2019 NFL Free Agency: The Best Move Every Team Can Make This Year

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMarch 13, 2019

2019 NFL Free Agency: The Best Move Every Team Can Make This Year

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Release the hounds!

    NFL free agency technically doesn't begin until 4 p.m. ET Wednesday. But with the "legal tampering" period kicking off Monday, plenty of players have already agreed upon contracts that will pay them hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars gave Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles a four-year, $88 million deal to make him their new starting quarterback. The Detroit Lions gave edge-rusher Trey Flowers at least $80 million over five years.

    And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    With the madness officially set to begin Wednesday, many of the NFL's top free agents have found new homes. But there are still plenty of players who are looking for work.

    While many teams have patched roster holes, every franchise still has work to do. 


Arizona Cardinals: Fortify the Offensive Line

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Speculation about whether the Arizona Cardinals will make Oklahoma quarterback (and Heisman Trophy winner) Kyler Murray the first overall pick on April 25 are dominating offseason storylines. 

    But if the Cardinals don't take major steps to bolster an offensive line that surrendered 52 sacks (tied for fifth-most in the NFL), it won't matter if it's Murray or Josh Rosen running for his life.

    The Cardinals have already begun to rebuild their line, trading a late-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and signing guard JR Sweezy. But Gilbert has had all kinds of injury issues in recent years, and Sweezy struggled in Seattle last year.

    The rebuild has started, but it's far from finished.

    The bigger names up front (tackle Daryl Williams, guard T.J. Lang, etc.) would eat up a large chunk of what's left of Arizona's cap space, but that worth considering. Signing at least one more tackle and/or guard would be a solid addition.

    The Cardinals need to protect their investment at quarterback, regardless of who's under center.

Atlanta Falcons: Sign OG Nick Easton

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    It's hardly unusual that the Atlanta Falcons need offensive line help. The same can be said about approximately 31 other NFL teams.

    But with only $13.1 million in salary-cap space, the Falcons aren't in a position to pursue the big names up front. Players such as Daryl Williams are outside Atlanta's price range.

    Nick Easton is another story—maybe.

    The 26-year-old missed the entire 2018 season with a neck injury, but prior to that, the 6'3", 303-pounder played well in 12 starts for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017.

    Easton isn't a sure bet—those don't exist for what the Falcons can afford. But with veteran Andy Levitre among Atlanta's impending free agents, the guard spot could be one of the team's more pressing needs.

    Easton at least offers upside—upside that won't break the bank thanks to his injury history.

Baltimore Ravens: Put the Defense Back Together

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    Steve Ruark/Associated Press

    New Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta needs a hug.

    In his first year on the job, DeCosta's Ravens got pillaged on defense in the early days of free agency.

    • Baltimore's top inside linebacker? Off to New York.
    • Its most productive edge-rusher in 2018? Green Bay-bound.
    • Its best safety? The Ravens released Eric Weddle several days ago.
    • Terrell Suggs? In Arizona to close out his Hall of Fame career.

    That's four defensive starters from last year's AFC North champions...gone. 

    Replacing them isn't going to be easy, either.

    The free-agent markets for edge-rushers and inside linebackers has already been picked over. There's more left at safety relative to those positions, but most of the big names are off the board there, too.

    Teams may make additional cuts after making early splashes in free agency. Some players may become available via trade, too. But DeCosta has to do something to address all of these losses, even if the available names won't energize the fanbase.

    The Ravens need to stop the bleeding.  

Buffalo Bills: Address the Defensive Front

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills had one of the league's weaker pass-catching corps in 2018.

    Josh Allen needed help. And he got some with the arrival of John Brown and Cole Beasley, although it's fair to question the wisdom of giving Beasley more than $7 million per season.

    The Bills were also aggressive in bolstering their offensive line, and they got LeSean McCoy a new backup in Frank Gore.

    The flurry of activity substantially changed Buffalo's roster, but it also wiped out a bunch of cap space.

    The defensive line remains an area of need. While that position group has been picked over during the legal tampering period, adding a second-tier player such as Markus Golden or Corey Liuget would be wise.

