Every NFL Team's Shopping List for 2021 Offseason

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2020

Every NFL Team's Shopping List for 2021 Offseason

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    It's that time of year again, folks. With Black Friday in the rearview, the mad dash to complete holiday shopping is upon us. While NFL teams aren't quite in the same boat—free agency is still several months away—you can bet front offices around the league are busy putting their 2021 lists together.

    Not every team can afford to get itself that perfect gift, of course, but every roster has holes that need to be filled through free agency and the draft.

    Here, you'll find a look at each team's biggest offseason needs, based on factors such as past production, team health and the presence of aging players or those with expiring contracts. While salary-cap figures for the 2021 offseason aren't available, we'll also take a look at each team's projected cap situation, according to Spotrac.

    We'll be looking specifically at roster needs, so while teams such as the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars will require new coaches and front-office personnel, those won't be addressed here.

    With roughly a quarter left in the 2020 season, here's an early look at each team's shopping list for 2021.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Kyler Murray
    Kyler MurrayElise Amendola/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $24.9 Million

    • Tight End
    • Running Back
    • Edge-Rusher

    The Arizona Cardinals may or may not be a playoff team this season, but they're at least close to contention. Since the franchise won just eight games in 2018-19, their 6-5 record should provide plenty of hope for the future.

    That future will be built around second-year quarterback Kyler Murray. The former Oklahoma star and No. 1 overall pick isn't playing at an MVP level just yet, but he's already one of the more dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in football.

    To help get Murray to the next level, the Cardinals need to invest in a pass-catching tight end. A quality tight end can make a young quarterback's job much easier, and Arizona simply doesn't have one on its roster. Dan Arnold, who has 225 receiving yards, is serviceable but isn't going to keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.

    It wouldn't hurt to bolster the backfield either. Kenyan Drake is playing on the transition tag, and while he has been good at times, he hasn't been elite. If he is seeking a sizable payday in free agency, the Cardinals would be better off turning to the draft for Chase Edmonds' new running mate.

    On defense, Arizona needs to address its pass rush. Chandler Jones played just five games before he landed on injured reserve because of a torn biceps, and he'll be in the final year of his deal in 2021. Haason Reddick leads the team with five sacks but is already in the final year of his contract.

    Compared to many teams we'll examine, the Cardinals should be in relatively good shape with the cap this offseason, so while they're solid now, they could be even better in 2021.

Atlanta Falcons

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    A.J. Terrell
    A.J. TerrellBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: Minus-$25.0 Million

    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback
    • Running Back

    Unlike the Cardinals, the Atlanta Falcons aren't projected to be in a good cap situation. This could lead the team to do most of its shopping in the draft rather than in free agency.

    The Falcons have a couple of glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball. The first thing they must do is find a high-end pass-rusher. Atlanta ranks second-worst in passing yards allowed per game, and a lack of consistent pressure has played a significant role.

    Atlanta has just 22 sacks, and Deion Jones leads the team with just 3.5. The Falcons brought in Dante Fowler Jr. this offseason, but he has only two sacks in nine games.

    The Falcons also need to invest more in the cornerback position, as their pass rush is only part of the equation. Atlanta used its first-round pick on A.J. Terrell in April, but he has yet to emerge as the consistent defender it needs him to be.

    Terrell has allowed 505 yards and four touchdowns in coverage with an opponent's passer rating of 120.1.

    On offense, the Falcons could use a boost in their backfield. Todd Gurley has been mediocre—he's averaged just 3.7 yards per carry—and is playing on a one-year deal. And Atlanta ranks just 30th with 3.7 yards per carry.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Lamar Jackson
    Lamar JacksonNick Wass/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $27.3 Million

    • Wide Receiver
    • Edge-Rusher
    • Defensive Tackle

    The Baltimore Ravens' plan for 2020 was to open up the offense and allow quarterback Lamar Jackson to be more of a passer than a runner.

    "I doubt I'm going to be carrying the ball a lot going on further into the future, because we've got dynamic running backs," Jackson told reporters in April.

    While Baltimore does have a quality running back trio in Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins, a lack of reliable wide receivers has squashed the team's plans to be prolific in the passing game. The Ravens rank 31st in passing yards per game, while Marquise Brown leads their wideouts with just 431 yards.

    Baltimore does not have a No. 1 receiver on its roster, and that needs to change if Jackson is going to take the next step.

    On defense, the Ravens still need to address their pass rush. While they have traded for both Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue since March, they still have a mere 27 sacks. That puts them on pace for 43, which is better than the 37 they produced in 2019 but still not elite.

    Ngakoue and fellow pass-rusher Matthew Judon are both scheduled to enter free agency.

    Beefing up the front could also help the Ravens elsewhere, as they rank 17th in rushing yards allowed per game and 24th in yards per attempt allowed. Baltimore used its first-round pick on tackle-chasing linebacker Patrick Queen, but the run defense could still use a boost.

Buffalo Bills

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    Josh Allen
    Josh AllenJeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $5.1 Million

    • Running Back
    • Linebacker
    • Defensive End

    The Buffalo Bills maintained a one-game lead in the AFC East thanks largely to the heroics of quarterback Josh Allen. While Allen hasn't been perfect, he's been spectacular for stretches—he has accounted for 29 touchdowns with eight interceptions, though he has lost all five of his fumbles—and has made his fair share of jaw-dropping plays.

