NFL Free Agency: Pinpointing the Top Free Agent Need/Target for All 32 Teams
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Last night I was sitting in the dark...don't ask, and I was thinking about football. Earlier, I saw an episode of the NFL Network and their 32 teams in 32 days, and that got me to thinking about this article.
When and if free agency opens up, I was wondering what each team would try to focus on as their No.1 FA priority.
There was a lot that went into this piece, so please be patient with my assessments.
Each team was examined by draft, possible free agent losses, and ultimately filling additional needs.
Here is my stab at your team's highest FA need for 2011. Roll the film!
AFC East: Buffalo Bills
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They drafted Chris Hairston, OL, from Clemson in Round 4, so it is safe to say they addressed an important need, so the position left out in the draft becomes priority one for FA.
Quarterback: There are several quarterbacks who will be available come FA, but which direction will they go?
Most teams looking for FA quarterbacks have two mindsets. One, do we look for a younger quarterback we can build around? Or, do we go for the veteran to bridge a gap, or serve as a solid backup.
In the Bills case, Fitzpatrick is a young guy, and since they did not draft a quarterback it is safe to say they have a lot of confidence in him. His backup is Brian Brohm, a former second round reject from the Packers, so if the Bills look at FA, who would be their likely target?
Before we get to specifics, here is a list of the top FA QB's: Peyton Manning, Michael Vick, Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, Matt Moore, Marc Bulger, Bruce Gradkowski, Caleb Hanie, Tarvaris Jackson, and Todd Collins.
After looking at those names and taking away the top two in Manning and Vick, the list doesn't exactly light up the interest board.
If the Bills are looking for someone who is a solid backup then they should consider Caleb Hanie or even a Tyler Thigpen.
If the Bills are looking for someone to come in and challenge Fitzpatrick, then they should look at Gradkowski, Bulger, or Hasselbeck.
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The Dolphins had six picks and chose one player for each position: OL, WR, RB, DB, TE, and DT. They will need to get the most out of this draft, or surely Sporano doesn’t make it to season five with the Dolphins.
By drafting Pouncey (G/C), Thomas (RB), and Gates (WR), the Dolphins addressed immediate needs, but there are still some glaring spots that need mending.
One area a lot of Dolphins fans were hoping the Fins would draft is QB, and by not drafting one should be a vote of confidence for Henne, but the Dolphins might still look at QB in FA.
Consider, they have Pennington with yet another freak injury, and Brandstaater (who?), so it is likely they will be looking.
If the Fins do not trade for a quarterback, they will certainly pursue a QB in FA.
The Dolphins are in the Bills camp when it comes to QB’s. I think both teams have certain confidence in their signal callers, but nothing can ruin a season faster than poor play by your QB. I could say, look at the previous slide to round out this analysis, but let’s bring in a few more names to stir the pot.
There are two FA QB’s who fit what the Dolphins try to do, and they are: Matt Hasselbeck and Trent Edwards.
Hasselbeck adds that veteran presence and a bridge, while Edwards offers a younger man’s challenge to Henne. One would have to be in the mindset of management to understand their direction.
I don’t think it’s time to give up on Henne, but next year is year four, and Henne basically became the starter in game three of the 2009 year, so this will be his third year as a starter, and that is usually the year where the quarterback is supposed to “get it.”
The Dolphins will definitely make a move, but trade or free agency is still the larger question. A trade says a lot more than a free agency signing.
New England Patriots
New England Patriots: The Patriots drafted two running backs and two defensive backs, and if you throw in a quarterback they pretty much took care of all their needs. Actually, that’s a joke, especially the QB one.
Patriots also drafted two offensive linemen just in case they lose a few to free agency. The curious pick for me wasn’t so much Mallett, it was Smith the TE out of Marshall. Again, I don’t know the mindset of the Patriot brass, but they could have done better elsewhere, especially with Gronkowski and Hernandez taken just a year ago. It makes me wonder if one of those guys might not be trade bait.
