been stout against the run and sound with his assignments and technique, but one thing he has never been is a pass-rusher.

    Melvin Ingram is returning from a knee injury and will have to earn a starting job after a couple of underwhelming years to start his once promising career.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Key Free-Agent Arrivals: OG Jeff Linkenbach, DT Vance Walker 

    Key Departures: OT Branden Albert, OG Jon Asamoah, DE Tyson Jackson, S Kendrick Lewis, WR Dexter McCluster, OG Geoff Schwartz 

    Key Rookies: DE/LB Dee Ford, CB Phillip Gaines, RB/WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas, QB Aaron Murray

    2013 Record: 11-5

    Biggest Hole: OL


    It’s tough to determine whether the Kansas City Chiefs’ biggest hole lies on the offensive line or with the receivers. Dwayne Bowe is a talented receiver who seemed to be out to lunch last year.

    On front lines, the Chiefs let nearly their entire line test out other teams and leave. Apparently, Andy Reid doesn’t believe in paying offensive linemen top dollar. This combination of offseason moves is enough to be worried about.

    Last year’s first overall selection, Eric Fisher, is moving to left tackle to protect Alex Smith’s blind side. On the other side is the highly athletic, yet frustratingly inconsistent Donald Stephenson. These two should form a decent pair on the outside.

    The inside of the offensive line is worrisome. Rodney Hudson, Jeff Allen and Jeff Linkenbach are slated to be starters for 2014.

    To get an idea what the team lost up front on the line, just look at the names in the “Key Departures” category.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: LB D'Qwell Jackson, DE Arthur Jones, WR Hakeem Nicks

    Key Departures: S Antoine Bethea, RB Donald Brown, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

    Key Rookies: OT Jack Mewhort, WR Donte Moncrief, LB Jonathan Newsome

    2013 Record: 11-5 

    Biggest Hole: DB


    The Indianapolis Colts had a productive offseason, bringing in guys like Hakeem Nicks and D’Qwell Jackson. One area they seemed to ignore, though, was the secondary.

    The Colts have come a long way since hiring Chuck Pagano as their head coach, making it to the playoffs both years he he's been there, but they haven't gotten back to Super Bowl contention just yet.

    Vontae Davis is pretty much the only person in the Colts defensive backfield who is in no immediate danger of being cut or replaced. The depth at cornerback on this team is relatively thin and also lacks elite talents.

    For now, Indy will try to make do with a limited talent in the back.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: DT Henry Melton, QB Brandon Weeden

    Key Departures: OC Phil Costa, DT Jason Hatcher, DE DeMarcus Ware, WR Miles Austin 

    Key Rookies: OT/OG Zack Martin, DE Demarcus Lawrence DE, WR Devin Street, S Ahmad Dixon 

    2013 Record: 8-8

    Biggest Hole: DL


    With the Super Bowl window closing fast on this Dallas Cowboys squad, the urgency is notched up to the next level. However, despite the need to win now, Dallas had its hands tied behind its back and had to make the tough decision of letting the cornerstone of the team's defense, DeMarcus Ware, go.

    This defense will now attempt to rock the Tampa 2 system with George Selvie and Anthony Spencer coming off the edges. On the inside, Henry Melton and Nick Hayden will plug things up. This is hardly a unit that strikes fear into the hearts of opposing offenses.

    If the roster stays as it is now, don’t be surprised when teams are able to run all over the Cowboys. 

Miami Dolphins

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: OT Branden Albert, RB Knowshon Moreno, CB Cortland Finnegan, DT Earl Mitchell, CB Brent Grimes

    Key Departures: DT Paul Soliai, S Chris Clemons, CB Nolan Carroll

    Key Rookies: OT Ja'Wuan James, WR Jarvis Landry, OT Billy Turner 

    2013 Record: 8-8

    Biggest Hole: WR


    Before the draft began, the Miami Dolphins had major issues on their offensive line with both Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito departing in the wake of their bullying saga. That left quarterback Ryan Tannehill facing another season of being protected by turnstiles. No QB was sacked more than Tannehill was in 2013, and things looked to be getting worse for 2014.

    Drafting two of the better blockers in the draft (James and Turner) looks to be enough to upgrade the unit.