    As a team, the Bills are even further from perfect.

    On offense, Buffalo needs to find a dependable No. 1 running back. The tandem of Zack Moss and Devin Singletary has been good but far from great. While the Bills rank 21st in rushing yards per game, Allen is responsible for 311 of the team's 1,148 yards.

    On defense, Buffalo needs to find a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can bolster the team's 25th-ranked run unit. Adding to the end position would also be beneficial to both the run defense and pass rush.

    Veteran Jerry Hughes will be in the final year of his contract in 2021, while fellow vet Trent Murphy is in the final year of his deal now.

    The Bills used their top pick, a second-rounder, on defensive end A.J. Epenesa, but it would still be wise to address the front seven in free agency or the draft.

Carolina Panthers

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    Yetur Gross-Matos
    Yetur Gross-MatosDavid Berding/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $26.4 Million

    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback
    • Tight End

    The Carolina Panthers selected only defenders in the draft. They used their first three picks on tackle Derrick Brown, end Yetur Gross-Matos and safety Jeremy Chinn. Yet there's still plenty of room for improvement on that side of the ball, as Carolina ranks 15th against the run, 21st against the pass and 19th overall.

    Adding a premium pass-rusher in free agency or early in the draft would be a tremendous first step. The Panthers have logged just 18 sacks, and 2019 first-round pick Brian Burns is the only player with more than 3.5 to his credit—he has six in 12 games.

    The Panthers also need to find a new No. 1 cornerback after losing James Bradberry in free agency. While the Carolina defense hasn't been an embarrassment against the pass, it has logged a mere five interceptions through 12 weeks—better than only three teams.

    On offense, the Panthers should be in a good place as long as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Christian McCaffrey are healthy. However, Bridgewater could use a reliable pass-catcher at tight end.

    Longtime starter Greg Olsen left in free agency, and the Panthers have struggled to identify a No. 1 tight end. Ian Thomas is the leader at the position with 97 receiving yards.

    McCaffrey, Robby Anderson and DJ Moore are talented pass-catchers on which Bridgewater can rely. A receiving tight end would further balance the attack.

Chicago Bears

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    Mitchell Trubisky
    Mitchell TrubiskyJeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $2.6 Million

    • Quarterback
    • Wide Receiver
    • Edge-Rusher

    If there's one thing we've learned about the Chicago Bears, it's that Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer at quarterback. Neither is Nick Foles, and while Matt Nagy may not be the answer at head coach, that's a topic for another time.

    The bottom line is that Chicago's quarterback of the future is not on the roster. That needs to change during the 2021 offseason, or at the very least, the Bears need to find a stopgap veteran more dependable than Foles.

    Once the Bears have identified their new quarterback, they'll need to turn their attention to the wide receiver position. Allen Robinson II is a No. 1 option, but the depth behind him is lacking. Rookie Darnell Mooney has shown promise, but 2018 second-round pick Anthony Miller has been inconsistent at best.

    Perhaps more importantly, Robinson is in the final year of his contract and may depart in free agency. The Bears are not in a position to fit a market-value contract under the salary cap.

    On defense, Chicago needs to find a quality edge-rusher to pair with Khalil Mack. While Mack has a solid 6.5 sacks, no other player has more than 3.5. As a team, the Bears have just 21—not good given the presence of a perennial Pro Bowler.

    Of course, if Chicago can finally land a competent signal-caller, positions such as wide receiver and pass-rusher shouldn't be as much of a concern. A good quarterback will make his pass-catchers better while pressuring opponents to put up points.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Joe Burrow
    Joe BurrowAl Drago/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $41.7 Million

    • Offensive Tackle
    • Guard
    • Tight End

    The future of the Cincinnati Bengals should be bright—provided rookie quarterback Joe Burrow can get back to 100 percent and receive some help from his supporting cast.

    Burrow received little help in his inaugural campaign, which ended prematurely when he suffered an ACL and MCL injury. Poor offensive line play was one of the biggest issues, though the decision of head coach Zac Taylor to lean so heavily on Burrow also played a role.

    In 10 games, Burrow was sacked a whopping 32 times. He was on pace for 51. Addressing the line has to be priority No. 1 for Cincinnati.

    The Bengals used their 2019 first-round pick on left tackle Jonah Williams. Presumably, his job will be secure. However, almost every other position on the line could use an upgrade—right guard Alex Redmond, for example, has been responsible for five penalties and three sacks in just 448 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

    It would behoove the Bengals to use the bulk of their salary cap and draft capital on multiple offensive linemen ahead of the 2021 season.

    Burrow could also benefit from a security outlet at tight end. 2019 second-round pick Drew Sample has been serviceable, but he is not an elite pass-catcher or playmaker. Through 11 games, he has just 26 catches for 252 yards.

    Cincinnati, which ranks 26th in total defense, could use help on the other side of the ball too. However, if it cannot protect and aid Burrow moving forward, any ability to play defense will be irrelevant.

Cleveland Browns

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    Myles Garrett
    Myles GarrettDavid Richard/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $26.5 Million

    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback
    • Safety

    It's possible the Cleveland Browns will look to move on from Baker Mayfield and upgrade the quarterback position in the near future. However, that shouldn't be their biggest priority in 2021. The Browns' run-based offense has been effective enough to help produce an 8-3 record, and Mayfield has made some big-time throws.