As far as highest priority free agency need, the Patriots could certainly bolster their WR position, one they did not address in Round 2. Yes, they drafted Dowling (DB) Virginia, but at pick 33 Titus Young, Torrey Smith, and Greg Little were all there.
The Patriots receiving corps is led by soon to be 32-year-old Deion Branch. Brandon Tate has been a disappointment since he was supposedly the heir apparent to Randy Moss, and other than Wes Welker, whose health has become somewhat of a concern, there is no one.
New York Jets
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In the draft, the Jets addressed the D Line and they grabbed two receivers in Jeremy Kerley and Scotty McKnight, probably at the request of Sanchez, who is known to be working out with McKnight this offseason, but Holmes and Edwards are both FA, and it is hard to believe they can afford to keep both.
Kerley and McKnight are roughly the same size, and if you pair them with Cotchery and Holmes (with the proviso that Holmes is re-signed), suddenly the Jets lack size at WR. Patrick Turner, who is 6’5” is a practice squad guy, and neither Payne nor Smith can stretch the field.
So, what is the point here? Well, if the Jets lose either Holmes or Edwards, why would they pursue another big name FA that will cost them the kind of money they could have spent to keep both players? Assuming they lose one, there is still a glut of receivers, and I believe they will stay out of the WR market and look to an area they ignored in the draft: OLB.
The top prize, Chad Greenway has already been tagged by the Vikings, so why not try and steal a player from a playoff rival, LaMarr Woodley of the Steelers? Talk about killing two birds with one stone?
The Jets have gotten decent play from their LB’s, but they can certainly improve that area in FA. Bryan Thomas has been disappointing, and Pace did not have a very good year either, so a challenge at the position should be coming.
Other notable players to pursue: Tamba Hali (KC), or Ben Leber (MN).
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
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Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens seemed to address a few needs in the draft: running back, wide receiver and cornerback. By all accounts it was a very successful draft, but as with most teams there is unfinished business.
The Ravens still have some needs, mostly in the area of depth, but if there was a pressing area to look at via free agency that would most likely occur for backup QB.
With Marc Bulger basically gone once free agency begins, the Ravens will need to search for another veteran to come in and back up Flacco.
They drafted Tyrod Taylor from VT, but it’s hard to have a rookie as a backup, especially with a team in the playoff hunt. They have Hunter Cantwell, wait, no they don’t…wait, yes they do. Cantwell is a transaction wire in and of himself it seems.
If the Ravens were to lose Flacco, the load for Taylor just might be too much, and with a veteran defense, they don’t have time to sit and wait on a rookie QB to come around.
My bet is the Ravens will look for someone to come in as a solid backup, and a few names could be: Trent Edwards, J.P. Losman, or they can wait to see if Delhomme gets released and sign him. I know these look like retreads, but it’s not like they are going to be full time starters.
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Imagine if Palmer was coming back and Ocho-nono was not a pain in the ass? They could have spent their first and second picks fortifying other positions, or drafting the best athlete, instead they were forced into drafting for replacing.
Okay, let’s give them a break. They did well in the first few rounds with Green, Dalton, Moch, and Boling. I hope those players pan out for the Bengals, but imagine if they were able to draft Peterson or Fairley, RB Ryan Williams, and in Round 3 the best athlete available?
Many people feel the Bengals need a lot of offensive help, and being ranked 20th certainly doesn’t help, but their running game was abysmal at 95 YPG. They averaged scoring 20 points per game, but their defense gave up 24.7, so who’s pointing fingers?
Are the Bengals hoping Benson bounces back? Is Bernard Scott enough as a backup? At 95 yards per game average, they better hope so.
Defensively their safeties are old and their corners are much to be desired. I could see the Bengals vigorously pursuing Asomugha. I’m just kidding, no they won’t. Actually, the Bengals need to shore up their run defense also, they gave up 115 YPG. Now if they could only switch the defensive numbers with the offense they’d be okay.
So, where does that leave the Bengals since they seem to have important needs at so many positions? Well, I threw my dart and it landed on: DB. The Bengals have to get younger at safety and with the likely loss of J. Joseph, they will need to replace their best (albeit overrated) corner.