    As for the Dolphin receivers, though, things seem to be stuck in neutral. Their top three receivers—Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews and Mike Wallaceare back, but this trio is hardly anything to get excited about. They combined for only 11 receiving touchdowns in 2013.

    Drafting Jarvis Landry in the second round at least showed the need for help at the position, but Landry is a guy who had second-round tape and concerning measurables. Landry ran just a 4.77 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and his other numbers were mediocre.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: CB Nolan Carroll, S Malcolm Jenkins, QB Mark Sanchez, RB Darren Sproles

    Key Departures: QB Michael Vick, WR DeSean Jackson, S Patrick Chung, WR Jason Avant 

    Key Rookies: LB Marcus Smith, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Josh Huff, CB Jaylen Watkins

    2013 Record: 10-6

    Biggest Hole: WR


    When you release a productive and dynamic playmaker like DeSean Jackson, it’s going to leave a hole on your roster that won't get filled overnight. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly attempted to throw some dirt on that hole by drafting Oregon receiver Josh Huff and highly-productive Vanderbilt wideout Jordan Matthews. Both players had productive college careers and were brought in specifically out of immediate need.

    The Eagles currently have Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin penciled in as the starters. Matthews and Huff will require time to familiarize themselves with the speed of the league, but could be more than just serviceable down the road.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: CB Javier Arenas, OG Jon Asamoah, WR/KR Devin Hester, DE Tyson Jackson, DT Paul Soliai, CB Josh Wilson 

    Key Departures: S Thomas DeCoud, WR Brian Robiskie, TE Tony Gonzalez 

    Key Rookies: OT Jake Matthews, DL Ra'Shede Hageman, LB Prince Shembo  

    2013 Record: 4-12

    Biggest Hole: Pass-rusher


    The Atlanta Falcons went into free agency in desperate need a pass-rusher and help on the offensive line. They signed guard Jon Asamoah and drafted tackle Jake Matthews, but pretty much ignored the need for a rusher off the edge.

    The Falcons will now attempt to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks with Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi and Osi Umenyiora. Biermann is a solid player coming off of an injury and Massaquoi is a younger player with potential. Umenyiora is well over the hill, though, and shouldn’t be expected to contribute much. Free agent Tyson Jackson will help some, but he only has nine sacks in five seasons.

    There doesn’t appear to be a player on the roster who can rack up double-digit sacks next season, but Massaquoi and Biermann do have the potential.

New York Giants

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: DE Robert Ayers, QB Josh Freeman, WR/KR Trindon Holliday, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Mario Manningham, LB Jameel McClain, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, OG Geoff Schwartz, CB Walter Thurmond

    Key Departures: OG Kevin Boothe, RB Andre Brown, DT Linval Joseph, S Ryan Mundy, TE Brandon Myers, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Justin Tuck

    Key Rookies: WR Odell Beckham, OC Weston Richburg, RB Andre Williams

    2013 Record: 7-9

    Biggest Hole: TE


    After the year Eli Manning had last year, it would be really helpful for him to have a nice, reliable security blanket. Yet, the New York Giants seem to be going in the opposite direction from that ideal.

    Tight end is a glaring weakness when you look at the names currently on the roster. Adrien Robinson leads the pack and is followed by Kellen Davis and Larry Donnell. If you don’t know who these people are, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

    Robinson was drafted in the fourth round in 2012, but he has yet to catch a single pass. In fact, he is only credited with contributing in three career games in two years.

    Talk about starting a player with inexperience. This positional hole is likely to be amplified with the loss of a premier offensive weapon in Hakeem Nicks.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: OG Zane Beadles, DL Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, RB Toby Gerhart, DE Ziggy Hood 

    Key Departures: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, QB Blaine Gabbert 

    Key Rookies: QB Blake Bortles, WR Marqise Lee, WR Allen Robinson, CB Aaron Colvin, LB Telvin Smith, RB Storm Johnson

    2013 Record: 4-12

    Biggest Hole: Pass-rusher


    For several years, Jacksonville Jaguars fans have been clamoring for a pass-rusher. Needless to say, the team has failed to prioritize the position year after year.

    Bringing in Chris Clemons is a nice addition in free agency, but he is nowhere near enough to satisfy the needs of the team.

