Every NFL Team's Biggest Red Flag Heading into April

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 4, 2019

Every NFL Team's Biggest Red Flag Heading into April

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    We're just about a month into 2019 NFL free agency and three weeks away from the draft. Teams have already made a ton of changes, and they'll make more soon enough.

    Those changes have already shaken the NFL to its core. Nowhere is that more evident than on the shores of Lake Erie, where a Cleveland Browns team that's been a punchline for years is now the betting favorite to win the AFC North after making a number of veteran acquisitions.

    However, while franchises across the NFL have already filled a ton of holes on rosters and addressed needs, every team also has a red flag hanging over it as April begins.

    For most, it's a position group that remains an area of weakness. For others, it's a potential contract impasse or roster battle. For those Browns, it's neither...but we'll get to them soon enough.

    There's no better place to start a look at red flags than with some red birds.

    Jump to: 

    1. Cardinals  2. Falcons  3. Ravens  4. Bills

    5. Panthers  6. Bears  7. Bengals  8. Browns

    9. Cowboys  10. Broncos  11. Lions  12. Packers

    13. Texans  14. Colts  15. Jaguars  16. Chiefs 

    17. Chargers  18. Rams  19. Dolphins  20. Vikings

    21. Patriots  22. Saints  23. Giants  24. Jets

    25. Raiders  26. Eagles  27. Steelers  28. 49ers 

    29. Seahawks 30. Buccaneers  31. Titans  32. Washington

Arizona Cardinals: Offensive Line

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    Let's kick things off by beating a dead horse.

    To be fair, the Arizona Cardinals haven't been sitting on their hands where upgrading the offensive line is concerned. The team traded for offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and signed guards Max Garcia and J.R. Sweezy.

    However, those acquisitions don't mean that a Cardinals team that allowed the fifth-most sacks in the NFL last year is out of the woods up front.

    Gilbert missed 20 of a possible 32 games over the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sweezy struggled in his return to the Seahawks in 2018 and is joining his third team in as many years. Garcia tore his ACL in November while playing for the Denver Broncos.

    Whether it's Josh Rosen or Kyler Murray under center for the Redbirds in 2019, it's going to be difficult for Arizona's young quarterback to succeed if he spends a large portion of each game running for his life.

    Jump to: 

    Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons: Defensive Secondary

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The NFC South is a division loaded with big-name quarterbacks. Two of the division's quarterbacks have been named NFL MVP (Cam Newton and Matt Ryan).

    That Drew Brees hasn't is half a travesty, but whatever.

    Having a strong secondary is paramount in this division loaded with passing-game talent—and Atlanta's has taken quite the beating over the last year or so.

    Starting safety Keanu Neal tore his ACL in the 2018 season opener—an injury that wound up an omen for a disappointing campaign. The Falcons released cornerback Robert Alford in a cost-cutting move and watched starting nickel corner Brian Poole depart in free agency.

    The Falcons still have Desmond Trufant and a potentially promising youngster opposite him in second-year pro Isaiah Oliver. But if Oliver struggles and/or an injury or two strikes, the Falcons are going to have problems—there isn't much behind them.

    It will be a significant upset if one of Atlanta's early-round picks isn't a cornerback—quite possibly the 14th selection overall.

Baltimore Ravens: Wide Receiver

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Ravens have had an eventful offseason after winning the AFC North in 2018. The Ravens made a pair of splash additions in tailback Mark Ingram and safety Earl Thomas. But the Ravens also lost a trio of big-name players in safety Eric Weddle, edge-rusher Terrell Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.

    Losing Mosley hurt. So did watching Suggs and fellow edge-rusher Za'Darius Smith depart in free agency. But the Ravens have a history of successfully replacing edge-rushers who chased big money in free agency, whether it was Paul Kruger or Pernell McPhee.

    Losing their top two wide receivers could be another story. Michael Crabtree was released, and John Brown signed a free-agent deal to join the Buffalo Bills.