Carolina Panthers: Find a New FS

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    The original entry here was "center of attention," and it focused on the Panthers finding a reliable center like Matt Paradis to serve as Ryan Kalil's successor.

    Naturally, they agreed to terms with Paradis on a three-year, $27 million contract Tuesday.

    Paradis' contract is going to put a sizable dent in Carolina's already limited cap space. Without some cuts, the Panthers' additions from here on out must be more reasonably priced.

    In that regard, the team's best chance at landing a starter on the cheap is at safety. The Panthers need a replacement for Mike Adams at free safety, and while the big names are gone (and Carolina can't afford Earl Thomas), a few players still out there could be a decent fit.

    Whether the Panthers sign Jimmie Ward, Jahleel Addae, Glover Quin or pursue a reunion with Tre Boston, any of them would be helpful. All of them should be available without requiring a knee-buckler of a contract.

Chicago Bears: Add Safety Help

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Bryce Callahan would've been the priority here. But Monday's deal that brought veteran slot cornerback Buster Skrine to the Windy City indicates the Chicago Bears are willing to let Callahan walk.

    That's an ill-advised idea, but whatever.

    The Bears also watched veteran safety Adrian Amos leave for—of all places—Green Bay. That's gotta sting.

    Amos' departure might free up the money to bring back Callahan. But in any event, the safety position is now a big area of need for the Bears.

    Many of the biggest names there (like Amos and Landon Collins) have already locked in lucrative deals and new homes. But whether it's a star like Earl Thomas or lower-end (and less expensive) talent such as Clayton Geathers, Tre Boston and Jahleel Addae, there's still fruit on the vine of free agency's deepest position.

    It's time for the Bears to pick up some of that fruit.

Cincinnati Bengals: Get Better at LB

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The Bengals were a five-alarm fire on defense in 2018, surrendering an NFL-high 413.6 yards per game.

    Their injury-ravaged linebacker corps was largely to blame. Those injuries exposed Cincinnati's young reserves at the position as...not good.

    The Bengals have to do something about that with their $43.3 million in cap space.

    There are free-agent options available, including a pair of former Pro Bowlers in Jamie Collins and K.J. Wright. Mark Barron could be a lower-cost alternative.

    Bringing back Preston Brown after an injury-marred 2018 campaign was a start. But it's just that: a start.

    Whoever it is, the Bengals need to get better at linebacker.

Cleveland Browns: Sign OLB KJ Wright

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    During his time as the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, John Dorsey has been aggressive about adding personnel.

    He showed that Friday when he flipped Kevin Zeitler to the Giants for edge-rusher Olivier Vernon. He doubled down on that Tuesday by acquiring star Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

    Ndamukong Suh could have been a perfect bit of icing on Dorsey's boomcake, but after Cleveland handed Sheldon Richardson a three-year, $36 million deal, that isn't happening.

    The Browns may be done with big-ticket players, and strong safety is now a need with Jabrill Peppers headed to New York. But if Dorsey wants to stay aggressive, one more big-ish player out there would be a great fit.

    Last year was an injury-marred fiasco for K.J. Wright. But from 2014 through 2017, the 29-year-old topped 100 total tackles each season with the Seahawks.

    While Wright has played the weak side the past few years, he opened his career playing the "Sam" linebacker spot—the same position that the recently released Jamie Collins played.

Dallas Cowboys: Sign DE Demarcus Lawrence Long Term

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    It wouldn't be an offseason in Dallas without some sort of salary-cap drama. It isn't a matter of a lack of cap space, for a pleasant change—the Cowboys have roughly $19.2 million to spend.

    However, Dallas has several prominent players who are nearing the end of their contracts and/or looking for a raise, including quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and tailback Ezekiel Elliott.

    That contract crunch was part of the motivation for slapping the franchise tag on defensive end Demarcus Lawrence for the second straight year. But the move sets the stage for a holdout, as the 26-year-old has made it no secret he doesn't want to play under the tag again.