    Now the question becomes, will the Jaguars do something between now and the start of the season to boost their pass-rushing presence?

New York Jets

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: WR Eric Decker, RB Chris Johnson, QB Michael Vick

    Key Departures: CB Antonio Cromartie, OT Austin Howard, QB Mark Sanchez, OG Vladimir Ducasse, WR Santonio Holmes (unsigned)

    Key Rookies: S Calvin Pryor, TE Jace Amaro, WR/KR Jalen Saunders 

    2013 Record: 8-8

     Biggest Hole: WR


    Adding three draft picks to the wide receiver position last week was the implementation of quantity over quality. Perhaps this was in the hopes that one of these mid- to late-round prospects would become a significant weapon.

    Jalen Saunders is the most likely candidate here, but even he is a long shot to be a major player in the offense. After all, the kid is 5’9” and weighs 170 pounds in full gear. It’s fair to say "diminutive" is an understatement.

    The New York Jets were able to upgrade the tight end and running back positions, but quarterback Geno Smith is still going to need more help spreading the ball downfield.

    Santonio Holmes remains unsigned, and free agent Eric Decker is now expected to play like a No. 1 receiver after coming from a Denver Broncos offense where he was the third or fourth option.

    Stephen Hill could be a weapon if he ever learns how to run routes and catch the ball. He was drafted in the second round a few years ago because of his height and speed combination, but those traits have yet to pay dividends.

Detroit Lions

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: S James Ihedigbo, WR Golden Tate

    Key Departures: WR Nate Burleson, S Louis Delmas, QB Shaun Hill, DE Israel Idonije, DE Willie Young  

    Key Rookies: TE Eric Ebron, LB Kyle Van Noy, C Travis Swanson, WR TJ Jones, K Nate Freese

    2013 Record: 7-9

    Biggest Hole: RT


    The Detroit Lions will rely on second-year pro LaAdrian Waddle to help protect Matthew Stafford against the pass rush at right tackle. Although Detroit did grab a couple of offensive linemen in the draft, they're not likely to see any consistent playing time this year. There’s a good chance the Lions' exlposive offense could collapse if the offensive line is unable protect against the dominating pass rushes in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: DE Julius Peppers

    Key Departures: OC Evan Dietrich-Smith, WR James Jones, OT Marshall Newhouse

    Key Rookies: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, WR Davante Adams

    2013 Record: 8-7-1

    Biggest Hole: Backup QB


    No one wants to think about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers missing time with an injury, but these things do happen, as we saw last year when he went down for a few weeks with a broken collar bone.

    With just Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien behind Rodgers, it seemed like a pretty smart idea to add a promising backup who can sit behind Rodgers in case of emergencies. But that didn’t happen. This leaves Green Bay in trouble when it comes to depth at quarterback.

    Besides, even if a backup QB turns out to be something special, a team can either keep him around or trade him for grade value.


Carolina Panthers

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: WR Jason Avant, CB Antoine Cason, WR Jerricho Cotchery, S Thomas DeCoud, TE Ed Dickson, S Roman Harper 

    Key Departures: WR Steve Smith, WR Ted Ginn, WR Domenik Hixon, WR Brandon LaFell, S Mike Mitchell, CB Captain Munnerlyn 

    Key Rookies: WR Kelvin Benjamin, DE Kony Ealy, OG Trai Turner, S Tre Boston

    2013 Record: 12-4

    Biggest Hole: WR


    The Carolina Panthers met defensive needs in the 2013 draft, taking defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. What they failed miserably at addressing in free agency was providing Cam Newton with some bona fide weapons. Hakeem Nicks would have been a wonderful addition to this Panthers team.

    Carolina drafted Kelvin Benjamin with its first pick and he will give Newton a reliable target, but the Panthers still need an additional receiver or two.

New England Patriots

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: CB Brandon Browner, S Patrick Chung, CB Darrelle Revis, WR Brandon LaFell, DE Will Smith

    Key Departures: RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Aqib Talib

    Key Rookies: DL Dominique Easley, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, OC Bryan Stork, RB James White

    2013 Record: 12-4

    Biggest Hole: WR


    Sure, the New England Patriots have drafted receivers high in recent drafts, and they even adequately replaced Wes Welker with a younger, slightly less talented version in Danny Amendola. When healthy, he can be a reliable target. But the “when healthy” portion of that sentence is key.

