The Best Free-Agent Option for Every NFL Team After Week 1

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2019

The Best Free-Agent Option for Every NFL Team After Week 1

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    We're barreling toward the second week of the 2019 NFL season, and yet many teams are still trying to figure out where room for improvement exists.

    Some teams discovered holes in Week 1. Some had injuries create new ones. Even those that looked nearly flawless—like the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots—have likely determined areas that could be improved moving forward.

    Teams are always trying to get better, which is why many players unemployed during the offseason or released after the preseason won't remain without homes for long. Here, we'll examine one available free agent who can improve each NFL franchise based on factors like team needs, player talent, system familiarity and positional value.

    Who's the top available free agent for your favorite team? Let's take a look.

         

Arizona Cardinals: TE Jermaine Gresham

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    The Arizona Cardinals' new-look receiving corps played well in Week 1, at least after Kyler Murray and the offense finally got something going. However, Arizona still lacks a reliable receiving option at tight end.

    Charles Clay and Maxx Williams combined for just two receptions in Week 1.

    If the Cardinals want to provide Murray with a dependable outlet at tight end, they should bring back former starter Jermaine Gresham.

    Is Gresham an elite receiving option? No, but he did catch 33 passes for 322 yards with Arizona just two seasons ago. He's familiar with a lot of the personnel on the roster, and the Cardinals should have little trouble integrating him into the offense.

Atlanta Falcons: G Joshua Garnett

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    Atlanta Falcons rookie guard Chris Lindstrom suffered a broken foot in Week 1, which leaves the Falcons wanting at the position. Jamon Brown should slide into the starting role, but the Falcons need someone to provide depth.

    They should take a chance on 2016 first-round pick Joshua Garnett.

    Though Garnett never emerged as a permanent fixture on the San Francisco 49ers offensive line, he does have starting experience. He started 11 games as a rookie before a series of injuries sidetracked his career.

    Garnett is just 25 years old and could potentially be groomed into a long-term depth option for Atlanta.

Baltimore Ravens: G Brandon Fusco

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    The Baltimore Ravens didn't appear to have many holes during their 59-10 romp over the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. However, not every team they face will be as bad as Miami. Holes could eventually present themselves.

    An issue could emerge at guard, where the unproven Bradley Bozeman is starting. If the Ravens decide to bolster their depth at the position, they should consider veteran free agent Brandon Fusco.

    Fusco is 31 years old and should have several solid years ahead of him. He also has 87 games of starting experience, which would come in handy if Bozeman begins to struggle. He could be both a backup and a mentor.

Buffalo Bills: OT Matt Kalil

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    Injuries have derailed a once-promising career for left tackle Matt Kalil. The 2012 first-round pick was a Pro Bowler as a rookie but finished 2016 on injured reserve and missed all of 2018 after he underwent a knee scope.

    Kalil was released by the Houston Texans after they acquired Laremy Tunsil.

    The Buffalo Bills can afford to take a chance on him. They lost LaAdrian Waddle to a torn quad during training camp and are currently relying on the underwhelming trio of Dion Dawkins, rookie Cody Ford and Ty Nsekhe. Ford and Nsekhe split time at right tackle in the opener.

    While there are worse tackle situations in the NFL, the Bills need to protect their investment in quarterback Josh Allen. If they could get Kalil to return to a high level of play, it would go a long way toward doing just that.

Carolina Panthers: WR Torrey Smith

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    The Carolina Panthers nearly upset the Los Angeles Rams at home in Week 1. Perhaps with a little more receiver talent, they would have.

    Cam Newton was rarely able to threaten the Rams deep and relied heavily on short throws to Christian McCaffrey. Though McCaffrey was hard to stop—he had over 200 combined rushing and receiving yards—the Panthers offense was predictable.

    The problem is that Carolina just doesn't have much at receiver outside of DJ Moore, who led all wideouts with seven catches and 76 yards. Jarius Wright and Curtis Samuel combined for just four receptions and 46 yards.

    The Panthers should consider bringing back Torrey Smith. Though he wasn't heavily utilized in 2018—he finished with 190 yards and two touchdowns—he at least knows the offense and could likely make an immediate impact.

Chicago Bears: LB Nick Perry

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    The Chicago Bears don't have many holes, so their focus right now should be on strengthening their depth. That's why outside linebacker Nick Perry would make a lot of sense.

    The Bears shouldn't have to worry about Khalil Mack at one outside linebacker spot, but both Aaron Lynch and Leonard Floyd have had durability issues in the past. Floyd missed 10 games between 2016 and 2017, while Lynch missed three contests last season.

