With the season over and teams beginning ito prepare for free agency and yes, the all- important draft, teams are right now assessing their roster weaknesses and looking where they need the most help.
We’ll take a look at the NFC in our second installment and break down where each team could be headed for the 2010 offseason. Keep in mind, these needs are focused towards the team’s draft plans, but could be fixed in free agency as well.
Sean Jones is a free agent this offseason and hasn’t worked out well as a starter after he was brought last year. Also, Quentin Mikell is a free agent in 2011 and could use an upgrade in the near future. Macho Harris should get consideration to be the starter next year, but he could be a better fit at the nickel corner spot.
Chris Gocong and Omar Gaither are free agents this offseason, as well as inside starter Jeremiah Trotter. Akeem Jordan and Tank Daniels both provided solid backup roles this season, but are restricted free agents and really aren’t starters anyways.
It’s well-known that Brian Westbrook is facing career-threatening concussion issues, so relying on him to be the starter wouldn’t be smart. The combined rushing touchdown totals of the running backs minus Westbrook was six, so it’s obvious that LeSean McCoy needs a power complement.
Flozell Adams is 34 and is getting by more on tripping rushers than actually blocking them. Marc Colombo wasn’t a great free agent sign a few years ago to be the projected starter, and an injury later, the 30-year-old shouldn’t be counted on. Doug Free played well in spot starts this season, but he’s a better fit at right tackle for the future.
Brady James has been solid over the past few years, but not spectacular, hence why they’ve tried to get another star next to him the past three years. Keith Brooking was that star this year, but is 33-years-old and is likely a cap cut before his contract is up in 2012.
The Cowboys don’t really have too many needs, but that doesn’t mean they should try to get younger at key positions. Roy Williams has drastically underperformed, but because of salary he’ll be a starter. Sam Hurd is a restricted free agent, and Patrick Crayton is on the wrong side of 30.
New York Giants
Jonathan Goff is the projected starter for next season. He’s a solid and likely capable starter, but with guys like Antonio Pierce and Kawika Mitchell before him, he won’t live up to the Pro Bowl potential bill. Chase Blackburn and Danny Clark, the others fighting for the starting spot, are free agents this offseason.
After buffing up the defensive line last offseason via the defensive tackle position, the experiement turned out to be lackluster. Now, Barry Cofield and Fred Robins are free agents this year, and only one is likely to be brought back. Another stud would help the youth at inside linebacker.
The Giants went to the Super Bowl in 2007 thanks to a great run game. However, once Derrick Ward left, the offense took a huge hit—more so than when Plaxico Burress left. Adding an explosive playmaker to complement Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs would be wise to help the offense.
It’s been a need for at least three years now, and it’s at the point of near collapse if they don’t get some youth soon. Chris Samuels has faced injuries the past few years, and at 32, he’s on the down slope of his career. Stephen Heyer is a restricted free agent this offseason, but either way he’s not a left tackle and could be upgraded at the right side.
With Orakpo fitting in there 4-3/3-4 hybrid defense, they still need that defensive end to complement him best. Andre Carter is 30 and hasn’t been productive in recent years, and Phillip Daniels is 36 and should retire either this offseason or next year at the latest. Both are free agents, and there are no starting material guys behind them.
Unfortunately for Jason Campbell, he’s not going to get a shot to get comfortable in an offensive scheme. Daniel Snyder has almost made up his mind, and new coach Mike Shanahan has already said the team plans on taking a quarterback with the fourth overall pick.
New Orleans Saints
Darren Sharper was one the main reasons the Saints defense could blitz at will this season. But the 33-year-old free agent is a stretch to be brought back, and even if he is, he’ll need to groom a replacement. Plus, Roman Harper, fellow starting safety, is a free agent as well and is on the wrong side of 30 too.
Scott Fujita played well this season and in the playoffs, but the 30-year-old is set to be a free agent and doesn’t fit the Greg Williams scheme entirely. Adding a playmaker on the outside would be a smart move, as an upgrade in pass rushing will help the defensive ends.