    With 25 sacks over the past two seasons, Lawrence has established himself as one of the Cowboys' most important defensive players in a league that places a huge premium on the pass rush. It won't be easy or cheap, but Dallas needs to work out a long-term deal with Lawrence before the July 15 deadline to do so.

    Otherwise, the summer could get ugly—quickly.

Denver Broncos: Add Cheap Help on Defense

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Denver Broncos have been busy in the early stages of free agency, handing defensive back Kareem Jackson and offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James contracts well in excess of $10 million per season.

    Both players are fine additions, but they're also expensive. That leaves the Broncos in a position where dishing out another contract worth $10-plus million annually could be problematic.

    The time has come to shift the focus to the second and third-tier free agents. 

    If Tuesday was spent at Macy's, Wednesday will be all about Walmart.

    While the Broncos might be low on available cash, they still have holes, especially on defense. They need a starter to pair with Todd Davis at inside linebacker. They also need to add pass-rushing depth and more secondary help, along with replacing the departed Bradley Roby.

    Whether it's a second-tier corner like Rashaan Melvin, lower-priced linebacker like Josh Bynes or Mark Barron or edge depth like Derrick Morgan, it's time for team president John Elway to eschew the top shelf for the bargain bin.

Detroit Lions: Ink S Tre Boston

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions have already been busy in free agency. They're apparently trying to become the northern annex of the New England Patriots.

    Matt Patricia and the Lions agreed to sign a trio of ex-Patriots—wide receiver Danny Amendola, nickel cornerback Justin Coleman and edge-rusher Trey Flowers. The team also agreed to terms with veteran tight end Jesse James.

    Those moves should all help, but they're also eating up quite a lot of the team's cap space. Flowers alone is expected to earn $16-17 million annually on his new deal.

    Any improvements the Lions make from here on out must be relatively inexpensive.

    Landon Collins may have struck it rich in free agency, but the large number of available players at the safety position could drive down prices. That might open the door for the Lions to snag a guy like Tre Boston, who has averaged 79 total tackles and four interceptions over the past two seasons.

Green Bay Packers: Re-Up CB Bashaud Breeland

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    Michael McGinnis/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers added a veteran safety early in free agency, agreeing to terms with Adrian Amos on a four-year, $37 million deal. They also added a high-priced edge-rusher, handing $16.5 million per season to outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith, and paired him with Preston Smith, who got $13 million per season.

    All three are big-time signings—and big-time drains on Green Bay's cap space.

    Now that general manager Brian Gutekunst has added a couple of splash players, it's time to get value. And Green Bay can lock that down in the secondary by bringing back cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

    Breeland won't be as cheap as he was last year after a failed physical cost him a lucrative deal. But he won't cost a fortune, either, and the 27-year-old played well enough in seven games to earn a second season as a stabilizing force in a young Green Bay secondary.

Houston Texans: Sign an Offensive Tackle

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Here are a couple of numbers to chew on: The Houston Texans have about $57.1 million in cap space. That's one of the biggest war chests in the NFL. 

    That's a good thing, because Houston allowed a league-high 62 sacks last year.

    As usual, the free-agent market along the offensive line is...less than ideal. Elite linemen rarely get anywhere near the open market. There was essentially one starting-caliber left tackle available this year (Trent Brown), and he's already agreed to terms with the Oakland Raiders.

    Losing out on Brown is a bummer, but the Texans still need to do what they can to improve one of the NFL's worst offensive lines by pursuing Daryl Williams or one of the other free-agent tackles still out there.

    The secondary's an area of need after the team lost three defensive backs to free agency, including Kareem Jackson (Denver) and Tyrann Mathieu (Kansas City). Adding Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby stemmed the bleeding a bit there.

    But the offensive line remains by far the biggest hole. The Texans cannot allow Deshaun Watson to keep taking that kind of beating.

Indianapolis Colts: Spend to Defend

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    No team has more coin at its disposal than the Indianapolis Colts. Indy has almost $20 million more than the next-closest team.

    This doesn't mean Colts general manager Chris Ballard should start throwing gobs of cash around at anyone and everyone. But Indianapolis is in excellent shape to add an impact free agent or two.