I’ve spent way too much time on this team, but in a final analysis, Bengals fans shake their heads because one, the ownership is borderline incompetent, and two, the Bengals often have to make reach picks, and that is never a good sign for a franchise desiring to stay near the top.
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Cleveland Browns: The Browns took care of two key areas in the draft, defensive line and wide receiver. The Browns just gave up way too much in the run (127 YPG), and their passing offense was woeful at 186 YPG.
Most people had A.J. Green or Julio Jones going to the Browns, but they may have actually ended up with a receiver who will be equally as effective in Greg Little. Plus the drafting of Jordan Cameron (USC) should provide additional depth to the TE position. I would still like to see the Browns go after a receiver in FA, but I think their attention will be on defense, particularly at LB.
The Browns linebacking corps seems to be a mish mosh of, “let’s plug in to see what we get.” They have some older players in Barton (12 years) and Bowen (12). Ross (six) and Gocong (five) are young, but both are FA, so they could lose both, and if so, they would have to replace two younger guys while you have two older guys, and in a 3-4 scheme that’s tough to do.
If the Browns can keep both Gocong and Roth, then they could look at pursuing Paul Posluszny (Bills), Tamba Hali (Chiefs), or even David Harris (Jets).
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Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s tough to look at the Steelers and say, where do they need players? This is a team that finds a way to stay at or near the top, and the way they do that is to make smart draft choices and strategic free agent signings.
I have to say that I was not very impressed by the Steelers draft this year. Come back in a year or two, and I would be happy to eat my words if I am wrong. But something didn’t mesh with me.
Okay, I understand Heyward, to a point, because Keisel, Smith, and Eason are getting up there, but I thought for sure the Steelers would look to the O Line as the first pick, then move on to DL later, and no offense to OL from Florida, but Florida isn’t exactly Alabama when it comes to producing top notch backs, so that is to say the OL are better pass blockers than they are run blockers, something more attune to what the Steelers like to do.
The Steelers don’t have many needs, but if there are a few positions to look at in FA. Three areas are: OL, DL, and LB.
The most pressing need is LB. Foote and Farrior are getting up there, Woodley is a FA, as is backup Fox, and the depth just isn’t there. You can never have enough youth, speed, or depth at LB. The Steelers are in a world of hurt if they lose Woodley, because there are not a slew of LB’s out there who are adept at a 3-4 scheme.
AFC South: Houston Texans
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There was no secret the Texans needed to upgrade their defense, and they did a good job via the draft.
With a defense ranked 30th, and an offense ranked third, you would think that their biggest need would be on defense, and they just might work on some big FA like Asomugha, or maybe try and steal LB’s Hali (Chiefs) or Tulloch (Titans), but I am going to go in another direction. I think the Texans need to think WR.
Jacoby Jones is a FA, and injuries to Kevin Walter are concerns with future durability. The Texans could look at James Jones (Packers) or Steve Breaston (Cardinals).
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The Colts have had a few good drafts recently, and this year was no different. I thought the drafting of Castonzo and Ijalana were excellent, and then to follow up with Nevis? Great day in the morning!
I even liked the pick of Carter in Round 4 because Addai’s injuries are enough already. Addai is a FA, and if I was the Colts I would not expend too much energy trying to keep him. Carter and second year man Brown are not bad, but the Colts should consider a FA RB as competition.
Also, there are two other areas of need, safety and linebacker; the most pressing being: LB
The Colts defense was borderline horrid on run defense last year, ranking 25th. Nevis will help, but most of your tackles come from your LB’s and they need more productivity, especially in the middle.
I like Brackett. I think he is a solid player, but they need some serious help. Harris (Jets), Tulloch (Titans), Posluszny (Bills), or even Ruud (Bucs) would immediately upgrade the position. And they need to try and sign Clint Sessions.