It was surprising to see the leagues 32nd ranked rushing attack gain significant yards in the first half of the Super Bowl against the Saints, but that was thanks to the lack of dominance by the Saints interior lineman. Kendrick Clancy and Rod Coleman are likely gone this season, as both are free agents and both are over 30. Also, Remi Ayodele, the projected starter, isn’t a great player and could use an upgrade.
Sam Baker has proven capable on the left side, and has really cemented this offense in pass protection. However, Tyson Clabo and Ojinnaka on the other side are free agents, and neither is the long-term answer at right tackle.
I like Stephen Nicholas a lot and I feel he could fit in their long term plans if he returns this offseason. However, Mike Peterson, 33, and Cory Wire, 30, are the projected strong side linebackers fighting to start, and both are unlikely to be retained.
Peria Jerry, last year’s first rounder, along with Jonathan Babineux form a solid duo at the three technique. However, Thomas Johnson and Vance Walker are not the long- term answer at nose tackle, and if this defense hopes to become a top-notch unit, they’ll need a steady nose tackle.
Steve Smith has expressed his concern to the team about a lack of speed besides him, and it makes sense. Musin Muhammed is a free agent this offseason and is unlikely to be brought back. The Dwyane Jarrett project hasn’t worked.
After having Kris Jenkins along with Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker for years, Panther fans were spoiled with the best defensive line in the NFL. However, with Peppers gone, that whole unit is revamped. Charles Johnson and Everette Brown are the future at defensive end and have little potential on the inside.
A stud defense tackle would really go far to help this young defense as a whole.
Na’il Diggs is the best outside linebacker on this defense, which isn’t a good sign because he’s 31 and past his prime. Landon Johnson was brought over last year from Cincy, but really hasn’t worked out well. Plus, he’s a free agent.
Their bright spot, James Anderson, is a free agent this offseason and I’ll hope that they re-sign him.
Tampa Bay Bucs
The biggest concern this offseason for the Bucs should be what they plan to do with Antonio Bryant. It’s unlikely they’ll re-sign him, and with no other rookie having top receiver talent, it’s going to be a major concern. Their best weapon is Mark Clayton, who hasn’t had a season above 500 yards receiving since his rookie year.
Ronde Barber was the staple of the defense along with Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp for many years. With the latter two now retired, Barber is facing that time in his career soon at 34. Aqib Talib is solid for the future on one side, but Barber doesn’t have a replacement to groom long-term.
Both Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood, both starting tackles, are free agents this offseason, and hopefully both will be retained. Either way, though, I don’t believe either is left tackle worthy and they should address this if they hope to aid in the development of Josh Freeman.
For any 3-4 defense, the key is the pass rushers on the outside. The Cardinals lack any explosive, young players out there and really need to upgrade and build the future. Chike Okeafor is 33; Bert Berry is 34; and Clark Hagans is 32—all past their prime.
Levi Brown has developed well under Russ Grimm, and has been a solid force on the right side. However, Mike Gandy is 30, a free agent, and not a great left tackle. If they hope to usher in the Matt Leinert era, they’re going to need a lot more protection as he learns the game in real-time situations.
Karlos Dansby is a free agent this offseason and it will take an awful lot of money to re-sign. Gerald Hayes is a solid starter next to him, but after the two of them, there is no depth and no one capable of taking over if Dansby doesn’t come back.
Matt Hasselbeck is on the wrong side of 30 and has played very inconsistently the past few years. He still can contribute at least another year at a high level, but he’s a free agent in 2011.
Walter Jones just announced his retirement from football, leaving a gaping hole at left tackle that’s needed upgrading since Shaun Alexander’s reign ended. Sean Locklear isn’t the answer long-term.
While Deon Grant at age 30 can still be solid for a few more years, he’s still no star and could always use upgrading. Plus, Lawyer Malloy is 36 and has only special teams roles left in his bag.
San Francisco 49ers
Both of the Niners current outside-linebacker starters are solid. Manny Lawson had six-and-a-half sacks last season, while Parys Harlson had five. However, neither is good enough be a featured linebacker.