    Yes, the Ravens are a run-heavy football team. But Baltimore has to have at least some semblance of a downfield passing game to keep opposing defenses from stacking the box every play.

    With Willie Snead IV presently serving as the team's top wideout, that's a problem as things stand right now.

    It's also why so many mock drafts have the Ravens selecting a wide receiver like A.J. Brown of Ole Miss at No. 22.

Buffalo Bills: Interior Defensive Line

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills were aggressive this year in free agency, making a number of additions. Whether signing John Brown and Cole Beasley will be enough at the wide receiver position remains to be seen, but Buffalo's WR corps is in better shape than it was a month ago.

    The Bills need to turn their attention to the defensive line—specifically the interior of that line.

    It's not that Buffalo's starters at defensive tackle (veteran Star Lotulelei and youngster Harrison Phillips) are terrible. But both of those tackles are space-cloggers more than penetrators. The Bills could use a penetrating 3-tech to help round out the D-line.

    Fortunately, this just so happens to be a loaded draft class on the defensive line. It's possible that Houston's Ed Oliver will still be on the board when the Bills pick at No. 9. If he is…

    Well, I'm not saying he'd be the perfect pick—I'm just saying he'd be the perfect pick.

Carolina Panthers: Defensive Backfield

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    Chris Keane/Associated Press

    As I mentioned before, in the NFC South having a good secondary is rather important. And just as with their rivals in Atlanta, the Carolina Panthers are a little thin in that regard.

    Mind you, the cupboard is hardly bare. The Panthers brought back safety Eric Reid after a solid 2018 season. Cornerback Donte Jackson was one of the better defensive rookies in the NFL last year. And James Bradberry has become a capable cover man in his own right in his three seasons in the NFL.

    However, ideally Jackson is better suited to a role in the slot than outside on the boundary. And the free safety spot is a significant question mark.

    Edge-rusher is also a need for the Panthers—a substantial enough need that the D-Line could well be the pick at No. 16 given all the talent available there in this year's class. But one of this year's top cornerback prospects could be in play there as well.

Chicago Bears: Kicker

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    It seems almost mean to pile on the Bears' kicking game. But we can't pick on poor Cody Parkey anymore.

    The Bears showed the journeyman kicker (and zen master of hitting the uprights) the door on March 13.

    But that doesn't solve Chicago's kicking woes.

    It might have made things worse.

    The Bears (a team with serious postseason aspirations) now have two kickers on the roster. Chris Blewitt's next NFL field-goal attempt will be his first. His success rate in college was south of 70 percent.

    Redford Jones, like Blewitt, has never attempted a kick that mattered at the professional level. A three-year starter at Tulsa, Jones didn't hit the 75 percent mark with his field-goal attempts either. He also missed three extra-point tries.

    Those are the kind of numbers that will make you miss the 76.7 percent success rate Parkey had with the Bears in 2018.

Cincinnati Bengals: Linebacker

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    John Grieshop/Getty Images

    The Cincinnati Bengals were a hot mess defensively in 2018—dead last in the NFL, allowing over 413 yards per game.

    The Bengals have talent on the defensive line with Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Capable players on the back end such as cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and young safety Jessie Bates.

    The linebackers are another matter.

    The Bengals' most proven linebacker is Preston Brown, who is coming off easily the worst season of his career in his first year with the team. Fourth-year pro Nick Vigil showed flashes last year but struggled to stay healthy.

    Outside that duo, the linebacker corps is a cadre of young players who spent most of the 2018 being gashed with alarming regularity.

    If LSU's Devin White somehow falls to No. 11, Bengals general manager Mike Brown will probably pull a hammy racing to the podium to make the pick. But regardless, it's just about guaranteed that one of Cincy's early picks will be spent on an off-ball linebacker.

Cleveland Browns: Expectations

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns have had quite the offseason. And while the team's flurry of offseason moves haven't patched every hole on the roster, there isn't a franchise in the NFL that's generated more buzz over the past few months.

    That's the problem.

