In this segment I want to take a look at each team individually and what I think will be most important things they’ll need to do to improve their team. Some already have the pieces in place and should only make sure they keep them and add depth to their roster, while others have needs at specific positions they should fill. For each position of need I listed the players who I think would help them the most and who are real possibilities, teams could add via the draft or free agency. So those aren’t simply the best guys available. And some of the free agents may not be available since they agree on contracts with the team they’re already on.
Here are all 16 NFC teams:
Chicago Bears (7th overall pick; 23.9 million cap space):
The Bears defense was a mess all year long and I think what they lack most is a middle linebacker that is a strong presence in the run game and has the intelligence to communicate with the other ten guys to make sure they’re in a good situation.
Draft: 2nd round – Denzel Perryman (Miami), Bernardrick McKinney (Mississippi State); Free agency: Rolando McClain (Cowboys)
To keep that mike-backer from having offensive linemen in his face they have to find a top defensive tackle in the draft or in free agency, especially because I don’t think Stephen Paea will be back next year.
Draft: 1st round – Danny Shelton (Washington), 2nd round – Carl Davis (Iowa), Malcolm Brown (Texas); Free agency: Ndamukong Suh (Lions), Terrance Knighton (Broncos)
Their biggest question mark is the quarterback position though. The organization is not happy with Jay Cutler’s success. Where will they go from here? I’m curious to see if they draft one in the upper rounds.
Detroit Lions (23rd overall pick; 15.2 million cap space):
The Lions offense failed to reach expectations in 2014, but the defense made up for it. The guy who set the tone up front was Ndamukong Suh. Detroit has to make a decision on whether or not they want to pay him since he would mandate a huge contract or you’d have to put the franchise tag on him, which would be as high as 26.8 million dollars. These are enormous numbers, so I’m not sure if they shouldn’t roll with Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley with the option to bring in a dominant defensive lineman via the draft.
Draft: 1st round – Malcolm Brown (Texas), Carl Davis (Iowa)
To upgrade that unit they have to address their biggest need – which is cornerback. The draft might not feature a lot of top prospects, but the position is pretty deep and you can bring quality players in later rounds.
Draft: 3rd round – Steven Nelson (Oregon State); Free agency: Byron Maxwell (Seahawks), Chris Cook (49ers)
On the offensive side of the ball the right side of the O-line has to be addressed. A thumper at guard could upgrade their 28th-ranked rushing attack.
Draft: 1st round – Arie Kouandijo (Alabama), 3rd round – Laken Tomlinson (Duke); Free agency – James Carpenter (Seahawks), Mike Iupati (49ers)
Green Bay Packers (30th overall pick; 27.7 million cap space):
The first thing the Packers will have to do is resign Randall Cobb. He was a big part of their offense and is a touchdown machine.
Green Bay had to move Clay Matthews from his natural position on the outside to inside linebacker and while he did an admirable job this year, they have to find a stout inside linebacker to maximize the potential of their top defensive player.
Draft: 1st round – Denzel Perryman (Miami), Bernardrick McKinney (Mississippi State), Free agency – David Harris (Jets)
The lack of a true shutdown corner is something that has kept Green Bay from taking the next step for quite a while now. If they could add a player to take on the opponent’s best receiver on a weekly basis they’d be able to do a lot of different things with the rest of their D.
Draft: 1st round – Trae Waynes (Michigan State); Free agency – Brandon Flowers (Chargers)
Minnesota Vikings (11th overall pick; 18.5 million cap space):
The Vikings seem to have found their future quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. Now they have to get him ready and keep him healthy. The best way to doing so is to protect him. Right tackle seems to be the biggest need.
Draft: 1st round – Brandon Scherff (Iowa); Free agency: Doug Free (Cowboys)
Another way to make him comfortable is a great running game. Unfortunately the future of former MVP Adrian Peterson in Minnesota is still unclear. Luckily the draft is loaded with running backs.