    Where Cleveland really needs help is on defense. It ranks 20th against the pass and 21st in points allowed per game and has logged just 27 sacks despite having Myles Garrett.

    The Browns could start by finding a consistent edge-defender to play opposite Garrett. Olivier Vernon has filled that role at times, but he is 30 years old and playing on a one-year deal. Cleveland could also use a quality cornerback opposite Denzel Ward.

    2019 second-round pick Greedy Williams was supposed to be Ward's long-term running mate, but he has struggled to stay on the field.

    Finally, the Browns need an upgrade at one or both safety positions. This year's second-round pick, Grant Delpit, was expected to fill the free safety slot, but he suffered a torn Achilles in August. Andrew Sendejo has been a liability in his stead—he's allowed an opponent's passer rating of 150.5—and shouldn't be Cleveland's first alternative if Delpit isn't ready for the start of 2021.

    Strong safety Karl Joseph hasn't been markedly better, allowing an opposing passer rating of 101.3.

    If the Browns hope to get past the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, they must first learn how to at least contain high-powered offenses.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Sean Lee
    Sean LeeMichael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $33.8 Million

    • Defensive Lineman
    • Linebacker
    • Cornerback

    The Dallas Cowboys may or may not be in the market for a quarterback next offseason. That will hinge on Dak Prescott's recovery from a broken ankle and Dallas' willingness to give him a long-term contract—or at least apply the franchise tag for a second straight season.

    If Prescott isn't back, then quarterback will become Dallas' biggest need. If he is, then Jerry Jones and Co. need to do their shopping on the defensive side of the ball.

    The Cowboys need help at all three levels, as the team ranks dead-last in rushing yards allowed per game, 24th in yards per pass attempt allowed and dead-last in points per game allowed.

    Up front, the Cowboys could use a versatile lineman who can both seal the edge and complement DeMarcus Lawrence as a pass-rusher. Aldon Smith has helped boost the team's pass rush, but he is playing on a one-year deal and could depart in free agency.

    The Cowboys have some quality linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but they could use depth at the position. Veteran Sean Lee is playing on a one-year deal and at 34 years old may be in his last run as a Cowboy.

    Both Lee and Vander Esch have missed time, and the run defense has suffered during their absences.

    Cornerback depth should also be high on Dallas' wish list. While the secondary isn't necessarily the weakest link, the fact that the Cowboys have logged a mere four interceptions—more than just two teams—is a significant issue. If there's a ball-hawking corner to be found in the draft, the Cowboys should target him.

Denver Broncos

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    Von Miller
    Von MillerDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $30.7 Million

    • Center
    • Linebacker
    • Edge-Rusher

    The Denver Broncos didn't have an available quarterback in Week 12, but that shouldn't be a persistent issue. While the jury is still out on Drew Lock, the 2019 second-round pick has shown a fair amount of upside and will likely be the starter again in 2021.

    The Broncos could aid Lock by upgrading the interior of the offensive line, specifically at center.

    Rookie third-round pick Lloyd Cushenberry III has been inconsistent this season and has been responsible for four sacks and two penalties, according to Pro Football Focus. While it's too early for the Broncos to give up on him, it would make sense to bring in a proven veteran as insurance.

    On defense, the Broncos could use a quick, rangy linebacker who can help boost the team's 27th-ranked run unit. While Denver has been solid against the pass—it ranks seventh in yards allowed per game and third in yards per attempt allowed—it has too often been gashed on the ground.

    The Broncos' need for an edge-rusher will hinge on the future of Von Miller. The perennial Pro Bowler suffered an ankle injury in September and has a team option on his contract for 2021. If Denver decides not to exercise that option, it will likely look for a new edge-defender to plug into the rotation.

    This isn't a major need, as Denver has amassed 31 sacks without Miller this season, but it's a logical want for the Broncos if Miller's time comes to an end.

Detroit Lions

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    Jeff Okudah
    Jeff OkudahGerry Broome/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $1.3 Million

    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback
    • Linebacker

    Head coach Matt Patricia has come and gone—he was fired along with general manager Bob Quinn last week—and the Detroit Lions defense is still a disaster. Fixing it should be the top priority for whomever heads the front office in 2021.

    The Lions rank 28th in run defense, 26th in pass defense and 31st in points allowed per game.

    The makeover should start up front, where the Lions still lack a quality sack artist. While Detroit has brought in players such as Trey Flowers and Everson Griffen, the pass rush remains underwhelming. It has just 16 sacks, which ranks 27th.

    A lackluster secondary has helped ease the pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and it would be wise to add another high-end corner to the mix. The Lions used the third overall pick on Ohio State's Jeff Okudah, but he hasn't been the lockdown defender the defense needs.

    Okudah has surrendered 594 yards and two touchdowns in coverage while allowing an opponent's passer rating of 118.0.

    There's still plenty of time for Okudah to round into form, but it won't hurt to get him some help on the perimeter.

    Detroit also needs to find a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can track down opposing ball-carriers. 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis was supposed to be that guy, but he hasn't flourished and is now in the final year of his rookie deal.

Green Bay Packers

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    Davante Adams
    Davante AdamsMike Roemer/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: Minus-$17.9 Million

    • Wide Receiver
    • Linebacker
    • Safety

    The Green Bay Packers took plenty of flak for not adding another wide receiver during the draft. The Packers have an elite No. 1 in Davante Adams and some nice complementary pieces such as Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. However, Aaron Rodgers is still missing a consistent second option, and that should be something the Packers change in the offseason.