    After adding proving veteran players such as Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson, the Browns aren't just expected to take a step forward—Cleveland has been installed as the odds-on favorite to win the AFC North.

    According to VegasInsider.com, the Browns have the third-best odds to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIV.

    The Browns. The Cleveland Browns. The same team that has more seasons with two or fewer wins than nine or more victories in a season since rejoining the NFL in 1999.

    The Browns have a second-year quarterback. A first-time head coach. And, as Doug Farrar wrote for Touchdown Wire, more hype than the franchise has ever had.

    With all that hype and excitement comes something else new to Cleveland—the expectation of winning.

    And the pressure that comes with it.

Dallas Cowboys: A Demarcus Disaster

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys have a few holes. The safety and cornerback positions could both use upgrades. Ditto for the interior of the defensive line. The loss of wide receiver Cole Beasley leaves the team short on reliable receivers not named Amari Cooper.

    But the biggest potential problem standing between the Cowboys and a trip back to the playoffs involves a player who is technically on the roster.

    As Calvin Watkins reported for The Athletic, the Cowboys have offered franchise-tagged defensive end Demarcus Lawrence a contract that would pay the 27-year-old $20 million a season. But so far, no dice.

    "Right now, the best way to describe it is we're at an impasse," team VP Stephen Jones said. "We're apart. But certainly optimistic. No one thinks more of Demarcus Lawrence than we do. He represents what we want on our football team, in terms of the way he plays the game. He certainly plays it at a high level. We'll continue to chop wood."

    Lawrence is the team's best edge-rusher and has been clear that he has no intentions of playing under the tag again.

    This situation dragging into the summer would be exceptionally ungood.

Denver Broncos: Inside Linebacker

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Most of the press surrounding the Denver Broncos this offseason has centered on the trade that brought quarterback Joe Flacco to town.

    The team's biggest red flag is on the other side of the ball—and it's a whopper.

    The Broncos have an excellent pair of edge-rushers in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. And while the secondary is no longer the "No Fly Zone," the addition of veteran defensive back Kareem Jackson was a nice boost.

    However, the inside linebackers were a weakness for the Denver defense last year, and that was before Brandon Marshall left in free agency.

    Now, it appears that the Broncos will start Josey Jewell opposite Todd Davis. Jewell racked up the tackles at Iowa, but his awful 4.82-second 40-time at last year's combine belies a lack of speed that could mean big problems when covering backs and tight ends.

    LSU's Devin White may well already be off the board by the time the Broncos pick at No. 10. If by some chance he isn't, White isn't making it to the Bengals at No. 11.

Detroit Lions: Off-Ball Linebacker

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    The Lions already made a massive investment on defense in free agency, signing edge-rusher Trey Flowers to a five-year, $90 million contract.

    Flowers should help bolster a Detroit pass rush that can use the help, but he won't fix all that ails Matt Patricia's defense.

    Detroit's off-ball linebackers are...uninspiring. Jarrad Davis has shown the occasional flash of talent but an equal number of lapses in coverage. Christian Jones and Devon Kennard are veteran journeymen, not difference-makers.

    The Lions don't necessarily have to spend the eighth overall pick on a linebacker. They may if LSU linebacker Devin White slips, but if they spend that pick on a defensive player, it'll likely be a pass-rusher.

    But at some point over the draft's first two days, Detroit would be wise to add an off-ball linebacker.

Green Bay Packers: Wide Receiver

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers have entered a new era, at least in terms of free agency. Former general manager Ted Thompson's thriftiness has given way to the free-spending ways of Brian Gutekunst, who doled out big contracts to edge-rushers Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith last month.

    While the Packers hope to have shored up the edge, their wide receivers other than Davante Adams are a whole lot of "maybe."

    Marquez Valdes-Scantling, J'Mon Moore, Equanimeous St. Brown and Geronimo Allison have had their moments here and there, but they're all inconsistent. With Randall Cobb gone, Green Bay's only other proven passing-game weapon is tight end Jimmy Graham.