    The offense got a wide receiver to complement to T.Y. Hilton in Devin Funchess, but Indy's biggest needs are on defense. Whether it's on the D-line, at linebacker next to 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard or in the secondary, the Colts could use upgrades at every level.

    Indy's massive war chest could put it in the market for just about anyone, from Ndamukong Suh to Ronald Darby to Earl Thomas.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Get Nick Foles Some WR Help

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Now that the Jacksonville Jaguars have the quarterback they sought in Nick Foles, it's time for the team to improve the targets at his disposal.

    That won't be easy, at least until Jacksonville gets Blake Bortles' salary off the books. Foles' new whopper of a contract will consume most of the cap space the Jaguars cleared with a flurry of veteran cuts.

    Still, if the Jaguars want to improve Foles' chances of success, he could use a dependable target underneath—a chain-mover he can look to on third downs or when things start to go south.

    There are a few available receivers who could fit that bill, although several slot guys like Adam Humphries (Titans), Cole Beasley (Bills) and Jamison Crowder (Jets) have already found new homes.

    But Randall Cobb's still out there, as are Michael Crabtree and Chris Hogan.

Kansas City Chiefs: Add a Veteran Cornerback on the Cheap

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs are in a pickle.

    Even after they released outside linebacker Justin Houston, they aren't exactly swimming in cap space. Paying safety Tyrann Mathieu $14 million per season won't help in that regard.

    Trading outside linebacker Dee Ford will, but it also creates a problem for Kansas City. Outside of Chris Jones, who had a breakout 2018 season, the Chiefs have no pass rush.

    Or linebackers. Or a secondary.

    Mathieu will help, but he isn't a cure-all by any means.

    This mess will be hard to fix. But at this point in free agency, the value is at the back end.

    The Chiefs have at least one ace up their sleeves. After making it to the AFC Championship Game last year, Kansas City will enter the 2019 campaign as a leading Super Bowl LIV contender.

    That might be enough to spur a veteran cornerback such as Rashaan Melvin or Pierre Desir to accept less money or take a shorter-term deal. 

    With Steven Nelson now in Pittsburgh, the Chiefs need any decent corner they can get.  

Los Angeles Chargers: Bring Back SS Adrian Phillips

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    As Houston Mitchell wrote for the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn remains hopeful the Bolts will retain safety Adrian Phillips after a breakout 2018 season that culminated in a trip to the Pro Bowl.

    "We would definitely miss him, if it doesn't work out," Lynn said. "His versatility, his ability to help people around him and understand the defense is huge for us. It's the core players like him that I thought helped us so much. My core guys like A.P., I mean, that's maybe where we had our edge. Players like that are very important."

    The free-agent safety class is deep, but even then, Phillips' versatility and productivity (94 stops in 2018) could make the 26-year-old a sought-after commodity.

    The Chargers don't have a ton of cap space (roughly $18.7 million), but they should dedicate a hefty chunk of that to Phillips.

Los Angeles Rams: Re-Sign DT Ndamukong Suh

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    After winning the NFC last year, the Los Angeles Rams are in excellent shape. And the team has already taken steps to keep the band together, signing edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. to a one-year contract worth up to $14 million.

    The Rams now need to do the same with Ndamukong Suh, who had 59 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2018.

    Re-signing Suh will be expensive, but even after re-upping Fowler, the Rams can still afford him.

    It's a classic case of not fixing that which isn't broken and keeping a formidable front together.

    The Rams need to add a safety as well after Lamarcus Joyner became part of the spending spree in Oakland, but there's still a fair amount of talent left at that position even after many of the biggest names signed.

    L.A. is better off keeping its early focus on preventing another big hole from forming up front.

Miami Dolphins: Bring in a Stopgap QB

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins are sitting on only about $19.2 million in cap space.

    But according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, they'll likely have significantly more soon: "NFL teams already know that the Dolphins are having what one executive called 'a fire sale,' pointing out 'everything must go.' And everyone in the NFL is aware of Miami's desire to have possession of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft."