    The top two wideouts on the roster are Julian Edelman and the aforementioned Amendola. Edelman was a free agent this offseason and was given every opportunity to test the market. It appeared the market was none too kind, as he elected to re-sign with the Patriots, who had a standing offer on the table in case he was unable to find greener pastures.

    Second-year receiver Aaron Dobson is either still raw or showing early signs of being a bust.

    With star tight end Rob Gronkowski out last season, Tom Brady struggled and his frustration boiled over. Right now, it looks like Brady will have to manage through yet another season with a lackluster receiving core.

Oakland Raiders

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: QB Matt Schaub, CB Tarell Brown, OT Austin Howard, WR James Jones, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, CB Carlos Rogers, DE Antonio Smith, DE Justin Tuck, LB LaMarr Woodley

    Key Departures: DE Lamarr Houston, CB Mike Jenkins, RB Rashad Jennings, CB Tracy Porter, OT Jared Veldheer, QB Terrelle Pryor

    Key Rookies: LB Khalil Mack, QB Derek Carr, OG Gabe Jackson, CB Keith McGill 

    2013 Record: 4-12

    Biggest Hole: QB


    In an attempt to salvage a job that appeared to be doomed from the beginning, Reggie McKenzie opted to put his team in the hands of a veteran quarterback with a knack for not making critical errors—that is, until last season.

    Matt Schaub was run out of Houston last year after throwing 14 interceptions in 10 games and having a passer rating of 73.

    Head coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie seemed convinced that 2013 was an anomaly for the QB.

    When the Raiders were on the clock with pick No. 5 of the draft, some speculated they’d take a QB. They upgraded their defense instead, but then did take Fresno State QB Derek Carr in the second round. Carr is set to start the season as the third-strong QB, though.

    The Raiders have some talent at nearly every position. That said, quarterback will not only make or break this season for the Raiders, it will also make or break the jobs of two key decision-makers.

St. Louis Rams

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: WR Kenny Britt, DL Alex Carrington, QB Shaun Hill, WR T.J. Moe

    Key Departures: QB Kellen Clemens, CB Cortland Finnegan

    Key Rookies: OT Greg Robinson, DT Aaron Donald, CB Lamarcus Joyner, RB Tre Mason, CB E.J. Gaines, DE/LB Michael Sam 

    2013 Record: 7-9

    Biggest Hole: WR


    Many of you may think that Sam Bradford is the weak link of this team. Personally, I'm not willing to concede that just yet. Admittedly, this is a make-or-break season for Bradford, as he is quickly running out of excuses.

    The receiving core isn’t without talent, but it is largely unproven and seems to be lacking a No. 1 option. Jared Cook is Bradford’s closest thing to a safety net.

    Second-year wideout Tavon Austin disappointed in his rookie campaign. The St. Louis Rams are apparently still figuring out how to use him.

    Meanwhile, Stedman Bailey will miss the first four games of the season after being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs. His absence will be felt, as every week counts in the NFC West. The Rams neglected to adequately address this weakness in the draft, though they did acquire some worthy talent.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: TE Owen Daniels, WR Steve Smith, OT Eugene Monroe

    Key Departures: TE Ed Dickson, CB Corey Graham, S James Ihedigbo, DE Arthur Jones, LB Jameel McClain, OT Michael Oher 

    Key Rookies: LB C.J. Mosley, DT Timmy Jernigan, S Terrence Brooks, TE Crockett Gillmore 

    2013 Record: 8-8

    Biggest Hole: OL


    The Baltimore Ravens gave us the usual positive narrative after the draft about how they filled most of their needs and got the players they wanted. However, the Ravens suffered through one of the worst offensive lines in the league and were forced to shuffle things around a few times last year.

    Will left guard Kelechi Osemele completely recover from back surgery?

    Is Ravens coach John Harbaugh considering letting second-year lineman Rick Wagner battle for a starting job?

    The Ravens had an average draft in terms of acquiring need, but that’s always how they draft. They got help for a defense that ranked No. 12 last season but not protection for a quarterback who was sacked 48 times in 2013.