    If the Packers don't address that fairly early in the draft, opposing teams will double-cover Adams approximately 114 percent of the time.

Houston Texans: Offensive Line

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    Al Pereira/Getty Images

    The Houston Texans won the AFC South last year despite surrendering a league-high 62 sacks. According to Football Outsiders, their offensive line ranked 27th in run blocking and 32nd in pass protection.

    The Texans have already taken steps to bolster their offensive line, signing 2012 fourth overall pick Matt Kalil to a one-year, $7.5 million contract. And according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the team also has interest in signing free-agent tackle Jordan Mills.

    But the 29-year-old Kalil struggled so much in Carolina that the Panthers cut bait on him after one year. And while Mills has been durable over his four years in Buffalo, that's the highlight of his tenure with the Bills.

    The Texans will go as far in 2019 as quarterback Deshaun Watson takes them. But if Watson keeps taking the kind of punishment he did last year, it's a matter of time before he winds up sidelined.

Indianapolis Colts: Secondary

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Despite having the NFL's most salary-cap space entering free agency, the Indianapolis Colts have yet to splurge. They signed edge-rusher Justin Houston to a two-year, $24 million contract and brought in wide receiver Devin Funchess on a one-year, $10 million deal, but they've otherwise stayed mostly quiet.

    While Houston makes Indy's defensive line better, it could still use more depth. The same goes for the team's linebacker corps.

    The Colts secondary needs the most help, though. Indy's cornerbacks are talented but young, and while the team brought back safety Clayton Geathers, he's had trouble staying healthy.

    Even so, the Colts are more likely to go with the best player available with their pair of top-35 picks than target a particular position group.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Wide Receiver

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars hope to have solved their problem at quarterback by signing Nick Foles.

    But if a signal-caller is only as good as the weapons at his disposal, the Jaguars still have a substantial problem.

    Dede Westbrook is a promising a vertical threat, but he's by no means a No. 1 wide receiver. Marqise Lee topped 55 catches and 700 yards in 2016 and 2017 but missed all of last season after tearing up his knee.

    Throw in the likes of Keelan Cole and second-year pro DJ Chark, and Jacksonville has one of the NFL's shakier cadres of pass-catchers.

    With the seventh overall pick, the Jaguars likely could have their pick of this draft's wide receiver prospects. If the Jags go a different direction at No. 7 (say, the offensive line), they're almost sure to grab a wideout at No. 38.

Kansas City Chiefs: Edge-Rusher

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    The Kansas City Chiefs made it to the AFC Championship Game in 2018 despite fielding one of the NFL's worst defenses. While their secondary was a tire fire, they did tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the league lead in sacks with 52.

    The Chiefs aren't likely to eclipse 50 sacks again in 2019, though.

    After franchise-tagging outside linebacker Dee Ford, who finished second on the team with 13 sacks in 2018, the Chiefs flipped him to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick. They also released veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston, who added nine sacks last season.

    That's 22 sacks—more than 40 percent of the team's total—gone.

    The Chiefs haven't done much to replace Ford and Houston, either. Kansas City's most prominent free-agent signing in that regard was Alex Okafor, who hasn't had even five sacks in a season since 2014.

    Considering the Chiefs' first pick isn't until No. 29, it won't be easy for them to add an impact edge-rusher then, either.

Los Angeles Chargers: Defensive Tackle

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Chargers won 12 games last year and should contend again this season. Per VegasInsider.com, they're currently tied for the fifth-best odds to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIV.

    The Chargers also don't have many pressing needs. But they do have one that could haunt them if it remains unaddressed.

    With tackle Darius Philon gone, the three-technique spot is a major question mark for the Chargers. In fact, both tackle spots are, as veteran nose tackle Brandon Mebane is 34 and missed four games in 2018.

    The elite three-techs won't make it to the Chargers at No. 28, but this draft class is deep up front. A few free-agent defensive tackles also have yet to find new homes, including Ndamukong Suh.