Draft: 3rd round – David Cobb (Minnesota); Free agency: DeMarco Murray (Cowboys)
Dallas Cowboys (27th overall pick; 17.2 million cap space):
The Cowboys have two huge free agents this year in Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray. If they can put the franchise-tag on Murray I see them bringing back both guys, but if they can’t I don’t think they can give both guys big contracts. To me Dez is the guy they can’t afford to lose, while they could look for a running back in this aforementioned loaded draft class. The best offensive line in football will make a lot of backs look good. In addition to that there might be another Oklahoma running back on the market if he comes back into the league. Can you imagine what Adrian Peterson would look like behind such an O-line?
Draft: 2nd round – Tevin Coleman (Indiana), T.J. Yeldon (Alabama)
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli did an unbelievable job with the players he had last year, but they need to bring in more talent on that side of the ball. Their biggest need is at the defensive line especially on the inside, but also at D-end.
Draft: 1st round – Malcolm Brown (Texas), Eddie Goldman (Florida State), Nate Orchard (Utah), 2nd round – Michael Bennett (Ohio State)
New York Giants (9th overall pick; 16.4 million cap space):
The Giants’ biggest free agent is Jason Pierre-Paul. He wants a contract for an elite defensive end and I’m not sure New York is ready to pay him that kind of money. No matter if he comes back, Big Blue has to improve their defensive line. Their dominant defensive front (and brilliant performances by Eli Manning) has been the key to their last two Super Bowl runs and they should go back to that. Jonathan Hankins is a guy with a lot of potential at defensive tackle, but they could use help on that D-line.
Draft: 1st round – Shane Ray (Missouri), Danny Shelton (Washington), 2nd round – Nate Orchard (Utah); Free agency: Jerry Hughes (Bills)
The defense already has an intelligent and imposing linebacker in the middle in Jon Beason, he simply hasn’t been healthy yet. Yet the Giants should find a good backup if he misses some guys this year again.
Draft: 2nd round – Bernardrick McKinney (Mississipi State); Free agency: Larry Foote (Cardinals)
Their offensive line looked a lot better at the end of the year, but they need to add another guy to open up the run as well as keeping the pocket clear.
Draft: 1st round – Ereck Flowers (Miami)
Philadelphia Eagles (20th overall pick; 22.5 million cap space):
I actually think Philly has one of the most complete teams in the entire NFL. The loss of Nick Foles last year really took them a playoff berth many people thought they had already locked up. If there’s an area they can improve in it’s their defensive backfield. When they are on the clock in the first round and there’s a very good corner or safety on the board they should grab him.
Draft: 1st round – P.J. Williams (Florida State), Marcus Peters (Washington); Free agency: Byron Maxwell (Seahawks)
Another thing that I think could take them over the hump is bringing in a veteran quarterback to back up and teach Foles.
Free agents: Matt Hasselbeck (Colts)
Washington Redskins (5th overall pick; 12.1 million cap space):
Jay Gruden has the chance to take former offensive rookie Robert Griffin III back to his 2012 form by giving him confidence and get him protected. Right tackle probably is the position on the offensive line that can be improved most.
Draft: 1st round – Brandon Scherff (Iowa); Free agency: Derek Newton (Texans)
Fourth round pick Bashaud Breeland from last year’s draft was their best cover corner this season. This should tell you they don’t have a lot of great defenders on the perimeter. I think there are a couple of good guys on the market they could target.
Draft: 2nd round – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon); Free agency: Chris Culliver (49ers), Carlos Rogers (Raiders)
The pass rush department was pretty much a one-man show in 2014 with Ryan Kerrigan running things, so they need to give him some help. The draft features a couple of dynamic rushers.