    Perry would provide depth on the outside and could potentially become part of the pass-rushing rotation. Over the last three years, he's amassed 19.5 sacks. He's also familiar with the NFC North after spending his first seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

Cincinnati Bengals: OT Matt Kalil

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    Poor offensive line play continues to be a concern for the Cincinnati Bengals. Using a first-round pick on Jonah Williams was supposed to help fix the issue, but he quickly landed on injured reserve with a torn labrum.

    With no Williams, the Bengals relied on Andre Smith and Bobby Hart in the opener to mixed results. While Cincinnati had little trouble generating offense—Andy Dalton passed for a league-high 418 yards—the line did frequently allow pressure.

    Dalton was sacked five times in the game, once by new Seattle Seahawks addition Jadeveon Clowney.

    Cincinnati should take a flier on Matt Kalil. If he's healthy and can provide an upgrade at either tackle spot, it would be a huge boost for the Bengals until Williams returns next season.

Cleveland Browns: OT Matt Kalil

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    The Cleveland Browns are yet another team that should take a chance on Matt Kalil. Why? Because their line was a disaster in Week 1.

    Quarterback Baker Mayfield was pressured early and often against the Tennessee Titans, and things only grew worse after starting left tackle Greg Robinson got himself ejected. Mayfield was sacked five times, and the Browns were whistled for five offensive holding penalties, two false starts and a blindside block.

    After Robinson left, Chris Hubbard was moved to the left side and replaced by backup guard Justin McCray. Backup tackle Kendall Lamm left the game with a knee injury.

    While Robinson and Hubbard may prove to be a reliable starting tandem in time, depth is an obvious problem for Cleveland. The Browns need to explore every potential solution for fixing it, and Kalil is one of those options.

Dallas Cowboys: S Eric Berry

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    The Dallas Cowboys looked like a complete and dangerous team in their opener, pounding the New York Giants 35-17. Strengthening depth should be Dallas' only real concern at this point. And odd as it may sound, adding three-time All-Pro Eric Berry would accomplish that.

    Berry might be able to steal the starting job away from Xavier Woods or Jeff Heath, but it's more likely that he'd become a rotational player utilized in sub-packages. That appears to be a big part of the game plan, as Dallas is carrying five safeties—Kavon Frazier, Darian Thompson and Donovan Wilson are the others—on its roster.

    The heel injury that sidelined Berry for much of 2018 is an obvious concern, but according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Berry has been told that he'll be OK to play this year.

    This would be a luxury addition for Dallas, but it's one that would undoubtedly make the defense as a whole more dangerous.

Denver Broncos: OT Jermey Parnell

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    The Denver Broncos saw starting right tackle Ja'Wuan James go down with a knee injury Monday night. Though head coach Vic Fangio hasn't given an update on his status, according to BSN Denver's Andrew Mason, this is an obvious concern.

    The Broncos absolutely must protect quarterback Joe Flacco. Rookie Drew Lock is on injured reserve, and if the starter gets injured, they must turn to Brandon Allen, who has never taken an NFL snap.

    While Jermey Parnell isn't an elite right tackle, he does have plenty of starting experience. He's started 64 career games, and 13 came for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season before he landed on injured reserve.

    Even if James doesn't miss much time, Parnell would be a solid depth addition on the right side.

Detroit Lions: LB Manti Te'o

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    As the Detroit Lions continue to work through linebacker Jarrad Davis' ankle injury, they should consider adding some depth at the inside linebacker spot.

    Though Manti Te'o does not possess the same kind of sideline-to-sideline range as Davis, he does bring a wealth of experience to the position. He's made 47 starts over six seasons, and he's still just 28 years old. He was only active for five games with the New Orleans Saints last season, but that shouldn't stop the Lions from signing him.

    Te'o has experience playing middle linebacker in a 4-3 base defense from his time with the New Orleans Saints, which would make him a solid fit for head coach Matt Patricia's scheme. He could start if needed and would provide valuable depth at inside linebacker once Davis returns.

Green Bay Packers: LB Josh Bynes

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    The Green Bay Packers appear to have a rising defense, one that held the Chicago Bears to a mere three points in the season opener. There aren't any glaring weaknesses on that defense, but there is some room for additional depth.

    Inside linebacker, in particular, could use an influx of talent. Starter Oren Burks is still recovering from a pectoral injury, and Green Bay only has three other players listed inside on the active roster—B.J. Goodson, Blake Martinez and rookie Ty Summers.