    But with little more than $10 million in cap space, the Chargers would need to work some cap magic to carve out enough space for someone like Suh. 

Los Angeles Rams: The Health of Todd Gurley

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams don't have a ton of holes on their roster. However, one potential issue could derail another run to the Super Bowl, and it isn't the loss of veteran guard Rodger Saffold.

    In early March, Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported Rams star running back Todd Gurley had arthritis in his balky knee. At the recent league meetings, Rams head coach Sean McVay said he expects Gurley's health to continue to loom over the team.

    "I think you do know that. That's a result of Todd being such a special, productive player, that he's so important to what we do and to the success we've had over the last couple years. So you're not naive to [think] that those things are going to go away. But I think what's important for us is, let's figure out what's the best way to put Todd in position to have a successful season over the course of the entire year. And some of those things are both what we can control as a coach, and what he does as a player to get himself ready."

    If Gurley's ready to go in Week 1, this will all blow over.

    If he isn't, the Rams could be in serious trouble.

Miami Dolphins: Pass Rush

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins are in the opening stages of a ground-up rebuild. As such, the roster is one red flag after another.

    With Ryan Tannehill gone, the quarterback position is an enormous question mark. The Dolphins brought in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to hold down the fort in 2019, while ESPN.com's Adam Schefter reported in January that they're "trying to land one of the trumpeted quarterbacks from the class of 2020, which includes Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert."

    Miami has an even more pressing need along the defensive front. The Dolphins traded Robert Quinn to Dallas for a sixth-round pick, released Andre Branch and lost Cameron Wake to Tennessee in free agency.

    Whether it's inside at tackle, outside at end, on the strong side or the weak side, the Dolphins need all the help they can get on the defensive line.

    The Dolphins figure to look at the D-line with the 13th overall pick, but either way, they're likely to struggle pressuring opposing quarterbacks this season.

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    From a statistical perspective, Kirk Cousins' first year in Minnesota wasn't that bad. He tallied almost 4,300 yards, threw three times as many touchdown passes as interceptions and posted a 99.7 passer rating.

    However, the Vikings didn't give Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract to be "not bad." They're paying him that much to lead them to the Super Bowl.

    At 8-7-1, the Vikings not only didn't make the Super Bowl—they missed the playoffs entirely. That reinforced the notion that Cousins is a stat-padder who will post numbers but can't win games when it counts.

    If the Vikings struggle again in 2019, Cousins will shoulder much of the blame.

    To date, he's shown nothing to indicate he can handle bearing that load.

New England Patriots: Life After Gronk

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Despite losing a parade of players over the past 15-plus years, the New England Patriots keep on winning.

    Wes Welker. Brandin Cooks. Chandler Jones. Jamie Collins. On and on and on and on. It hasn't mattered.

    This offseason, the Pats lost their best edge-rusher in Trey Flowers and starting left tackle in Trent Brown, but they're still the prohibitive favorite in the AFC East.

    But in 2019, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will have a tall task in front of them—replacing the irreplaceable.

    Rob Gronkowski was a generational talent at tight end. He was uncoverable in the passing game and a ferocious run blocker as well.

    Losing him to retirement was a huge setback, even for the Patriots.

New Orleans Saints: Wide Receiver

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The New Orleans Saints' 2018 season ended in heartbreak, but they have the pieces in place for another deep run. 

    Bolstering their receiving talent would go a long way toward making that happen.

    Alvin Kamara is one of the NFL's most dangerous tailbacks. Michael Thomas may be the best wide receiver in football. And while quarterback Drew Brees turned 40 in mid-January, he hasn't lost a step.

    The Saints also signed tight end Jared Cook this offseason, but that doesn't solve their problem at receiver opposite Thomas. At the moment, they don't have another reliable wideout.

    With no first-round pick this year, getting one isn't going to be easy, either. 

New York Giants: Offensive Tackle

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Aside from star running back Saquon Barkley, just about everything is a red flag for the New York Giants.