    To be fair, Green Bay added a possession man in Devin Funchess, who opted out of the 2020 season.

    As long as Rodgers is healthy and behind center, the offense should be just fine. On defense, there is room for improvement.

    The first order of business should be landing a playmaking linebacker to solidify the interior of the second level. The Packers brought in Christian Kirksey for that purpose, but he has been limited to six games and hasn't been the run-stuffer Green Bay was hoping for.

    The Packers rank 13th against the run but just 25th in yards per carry allowed.

    They could also use help on the back end, where safety Adrian Amos has occasionally been a liability. Amos has surrendered just 250 passing yards, but he has given up two touchdowns and an opponent's passer rating of 107.7 while missing nine tackles.

    Amos will have two years remaining on his contract, but with just $5.5 million in dead money, the Packers can get out from under it if they choose to upgrade.

Houston Texans

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    Will Fuller V
    Will Fuller VDuane Burleson/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: Minus-$13.8 Million

    • Defensive Tackle
    • Cornerback
    • Wide Receiver

    The Houston Texans offense is in good hands with Deshaun Watson playing quarterback. However, the defense is likely to keep the team out of the postseason this year.

    Houston's biggest liability is against the run. The Texans lost standout defensive tackle D.J. Reader in the offseason, and his presence has been sorely missed. The Texans rank just 31st in rushing yards allowed per game and dead-last in yards per carry allowed.

    While the Texans have been better against the pass than they were a year ago—they rank 23rd versus 29th in 2019—they have struggled to take away the football. No team has registered fewer interceptions (three).

    Adding a ball-hawking corner to the secondary would be a massive boon.

    While Watson should solidify the quarterback spot for the next decade-plus, he could use more help at receiver. The Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason, and there's a chance Will Fuller V won't return in 2021. He is in the final year of his contract and is facing a six-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.

    Since Fuller's suspension will linger into 2021, the Texans may not be particularly eager to pay market value to keep him. Given the team's precarious cap situation, that may not be a realistic option anyway.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Philip Rivers
    Philip RiversDarron Cummings/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $76.8 Million

    • Quarterback
    • Wide Receiver
    • Cornerback

    The Indianapolis Colts are in the thick of the AFC South race largely because of the presence of quarterback Philip Rivers. The longtime Los Angeles Chargers starter joined Indy in the offseason and has steadied the position for the time being.

    However, Rivers is not a long-term solution. He is 38 years old and has previously stated he only wants to play through 2021.

    In the offseason, the Colts will need to land their next quarterback of the future—or at least bring back Rivers or add another stopgap veteran.

    Regardless, the Colts need to bolster their receiving corps. Rookie Michael Pittman Jr. is beginning to come into his own, but there is little proven depth behind him aside from the 31-year-old T.Y. Hilton.

    The Colts have been able to win with a grinding running game and stout defense, but they could benefit from a more explosive passing attack.

    On defense, it wouldn't hurt to add another quality cornerback. Indianapolis ranks sixth against the pass but has leaned heavily on the 30-year-old Xavier Rhodes, who is playing on a one-year deal.

    The Colts can afford to bring back Rhodes and to be major players in free agency, but it may be best to target a corner in the draft who can pair with Rock Ya-Sin for the long term.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Gardner Minshew II
    Gardner Minshew IIKyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $85.2 Million

    • Quarterback
    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback

    Minshew Mania is over. While Gardner Minshew II may be a longtime backup for the Jacksonville Jaguars, he no longer appears to be a long-term starting option. He has been serviceable for the 1-10 Jags, but he hasn't played since Week 7.

    Presumably, the Jaguars will chase a quarterback prospect such as Clemson's Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State's Justin Fields in the draft. However Jacksonville goes about it, adding a new starting quarterback has to be at the top of its offseason wish list.

    But the cupboard won't be bare for the new signal-caller. Rookie running back James Robinson has been phenomenal, and wide receivers DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. have the potential to be a dangerous downfield duo. The defense, however, leaves plenty to be desired.

    A premier pass-rusher to pair with Josh Allen should be defensive priority No. 1. The Jaguars have logged just 11 sacks—fewest in the league—and a lack of consistent pressure has played a large role in their 29th-ranked pass defense.

    Adding a shutdown cornerback would also help tremendously, as the Jaguars rank dead-last in passing yards per attempt allowed. Gone are the days when Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye roamed the secondary. The unit scares exactly no one.

    If Jacksonville hopes to get back to relevance in the AFC South, it needs to be better prepared to defend Ryan Tannehill and Deshaun Watson. Adding to the pass rush and secondary would be an ideal first couple of steps.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Andy Reid
    Andy ReidJason Behnken/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: Minus-$15.5 Million

    • Edge-Rusher
    • Linebacker
    • Wide Receiver

    As long as head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes are at the center of the offense, the Kansas City Chiefs should be set on that side of the ball. Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Clyde Edwards-Helaire give them plenty of firepower with which to work.

    It wouldn't hurt to add another receiver to the mix, though, as Sammy Watkins could be gone after playing this season on a one-year deal.

    Addressing the offense would be more of a luxury for Kansas City, of course, and the real adding needs to be done on the defensive side of the ball. At the top of the list should be a premier pass-rusher to partner with Chris Jones and Frank Clark.