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Jacksonville Jaguars: I am puzzled by the Jags personnel moves. I think on the one hand they have an idea for what they want to do, other times I think it’s about throwing darts, and they wonder why they chase the Colts.
The big question for a franchise like Jacksonville is to answer the question, “Do we want to keep up with the Joneses, or stop the Joneses?” I don’t think they have that figured out.
On more critique then I am done. If you look at the Jags, their offense was pretty balanced, ranked third in rushing, and yes 27th in passing, but 15th overall.
Now defensively they ranked 28th overall, so let’s go out and move up the draft board to draft Gabbert. You see my consternation? Plus, to not draft a WR, what were they thinking? Oh yeah, they gave up their second round choice where they could have drafted a quality WR.
The Jags were sitting perfect to take an impact pass rusher, or could have even traded down, gathered another pick or two, but no, they moved up, drafted a risk, then lost picks to go along with it.
Okay, let’s move on. The Jags need a lot of things. I am going to go with DL as their most pressing need, but WR runs a close second.
I am disappointed in the Jags. I think they took a step back with this draft. I hope I am wrong.
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Tennessee Titans: First off, let me express, I love the selection of Jake Locker. Just be patient with him folks, he will come around and be a very solid QB. Think Rich Gannon, who had a pretty good career.
Okay, with that said, let’s get to it. The Titans have a lot of needs. They addressed a lot of defensive needs in the draft, and they even addressed RB depth in Harper (Clemson), a good change of pace guy. A major area of FA need is WR.
Moss is most likely gone, and honestly looked out of place, so that leaves Britt-average, N. Washington-average and Justin Gage-average.
The Titans could try and lure one of the big names out there, but most likely they’ll land a second-tier guy and they can focus on next year’s draft, or maybe even trades.
AFC West: Denver Broncos
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Denver Broncos: A whole new look is about to befall the Broncos. McDaniels was a disaster, of which I have chronicled in past articles, and with the addition of Fox credibility is restored. He will get that defense in order with this and next year’s draft.
Six of the nine picks were on the defensive side of the ball, and none bigger than Von Miller. I had the Broncos taking Dareus, but seriously, the Broncos were in a no lose situation with either guy. Miller can make an immediate impact, while it usually takes DT’s a few years to get their footing. In total, they drafted four LB’s, so it’s safe to say they do not need to look there in FA.
One area I would like to see them look at in FA is RB.
Knowshon Moreno can be an electric back in the league, but his injuries are affecting the offense to a point where something needs to be done. Buckhalter and Maroney are nothing more than backups, so the Broncos could make a splash at this position, and based on Fox’s history he likes to complement big back/small back.
There are a few FA RB’s out there that could fit Fox’s scheme: Tolbert of the Chargers, because San Diego is going to have a tough time keeping both Tolbert and Sproles. Then there’s Cedric Benson and Le’Ron McClain. Don’t be surprised if Fox lobbies for DeAngelo Williams either.
Kansas City Chiefs
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Kansas City Chiefs: See previous slide when it comes to accolades about the Chiefs on the rise. This is a young talent laden team, and with the right veteran leadership, they can dominate the West for years to come.
Addressing the draft, the Chiefs went for Baldwin, the tall speedy WR out of Pitt. So one would think that takes care of their WR needs, but not so quick my friend. They then spent the next five of seven picks, four of them linemen, addressing a defense in need of help. With Vrabel, Hali, and both NT eligible for FA, it would be fantasy land to think the Chiefs will bring all of them back. I think their priority lay in Hali, but you never know.
Because this was a relatively weak draft for LB’s the FA LB’s should have a field day, and by (most likely) losing Hali, the Chiefs will need to replace him, and so I believe LB is the most pressing need, over WR and a backup QB, but drafting Stanzi took care of that.
The Chiefs have depth at the position, but they lack playmakers, and they will have to fight it out with other teams for one of the top LB’s on the market, if they so choose to pursue one.
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Oakland Raiders: The Raiders continue to amaze me with some of the things they do. Note to Raiders fans, last year was a decent year for most teams, but for the Raiders, it was mediocre at best.