    Linebacker Josh Bynes ended last season on injured reserve with a thumb injury and remains available. He made 11 starts for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 and has 40 career starts on his resume. He also has 319 tackles, 22 passes defended and 3.5 sacks. He has experience playing in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and would be a great addition for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's multi-look scheme.

    Even if the Packers don't view Bynes as someone to replace Burks for the time being, he'd bring a valuable veteran presence to the linebacker room.

Houston Texans: OT Jermey Parnell

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    The Houston Texans are another team that should consider adding former Jacksonville Jaguars starter Jermey Parnell. They should explore all avenues of improving the talent and depth along their offensive line by looking at Parnell, Matt Kalil and maybe even Joe Thomas, depending on how quickly he could regain his playing weight.

    The Texans line is still bad even after it added Laremy Tunsil. Deshaun Watson, who was sacked 62 times last season, was taken down another six times Monday night.

    While Parnell wouldn't replace Tunsil, he may be an upgrade over Seantrel Henderson on the right side, and he would at least provide some experienced depth. He would also provide a little AFC South wisdom after starting in Jacksonville for four years.

Indianapolis Colts: WR Laquon Treadwell

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    The Indianapolis Colts placed wideout Devin Funchess on injured reserve with a broken clavicle, which leaves them in need of an outside receiver opposite T.Y. Hilton. They might as well take a look at 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell.

    While Treadwell never lived up to his first-round status with the Minnesota Vikings, he wasn't a complete disaster, either. He caught 35 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown last season.

    Adding Treadwell would at least give Indianapolis another option on the outside. And who knows? A change of scenery might be exactly what he needs to start reaching his potential. If he's still just a marginal receiver, he shouldn't be terribly expensive to acquire and could be let go of if and when Funchess is able to return.

Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Cody Kessler

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars placed starting quarterback Nick Foles on injured reserve after he had surgery to repair a broken left clavicle suffered in Week 1. They traded for Josh Dobbs and are likely to start rookie Gardner Minshew II in Week 2. That leaves the former Pittsburgh Steeler as the primary backup for the immediate future, but he has little time to absorb the offense.

    Should Minshew suffer an injury, the Jaguars would truly be in trouble.

    It might be a good idea for them to give Cody Kessler a call. He started four games for Jacksonville in 2018, and while he didn't play at a high level, he would at least know the offense well enough to back up either Minshew or Dobbs until Foles' return, which won't come for a minimum of two months.

    If Jacksonville has any hope of being a playoff team in 2019, it will have to make some moves at quarterback.

Kansas City Chiefs: CB Leon Hall

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    Cornerback continues to be an issue for the Kansas City Chiefs. They were good enough to net a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the secondary was a problem. Rookie Gardner Minshew II threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and just three incompletions.

    Kansas City hired Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator, but the transition to his system appears to be a work in progress. The team did add Morris Claiborne in the offseason, but he's serving a four-game suspension for a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.

    For now—and at least until Claiborne returns from his suspension—the Chiefs should consider Leon Hall. Though he's 34 years old and no longer a starting-caliber corner, he does have some experience in Spagnuolo's defense, having played in it with the New York Giants during the 2016 season.

Los Angeles Chargers: S Eric Berry

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    When the Los Angeles Chargers were forced to place safety Derwin James on injured reserve, it was a massive blow to the defense. While they have some depth at the position, including rookie second-round pick Nasir Adderley, James is a legitimate playmaker and a Pro Bowl talent.

    The Chargers could add a Pro Bowl talent back to their secondary by adding Berry, who remains unsigned.

    Though Berry has only played three games over the last two seasons, he was an All-Pro as recently as 2016. If healthy, he could be a stellar addition to L.A.'s back end, and he would bring the added bonus of nearly a decade of NFC West experience.

    Even if Berry only played on a rotational basis, he'd be a nice piece for the Chargers' playoff puzzle.

Los Angeles Rams: LB Mason Foster

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    Run defense is a problem that just won't go away for the Los Angeles Rams. Losing Micah Kiser to a preseason pectoral injury certainly didn't help.

    While the Carolina Panthers only produced 127 yards on the ground against Los Angeles—still a high number, though not an outlandish one—they also averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

    Inside linebacker Mason Foster could help bolster the second level of the Rams defense, potentially improving its efficiency against the run. He racked up an impressive 131 tackles in 2018. He's also familiar with Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry, who served as the Washington Redskins defensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016.

Miami Dolphins: OT Matt Kalil

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    The Miami Dolphins have several holes, which was apparent in Week 1. However, the offensive line is their biggest weakness, and you can just about take your pick of players the team could pursue.