Draft: 1st round – Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Shane Ray (Mizzouri), 2nd round – Nate Orchard (Utah)
Atlanta Falcons (8th overall pick; 22.7 million cap space):
Let’s just be honest right here – The Falcons defense was a mess all year. I can’t really put it any other way. It showed most when they had the lead late in games and the defense just couldn’t stop the opposing team in the final seconds. Getting Sean Weatherspoon back from injury is huge for them, but that won’t do it. The area they have to improve most is their pass rush department, as they were tied for second-fewest sacks among all teams with 22.
Draft: 1st round – Shane Ray (Missouri), Vic Beasley (Clemson), Dante Fowler (Florida); Free agency: Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)
Adding another corner to pair with Desmond Trufant is very high on the list as well. In the NFC South where teams want to air it out you have to put pressure on quarterbacks and play tight coverage down the field.
Draft: 2nd round – Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Jalen Collins (LSU); Free agency: Byron Maxwell (Seahawks)
The department of Tony Gonzalez is something the Falcons haven’t quite been able to overcome yet. Adding a security blanket at that position for Matt Ryan to a very potent offense would be a good move as well.
Draft: 3rd – Nick O’Leary (Florida State); Free agency: Jacob Tamme (Broncos)
Carolina Panthers (25th overall pick; 14.1 million cap space):
Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen were Cam Newton’s saviors in 2014 as they really came through for him among one of the worst receiving casts in the league. Adding another great pass catcher is certainly very high on the list.
Draft: 2nd round – Rashad Greene (Florida State); Free agency – Michael Crabtree (49ers)
The Panthers have to find a franchise left tackle. Unfortunately I don’t think there’s one on the market right now, so they could either make a trade for one or try to find one in the draft (which I’m not sure either features one that can step in right away).
Draft: 1st round – Andrus Peat (Stanford), T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh)
The future of Greg Hardy in Carolina is still unclear, but if he doesn’t come back they have to find a replacement.
Free agency: Jerry Hughes (Bills)
New Orleans Saints (13th overall pick; -23.2 million cap space):
The Saints offense was never what fans expected it to be since Jimmy Graham wasn’t a hundred percent healthy pretty much the entire year. With Graham and last year’s first round pick Brandin Cooks back in the lineup I’m not concerned about this offense.
I’m more concerned about their defense, which I think needs a pass rush specialist to keep it all together. Most of all they need him to rush the passer, but if he could make some plays in coverage as well that would be bonus. Unfortunately the Saints have the least amount of money left to sign any of those premier edge players.
Draft: 1st round – Dante Fowler (Florida), Vic Beasley (Clemson); Free agency: Brooks Reed (Texans)
Adding a couple of cover guys via the draft wouldn’t hurt them either.
Draft: 2nd round – Jalen Collins (LSU), 3rd round – Steve Nelson (Oregon State)
And finally you have to look at Drew Brees’ age as a concern in the future. If a quality backup and replacement for Brees in coming years is still on the board on day two or three of the draft they should make their move.
Draft: 3rd round – Bryce Petty (Baylor), 4th round – Shane Carden (East Carolina)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1st overall pick; 27.7 million cap space):
The first thing the Bucs have to clear in the offseason is the quarterback debate. Mike Glennon has showed promise while Josh McCown was a big disappointment. With McCown off the ship and Glennon maybe following him, I have to be concerned with this team. As I already said Glennon looked pretty good so far in his career, but Lovie Smith decided to bench him immediately for the guy he took with him from Chicago. I think they should either trade the first overall pick and maybe get a quarterback with their new first round pick or grab the best available player on the board, which to me is USC’s Leonard Williams. Pairing him with Gerald McCoy would make up for a dynamic duo and give a talented defense a pass rusher they lacked last year. If they do decide to go quarterback, I’d like to see them take Marcus Mariota and give him time to develop while looking what Glennon can do for them as a true starter.
To help on whoever is calling out plays for them they have to do two things:
First the must give him better pass protection as the offensive line allowed 50 sacks during their 2-14 campaign.
Free agency: Dan Connolly (Patriots), Jah Reid (Ravens)
And second, I think the offense has to make Doug Martin their focal point once again.
