In the coming months, there are two major opportunities for NFL Teams to make big changes and/or additions to their roster. One is Free Agency. And two is the NFL Draft. Some teams will stop at absolutely nothing to get what they deeply and desperately desire for.
This is what each NFC team should be looking to add this offseason:
Dallas has one sole focus for the start of the offseason, and that is to re-sign Quarterback Dak Prescott. Unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension, Prescott is now a free agent, able to sign with another team. Without Prescott returning to Dallas though, their priorities drastically change.
Beyond Prescott, some key pieces of the offense are also FA. Offensive Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo and Wide Receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb also need to be replaced if not re-signed. Although the Cowboys have depth on the Offensive Line, they are less stable at WR, with little behind Michael Gallup on the roster. Beyond bringing back Prescott and depth at WR, the Cowboys are also continuing to look for a Tight End. With their cap space dedicated to the QB and possibly WR positions, their search for a TE will likely fall to Day 2 of the Draft.
The defense also has several roster holes. Defensive Tackle and Linebacker both need further depth or contending starters. But the biggest need of all, and where their Round 1 pick needs to go, is at Cornerback or Safety. The Cowboys need to prioritize the secondary in the draft and are almost guaranteed to take whichever player is highest on their board and remaining. While top CB prospect Jeffrey Okudah will most likely be gone, CB Kristian Fulton and Safeties Xavier McKinney and Grant Delpit could all be there. There’s a chance they can land LB Isaiah Simmons instead, but it will cost them a chance to properly rebuild the secondary.
New York Giants
Although they drafted a QB in Daniel Jones last year, the Giants still need a backup at the least after Eli Manning retired. However, the offense needs little work at starter positions, although they could get upgrades at the tackle positions. The priority really though on offense is at WR. With plenty of talented options at the position in the draft, the Giants are a good candidate to trade down and pick up extra picks, or wait until their early Round 2 pick and get whichever top WR is still on the board.
Despite the positives about their offense, the Giants entire defense is prime for improvement. Finding a Defensive End who can collapse the pocket and pressure the QB will be an important piece, with FAs such as Tim Jernigan an ideal combination of talent and value. Alternatively, the Giants could try to land a FA OLB such as Vic Beasley or Shaquil Barrett, gambling on potential. With the release of ILB Alec Ogletree, this now also becomes a need moving forward. It’s more likely they address DE and OLB with FA, allowing the draft to target the OL, WR, ILB, and CBs.
Although they have potential starting Safeties, the Giants need to continue retooling their secondary. While they found a starting CB in last year’s draft in Deandre Baker, the Giants desperately need to find another two. They could possibly drop a few spots down in the Draft, land Okudah and also earn another pick to get a WR. Across the first two rounds, New York Giants will likely go for WR and CB but could try to work a chance at an OT in the first two rounds as well.
Similar to the Giants, the Eagles are targeting the WR and CB spots. Almost all other positions on Offense have a high level of talent and depth. Philadelphia struggled to have any meaningful production at WR, but with the right addition, existing players could find appropriate supporting roles. Elsewhere, Center and OG positions could be mid-round targets for Philadelphia, as current Center Jason Kelce is off-contract in another year.
The Defensive Line continues to have strength on the edge, but depth at DT is a likely late-round target. The CB group got better in the second half of the season, but losing starters Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby to FA means they need to replace and hopefully upgrade the secondary. Finding a Free Safety to pair with Malcolm Jenkins should be another Day 1 or Day 2 priority.
Linebacker, however, is in the direst position of all on the roster. Duke Riley is serviceable at MLB, but adding one OLB at a minimum is crucial. If there was any position the Eagles were to address in FA, it would be this one.
Washington can’t seem to ever build on the strengths of their roster. After having one of the better OLs in the last few years, they are now looking to find starters at both guard positions. This could be where they spend some of their cap space, trying to land someone like Mike Iupati or Austin Blythe.
The offense also needs improvement at the skill positions. WR and Tight End, in particular, are lacking the talent required. Finding a complement to WR Terry McLaurin should be a Day 2 priority, but TE is a trickier problem. Without many elite options in the draft or FA, Washington could be forced to overpay or reach for one.
Fortunately, the Redskins have one of the most underrated defensive fronts in the league. The entire DL and LB groups are stable and effective, although adding depth to the rotation at DE wouldn’t go astray. If there is a position on Defence they should address early though, it is CB, especially as they recently parted ways with Josh Norman and will be looking to fill the void.
The Bears are one of the most talented teams in the league when it comes to the skill positions on Offense. Although they could use depth at WR, TE, and RB, as well as OT, these can all wait for Day 3 of the draft. Instead, they need to explore their options at QB, as Mitchell Trubisky is unlikely to be retained at starter beyond this year. With a developmental prospect such as Jake Fromm, James Morgan or Tyler Huntley, the Bears can allow Trubisky one final chance to prove himself, while having an option for the future learning from the sideline.