    Julie'n Davenport represents a sizeable step down from Laremy Tunsil at left tackle. Right tackle Jesse Davis is a converted guard. Guards Michael Deiter and Deion Calhoun are both rookies.

    Miami could look to sign a right tackle like Jermey Parnell or a guard like Brandon Fusco, and it would make perfect sense.

    However, left tackle is a spot the Dolphins must address if they hope to have either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen still standing at the end of the season. That's why Matt Kalil is the best option for Miami. If he's healthy enough to play, he's probably already an upgrade over Davenport—the guy he was originally brought to Houston to replace.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Davon House

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    The Minnesota Vikings may need to bring in another cornerback for at least the short term.

    Mackensie Alexander suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 1, and while he won't need surgery, he will almost certainly miss several weeks. Meanwhile, Holton Hill is serving an eight-game suspension.

    Not many starting-caliber cornerbacks are available on the open market, but the Vikings might be able to land one in former Green Bay Packers defender Davon House.

    Though House only appeared in three games last season before he landed on injured reserve, he was a lineup fixture in 2017, starting all 12 games in which he appeared. He's familiar with the division and would be able to fill in until either Alexander or Hill returns.

New England Patriots: C Evan Smith

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    The New England Patriots suffered a surprising setback in the offseason when starting center David Andrews was hospitalized with a blood clot in his lung. It landed Andrew on injured reserve and forced the Patriots to turn to Ted Karras.

    While Karras was serviceable against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, he did have some issues with shotgun snaps.

    "There were a couple floaters there but just something to be mindful of and work on," Karras said, per Doug Kyed of NESN.com.

    If those issues continue, the Patriots should take a long look at veteran free agent Evan Smith. He has 118 NFL games and 53 starts under his belt and would likely have no trouble getting the ball into Tom Brady's hands.

New Orleans Saints: CB Orlando Scandrick

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    If the New Orleans Saints hope to push through and reach the Super Bowl this season, they're going to have to get more consistent play out of their secondary than what they had in the opener. When the pass rush didn't break through in Week 1, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson regularly gashed their defense with long pass plays.

    The Saints should take a chance on 10-year veteran Orlando Scandrick. He's a versatile cornerback who can play in the slot and on the outside if needed. It's unlikely he would be a starter in New Orleans, but his versatility would give the Saints flexibility with their sub-packages.

    Scandrick appeared in 15 games for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, making seven starts and logging 13 passes defended.

New York Giants: WR Jordan Matthews

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    The New York Giants need to upgrade their receiving corps if they're going to make life easier on quarterback Eli Manning—eventually, Daniel Jones—and take pressure off running back Saquon Barkley. Trading away Odell Beckham Jr. obviously weakened the group, and losing newcomer Golden Tate to suspension did not help the situation.

    In Week 1, Manning passed for 306 yards, but 135 of them went to Barkley and tight end Evan Engram.

    The Giants should take a flier on receiver Jordan Matthews, who has had two separate stints in the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles. He is still just 27 years old and only three seasons removed from an 804-yard campaign.

    His familiarity with the division should make him a better fit with the Giants than he was with either the Buffalo Bills or the San Francisco 49ers, who released him at the end of the preseason.

New York Jets: CB E.J. Gaines

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    The New York Jets potentially filled a few needs Tuesday, as they signed kicker Sam Ficken and traded for Patriots wide receiver Demaryius Thomas

    That leaves cornerback as the biggest glaring need for New York.

    Bills receiver John Brown torched the Jets for 123 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, and similar performances could be on the horizon if they don't improve their secondary.

    One interesting option is E.J. Gaines. Though he likely isn't 100 percent healthy yet—the Bills placed him on injured reserve with a hip injury before releasing him in mid-August—he is only 27 years old and has experience in the AFC East.

    Gaines also has experience in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' system, having played in it last season with the Browns.

Oakland Raiders: S Eric Berry

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    Oakland Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley suffered a frightening neck injury Monday night against the Denver Broncos. He was thankfully released from the hospital Tuesday, and he later tweeted that he is "good to go."

    While Conley may still miss some time, he isn't likely to miss the entire season. However, rookie safety Johnathan Abram suffered a torn rotator cuff and labrum, according to Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe, and might be out for the year.

    If Abram's season is over, Oakland will have a hole behind stating safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Karl Joseph. Eric Berry could fill that void if the Raiders could convince him to join a former rival.

    As is the case with the Chargers, Berry would bring a vast amount of AFC West knowledge to Oakland. The Raiders haven't been shy about signing older veterans or taking risks since Jon Gruden's arrival, so this pairing would make a lot of sense.