    The Dolphins have already cut bait on a number of veteran players, and more figure to be shown the door, including starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

    That will put Miami in the market for a stopgap starter for 2019.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick could be an option, as the 36-year-old has started 126 games in his career. Tyrod Taylor and Blake Bortles (once he's released) could merit consideration as well.

    After all, nothing says tanking quite like rolling out Bortles as a starter.

Minnesota Vikings: Acquire Veteran LB Vincent Rey

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings are still trying to wash off the stink of a wildly disappointing 2018 season. But they don't have much money for soap. 

    In fact, the Vikings have the least cap space in the league ($7.5 million). 

    That means Minnesota will probably be spectators for the first (expensive) wave of free agency. The Vikes could sit out the second wave as well, especially after they somehow managed to wrangle enough cap space to keep Anthony Barr in town.

    That nice bit of maneuvering aside (especially after it appeared as though Barr was headed to the Jets), the Vikings aren't exactly set at linebacker. They still need more depth (and perhaps a third starter).

    Vincent Rey may not be an every-down player at this point in his career. But the 31-year-old started at least 11 games three times in four years for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2014 to 2017, so the experience is there. He's shown potential to be productive as well, having racked up a career-high 133 stops in 2014.

    Rey can also play all three linebacker spots in the 4-3 and is intimately familiar with Mike Zimmer's defense from their time together in Cincy.

New England Patriots: Sign WR Golden Tate

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    In news that should surprise no one, veteran wide receiver Golden Tate told WEEI's ProStyle podcast (via Andy Hart of the Patriots website) that he'd welcome the idea of playing for the Super Bowl champs:

    "I would love it. I would love it. That organization, they have proven to be champions year in and year out. They work hard for sure, but you know where you're going to be at the end of the season: You're going to be not only looking at the playoffs, but you're looking at maybe a first-round bye with this team. You gotta admire that organization, they do things right, they've been doing it for a long, long, long time."

    Not for nothing, but it's a great idea.

    With a number of receivers about to hit free agency, the Patriots will have to overhaul their receiving corps. Why not do so with a proven vet who topped 90 receptions and 1,000 yards three times over the last five seasons?

    Getting Tate at a discount would be a very Patriots thing to do.

New Orleans Saints: Pursue a Veteran WR on a Short-Term Deal

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    With a 40-year-old quarterback in Drew Brees and coming off a season in which they came painfully close to making the Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints most assuredly are in win-now mode.

    However, they don't have much in the way of draft capital or salary-cap resources with which to improve.

    The Saints don't have a first-round pick after they traded up in last year's draft, and only one team has less cap room than them ($8.4 million).

    That means they'll have to be frugal. They also have to keep an eye on the future with massive extensions looming for Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.

    Thomas, in particular, needs help in the passing game—a complementary target to draw at least some of the defensive attention away.

    That means a veteran pass-catcher who's willing to sign a short-term contract in exchange for the opportunity to win the big one. Michael Crabtree and Randall Cobb could fit that bill.

New York Giants: Continue the OL Overhaul

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    The New York Giants already made one big move to bolster a porous offensive line, dealing edge-rusher Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns for guard Kevin Zeitler.

    However, that move won't fix all that ails the team up front.

    Whether it's Eli Manning or the rookie everyone expects the Giants to draft under center, it will be awfully hard for New York to succeed in 2019 unless the O-line is significantly better.

    Handing Nate Solder big money last year was a disaster, but the Giants can't do much about that at the moment. However, they can upgrade the tackle spot opposite him.

    There are a few quality right tackles on the market. Daryl Williams will command a hefty contract, but the Giants might be able to add Jermey Parnell for a bit less money.

    There will be no shortage of Giants fans clamoring for a wide receiver after New York sent Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland. There also won't be a shortage of fans clamoring for general manager Dave Gettleman's head.

    But no receiver can do much if his quarterback is fleeing in terror all game long.