Early in the Draft, Chicago should be looking at the DE and Safety positions, with an eye also on CB. Having another lineman to pressure QBs and take the pressure off Akiem Hicks should not be ignored beyond Day 2. Likewise, replacing FA Safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Deon Bush is another major need that is a major priority. An upgrade over CBs Kevin Toliver and Buster Skrine is another need but may go unaddressed.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they have the equal fewest picks in the draft and have one of the eight lowest amounts of cap space in the league. With just 4 picks, the Bears will likely need to trade down from one of their 2 Round 2 picks. While this will help them fill the holes on the roster, Chicago needs to find cheap FAs to bring in to resolve some of their issues. Someone like Clinton-Dix at Safety is an affordable deal they can make, but probably not in a bidding war. With their situation and overall areas needing attention, Chicago may need to focus their efforts on preparing for 2021.
Despite talk of QB Matthew Stafford being traded away, his contract makes a deal unlikely, while it would also sabotage the Lions’ chances of being a competitive team. Instead, they need to focus on getting the most out of their offense by bringing in a slot WR to complement Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. The biggest area on offense needing work though is at OG and should be covered on Day 2 of the draft with a second taken early on Day 3 if a FA can’t be brought in.
Defensively, however, all levels need work. The interior DL will be a focus of the middle rounds of the draft if not in Round 1, and potentially also FA. Arik Armstead or Emmanuel Ogbah would be instant starters for the team if they were to be brought in this offseason. At LB the Lions need little improvement, but it’s possible Isaiah Simmons gets drafted 3rd overall as a game-changing talent. Despite not being their biggest need, Simmons would transform the defensive front of the Lions and would be an important piece for handling the run-heavy divisional rivals in Chicago and Minnesota.
What we’re more likely to see, if the Lions don’t trade down so another team can draft a QB, is the third overall pick to be used on a CB. Jeffrey Okudah is the top CB in the draft, and not only is the position the Lions greatest need alongside DT and OG, but it would also be a bigger need if they trade away current CB Darius Slay. Multiple picks could be used on CB by Detroit, with another on Strong Safety, allowing them to better defend the Green Bay Packers, their other divisional foe.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers may be solid at every position group on the roster, but they need upgrades at some positions. Replacing FA OT Brian Bulaga could be their pick in Round 1 of the draft, especially if Josh Jones or Andrew Thomas falls to them. Otherwise, the Packers are prime candidates to draft a WR, with Laviska Shenault or Justin Jefferson the top WRs potentially still on the board for them. Even with one WR added in Round 1, the Packers could easily return to the position on Day 3.
With the emergence of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith on Defence in 2019, the Packers should emphasize solidifying the middle of their defense. Finding an ILB on Day 2 of the draft will enable them to stop the run better than last season. Adding depth at Safety, including one that can play closer to the line of scrimmage, will further improve their defense.
Also around the middle of the draft, Green Bay needs to add to their rotation of DEs. With little cap space, they most likely can’t afford a top FA. While Dean Lowry has played well at the position and is locked in as a starter, getting another bookend across from him, and adding depth, cannot be left until too late in the draft.
In most areas, the Vikings will be looking for depth this offseason. A backup to RB Dalvin Cook could be added late in the draft, as well as a big-bodied outside target as a WR3. A backup for the interior OL is likely to be another focus of the late rounds of the draft. Punter and Kicker are also vacancies on the roster, although they are unlikely to be draft picks earlier than Round 6.
The absolute biggest need though is in the secondary. With declining play from CB Xavier Rhodes and FS Anthony Harris becoming a FA, the Vikings likely address one of these positions in Round 1. If not, by the end of Round 4 it’s likely both have been filled through either the draft and/or FA.
Almost equally concerning for the Vikings is the loss of DE Everson Griffin to FA. However, they have enough talent on the rest of the DL for this to not be as pressing as CB. Likewise, OLB also needs a new starter, with both being targeted in the middle rounds of the draft, barring a top prospect falling to them at 25th overall.
The Falcons will feel good about the majority of the offense but do need to fill out some key weapons. Adding a RB to share snaps with Devonta Freeman should be a consideration in the middle of the draft, as should depth at WR. TE is the biggest need on offense though, barring a deal with FA TE Austin Hooper that brings him back in 2020. Yet with the 3rd-worst salary cap space, there is little they can do at TE until the draft.
The Falcons lost multiple key starters in FA, notably DEs Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley. Replacing at least one of these will be crucial, and likely where the Falcons look in Round 1 of the draft. Upgrading at DT over Deadrin Senat also needs to be addressed sooner rather than later in the draft, and is potentially where they spend one of their three Day 2 picks.