Arizona Cardinals (24th overall pick; 4.1 million cap space):
First of all – the Cardinals will get a lot of guys back this year they missed in 2014 – Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington and so on. Now it’s time get them healthy and ready to go.
Their biggest priority will be resigning their emotional leader Larry Fitzgerald. He might not post the kind of numbers he did in previous years, but he is the guy everybody on that team looks up to and is still a crucial part of the offense.
After giving a 50 million dollar contract to Carson Palmer you have to think they are sold on him, but if a quarterback falls to them in the later rounds I wouldn’t be surprised if they picked him up.
Draft: 4th round – Sean Mannion (Oregon State)
On defense they’d be even better if they could bring in a premier pass rusher and add some depth on the defensive line like they did last year.
Draft: 1st round – Arik Armstead (Oregon); Free agency: Terrence Cody (Ravens)
And they can’t let Antonio Cromartie go after only one season. He and Patrick Peterson make up a very good tandem.
Saint Louis Rams (10th overall pick; -1.4 million cap space):
The Rams lost their starting quarterback Sam Bradford for the season two years in a row now. Obviously you can’t avoid that completely but the best thing you can do is to help him out with a great running game. Bringing in Greg Robinson last year was a good first step, but another great run blocker certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Draft: 1st round – La’el Collins (LSU), 3rd round – Tre Jackson (Florida State); Free agency: James Carpenter (Seahawks)
On the defensive side of the ball their front seven is one of the very best in the league and I like Janoris Jenkins at corner, T.J. McDonald at safety and last year’s second-rounder LaMarcus Joyner who you can line up pretty much everywhere in the backfield, but they need a ballhawk on the backend to really make a difference.
Draft: 1st round – Gerod Holliman (Louisville)
Adding another good corner would help them as well.
Draft: 1st round – Trae Waynes (Michigan State); Free agency: Walter Thurmond (Giants)
San Francisco 49ers (15th overall pick; 1.6 million cap space):
The most important thing for the 49ers will be to make their offensive line their strength instead of their weakness once again. Depending on who they lose in free agency, they should pick up a couple of quality O-linemen.
Draft: 1st round – La’el Collins (LSU), 2nd round – Hroniss Grasu (Oregon)
Colin Kaepernick is San Francisco future at quarterback, but he won’t last long if he’s not protected and doesn’t improve his pocket awareness and decision-making. Some of the things he should learn at workouts with Kurt Warner.
To help Kap out they should add a big-body receiver that can go up and come down with contested catches.
Draft: 1st round – Kevin White (West Virginia), DeVante Parker (Louisville)
On their defensive line they tend to lose various players to injury so they should add some backups and future starters via the draft. Justin Smith is a player they need to have come back, but he will turn 36 in September and won’t play forever.
Draft: 2nd round – Michael Bennett (Ohio State), Carl Davis (Iowa)
Seattle Seahawks (31st overall pick; 23.8 million cap space):
The most obvious thing they have to do is to use the Super Bowl as a motivation rather than questioning the play calling or anything else. They have to come together and do their thing, which I’m not concerned they’ll be able to do.
As much talk as there is about Richard Sherman, the Seahawks have a corner on the other side named Byron Maxwell who has played great for them the last one-and-a-half years and will become a free agent. They have some good guys behind him in the depth chart, but I’m not sure if they can replace Maxwell. I think they should clearly bring him back for some years to come.
The department that would make a huge difference if they could improve in is the wide receiver position. Just watch what they did in the Super Bowl when they used Chris Matthews. If they could bring a big go-to-guy on the outside that would completely change the perspective.
Draft: 1st round – Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri), Sammie Coates (Auburn); Free agency: Hakeem Nicks (Colts)
I know this isn’t too complex analysis, but I really wanted to cover all teams. So if there’s any specific team you’d like to hear my opinion on, just write to me or leave a comment!