    Eli Manning isn't the quarterback he used to be, but the Giants refuse to acknowledge that. General manager Dave Gettleman recently made it sound as though Manning may be their starter in 2020, too.

    It doesn't matter who starts for the Giants this year, whether it's Manning, Dwayne Haskins or Phil Simms. Whoever it is will be set up to fail.

    After trading Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, the Giants receiving corps is now heavy on slot targets and light on everything else. But New York's offensive line may be in even worse shape.

    Flipping defensive end Olivier Vernon to Cleveland for Kevin Zeitler should help, but both ends of the line are weak spots. Left tackle Nate Solder, who signed a then-record four-year, $62 million contract with the Giants last offseason, didn't live up to his hefty payday last season.

    Gettleman should consider drafting a plan B behind Solder with one of the team's two first-round picks. Instead, he'll probably choose two more running backs.

New York Jets: Pass-Rushers

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    Whereas the Indianapolis Colts took a measured approach to free agency, the New York Jets went with the "you can't take it with you" approach.

    If Le'Veon Bell can return to his 2017 form, his four-year, $52.5 million deal may wind up seeming like a relative bargain. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley's five-year, $85 million contract was an overpay, but that's what happens after you watch Darron Lee whiff on tackles for a few seasons.

    Replacing slot corner Buster Skrine with Brian Poole? Brilliance.

    But when outside linebacker Anthony Barr changed his mind about heading to New York, the Jets failed to address their biggest need: the pass rush.

    The two players who led New York in sacks last year are returning, but Henry Anderson and Jordan Jenkins will be hard-pressed to match their seven-sack output. The Jets don't have an edge-rusher or lineman who will command double-teams with any regularity.

    Well, they don't now, at least. If they stay put at No. 3 overall, they should have a chance to rectify that.

Oakland Raiders: Pass-Rushers

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Last year, the Oakland Raiders tallied a league-low 13 sacks. Six players surpassed that output by themselves.

    Although they entered free agency with loads of cap space and an apparent willingness to take on high-priced veterans, the Raiders have yet to acquire any upgrades to this point.

    Luckily, the Raiders have three first-round picks, including No. 4 overall. The overwhelming majority of mock drafts project the Raiders to go the pass-rush route with that pick, whether it's Kentucky edge-rusher Josh Allen or Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams.

    Oakland is under immense pressure to nail that pick. Even if it does, regularly pressuring opposing quarterbacks figures to be an uphill climb again in 2019.

Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz's Health

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    The Philadelphia Eagles started the offseason with some of the least salary-cap space in the NFL, but they've made the best of a bad situation. While they suffered some notable losses (Golden Tate, Michael Bennett, Jordan Hicks), they were able to plug the holes in most cases.

    But the Eagles won't offset the loss of Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles easily.

    With Foles now in Jacksonville, the Eagles can't afford losing quarterback Carson Wentz to another late-season injury. They also need him back to being 100 percent as quickly as possible.

    Per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is "optimistic" that Wentz will be ready for OTAs.

    That's good news, because the Eagles will only go as far as Wentz carries them in 2019.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Inside Linebacker

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    This offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost two of the three "Killer Bs." They traded star wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Raiders, while tailback Le'Veon Bell signed a fat free-agent deal with the Jets.

    Replacing both of them won't be easy, but Pittsburgh has an even bigger problem on its hands: a hole at inside linebacker. That's been an issue ever since Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal cord injury against the Cincinnati Bengals in December 2017.

    Backup L.J. Fort left the Steelers this offseason to sign with the Eagles. While Pittsburgh added Mark Barron as a replacement, the 29-year-old is coming off a down 2018 season in which he missed four games and managed just 60 tackles.

    Vince Williams finished third on the team with 76 total tackles last season, but he's a two-down thumper who is a significant liability in coverage.

    The middle of the Pittsburgh defense was a soft spot in 2018. It doesn't appear much has changed.