I am not a Raider basher. I would like to think I make assessments based on historical trends and for the Raiders they take too many gambles. Look, the NFL isn’t Vegas. It is a team honored, time consuming, forward thinking entity, and it seems the Raider philosophy has been muddied of late.
With that, here is what I think the Raiders need via FA now that I pissed off Raider Nation.
Three OL are free agents, and the Raiders have no backup QB. They drafted two OL and two CB’s, so give them credit for looking at potential losses and covering for those losses.
Their LB’s are strong and the D-line is pretty solid. The WR’s are much to be desired, but they have a great TE, so I am going to say the Raiders need to find a backup QB since they passed on Kaepernick.
I have no idea who the Raiders will, or even if they will, pursue a QB, but that is my take.
San Diego Chargers
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San Diego Chargers: I know this may sound crazy, but the Chargers have some serious issues. One, they have several key free agents, and two there is more than just one or two holes to fill.
They covered a glaring need at corner in the draft, grabbed two LB’s in anticipation of losing either one or more of the following: Siler, Barnes, Burnett, or Cooper.
On offense, let’s just go down the list of Chargers FA’s: RB: Tolbert, Sproles: WR: Jackson, Floyd, Naanee: OL: no starters are FA, which is good for Rivers, and so that is why the Chargers most pressing need is: To resign as many of their own FA’s as possible.
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
Jones with his team's playbook in hand
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Draft: DE’s: none, OL: three, DB’s: one. With eight picks, three were dedicated to the offensive line, so that makes sense. If two out of three pan out that is considered successful. The fact they did not draft a DE surprises me because the draft was full of them. If Smith does not pan out, Cowboys fans will wonder why they did not draft one of the top DE’s, or that they passed on Amukamara (who went to the rival Giants).
Another concern creeping into the Cowboys is WR. Hurd is a FA, and most likely gone, and that leaves the inconsistent Williams, the unstructured man-child Bryant, and the only sane one, Austin. This is something that could quickly implode.
Carter is intriguing, but they had more pressing needs. Here is just some food for thought Cowboys fans. Round 1: take JJ Watt, or Cameron Jordan. Round 2: Ijalana (OL), Round 3: another OL or Murray, of which I am okay with because they need something there as well.
In FA, the Cowboys could pursue that DE with the likes of Edwards (Vikings) or Kiwanuka (Giants) or even Babin (Titans).
New York Giants
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New York Giants: In some ways, the Giants covered their “ass”ets with this draft, and it didn’t hurt to have Amukamara drop into your lap. But despite their elation, the Giants still have some pressing needs to take care of in order to recapture the East.
The Giants need to address the O Line and RB. Even though they drafted Maryland RB Scott, it was in Round 7, and one of the knocks on him was blocking, or a lack thereof. On the O Line, they waited until Round 4 to grab Brewer out of Indiana.
When you look at FA, the Giants are worried about losing a few key players (Bradshaw, Steve Smith, Boss, Kiwanuka, and Cofield), and need to replace some key areas, so this could be an important FA season for them.
The Giants need to sign as many of their own, and then recover other spots through free agency.
Just like my terrier, I love the wind in my face
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The upside for the Eagles is that they made the playoffs last year, rediscovered a dynamic QB, are most likely to reap a decent trade value for another QB, and the only real stiff competition in the East are the Giants, sorry Dallas. No need to apologize to the Redskins, I think their fans already know that.
Short and sweet, FA is all about depth for the Eagles, or covering your losses. On offense, there are no starters up for FA, but on defense they have a few and addressed those in the draft.
Final analysis: None. I say the Eagles are in great shape.
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Washington Redskins: I am going to deliberately limit myself here because there could be endless analysis about what the Redskins are doing.
Let’s start off with the draft. The Redskins were at least smart enough to collect 12 picks and make the most of them, but to everyone’s surprise the biggest void in all of this was quarterback.
I think part of the Redskins draft strategy was draft three and get the fourth free, when they drafted three Nebraska players back to back.