New York Jets: Add a High-End Free-Agent CB

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    It didn't take a genius to realize if Le'Veon Bell wanted to get paid, the New York Jets were in the best position to do that. But as with everything else involving the Jets as of late, there was drama before Bell agreed to a four-year deal to become the highest-profile non-quarterback in the Big Apple.

    It was a good finish to a day that started with linebacker Anthony Barr backing out of a deal to help anchor New York's new-look pass-rush under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

    But Bell's arrival in New York doesn't do anything to fix the Jets' pass rush. Or a shaky depth chart at cornerback.

    The Jets just handed out a ton of guaranteed money to Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley, both of whom play positions where many teams look for bargains.

    Meanwhile, the edge-rushers have been picked clean. However, the cornerback market has been relatively slow to develop.

    That leaves the Jets and GM Mike Maccagnan one more opportunity to make a splash in free agency.

Oakland Raiders: Pound Away at the Pass Rush

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders have already engineered one of the offseason's biggest "wow" moves, trading a pair of draft picks to the Pittsburgh Steelers for superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown before giving the 30-year-old a fat contract extension.

    They also spent big money on the offensive line, agreeing to terms with tackle Trent Brown on a four-year, $66 million contract.

    Those deals sent a jolt of excitement through Raider Nation, but the team's work is hardly done. The most pressing task remaining is upgrading a pathetic pass rush.

    Last year, the Raiders managed just 13 sacks as a team. You need both hands to count the players who had more than that individually.

    Many of this year's high-end pass-rushers set to hit free agency (Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, Demarcus Lawrence) were slapped with the franchise tag. Trey Flowers agreed to a massive deal with the Lions. But there's still some meat on the bone—Ezekiel Ansah chief among them.

    Even after a flurry of activity, the Raiders have the cap space needed to give one of those pass-rushers a big deal—and a need to do so that the word "glaring" doesn't do justice.

Philadelphia Eagles: Retain CB Ronald Darby

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles hit the ground running in free agency. After the legal tampering period began Monday, the Eagles quickly came to terms on a three-year, $30 million contract with defensive tackle Malik Jackson.

    Philly now needs to turn its focus to keeping its best player at a position where it can't afford regression.

    While appearing on the RapSheet and Friends podcast, Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby indicated the team is interested in a deal:

    "I love it here. It's one of the best sports cities, I feel like, in the whole United States. I love it here a lot. I won a Super Bowl here. That's something that's never been done. Last year we made it to the playoffs, I was hurt by that time, but we made it back to the playoffs, made another strong push. There's a lot of talent on this team. So, you know, it'd be a blessing to be able to stay here. But, at the end of the day, you gotta do what's right."

    Injury marred Darby's 2018 season, but the 25-year-old is probably the top free agent at his position.

    Demand will be high, but the Eagles need to make every effort to keep Darby in the fold.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Add an Inside Linebacker

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are having a rough offseason.

    They agreed to ship Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders for the equivalent of a bag of Fritos and a six-pack of Dr. Pepper. Star tailback Le'Veon Bell will soon join him on the way out of town.

    They're suddenly down two of the three members of the Killer B's.

    Those aren't the only issues the Steelers face. And thanks partly to the $21.1 million dead-cap hit from the Brown trade, Pittsburgh's sitting on only $14.3 million in cap space.

    In other words, they have to do their free-agent shopping at a discount. 

    Among Pittsburgh's biggest issues is a lack of range at inside linebacker. With Ryan Shazier's career in jeopardy, the inside of the Steelers defense was exposed for much of last season.

    With limited resources, the Steelers aren't likely to get a game-changer inside in free agency. Mark Barron could be an option as a converted safety who has shown some ability to play inside in a 3-4.

San Francisco 49ers: Bring in WR Tyrell Williams

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    The San Francisco 49ers have already jumped into free agency with both feet, coming to terms with linebacker Kwon Alexander on a four-year, $54 million contract.

    They're also nearing a trade for Dee Ford, whom they'll hand a reported five-year, $87.5 million contract.

    But even after throwing all of that cheese at Alexander and Houston, the 49ers still have the cap space to stay active on the free-agent market.