San Francisco 49ers: Safety

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    For a team coming off such a miserable season, the San Francisco 49ers don't have many huge holes. It just goes to show how badly injuries ravaged them in 2018.

    However, one position group could badly use a boost: the back of the defense.

    Both of San Fran's safety spots are question marks. The starter at strong safety, Jaquiski Tartt, has missed 15 games over the past two seasons with an assortment of injuries. The tentative starter at free safety, Adrian Colbert, was a seventh-round pick in 2017.

    The 49ers aren't likely to spend the No. 2 overall pick on a safety, but they figure to add depth at that position with one of their later picks.

Seattle Seahawks: Edge-Rusher

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks' rebuild took far less time than expected. Thanks in part to a vastly improved offensive line, the Seahawks were back in the postseason in 2018 after a one-year hiatus.

    That offensive line could use some added depth, especially on the interior. The days of "The Legion of Boom" are also long gone, so Seattle would benefit from more talent at cornerback and safety. 

    But upgrading the pass rush is an even bigger priority.

    As of now, the franchise-tagged Frank Clark is Seattle's lone pass-rusher of note. Perhaps Quinton Jefferson or Barkevious Mingo can add some pop alongside Clark and Jarran Reed, but that's far from a sure thing.

    The Seahawks won't necessarily use the first of their league-low four picks on an edge-rusher. But their first-rounder (No. 21 overall) is their only one in the top 75, which makes it imperative for them to nail that pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Linebacker

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are undergoing significant changes in 2019. They have a new head coach in Bruce Arians and a new defensive coordinator in Todd Bowles.

    Bowles will have his hands full with a unit that ranked 27th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed last season. Every level of the defense needs work, from a front short on pass-rushers not named Jason Pierre-Paul to a young secondary.

    But the linebacker position is Tampa Bay's most pressing need defensively.

    Other than veteran Lavonte David, the Buccaneers are severely lacking at linebacker. Kwon Alexander is now in San Francisco, while Kendell Beckwith's future with the team is in question. The Bucs brought in Deone Bucannon in free agency, but he's a safety/linebacker "hybrid" coming off a career-low 38 tackles.

    With the fifth overall pick, the Buccaneers could potentially fill that void by adding the draft's best off-ball linebacker, LSU's Devin White. It would be a big investment at that position, but it would be a sound one.

Tennessee Titans: The Coming QB Controversy

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans have endured an up-and-down offseason. While they brought in a number of veterans, other vets departed after a 2018 campaign in which the Titans came up just short of the playoffs.

    However, one of those veteran additions may wind up backfiring.

    While the Titans now have a proven veteran backup quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, they also have "(the) QB battle no one asked for," as For The Win's Henry McKenna wrote in mid-March.

    Titans head coach Mike Vrabel insisted to Jim Wyatt of the team's website that if Marcus Mariota "is healthy, and he's available, he's our starter." But if Mariota stumbles for whatever reason—in training camp or in games—Titans fans may begin clamoring for Tannehill, who made 88 starts over six seasons in Miami.

    That brings to mind an old football adage: If you have two starting quarterbacks, you really have none.

Washington Redskins: Wide Receiver

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    The Washington Redskins attempted to patch the hole Alex Smith's injury created at quarterback by trading for veteran signal-caller Case Keenum.

    But Keenum doesn't have much in terms of passing-game targets.

    Josh Doctson, the team's nominal No. 1 wideout, hasn't come close to living up to his first-round draft pedigree in his three NFL seasons. Meanwhile, Paul Richardson missed nine games in his first year with the Redskins in 2018 and caught only 20 passes for 262 yards.

    That's not much of a return on an $8 million annual investment.

    Behind Doctson and Richardson, it's even bleaker. Washington's most proven receiving target might be tight end Jordan Reed, who has had all kinds of trouble staying healthy in recent years.

    Perhaps one of the team's young wideouts will break through this year. But as things stand today, uncertainty looms over the Redskins passing game in 2019.

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