With that many picks, it’s hard to figure exactly what they will be looking for in FA. It could be nothing, it could be a back up QB, heck it could be a RB. My money is on QB.
NFC North: Chicago Bears
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Chicago Bears: The Bears had an interesting draft, and it is one that really could dictate the next several years for the Bears. If it goes well they stay near or at the top of the NFC North, but if it is a poor draft, then within a year or two they could be trying to pick up the pieces.
With only five picks, the Bears addressed the following positions: DT, OT, FS, QB, and OLB. With that few picks you really need to hit the lotto on four of the five. If Enderle remains a solid back up, we can take that as a plus, even though he is not a starter.
According to most draft experts the Bears needed to draft the following: OL, WR, DT, RB, and QB. You can compare the two: needs versus result.
Defensively, the Bears are as solid as you can be. They are stout, get turnovers, and make important third down plays. Honestly, if the Bears defense had been, say No. 15 last year, rather than ninth, I don’t think they make the playoffs let alone win the division. The offense should be the area of concentration.
My guess, the Bears will try to lure one of the big WR’s in the FA market, and don’t be surprised if they vigorously pursue a division rival in Rice (Vikings), or James Jones (Packers).
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Detroit Lions: I think for the first time in a long time I can honestly say that the Lions are moving in the right direction. No longer is this perennial NFC North team the doormat. They had a very strong draft, and the pieces look to be coming together.
In the draft the Lions were shocked to see Fairley drop to them. If he pans out the fans will be happy, but if he does not then they will surely think about passing on Amukamara or one of the top Tackles in the draft.
The only thing that troubles me is when you have a young team and only five draft picks they better count. Fairley is an obvious blue-chipper, but will Titus Young and Mikell LeShoure be strong contributors as well? I think they are great picks, but generally most first through third-round picks should be great picks.
The only other knock on their draft is that they really needed OL, and a starter at that, but they basically drafted for a back-up. The same goes for LB. To draft an OLB in the fifth round is not about finding a blue-chip starter.
My guess is the Lions will look to LB help in FA. The Lions join many other teams in the LB sweepstakes, so chances are someone is going to pay way too much for one.
A couple of guys that could fit the Lions system are: Tulloch (Titans), Ruud (Bucs), or the Redskins Rocky McIntosh.
Green Bay Packers
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Green Bay Packers: Most people would think the Super Bowl champs are in great shape and don’t need anything. Well, let me tell ya, and this ain’t blowin’ smoked cheddar up your, you know what.
The Packers did a lot with smoke and mirrors last year. Think about it, they barely made the playoffs and then hit that magic carpet ride. Any No. 6 playoff team needs a little luck and they got it, but hey, I’d take luck in a minute too.
Okay, the Packers addressed some glaring needs in the draft, most notably WR because of the likely departure of Jones, and Driver is nearing 36. Also, they addressed the OL. But they waited late to address DL and LB.
I was puzzled by two areas: RB and TE, and not so much RB, just who they drafted. Hawai’I is a spread offense and Brown had gaping holes to run through. That will not happen in the NFL. I did not care for that pick. At TE you have Finley, Quarles and Lee; most teams would be jealous of that. So why draft two TE’s? That puzzles me.
Green Bay will most likely do what they can to keep Grant, but it would not surprise me to see them pull in another RB via free agency, and just because they drafted Cobb does not mean that they won’t pursue a WR either.
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Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings were able to address several needs in the draft, and unlike most draft “experts,” the Vikings were not bent on taking a DE in Round 1, so either they were flat out wrong, or the Vikings built a pretty nice smoke screen.
Ponder seems to be the future whether Vikings fans are happy with that or not. I think it’s a great pick, but I have always been a QB guy. Depending on the lockout, the Vikings could be in the market for a FA QB, but only to serve as a back up.
The Vikings biggest worries are not about who they can get in free agency, but more about who they can keep. It is important to keep Rice and Edwards, and if they lose them, look for the Vikings to replace Rice with James Jones of Green Bay or Malcolm Floyd of San Diego.