Philadelphia Eagles: CB Davon House

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    The Philadelphia Eagles are a complete team just about everywhere but cornerback. That remains an area of need after Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum racked up 380 passing yards against them in Week 1.

    The Eagles need to continue trying out options in the secondary until they find something that works.

    As previously mentioned, Davon House is one of the few starting-caliber cornerbacks still available on the open market.

    Philadelphia would likely be better served by trying to swing a trade for a player like Trae Waynes or Xavien Howard. But when it comes to free-agent options, House is probably the Eagles' best bet.

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Jacquizz Rodgers

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    Perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't as set at running back as we thought. 

    James Conner and Jaylen Samuels combined for only 25 yards on 12 carries in the season-opening loss against the New England Patriots. While it's too early to panic or overreact, the Steelers should at least consider bolstering their backfield.

    Jacquizz Rodgers would be a perfect fit as a complement to Conner. Though he averaged only 3.2 yards per carry last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was a terrific receiving option, catching 38 passes for 304 yards.

    Rodgers wouldn't replace Le'Veon Bell as an elite receiver out of the backfield, but he would give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a reliable outlet on passing downs.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Alfred Morris

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    The San Francisco 49ers can't seem to stay healthy at running back.

    Jerick McKinnon opened the season on injured reserve again, and offseason acquisition Tevin Coleman is now expected to miss time with an ankle injury that he suffered Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    With the 49ers staying out east ahead of their Week 2 matchup with Cincinnati, it will be difficult to add another back to the roster by game day. However, one option could be flying in Alfred Morris, who played 12 games for San Francisco last season.

    Morris knows Kyle Shanahan's offense as well as anyone, having played in it with the Washington Redskins in 2012 and 2013 as well.

    While Morris is more of a grinder than a home run hitter at this point in his career, he did average nearly 10 carries per game last season with San Francisco. He should be able to step in and give the 49ers that now as well.

Seattle Seahawks: TE Antonio Gates

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    The Seattle Seahawks may have more problems with their receiving corps than previously believed.

    Though Seattle passed only 20 times in Week 1, Russell Wilson was frequently forced to check the ball down to running back Chris Carson. Rookie wideout D.K. Metcalf was the most consistent pass-catcher on the field, while tight ends Will Dissly and Nick Vanett combined for only three catches for 28 yards.

    Seattle's lack of weapons at tight end is problematic, which is why it should take a flier on future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates.

    Yes, Gates is 39 years old. Yes, he had only 333 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2018. However, he's still a reliable pass-catcher whenever he's able to gain separation.

    At the minimum, he would give Wilson another reliable red-zone target.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Jermey Parnell

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    There are several teams in need of offensive tackle help. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of them.

    Their starting duo of Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson is average at best, and the two were woefully overmatched against the 49ers. Quarterback Jameis Winston was under frequent pressure and was sacked three times.

    Tampa also had two would-be touchdowns erased by Dotson penalties. Since Dotson appears to be the weaker link, signing a right tackle like Jermey Parnell would make the most sense.

    Again, Parnell isn't a high-end starter, but he can't be worse than what the Buccaneers put on the field in Week 1. 

Tennessee Titans: LB Shane Ray

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    The Titans had little trouble generating pressure in Week 1 thanks in large part to Cameron Wake and the play-calling of defensive coordinator Dean Pees. After losing both Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo to retirement in the offseason, though, Tennessee could stand to add some pass-rushing depth.

    Enter 2015 first-round pick Shane Ray. Though Ray never developed into a consistent playmaker with the Broncos, he has flashed promise. He had 12.0 sacks in his first two seasons before falling into more of a reserve role.

    Ray would be a reclamation project, but it's one the Titans could afford to take on. He's just 26 years old and could become a long-term piece if Pees can coach him up.

Washington Redskins: RB LeGarrette Blount

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    The Washington Redskins lost starting tailback Derrius Guice to a knee injury in Week 1, and the loss could be long-term. According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the best-case scenario is a meniscus sprain and a few weeks' absence.

    Redskins head coach Jay Gruden views Guice as a first- and second-down back. It's the reason why he decided to make Adrian Peterson a healthy scratch in Week 1. If Gruden wants another early-down runner to back up Peterson, he should scoop up LeGarrette Blount.

    Blount isn't an explosive back—he averaged just 2.7 yards per carry last season—but he's still capable of battering a defensive front on early downs. He would be a solid complement to Peterson and receiving back Chris Thompson.