Which NFL Teams Have the Most Needs Going into the 2019 Offseason?
Fans don't like to hear the R-word—rebuild. Team executives and head coaches use semantics to suggest they'll compete while adding pieces. It's called retooling or reloading the roster.
Whatever term you hear during the offseason, understand there's no way to sugarcoat the truth. Some NFL teams will go into March and April with several needs. In most cases, those clubs have the financial resources, draft capital or both to fill those voids across the depth chart.
Going into the 2019 offseason, five teams stand out as the neediest. They're defined by major roster holes. Let's put depth aside, which is easier to acquire, and focus on positions that require immediate attention.
We'll highlight the teams set for widespread roster changes or full-blown rebuilds, what's needed and why. Every club listed has at least five starting needs.
Top Needs: QB, WR, OG, FS, SS
The Washington Redskins made the list because of quarterback Alex Smith's unclear future. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the 34-year-old signal-caller isn't expected to open the 2019 season under center. In a wider scope, the team doesn't know if he'll play another down. Washington needs someone to bridge the gap until Smith returns or take over going forward.
Whoever lines up under center will need a No. 1 option at wide receiver. Paul Richardson's first year with the team ended abruptly because of an AC joint injury, but the 26-year-old has never been a top option in the passing attack and still seems like a No. 2 wideout. In his best year, with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, Richardson logged 44 catches for 703 yards and six touchdowns.
The Redskins still haven't optimized the talents of 2016 first-rounder Josh Doctson. He was the No. 22 overall pick that year, and Washington likely had higher expectations than 81 receptions for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons. Inconsistencies at the quarterback position contributed to an underwhelming 2018 term, but he's yet to prove himself as a lead pass-catcher able to take over a game. In 33 appearances, Doctson hasn't logged a 100-yard performance.
Early in the 2018 term, the Redskins offense thrived with a strong ground attack that featured running back Adrian Peterson. Rookie ball-carrier Derrius Guice, who tore his ACL in August, recently posted a workout video on social media, which is a good sign for his recovery. However, the offensive line could lose guard Shawn Lauvao during free agency, which would impact the ground game's effectiveness.
The decision to release safety D.J. Swearinger in December after he criticized the defensive play-calling created a late void in the secondary. Unless Ha Ha Clinton-Dix returns on a new deal, Washington may want to pick up two safeties in the offseason.
The passing attack and secondary should be primary focuses for the front office in the coming months.
Top Needs: WR, TE, OG, OT, OLB, CB
Quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman struggled in their opportunities to start for the Buffalo Bills. As a result, the team made the transition to rookie signal-caller Josh Allen, who opened 11 contests under center. He's clearly the future, and it's up to general manager Brandon Beane to surround him with talent.
Wideout Zay Jones progressed in his second season, and Allen built a rapport with wide receiver Robert Foster, but the Bills should target another playmaker at the position to form a solid trio. It's an important move as tight end Charles Clay's tenure with the team likely comes to an end. He listed as a healthy scratch in Week 16 and didn't see a target in the season finale.
The Bills could turn their attention to tight end Jason Croom as a solid asset in the passing offense. The 2017 undrafted product out of Tennessee recorded 22 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown this season.
On the other hand, Allen may see more immediate results with a big-body pass-catcher who possesses more upside at the wide receiver or tight end position. Whether the rookie signal-caller cuts down on his rush attempts or not, it's important to replace guard John Miller and tackle Jordan Mills, both impending free agents. Stronger pass protection should lead to increased production.
Buffalo's defense frequently lined up with three linebackers on the field. Among the group, Lorenzo Alexander played the fewest snaps but lined up for 62.0 percent of the plays. He's on an expiring contract; the front office will likely replace the 35-year-old with a younger talent on the strong side.
On the back end of the defense, cornerback Tre'Davious White needs a consistent partner on the opposite side of the field. Rookie fourth-rounder Taron Johnson should retain his role as the primary slot defender.
The Bills must focus on their offensive needs, but the back seven needs fine-tuning to maintain a solid defense.