    Like it or not, the same underwhelming front will be returning for yet another season of mediocrity.

Washington Redskins

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: S Ryan Clark, DT Jason Hatcher, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Andre Roberts, CB Tracy Porter

    Key Departures: WR Josh Morgan, CB Josh Wilson 

    Key Rookies: DE/LB Trent Murphy, OT Morgan Moses, CB Bashaud Breeland, RB Lache Seastrunk 

    2013 Record: 3-13

    Biggest Hole: CB


    Several areas of the Washington Redskins roster could use some upgrades. However, no position really presents a terrible weakness.

    Offensive line would have been the biggest hole had the team not addressed it somewhat in free agency and the draft. Wideout could have been another major hole, but DeSean Jackson has the power to change that loss into a gain one big play at a time. He affects defenses even when balls are not being thrown his way.

    The real gaping hole for this team is at cornerback.

    After the inconsistent DeAngelo Hall and second-year starter David Amerson, the drop-off is fairly significant. And Hall and Amerson are nowhere near talented enough to be so far ahead of their competition.

    Stealing Tracy Porter from the Oakland Raiders helps, but overall, I can imagine Washington having a hard time matching up against those third and fourth receiver options.

New Orleans Saints

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: CB Champ Bailey, S Jairus Byrd

    Key Departures: OT Charles Brown, OC Brian De La Puente, S Roman Harper, S Malcolm Jenkins, WR Lance Moore, RB Darren Sproles, DE Will Smith  

    Key Rookies: WR Brandin Cooks, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste

    2013 Record: 11-5

    Biggest Hole: Pass-rusher


    The New Orleans Saints could still use some help at several positions.

    Perhaps their biggest need will be in manufacturing pass rushes from the outside on a consistent basis.

    Junior Galette and Parys Haralson are serviceable, but both are better utilized as depth pieces than as featured starters at a key position for the success of this defense.

    It’s really amazing how defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was able to hide so many deficiencies on that side of the ball. However, I seriously doubt that the team can keep up the smoke and mirrors act for long. Pretty soon, the players are going to get exposed in a very humbling way.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: CB Phillip Adams 

    Key Departures: CB Brandon Browner, DL Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, OT Breno Giacomini, DT Clinton McDonald, WR Golden Tate, WR Walter Thurmond 

    Key Rookies: WR Paul Richardson, OT Justin Britt, DE Cassius Marsh, WR Kevin Norwood, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis

    2013 Record: 13-3

    Biggest Hole: Offensive Line


    Although the Seattle Seahawks struggled with a banged-up offensive line for most of last season, they still could’ve upgraded the unit a bit more via free agency or even the draft.

    The good news is that Russell Okung should be back at full strength, but returning starters Max Unger (center) and guard J.R. Sweezy struggled to open up holes and keep pressure away from Russell Wilson. Rookie Justin Britt was brought in to compete at right tackle with Michael Bowie, but the team could really use some better pile drivers inside.

    There were times in 2013 when Wilson’s quick feet saved the Seahawks from looking incredibly deficient. For the sake of his longevity, Seattle needs to do a better job giving its star quarterback a clean pocket.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Lance Moore

    Key Departures: S Ryan Clark, WR Jerricho Cotchery, RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR Emmanuel Sanders, LB LaMarr Woodley, DE Ziggy Hood

    Key Rookies: LB Ryan Shazier, DL Stephon Tuitt, RB/WR/KR Dri Archer, WR Martavis Bryant, LB Jordan Zumwalt, DT Daniel McCullers, TE Rob Blanchflower 

    2013 Record: 8-8

    Biggest Hole: CB


    For the past few years, it's been a glaring reality that Pittsburgh needed to get faster on defense. The Steelers finally have started to address that need. Picking up speedy linebacker Ryan Shazier in the draft was a boost overall, but the unit that needs speed more than ever is the secondary.

    Starting cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay are serviceable players, but they lack top-end speed. This is critical when competing against today’s offenses.