As far as DE, if they lose Edwards, they are fairly confident on the corps of guys they have, but they could take a stab at Jenkins (Packers), or Kiwanuka (Giants).
However, the biggest need for Minnesota is at the safety position. I have to admit, I was pissed they passed on Sash out of Iowa. If he has a great career, I will forever fill the Vikings blogs with “I told you so’s.” They drafted Burton in Round 5, but whether he can become a starter remains to be seen.
They need to look at FA like Roman Harper (Saints), Weddle (Chargers), Bigby (Packers), or Landry (Ravens).
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons
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I have to admit, like most, Atlanta pulled the surprise of the day when they traded up for Julio Jones. There is going to be a lot of pressure on the young man, who basically cost the Falcons four players, but all indicators point to a successful career when you have Ryan throwing you the ball.
Atlanta as a team was amazingly consistent with both the offense and defense rated 16 in the league. And despite the big Jones splash, Atlanta actually had other draft choices.
They covered the WR need, but also the choice of Rodgers in Round 3 sounds very intriguing. I don’t know if he is a Warrick Dunn type, but he can get around the field quickly, and should offer defense’s fits. I am not comparing him to Barry Sanders, but when you tackle a shadow you know the guy is quick.
They also covered an OLB, as well as OL in the draft. So, you would think there is no need for FA. Again, not so quick my friend.
Norwood and Snelling are both FA, keeping one should be a priority. Gonzales is aging gracefully, but he is aging nonetheless, and there are several very good TE’s in the FA market.
They need to be concerned about their offensive line also due to the age and FA of several players: Clabo, Blalock and Dahl. But recent draft choices within the last two years should be able to step in, and most likely they will keep one, or maybe even two of the three.
With that said, I think the Falcons will look for help along the DL, or maybe even OLB despite their selection of Dent, because one can never have enough LB’s.
If and when the FA market opens up, I would not be surprised to see them pursue Ray Edwards (Vikings), or Kiwanuka (Giants) to get the rush they need.
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Carolina Panthers: Let’s face it, this team has fallen mightily over the last few years and it is going to take some time, patience, and money to bring this team up to be a threat for the division title.
The Panthers understand that this division has two of the top six or eight QB’s in the league, and a rising star in Freeman, so they decided to go with Newton. Here is the difference though, Carolina HAD to draft one.
I hate to say it, but consider this. Even the Green Bay Packers had more draft picks than the Panthers. When you are hurting, rebuilding, whatever you need draft picks. There’s too much money in FA, and probably less than half of those deals work out.
There are so many needs on this team, but space is limited due to the picture I chose, so let’s make this quick.
Free Agency Needs: Everywhere but QB. Just kidding Panthers fans, but they should try to upgrade their team with veterans in key areas, one of them being WR.
Steve Smith is simply trying to get their attention, and whether he leaves is still under heavy speculation, but with several profile receivers available in the FA market, do not be surprised if you see them go after one or maybe even two of them.
New Orleans Saints
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New Orleans Saints: The Saints are in pretty good shape, had a solid draft, and once again, should be near or at the top of this division when all is said and done.
Two choices I feel very good about for the Saints are the DE’s Jordan and Romeus, sandwich that with Ingram and that’s how you have a successful draft. It’s obvious the Saints have a philosophy in drafting rather than the dart board approach, and so far this has worked pretty well.
They addressed some needs via the draft, but still could use a few FA, because the Saints have more FA’s than any other team. They will need to recover FA losses they are going to incur. There are three primary areas: S, LB, and TE.
It’s hard to say which of those is a higher need, but I will go with LB as being their primary focus. Most of their LB’s are FA, and how many they re-sign is important, but they have to address this.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Okay, Bucs fans, you’ve been waiting for this day since Gruden took you all to the promise land, but I have some concerns.
First of all, the draft, not only did the Bus take one risk, but they took two. Don’t get me wrong, I am rooting for these kids, but there were players they passed on that could have filled needs as well.