Top Needs: WR, OG, OT, DE, LB, CB
The Arizona Cardinals hired head coach Kliff Kingsbury on Tuesday. As an offensive mind, he'll have an opportunity to remold the front line. Quarterback Josh Rosen needs an offensive tackle to protect the edge and a guard to replace Mike Iupati, who couldn't stay healthy. He'll likely hit the free-agent market after missing 21 games over the last two seasons.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has yet to make a decision on his future. He could walk off into the sunset, play a few more years in Arizona or sign elsewhere. Regardless of his plans, the Cardinals should acquire a wideout to pair with Christian Kirk for the long term. Chad Williams, a 2017 third-rounder, has caught just 20 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown in 16 games.
With the No. 1 overall pick, Arizona can select Nick Bosa to address its pass-rushing need if the coaching staff feels he's a good fit for a 3-4 base defense. Markus Golden and Benson Mayowa are set to test free agency.
The Cardinals can also move down in the draft if a team wants to trade up for a quarterback. That could help them land high-end prospects to replace linebacker Deone Bucannon and fill the void opposite Patrick Peterson at cornerback.
Bucannon didn't have a steady role under former head coach Steve Wilks, and the team took a late-season flier on cornerback David Amerson as a fill-in starter. New faces will likely open the season at those positions.
Armed with the top draft pick, the Cardinals can aim to fill their biggest need post-free agency or make some calls to acquire more capital in an attempt to infuse the roster with young talent.
New York Jets
Top Needs: WR, OT, OG, OLB, CB, K
The New York Jets' late winter and spring transactions should serve to help quarterback Sam Darnold. The front office has already extended wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. Robby Anderson will become a restricted free agent.
Anderson and Darnold connected on 20 completions for 312 yards and three touchdowns from Week 14 to Week 16. The New Jersey native should remain with the team on a new deal as a top option in the passing attack. It wouldn't hurt to acquire another perimeter asset to round out the top three options at wide receiver.
In order for Darnold to optimize the talent at wideout, he needs protection. Right tackle Brandon Shell suffered an atypical ACL tear, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini. Left guard James Carpenter will hit free agency.
General manager Mike Maccagnan shouldn't pass up the opportunity to upgrade the left tackle and right guard spots. Kelvin Beachum and Brian Winters are average starters at best—not irreplaceable.
With Todd Bowles out and Adam Gase in as head coach, it's unclear if the Jets defense will operate out of a 3-4 or 4-3 base, but it doesn't change the need for a pass-rusher off the edge and a cornerback opposite Trumaine Johnson. Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine are set to hit free agency.
The Jets' easiest decision is probably re-signing Pro Bowl kicker Jason Myers, who converted 91.7 percent of his field-goal attempts this year. Between acquiring assets for Darnold and adding high-end talent at key spots on defense, Maccagnan can't afford to miss at various spots. His seat is a lot warmer after a third consecutive last-place finish in the AFC East.
Top Needs: RB, WR, TE, DE, MLB, CB, S
The Raiders have the most pressing needs among the five teams on this list. The current regime created some of the voids, while others are recurring issues over the years.
Oakland traded edge-rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears and sent wideout Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys. As a result of those deals, the Silver and Black acquired two 2019 first-rounders and one for the 2020 draft.
This year, the Silver and Black listed dead last in sacks (13). Quarterback Derek Carr needs a lead receiver on the perimeter, and the defense doesn't have a centerpiece. It's safe to bet the Raiders will utilize first-rounders for two of the following three positions: defensive end, wideout and middle linebacker.
A safety could also become a first-round target with Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson on expiring contracts. Oakland may opt to re-sign Daryl Worley to fill the boundary cornerback spot opposite Gareon Conley.
Running back Marshawn Lynch hasn't talked about his future plans yet. If he decides to retire again or sign elsewhere, the Raiders would only have DeAndre Washington and Chris Warren III on the books in 2019. The Athletic's Vic Tafur said on the State of the Nation podcast that he doesn't expect the team to re-sign tight end Jared Cook.
Head coach Jon Gruden and company initiated and prepared for this rebuild. The team hired NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock for the general manager position. He's there to help the organization evaluate prospects and make the best decisions with their premium picks. With $73.5 million in cap space, expect the Silver and Black to replace expiring contracts with players expected to help put the franchise in position to contend.
Player contracts and team cap space details provided by Spotrac.