The 49ers were 21st in pass defense, and that has a lot to do with their cornerbacks. Dashon Goldston had four interceptions, so he did his part this season, however, with Dre’ Bly a free agent this offseason and Tarrell Brown more of a nickel corner, they need a star cornerback.
The tackles played well this year, featured by Joe Staley. However, one thing I really noticed was the pressure brought up the middle on the quarterback and in the inside running game. A new guard somewhere in this draft or free agency to replace free agent David Baas and give an overall upgrade is needed.
St. Louis Rams
Marc Bulger isn’t cutting it as the starter and at 32, he’s no longer the future or the face of the franchise. It’s safe to say that Kyle Boller, if brought back, isn't in the running for the starting job either. I think they’ll use the draft and free agency to fill this void.
They ended the Tye Hill project this season, leaving them with a below average set of cornerbacks to build around. Ronnie Bartell is a solid No. 2 cornerback, but Jonathan Wade or Quincy Butler won’t cut it as front level starters.
What a great story David Vorbora has been, going from second to last pick in the draft, to starter in three years time. Still he and 31-year-old Paris Lenon should not be viewed as long-term starters and although James Laurinaitis played well last season, he needs help around him.
The biggest long-term question mark for the Vikings is the future of their nose tackle position. Pat Williams has been a staple of the defense for many years now, but at 36 and a free agent in 2011, it’s time the team starts finding his future replacement.
Whether Brett Favre returns or not next season, the Vikings have to find their quarterback of the future. After the Favre-era (hopefully ending before the 2020 like the Super Bowl commercial), the team needs an identity—one that can’t be filled by the now 31-year-old career backup Sage Rosenfelds.
Based on how he’s play the past few seasons with Minnesota, Chester Taylor is due for a huge pay increase with a team, maybe similar to Michael Turner. If he does leave, the Vikings will definitely need to address the running back position to keep Peterson fresh and less prone to injuries.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have one of the best offenses in the NFL, but need to continue to rebuild the offensive line if they hope to continue their success. Chad Clifton is 33 and a free agent this offseason; I question whether he’ll be back. Mark Tauscher, their right tackle, is also 32, and will need an upgrade soon as well.
Aaron Kampman wasn’t a great fit for this offense in the 3-4 now and really only came on towards the end of the season. He’s a free agent this year and I’d be surprised if he’s brought back. Clay Matthews has over-performed this season, but needs a complement long-term.
Both Nick Collins and Atari Bigby have played at Pro Bowl-type level this season, and form one of the better duos at safety in the NFL. However, both are free agents this off-season and even if both are retained, there is little to no depth behind them.
Jay Cutler needs options as the Bears quarterback if he hopes to develop, and right now the Bears lack a No. 1 receiver. Earl Bennett has played well, but he’s a No. 2 option and Devin Hester is better in the slot and spot duty. Also, Rashied Davis is a free agent and they only have Devin Aromashodu as a red zone target and a receiver over 6’1".
With Adawale Ogunleye a 32-year-old free agent, a 30-year-old Alex Brown, losing Gaines Adams tragically this offseason, and Mark Anderson being a free agent, there are huge question marks as to where the Bears are going at defensive end. They’ll likely have to get some youth at some point.
Matt Forte has been the whole offense at times for this team, and without him they really struggle. Now, with Adrian Peterson set to be a free agent and Garrett Wolfe to be a free agent in 2011, they need a long-term complement to Forte to really lighten his load and take some pressure off him.
It’s amazing that Grady Jackson is still starting and playing at a somewhat high level at age 36, but it can’t go on for much longer. Also, Sammie Lee Hill has played well, but the fourth rounder is more of a rotational guy than a full-time starter.
People forget that the team has Gosder Cherilus on the right side and he should be solid as their future right tackle. However, Jeff Backus isn’t a long-term left tackle (maybe a guard for this team), and Jon Jansen isn’t a factor either. Getting a left tackle is crucial to aiding in the development of Matt Stafford.
The best corner on Detroit’s roster is Phillip Buchanan, and he didn’t record an interception all last season; he is a free agent in 2011. Also, nickel cornerback Anthony Henry is a free agent this offseason, so regardless whether they upgrade or add depth, they need some help at the cornerback position.
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