Two areas the Bucs did very little or nothing to address in the draft was OL and DB. Gaitor was a Round 7 selection and could be a real find, or in over his head coming from FIU.
There are some select players at both positions, and don’t be surprised to see lineman flying all over the country as they are being courted left and right.
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals
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Arizona Cardinals: I am going to make this short and sweet, Patrick Peterson is a great player, but at No. 5, the Cardinals could have addressed a deeper need.
Granted, maybe a No. 5 for Gabbert, Locker, or even Ponder was too high, no problem, but when your next primary need behind QB is OL, LB, or even DL and you grab a corner?
The Cardinals run defense was 30th in the league last year. Peterson can only cover one guy at a time.
I don’t have a problem with who they took in the second round. I believe Williams is going to be a very good back, and with the possible loss of Hightower and admitting (of which I called) the disappointment of Wells, Williams was a great pick. Housler was a sneaky good pick in the third. I even liked Acho in the fourth, but think about this.
Aldon Smith, JJ Watt (of whom I had in my mock), or even Cameron Jordan were all there. Hell, even Nick Fairley was there, and they go high profile with Peterson, just makes me scratch my head folks.
So, Cardinals fans, your team need to address QB in FA. My money is on Bulger, but they better protect him because he is a bit fragile. If not, they better trade for Kolb or call the NFL Network and beg, literally beg for Warner to come back.
St. Louis Rams
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St. Louis Rams: I have to tell you, I like what the Rams are doing. In fact, it’s gotten to a point where I actually want to watch this team play rather than just see game highlights.
Another solid draft with Kendrick, Pettis and Hines, although I have some worries about Carter and Salsa, err, I mean, Salas. Let’s see how many times his name gets misspelled.
Carter could be an outstanding gamble, and is a much better gamble than the one’s the Bucs made with Claiborne and Bowers, but if not, people will look at the Rams and say they could have drafted
By drafting three WR’s, if two pan out, great draft. If only one pans out, eh, couldn’t have done better hindsight 20/20 stuff. They have a glut at WR, so competition is on at Rams camp, when and if it opens.
I believe the offense will improve upon its numbers next year, but they really need to get a solid back up for Jackson. They are getting him killed. They need a two headed monster, and would do well to try and get Tolbert from the Chargers.
Defensively, the Rams need help at two positions: DL and LB. Here is why, is Carter a DE or LB? Answering that question might lead them in the direction to look.
San Fransisco 49ers
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San Fransisco 49ers: The 49ers did some very helpful things in the draft, and the selections of Smith and Kaepernick could go a long way in determining how the 49ers look in a few years.
With ten picks the 49ers made the most of this draft covering a lot of need areas, so pinpointing FA is not easy. I think most of it depends on their FA losses.
An effort is being made to keep Alex Smith, so we’ll see if that truly happens. Otherwise, the 49ers could be looking at QB in FA.
There are some other key guys they might lose, Lawson probably the most important, followed by Franklin. So I see the 49ers looking at DT or OLB as need areas.
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Seattle Seahawks: This is a tough call because Carroll is either on the right track, or he is on his way to taking the hawks into the abyss. Yes, they made the playoffs, but at 7-9, and then only to draft at No. 25, wow, that hurts a bit.
Most teams would love to draft at No.25, that means playoffs, but in the Seahawks case, that could hurt in the long run.
Okay, last year on offense and defense, the Hawks ranked 28th and 27th respectively. I don’t know about you, but how in the hell did they make the playoffs with that?
I have to admit, I was puzzled by Seattle’s first two picks. Yes, they were positions of need, but both players were projected lower, but hey, I will give benefit of the doubt for now. Other than that, the draft for them was pretty solid in terms of need areas, but there was an area they skipped on.
QB: a position they might likely do a trade for or go via FA. It is unlikely they will keep Hasselbeck, so Whitehurst becomes the main man, and remember Carroll traded for this guy. So in some way he is attached to this deal.
The problem with FA is that there are not a lot of quality QB’s out there. They might as well keep their own guy and go from there.