    Clark and Jones are difference-makers, but the Chiefs have still struggled to generate pressure with their front. After logging 45 sacks in 2019, Kansas City has just 20 through 11 games this year.

    The Chiefs could also use a run-stuffing linebacker. While poor run defense hasn't really cost the team this season—Kansas City is 10-1—it could bite the Chiefs in the playoffs as it nearly did last year.

    Kansas City ranks just 23rd in rushing yards allowed per game and 26th in yards per carry allowed. Because of their cap situation, the Chiefs may have to do the majority of their shopping in the draft.

Las Vegas Raiders

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    Jon Gruden
    Jon GrudenDanny Karnik/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: -$7.1 million 

    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback
    • Linebacker

    Defense, defense, defense. The Las Vegas Raiders need to shop almost exclusively for their defense in the coming offseason. Head coach Jon Gruden finally has the foundation of an explosive offense, and while quarterback Derek Carr struggled in Week 12, he's been mostly reliable in 2020.

    The defense, on the other hand, has rarely been dependable, and one of its biggest issues is the lack of a dangerous pass rush.

    Maxx Crosby is budding into a legitimate star. He recorded double-digit sacks as a rookie and has six thus far in 2020. However, the Raiders have just six more sacks on the season (giving them the second-fewest in the league) and need a player who can consistently pressure the quarterback opposite him.

    Adding a quality cornerback to the secondary could also pay dividends, as the Raiders rank just 27th against the pass. The team used a first-round pick on Damon Arnette in April, but he has been hit-or-miss as a cover man.

    Injuries have limited Arnett to just six games, and he has allowed an opposing passer rating of 101.6.

    Las Vegas could also greatly benefit from a linebacker who is capable of covering tight ends and running backs and chasing down ball-carriers. The Raiders rank 12th in rushing yards allowed and are tied with six other teams in the middle of the pack in allowing 4.3 yards per carry.

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Justin Herbert
    Justin HerbertJohn Cordes/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $33.5 million

    • Offensive Tackle
    • Edge-Rusher
    • Tight End

    The Los Angeles Chargers appear to have found their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. The rookie out of Oregon has been nothing short of impressive and should be the centerpiece of the offense for the foreseeable future.

    However, the Chargers need to do a better job of protecting Herbert, who has been sacked 22 times in 10 games. Sam Tevi has been serviceable at left tackle—recording four penalties and allowing two sacks, per Pro Football Focus—but he isn't the sort of franchise player the Chargers need to be shopping for at the position.

    L.A. also has some tough decisions to make regarding pass-rusher Melvin Ingram III and tight end Hunter Henry. Henry is playing on the franchise tag, while Ingram is in the final year of his contract. Signing both players to lucrative long-term deals could be difficult.

    It would behoove the Chargers to add depth at tight end and pass-rusher anyway.

    Ingram has appeared in only seven games and is on injured reserve with a knee ailment, while the Chargers defense has logged just 20 sacks.

    Henry is a quality tight end, but he has a noteworthy injury history. Given Ingram's age (31), Henry (25) is the more likely of the two to be back, but adding a second pass-catching tight end would provide a measure of security for Herbert as he continues to develop.        

Los Angeles Rams

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    Andrew Whitworth
    Andrew WhitworthKyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: -$18.5 million 

    • Offensive Tackle
    • Quarterback
    • Cornerback

    The Los Angeles Rams are one of the most complete teams, but they have one glaring need they must address. They need to find a new franchise left tackle.

    Andrew Whitworth was rock-solid before suffering a knee injury that has sidelined him indefinitely, as he didn't allow a sack, according to Pro Football Focus. It does sound like Whitworth plans on trying to play in 2021.

    "Now I get an opportunity to lead in a different way while also rehabbing myself back ready to ride with my teammates!" he said in an Instagram post.

    However, he is not in a position to be the long-term answer at left tackle. He will be 39 at the start of next season

    While quarterback Jared Goff hasn't fallen off in a Carson Wentz-like manner, he has made frequent mistakes this season, including two interceptions in the Week 12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It would be smart for the Rams to bring in a veteran backup just in case Goff's inconsistencies continue.

    Defensively, L.A. doesn't have any major needs, though it could benefit from adding another quality cornerback. Jalen Ramsey is a star, but Troy Hill has surrendered his fair share of big plays. He has allowed 437 yards and two touchdowns in coverage and an opposing passer rating of 97.5.

    Unfortunately, spending big in free agency probably won't be an option.       

Miami Dolphins

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    Tua Tagovailoa
    Tua TagovailoaDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $37.8 million

    • Running Back
    • Wide Receiver
    • Edge-Rusher

    The jury is still out on rookie Tua Tagovailoa, but the Miami Dolphins will head into 2021 with him as their quarterback of the future. Supporting the former Alabama star must be priority No. 1, and the first step should be improving the weapons around him.

    The Dolphins have cobbled together a functional running game with the likes of Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. However, they don't have a premier back on the roster, and adding a workhorse who can run, catch and pass-protect would go a long way in aiding Tagovailoa's development.

    Miami also needs to acquire a high-end wide receiver to play opposite DeVante Parker on the perimeter. Preston Williams has shown flashes of greatness when healthy, but unfortunately, he has landed on injured reserve for the second year in a row.

