NFL Free Agency 2011: 6 Teams at a Disadvantage Because of the Lockout

Josh Brewer@AlwaysBrewingCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2011

NFL Free Agency 2011: 6 Teams at a Disadvantage Because of the Lockout

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    The light at the end of the tunnel may finally be within reach.

    After months of back and forth, reports are surfacing regarding the end of the NFL lockout. Most insiders expect the lockout to come to an end July 21 or right around there.

    If that's true, it means we're just a week-and-a-half away from football and a subsequent pre-training camp frenzy.

    Free agency and trades will all aim for a quick finish, with training camps set to start at the end of the month (assuming they'll start on time).

    Teams like the defending champion Green Bay Packers are sitting pretty with little history of action in the free-agent market. But the following six squads face the inverse fate once free agency (potentially) commences next week.

Cleveland Browns

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    There is a lot of a little going around in Cleveland. While free agency won't fix everything, it surely wouldn't hurt either.

    Phil Taylor will help solidify the offensive line, but Cleveland's problems stretch far behind the four offensive line spots not filled by Joe Thomas.

    The Browns need insurance behind running back Peyton Hillis. Quarterback Colt McCoy needs reliable targets. Ten of the 11 defensive positions could use upgrades.

    When you're looking up at division rivals like the Ravens and Steelers, the bar is certainly set high, and free agency would provide Cleveland with a bit of roster relief. The front seven may be Cleveland's biggest place of need, however, if the Browns expect to get anywhere near competitive with Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

    The in-house options just aren't all that appealing.

Buffalo Bills

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    Marcell Dareus took care of one need for the Bills, a team in dire need of help at the front of the defense.

    Unfortunately, Dareus can't play multiple positions.

    Like the Browns, Buffalo needs a ton of help up front. Their anemic rush defense is well-documented and well-publicized. With a short free-agency period, the window to add to and improve the front seven is a very small one.

    Outside of Stevie Johnson, who must prove he can be a consistent No. 1 receiver in 2011, there is nothing to speak of on an offense that ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every major statistical category.

    Chan Gailey is well on his way to changing the dynamic and state of mind in Buffalo, but it will be terribly difficult for him to give the Bills a facelift in 2011 with such a compressed time frame for free agency this summer.

Denver Broncos

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    Changing a defensive scheme is not an easy thing to do, no matter what the locale, roster or time schedule. Doing it this year may be the most difficult part of John Fox's first year as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

    Denver's defense was an embarrassment last season, and a switch in schemes surely won't help. Fox took a step in the right direction at least by adding linebacker extraordinaire Von Miller through the 2011 draft.

    But there's still plenty of work to be done.

    The offense may be in an equal state of disarray.

    There are massive questions surrounding the quarterback position, thanks in no small part to the lack of options at Fox's disposal. The once-vaunted Broncos running game is thin at best, with plenty to prove from Knowshon Moreno.

    And what kind of performances will the inconsistent Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd produce in 2011?

    Question marks can often be remedied by consistent veterans. With a small free-agent signing period, John Fox and the Broncos are at a decided disadvantage.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    There is a massive amount of uncertainty surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals, quite possibly the team hurt most by a short free-agency period.

    Long-time Bengal sCarson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco may have played their final games in black and orange. Johnathan Joseph, Cincy's best defensive back, is a free agent and could easily be drawn away by a corner-needy team like the Houston Texans.

    2010 leading rusher Cedric Benson is also a free agent and could leave Cincinnati.

    There are plenty of young, talented players on the Bengals' roster. Jermaine Gresham, Rey Maualuga and rookie A.J. Green should bring plenty to Paul Brown Stadium, but who will be there with them?

    An exodus of starters, coupled with a short window of time to replace them, could send the Bengals reeling to the front of the 2012 NFL draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars have been underwhelming at best for the past few years. If they want to turn their fortune around, they had better make the most of the free-agent period potentially set to commence next weekend.

    Most of the 22 starting positions could be upgraded. The quarterback position will likely remain untouched with the drafting of former Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but is David Garrard the veteran to lead this Jaguars team?

    And where will the defensive leadership come from? Aaron Kampman was supposed to strengthen the defense, but he nearly spent as much time on the injured list as he did on the field.

    A small free-agent signing period won't provide Jacksonville with the type of timeline they'd like to have to best fortify the roster for a strong 2011.

Carolina Panthers

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    If any of the NFL's 32 teams is faced with an immediate reset across the board, it is the Carolina Panthers.

    Last year's abysmal 2-14 effort saw the jettisoning of long-time head coach John Fox, the possible final game in Charlotte for receiver Steve Smith and the drafting of who the Panthers hope will be the league's next franchise quarterback in Cam Newton.

    DeAngelo Williams will likely leave town, meaning a solid second option in the backfield will be absolutely integral. The secondary is an army of also-rans, and the front seven isn't much better.

    New head coach Ron Rivera will likely bring a new attitude to Carolina, which has been needed for some time.

    But new swagger often comes with new faces, and the Panthers will have their work cut out for them during this year's compressed free-agent blitz.