Houston Texans

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: RB Andre Brown, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

    Key Departures: TE Owen Daniels, LB Joe Mays, NT Earl Mitchell, DE Antonio Smith, RB Ben Tate, QB Matt Schaub

    Key Rookies: DE Jadeveon Clowney, OG Xavier Su'a-Filo, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, NT Louis Nix III, QB Tom Savage 

    2013 Record: 2-14

    Biggest Hole: WR


    The Houston Texans, who sunk to 2-14 last season after making the playoffs the previous two years, brought in the most talented player in the draft, Jadeveon Clowney. But one area they failed to address was wide receiver.

    They drafted receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first round a year ago, but they still need to bring in some more youth and depth at the position. Andre Johnson is now 32 years old and is not getting any younger. If he went down, the Texans would be severely lacking in targets. Johnson is also getting frustrated, and he's expressed doubt about his future in Houston.

    The current backups at receiver are Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey, neither of whom have demonstrated the talent to step into a starting role.

    When you have that kind of drop-off in talent between the starters and backups, it’s time to upgrade that position.

Tennessee Titans

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: WR Dexter McCluster, OT Michael Oher, LB Shaun Phillips, DT Al Woods 

    Key Departures: WR Kenny Britt, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Chris Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner

    Key Rookies: OT Taylor Lewan, RB Bishop Sankey, DT DaQuan Jones, QB Zach Mettenberger 

    2013 Record: 7-9

    Biggest Hole: QB


    The Tennessee Titans seem to understand that they made a mistake in drafting Jake Locker in the first round. Even if he shows some improvement from last year, he’ll still be a long way off from living up to the franchise’s expectations of him.

    Locker will enter the 2014 season as the unquestioned starter, and he’ll be severely handicapping a passing attack loaded with talent.

    Heading into his fourth year as a pro, Locker has never played a full 16-game season. He has also never thrown more than 10 touchdown passes. And even the season in which he threw 10 touchdowns (2012), he threw 11 interceptions to go with it.

    Drafting Zach Mettenberger out of LSU in the later rounds was a nice move for the future at the position, but he is highly unlikely to be competing for much in 2014—especially considering that he is still rehabbing a knee injury. Some day Tennessee could be led by Mettenberger and his rocket arm, though. He is the epitome of a pocket passer.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Key Free-Agent and Trade Arrivals: LB Jasper Brinkley, S Kurt Coleman, CB Derek Cox, OG Vladimir Ducasse, DT Linval Joseph, CB Captain Munnerlyn, DE Corey Wootton 

    Key Departures: DE Jared Allen, RB Toby Gerhart

    Key Rookies: DE/LB Anthony Barr, QB Teddy Bridgewater, DE Scott Crichton, OG David Yankey, CB Antone Exum

    2013 Record: 5-10-1

    Biggest Hole: Secondary depth


    The Minnesota Vikings have accumulated some impressive depth over the years that should eventually pay off. Teddy Bridgewater looks like he could be the face of the franchise and a guy the team can continue to build around.

    The one area that seems to have a hole is the secondary. I understand the starters are doing pretty well, but I personally think some upgrades to the backups at this position would be ideal. This could also push the starters to work harder and breed better players through competition.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Key Free-Agent Arrivals: S Antoine Bethea, CB Chris Cook, WR Stevie Johnson

    Key Departures: CB Tarell Brown, WR Mario Manningham, CB Carlos Rogers, S Donte Whitner 

    Key Rookies: S Jimmie Ward, RB Carlos Hyde, OC Marcus Martin, LB Chris Borland, WR Bruce Ellington, DB Dontae Johnson  

    2013 Record: 12-4

    Biggest Hole: Secondary


    Just like with every team, the San Francisco 49ers were faced with some tough decisions as they figured out who they could afford to keep and who they had to let go. The decision eventually led to the entire starting secondary, with the exception of Eric Reid, moving on to other teams.

    The mass exodus was somewhat addressed with the free-agent signing of Antoine Bethea and Chris Cook and drafting of Jimmie Ward in the first round, but that's hardly enough to break even with where the 49ers were a year ago.

    In the NFC West, the last thing this organization wants to do is fail to reload and/or upgrade positional talent. Now, the 49ers will be forced to rely upon unproven and inexperienced talent on one of the most critical units in football.

    After all, in a passing league, you better be able to stop the pass.


    All stats and info courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

    Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and currently writes for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter or visit