    Head coach Brian Flores is building a strong defense, and offseason additions like defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and linebacker Kyle Van Noy have helped that unit come together quickly. However, the Dolphins do lack a premier pass-rusher. 

    The Dolphins have logged 25 sacks on the season, but while Ogbah has an impressive 8.0 sacks, no other player on the team has more than 2.5.

    Miami should have the cap space to chase a couple of premium players on the open market, and it possesses the Texans' first-round draft selection from the trade that sent Laremy Tunsil to Houston. Expect the Dolphins to make quite a few significant additions in the spring.               

Minnesota Vikings

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    Kirk Cousins
    Kirk CousinsBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: -$6.2 million 

    • Quarterback
    • Cornerback
    • Edge-Rusher

    The Minnesota Vikings are essentially stuck with quarterback Kirk Cousins for at least another season. He will have $41 million of dead money remaining on his contract after 2020, and it's unlikely that a team will be willing to trade for him.

    However, this shouldn't prevent the Vikings from seeking a new quarterback in the upcoming draft. Cousins has been above-average for most of the year—he has a passer rating of 104.5—but at 32 years old, above-average is likely all he can be in Minneapolis.

    Minnesota needs to pounce if there's a quarterback it believes can be its version of Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford.

    Defensively, the Vikings have plenty of work to do. They saw a mass exodus of cornerbacks last offseason. Mackensie Alexander, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes all departed, and replacing them has been a struggle.

    Minnesota ranks just 25th in pass defense and in yards per attempt allowed.

    A sagging pass rush has been part of the issue, even though the Vikings initially bolstered it by trading for Yannick Ngakoue in August. Minnesota traded Ngakoue to the Ravens in October, and the team now has just 19 sacks on the season.

    If the Vikings hope to avoid letdowns like the one against Dallas in Week 11, they need to improve their pass defense dramatically.        

New England Patriots

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    Cam Newton
    Cam NewtonAssociated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $69.1 million

    • Quarterback
    • Pass-Catcher
    • Cornerback

    Will Cam Newton be back as the New England Patriots quarterback in 2021? It's possible, but it's also unlikely that the 31-year-old 2015 MVP is going to be the long-term answer under center. He has shown flashes of his former greatness this season, but he may never again be the Pro Bowl talent he was was before injuries ravaged his 2018 and '19 campaigns.

    Even if the Patriots believe Newton is a long-term answer, it would be wise to add another quarterback as insurance. Jarrett Stidham never seemed to get a true shot at the starting job this past offseason, and it doesn't feel like he's a long-term answer either.

    Regardless of who is under center, the Patriots need to upgrade their receiving corps. They don't have a proven pass-catching tight end, and Newton has lacked reliable targets at wideout. And even though guys like Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers have shown promise, neither is a true No. 1 option.

    It would also be wise for the Patriots to add a quality cornerback. While New England ranks a respectable 14th against the pass, it is tied for 31st in yards per pass attempt allowed.

    Cornerback Stephon Gilmore will be entering the final year of his contact in 2021, and at the least, New England needs to be prepared to line up a long-term replacement for the 30-year-old.

    The good news is that head coach Bill Belichick will have plenty of cap space in the offseason.      

New Orleans Saints

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    Taysom Hill
    Taysom HillDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: -$95.1 million

    • Quarterback
    • Running Back
    • Tight End

    The New Orleans Saints are projected to be in a dire cap situation next offseason, which means they could be shopping almost exclusively through the draft. Hopefully, they can land some bargains there because they have serious needs to address.

    The biggest will likely be at quarterback. While Drew Brees, 41, may return for one last run, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Brees is "likely to retire" at the end of this season.

    While the Saints may have a future starter in Taysom Hill, he has been inconsistent in his two opportunities in 2020. He is also 30 years old, so it's fair to wonder how much patience he will get from the Saints. Fellow backup Jameis Winston could be an option, though he is playing on a one-year deal.

    Even if the Saints roll with Hill in 2021, it would make sense to draft a quarterback for the future.

    New Orleans may also be forced to find a cheaper option at running back behind Alvin Kamara. Complementary back Latavius Murray is under contract through 2022, but the Saints can save some cash by cutting him in the offseason. Only $1.7 million in dead money will remain on his deal.

    While parting with tight end Jared Cook won't save money, it may be necessary. His contract will void after this season, leaving behind his 2021 salary of $2 million. The Saints may be able to rework Cook's contract, but bringing in a cheaper option at the position is probably the way to go.

    The Saints have sold out to win a Super Bowl over the past couple of seasons, and that spending is likely to catch up to them next year.            

New York Giants

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    Leonard Williams
    Leonard WilliamsAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $18.5 million 

    • Running Back
    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback

    The New York Giants could have a tough decision to make at quarterback next offseason. Daniel Jones, who is dealing with a hamstring strain, has shown potential but hasn't become a high-level starter. If the Giants claim the NFC East, they'll likely stick with him for another season.

    If they revert to their losing ways and end up with a high draft selection, however, they may move on from Jones in favor of another young signal-caller.

    For now, we'll assume that Jones will be back and examine more immediate needs. One, which may not immediately jump out, is at running back.

    The Giants should have a healthy Saquon Barkley (ACL) at the start of the 2021 season, but they should be eager to keep him healthy for a full 16-game slate. Bringing in a quality backup should be high on the priority list, especially with Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis and Devonta Freeman all expected to reach free agency.

