1 Move Each NFL Super Bowl Contender Can Make to Push Them Over the Top in 2021

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2021

1 Move Each NFL Super Bowl Contender Can Make to Push Them Over the Top in 2021

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    NFL front-office executives should always look for ways to improve their rosters.

    After free agency and the draft, teams can still acquire impact players with late signings and trades.

    Looking at the talent available in the free-agent pool, several veterans can fill voids on top-level rosters. Some of these players are equipped to start, while others could fit in a solid rotation. 

    We'll highlight the top eight Super Bowl contenders based on DraftKings' odds and suggest one move that would put each team in a position for a deep playoff run.

Cleveland Browns: Sign CB Steven Nelson

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +1600 (Bet $100 to win $1600)

    This offseason, the Cleveland Browns addressed the cornerback position after they allowed 31 touchdowns through the air in 2020.

    The Browns signed Troy Hill, who's projected to line up in the slot, and selected Greg Newsome II in the first round of the draft. The rookie will likely battle Greedy Williams for a spot on the boundary.

    Although the Browns made some shrewd moves, they can still add a surefire starter in case Newsome isn't ready to usurp Williams on the depth chart.

    Steven Nelson can start right away, which would give Newsome at least one year to develop in a backup role. Cleveland could stash or attempt to trade Williams, whose future seems uncertain after the addition of a first-round pick at his position.

    Williams has only 12 starts on his NFL resume. He's more experienced than Newsome, but the LSU product isn't a proven commodity with 680 defensive snaps played through two seasons. He sat out the entire 2020 campaign with a shoulder injury. 

    The Browns need a battle-tested cornerback opposite Denzel Ward, and Nelson fits the bill. He's started in 68 career games and allowed a completion rate below 59 percent over each of the last three seasons.

Baltimore Ravens: Sign Edge Justin Houston

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +1400 

    We don't need to harp on the fact that Baltimore Ravens first-round edge-rusher Odafe Oweh didn't record a sack last season at Penn State. He's also a raw talent who switched his attention from basketball to football during his junior year at Blair Academy.

    Oweh will likely need more experience before he's able to consistently contribute to the Ravens' pass rush. Meanwhile, Baltimore should look for veteran help to compensate for the departure of Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency.

    Tyus Bowser has recorded 10.5 sacks through 63 career outings. Pernell McPhee, 32, played fewer than 44 percent of the defensive snaps in each of the last five campaigns. At best, he's a rotational pass-rusher.

    Justin Houston would bring a wealth of experience along with high-end production over the past four seasons. The 32-year-old has logged 37.5 sacks since 2017, and he ranked second on the Indianapolis Colts in sacks (eight) and quarterback pressures (25) last season.

    The Ravens have already hosted Houston for a visit, per Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun. If the two sides can hammer out a deal, Baltimore would acquire a significant upgrade at a premium position.

Green Bay Packers: Trade for TE Zach Ertz

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +1400 

    No matter what the Green Bay Packers do, they won't be a Super Bowl contender without Aaron Rodgers. And right now, he wants to play elsewhere, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Green Bay has tried to mend fences with a "significant long-term contract extension offer." However, Fox Sports' Jay Glazer believes the Packers will need to do more than give Rodgers a new contract to keep him in Titletown.

    Two of Rodgers' former teammates and close friends, NFL Network's James Jones and former Packers fullback John Kuhn, think the Packers have a "fixable" situation with the 2020 league MVP.

    Jones thinks the Packers need to put the team in the best position to capture a championship to win Rodgers over. If that's the case, general manager Brian Gutekunst should inquire about tight end Zach Ertz.

    According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Ertz isn't expected to report for the Eagles' offseason program as he awaits a trade or his release.

    The Packers would have to make a roster cut or two to absorb Ertz's $8.5 million base salary. With the addition of rookie first-round cornerback Eric Stokes, Gutekunst could cut cornerback Josh Jackson. He could also trade or release defensive end Dean Lowry as a post-June 1 cut to save $4.8 million, per Over the Cap.

    Rodgers would have a three-time Pro Bowl tight end who's eclipsed 800 receiving yards in five of the last six seasons. Ertz should be able to earn Rodgers' trust fairly quickly and become a solid secondary pass-catching option behind wideout Davante Adams.

    Along with a lucrative contract offer, this move could entice Rodgers to stay in Green Bay on a Super Bowl-caliber squad.

San Francisco 49ers: Sign CB Bashaud Breeland

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +1400 

    The San Francisco 49ers have a solid cornerback group that needs veteran insurance.

    Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett are probable starters on the boundary with K'Waun Williams in the slot. Rookie third-rounder Ambry Thomas provides depth at the position.

    In terms of players missing games because of injury, the 49ers have ranked within the top 10 in each of the last eight seasons (h/t Grant Cohn of All 49ers). Given that unfortunate trend, they should add reinforcements in areas of concern, starting with cornerback.

    Through seven seasons, Verrett has missed more games (73) than he's played (39). Last year, Moseley sat out four contests because of a concussion and a hamstring injury.

    According to Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee, the 49ers have had discussions about re-signing cornerback Richard Sherman. The 33-year-old missed 11 games last season because of a calf injury, and he allowed a 72.4 percent completion rate and a 116.2 passer rating in coverage when active. 

    San Francisco should instead pursue a cornerback who hasn't shown clear signs of decline. Last season with the Kansas City Chiefs, Bashaud Breeland allowed only a 50 percent completion rate and a 78.3 passer rating in coverage. 

    The 49ers should prioritize Breeland over Sherman if they want a reliable starter on the boundary.

Buffalo Bills: Sign CB Gareon Conley

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +1300 

    Cornerback Levi Wallace projects as the starter opposite Tre'Davious White for the Buffalo Bills, but they need depth behind that tandem.

    Buffalo didn't re-sign Josh Norman, who started in three games last year. Unless the coaching staff believes rookie sixth-rounder Rachad Wildgoose has a chance to make an early impact, general manager Brandon Beane should add a veteran with starting experience to the group.

    Gareon Conley logged 15 pass breakups and three interceptions in a solid 2018 campaign with the then-Oakland Raiders. He struggled in the following season, and the Silver and Black shipped him to the Houston Texans before the 2019 trade deadline.

    In eight contests with the Texans, Conley recorded 11 pass breakups. However, he missed the entire 2020 season because of an ankle injury and complications with his recovery.

    Now a free agent, the 25-year-old is an inexpensive talent with upside.

    Conley could fill a starting role for White or Wallace if necessary. Otherwise, he could contribute in the Bills' dime package with six defensive backs.

Los Angeles Rams: Sign OLB Melvin Ingram

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +1300 

    Two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams signed Clay Matthews, an aging pass-rusher who turned 33 before the 2019 campaign. He finished the season with eight sacks, which ranked third on the team.

    The Rams should now make another low-cost investment in an outside linebacker on the wrong side of 30.

    Melvin Ingram turned 32 in April. In an injury-riddled 2020 campaign, he logged zero sacks and only 12 quarterback pressures.

    Because of that down year, the Rams shouldn't have to overspend to sign him.

    Ingram logged at least seven sacks for five consecutive seasons between 2015 and 2019. If he can stay healthy, the Rams would have a solid rotational defender who can help them against Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, two high-level mobile quarterbacks within the division.

    After the departure of former defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, Leonard Floyd may not match his 10.5-sack total from the 2020 season. If he doesn't, a more established veteran could help generate consistent pressure off the edge.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sign DL Jurrell Casey

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +675

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need veteran reinforcements on the interior of their defensive line.

    Vita Vea has missed 14 outings across his three NFL seasons. Ndamukong Suh has suited up for every contest since the 2011 campaign, but his snap count has been on the decline over the past two years. 

    Jurrell Casey has experience in odd-man fronts as a starter for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos. Up until the 2020 campaign, he hadn't missed more than two games in a single season.

    On the Buccaneers, Casey could settle into a backup role and become an asset on third downs with his ability to pressure the quarterback.

    If the Buccaneers need a reserve defensive lineman to collapse the pocket on obvious passing downs, Casey can handle that. He's recorded 51 sacks throughout his 10-year NFL career.

Kansas City Chiefs: Sign DE Everson Griffen

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +525

    The Kansas City Chiefs would have a glaring problem with their pass rush if Frank Clark goes down with an injury. Although the durable six-year veteran has missed only five career contests, the club needs a solid rotation of edge-rushers in preparation for a 17-game season. 

    Last offseason, Kansas City took a flier on Taco Charlton, but he recorded only two sacks in seven games.

    According to Nate Taylor of The Athletic, the Chiefs hope to see rookie fourth-rounder Joshua Kaindoh contribute in a reliable role for the 2022 campaign. However, the Florida State product logged only one sack across his final two seasons in college. 

    In 2020, Everson Griffen split 14 appearances with the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, finishing with 33 tackles, seven for loss and six sacks. The 33-year-old is past his prime, but he could push Charlton for the position opposite Clark after the Chiefs lost Tanoh Kpassagnon to the New Orleans Saints in free agency.

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