    That's good, because GM John Lynch needs to break off another slab of cheddar to get Jimmy Garoppolo some help in the passing game.

    One free agent in particular has the potential to serve as a No. 1 receiver. He showed as much in 2016 when he topped 1,000 yards on 69 catches with Keenan Allen on the shelf in San Diego.

    That's the rub, though. As perhaps the best receiver in this year's free-agent class, Tyrell Williams will command a hefty contract.

    Still, the 49ers can afford that contract, especially when the alternative is heading into Week 1 with a patchwork wide receiver corps.

Seattle Seahawks: Sign G TJ Lang

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Seattle Seahawks made it to the playoffs last year, at least in part because an offensive line that had long been a glaring weakness improved markedly under line coach Mike Solari.

    Unfortunately, that unit could be on the verge of a major shake-up.

    Both of the team's starting guards (D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy) are free agents, and the latter has come to terms on a two-year deal with the Cardinals.

    The Seahawks aren't in bad shape cap-wise with $31.0 million available. But depending on the market for Fluker, re-upping him may be cost-prohibitive.

    If that's the case, another initials guy makes sense as a potential short-term fix.

    During his two years in Detroit, T.J. Lang didn't live up to his contract. The Lions cut the 31-year-old after he missed 13 of a possible 32 games over that span.

    But Lang was effective when he suited up for the Lions, and his age and recent injury history could depress his asking price.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Find Some Cheap Defensive Help

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a problem defensively.

    It was an even bigger problem. The departure of inside linebacker Kwon Alexander left a sizable hole smack dab in the middle of their defense. New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles intends to run a "hybrid" front, utilizing both 4-3 and 3-4 concepts, the latter of which requires two inside linebackers.

    Deone Bucannon has agreed to a one-year, prove-it deal with Tampa Bay, reuniting with Bowles and new head coach Bruce Arians after he played for the pair as a rookie in Arizona in 2014. So that part of the problems has been alleviated, at least somewhat.

    However, there are still plenty of holes on the Tampa defense. As proven edge-rushers go, the Bucs have Jason Pierre-Paul and...not much else. The Buccaneers have invested a lot of draft capital in the secondary in recent years but don't have a ton to show for it. And the potential release of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy would free up cap space but would open up another void right up the gut.

    In other words, more defensive help would be helpful, but it will have to be done inexpensively, as Tampa is sitting on the fourth-least cap space in the NFL.

Tennessee Titans: Sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    The Tennessee Titans narrowly missed the postseason in 2018 after winning a playoff game the year before. They're either a fringe contender or stuck in the place no team wants to be—too good for a high draft pick, too bad to make a real run.

    In other words, the Titans don't have much margin for error. And that makes Marcus Mariota's growing injury history a real problem.

    The Titans missed the playoffs this past season in part because Blaine Gabbert was under center for the win-or-go-home Week 17 matchup with the Colts. Mariota missed two games last year and has missed time in all four of his years in the NFL.

    The Titans need a placeholder at quarterback—a veteran backup who can keep Tennessee afloat for the week or three Mariota will inevitably miss. Of the signal-callers available in 2019, the best bet in that regard is undoubtedly Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started nine games for Tennessee in 2013.

    Who says you can't go home again?

Washington Redskins: Bring Back Adrian Peterson

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    Five years after he calls it a career, Adrian Peterson will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 2012 NFL MVP is the best ball-carrier of his generation and a top-10 tailback of all time.

    The Redskins need to make a concerted effort to bring the 33-year-old back for at least one more season.

    After youngster Derrius Guice tore his ACL last year, Washington turned to Peterson to attempt to salvage some semblance of a ground game. Peterson responded by topping 1,000 rushing yards, going over 1,200 total yards, averaging a respectable 4.2 yards per carry and scoring eight touchdowns.

    Peterson isn't the player he used to be, but he showed last season that he's still dependable.

    Heading into a season brimming with offensive uncertainty, the Redskins need that.


    Reported deals per NFL.com. Salary-cap info courtesy of Over the Cap unless otherwise noted.


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