    New York may also lose defensive end Leonard Williams, who is leading the team with six sacks while playing on the franchise tag. No other player on the roster has more than three sacks, so adding to the pass rush could be a priority even if Big Blue re-sign Williams.

    New York could use additional depth in the secondary as well. Cornerback Logan Ryan is scheduled to reach the open market, and the Giants rank just 19th in passing yards allowed per game.       

New York Jets

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    Sam Darnold
    Sam DarnoldAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $82.9 million

    • Quarterback
    • Wide Receiver
    • Edge-Rusher

    If you can name it, the New York Jets probably need it. That's where we're at with the winless Jets through 12 weeks of action.

    While there's a slim chance that New York will give 2018 first-round pick Sam Darnold one last chance to be its franchise quarterback, his days are probably numbered. If the Jets don't win a game, they'll get the No. 1 pick and a crack at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. 

    The second order of business should be the wide receiver position. The team has some decent complementary pass-catchers—and the rookie second-round pick Denzel Mims is still unproven—but there isn't an established No. 1 option.

    Defensively, the Jets' lack of a dominant edge-rusher is glaring. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams leads the team with five sacks, but no other player has more than two.

    New York could also use a franchise running back, a No. 1 corner, a quality offensive lineman not named Mekhi Becton and a replacement for traded safety Jamal Adams—and the list goes on. However, most competitive teams feature a franchise quarterback, a franchise left tackle, a star pass-rusher and a No. 1 receiver.

    Becton may fill the need at left tackle if he stays healthy and continues progressing, but every other key building block is missing in New York.                   

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Carson Wentz
    Carson WentzDerik Hamilton/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $-64.0 million

    • Offensive Tackle
    • Wide Receiver
    • Linebacker

    For Philadelphia Eagles fans, quarterback may be at the top of the 2021 wish list. However, that's probably not going to happen. The Eagles are financially tied to Carson Wentz for at least another year, and he'll still have more than $24 million in dead money on his contract after 2021.

    Given that Philadelphia just used a second-round pick on quarterback Jalen Hurts, it's unlikely it will commit more capital to the position in the offseason. Instead, the Eagles should focus on better supporting Wentz, and that starts along the offensive line.

    Tackle Andre Dillard is out for the year with a biceps injury, while veterans Jason Peters and Lane Johnson have been underwhelming. After playing seven games, Johnson is also out for the year with an ankle injury. As a result of poor line play, Wentz has been sacked a league-high 46 times through 11 games.

    Once the Eagles have upgraded multiple positions along the line in the offseason, they should turn their attention to the receiver position.

    Travis Fulgham has been a pleasant surprise, but Greg Ward is second among wideouts with 294 yards. Rookie first-round pick Jalen Reagor (57.6 percent catch rate) has largely been a disappointment. DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery have played a combined seven games and have just 15 catches between them.

    At least the Eagles have been fairly sound defensively. Their biggest need on that side of the ball is a run-stuffing linebacker who can help improve the team's 23rd-ranked ground defense.        

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Ben Roethlisberger
    Ben RoethlisbergerMatt Stamey/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: -$20.4 million 

    • Quarterback
    • Edge-Rusher
    • Running Back

    As is often the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2021 offseason should be about plugging holes and planning for the future. At the top of Pittsburgh's wish list should be a quarterback, though Ben Roethlisberger has the position covered for now.

    The problem is that the 38-year-old Roethlisberger is nearing the end of his career and will be in the final year of his contract in 2021. Mason Rudolph, a 2018 third-round pick, has proved to be a low-level starter at best.

    Pittsburgh's two biggest holes will likely come because of their unfavorable cap situation. Pass-rusher Bud Dupree is having a terrific season while playing on the franchise tag. He'll be due a pay raise that the Steelers may not be able to swing.    

    Running back James Conner will also be due a second contract that Pittsburgh may not be able to—or may not be willing to—afford.

    While Conner, Benny Snell Jr. and the running game have been serviceable, the Steelers aren't particularly happy with their consistency.

    "We have very capable people, but it is below the line as we sit here today," head coach Mike Tomlin said in mid-November, per Joe Rutter of TribLIVE.     

    Don't be surprised if the Steelers allow Dupree and Conner to walk while seeking cheaper options in the draft.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Jimmy Garoppolo
    Jimmy GaroppoloScott Eklund/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $21.5 million 

    • Quarterback
    • Offensive Tackle
    • Cornerback

    The biggest question surrounding the San Francisco 49ers is what they will do at quarterback. For at least one more season, it appears they will stick with Jimmy Garoppolo, though he may not be the long-term choice.

    "I expect Jimmy to be our starter next year," head coach Kyle Shanahan said last month, per ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "... But to think that we've made any decisions on anybody going into the future isn't the case."

    The 49ers can part with Garoppolo in the offseason with just $2.8 million in dead money left on his deal. Even if they don't do that, they're only tied to him for two more seasons, so it makes sense to start planning for the future.

    San Francisco could also lose quarterback Nick Mullens, who will be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

    The 49ers may also want to plan for a future without left tackle Trent Williams. San Francisco reworked his contract after trading for him in the offseason. According to ESPN's Field Yates, part of the agreement is that Williams cannot be franchise-tagged in 2021.

    Defensively, the 49ers should look to add depth to their cornerback room. Veterans Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett are scheduled to become free agents in the spring.       

Seattle Seahawks

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $15.9 million 

    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback
    • Running Back

    The Seattle Seahawks offense is one of the best in the league, thanks to quarterback Russell Wilson and wideouts like DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Only two teams have recorded more points per game this season.

    However, Seattle's pass defense has been an issue. The team ranks dead last in passing and total yards allowed. Fixing that should be priority No. 1.

    The effort should begin up front, where Seattle struggled to create a pass rush before trading for Carlos Dunlap roughly a month ago. Dunlap already has four of the team's 31 sacks, but he will be 32 in February and is entering the final year of his contract next season.

    Adding another premier edge defender to the front seven would be ideal. Adding to the secondary may be necessary.

    The Seahawks are set to potentially lose cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar, Shaquill Griffin and Neiko Thorpe.

    While Wilson and Co. have the offense rolling, the Seahawks may need to address their backfield in the offseason. Chris Carson made a noteworthy return from his foot injury in Week 12, but both he and Carlos Hyde are scheduled to become free agents.

    Seattle does have 2018 first-round running back Rashaad Penny on its roster, but the former San Diego State standout has done nothing to suggest that he can be an every-down back.    

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $31.7 million

    • Quarterback
    • Offensive Tackle
    • Pass-Rusher

    Will Tom Brady be back for a second season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? That will likely be one of the biggest questions of the offseason, as he has been up-and-down in 2020.

    If Brady is back, which makes sense given his $25 million in dead money, it's unlikely that he'll remain in Tampa beyond 2021. He's only under contract through next year and will be playing his age-44 campaign.

    The Buccaneers will need to find their quarterback of the future sooner rather than later. Unless they believe in practice-squad quarterback Josh Rosen—a player two franchises have now given up on—they should do it in the offseason.

    If the Buccaneers hope to make another run with Brady, they'll also need to upgrade their left tackle spot. Donovan Smith has been a liability and is responsible for nine penalties and five sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.

    The Buccaneers may also need to rework their defensive front, as edge defender Shaquil Barrett and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are both scheduled to become free agents. Barrett and Suh are responsible for 10 of Tampa's 34 sacks this season.

    Jason Pierre-Paul, who leads the defense with 8.5 sacks, will be entering the final year of his contract in 2021.

    While the Buccaneers have produced some respectable sack numbers, they have not consistently pressured opposing passers, which is part of the reason why Tampa ranks just 24th in passing yards allowed.   

Tennessee Titans

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    Corey Davis
    Corey DavisZach Bolinger/Associated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $10.9 million 

    • Edge-Rusher
    • Cornerback
    • Wide Receiver

    The Tennessee Titans sit atop the AFC South, but defense remains a significant concern. The unit ranks 16th against the run, 28th against the pass and 20th in points allowed per game. If the Titans hope to become perennial title contenders, they'll need some significant upgrades in the front seven and in the secondary.

    A poor pass rush is Tennessee's biggest issue right now, as the team has just 14 sacks on the season (fourth-fewest in the NFL). Harold Landry leads the team with 4.5 sacks, and the Titans don't have another reliable edge-rusher on the roster. The Jadeveon Clowney experiment thus far has been a bust.

    Things aren't quite as dire in the secondary, which has produced 11 interceptions (tied for seventh-most). However, the Titans give up a lot of yardage and don't have a true shutdown corner. Malcolm Butler, for example, has already surrendered 542 yards and two touchdowns in coverage.

    If the Titans can find a legitimate No. 1 cover corner, it would help them tremendously against some of the top passing offenses in the AFC.

    Tennessee should also be in the market for a wide receiver. A.J. Brown is a star, but Corey Davis is in the final year of his contract and possibly eyeing a deal that the Titans cannot afford. Third receiver Adam Humphries has appeared in just six games this season and has a mere 219 receiving yards.

    While the Tennessee offense will likely continue running through Derrick Henry and the ground game, Ryan Tannehill has proved that he can be a high-end quarterback. Keeping his arsenal full of pass-catchers would help the Titans maintain balance on that side of the ball.          

Washington Football Team

32 of 32

    Alex Smith
    Alex SmithAssociated Press

    Projected Cap Space: $50.6 million

    • Quarterback
    • Wide Receiver
    • Offensive Linemen

    Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith is healthy and playing well enough to win the NFC East. While that's not saying a ton, given the lackluster nature of the division, Washington could be in a worse position.

    Unfortunately, the 36-year-old Smith isn't likely a long-term answer under center. If Washington is done with 2019 first-rounder Dwayne Haskins, then a quarterback of the future must top the shopping list.

    If the team wants to support its new quarterback better than it did Haskins, it needs an upgrade at receiver. Terry McLaurin is superb, but there isn't much else to speak of at the position. Cam Sims is second among Washington wideouts with just 245 receiving yards.

    It would also behoove Washington to upgrade its offensive line, which has surrendered 35 sacks through 11 games (fourth-most leaguewide). Left tackle would be a good place to start, as Washington has struggled to find a permanent replacement for Trent Williams since his 2019 holdout and eventual trade.

    Morgan Moses most recently played left tackle. He has been responsible for four sacks and three penalties this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

    The good news for Washington is that it is relatively loaded with cap space, so it can do some serious shopping in free agency.


    Cap and contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.


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