OLB is the other competing top need for Atlanta entering the draft. Multiple picks will need to be spent on the position, especially with their restrictions in FA. The secondary is relatively stable and strong, but depth at Safety could be a late pick in the draft.
Carolina has many needs this offseason but have some capacity to do this with FA and the Draft. With a new Head Coach in Matt Rhule, the team may look to move on from both QBs Cam Newton and Will Grier, or give them both the season to earn their future with the team. Adding a new OG and OT will also be major foci to protect whoever is at QB, and will be a key feature for the team moving forward regardless.
The skill positions on Offense also need bodies added. Depth at RB and TE are late-round targets, especially the former to avoid overburdening RB Christian McCaffrey. Bolstering the stable of WRs is another area for late in the draft, as the Panthers have nothing to offer behind D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel.
The Panthers’ defense is in a slightly better position, although the retirement of ILB Luke Kuechly puts them in a difficult place. The DL and OLB positions are equally needy but could be filled with 1-year contracts to FAs. Bringing in a new CB to replace FA James Bradberry, as well as an upgrade at FS, are additional areas for work, but will have to wait for the OL, DL, and LBs to be improved first.
New Orleans Saints
After gearing up for tilts at the Super Bowl the last few years but coming up short, the Saints need to consider whether they do the same while they can, or think long-term. With all three of their QBs from last year becoming FAs, the Saints will have to consider if they can bring one back, or land a different FA. Until they figure out what QB looks like for them in 2020, the remaining positions will be secondary considerations.
New Orleans also needs to replace starting OG Andrus Peat for the offense to remain competitive. Finding a backup at OT will also need to be a focus one way or another this offseason. Depth at WR and RB are additional needs on Offense, although will be Day 3 picks in the draft.
On defense the Saints mostly need to work on their secondary. Replacing FA SS Vonn Bell and adding another starter-caliber CB should be early priorities in the draft, alongside OG. MLB AJ Klein, also needs replacing, but can wait for the first few rounds of the draft to address the bigger needs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Much like their divisional counterparts, the Buccaneers are also in the hunt for a new QB. While they are in the running to land a veteran such as Philip Rivers, they will also need to draft a QB who can take over in a year or two. Jake Fromm, James Morgan, or Cole McDonald could be targeted in the middle rounds of the draft if HC Bruce Arians likes what he sees.
While the WR and TE groups are strong, Tampa Bay needs to find another RB to support Ronald Jones II. They also need to land a starting Right Tackle and can afford to pay a premier FA, with one of the highest amounts of cap space in the league. Doing so will free them up to draft a QB in Round 1 if they want, otherwise, they likely target OT on Day 1.
The Buccaneers’ defense has slowly been developing over recent years. Their pass rush needs to improve with new players at DE and OLB, but again, their spending money in FA likely helps them here, including possibly bringing back OLB Shaquil Barrett. Adding a CB in the middle rounds of the draft will need to happen, but is not among the team’s top roster concerns.
With Year 2 of their rebuild underway, the Arizona Cardinals need to get more out of their offense. Drafting an OT to help block for the run game should be an early-round selection. Resolving the RB situation and either returning David Johnson to his starting role or finding his replacement, should be a Day 2 focus in the draft. Elsewhere, finding a TE that fits their scheme needs to be addressed, but they have plenty of cap space to get someone like Eric Ebron.
On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals should prioritize the DL. There is a strong chance the Cardinals take a DE with the 8th overall pick and add an Nose Tackle on Day 3 of the draft. Since it’s not a priority, the Nose Tackle could also be resolved with a cheap FA who can backup Corey Peters for the 2020 season.
While the LBs and secondary need minimal work, the Cardinals do need to add another OLB. At CB, depth is needed only and will be a mid-late round pick. Finally, Kicker could be a 7th round area, but the Cardinals are better off waiting for the Undrafted FAs or roster cuts closer to the season for whoever is still available.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams would have thought they were not far off the pinnacle of the NFL a year ago, but they have more work to do. While their offensive skill positions are sorted, adding depth at WR and a backup QB are minor needs. OT and OG are bigger needs, probably on Day 3 of the draft with only 5 total picks.
Instead, the primary need for the Rams is at DE. With a bit over $23million in cap space, the Rams could look to add a FA, but will still need to draft a DE on Day 2 of the draft. While they may wish to re-sign Michael Brockers, they lack the capacity to win a bidding war.
Despite needing an upgrade at ILB, the Rams will most likely have to leave the position alone. CB should also be looked at, but only for depth after trading for Jalen Ramsey in 2019. The Kicker position also needs work if they can’t bring back Greg Zuerlein, but it’s likely they come to an agreement.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers would have little needs after making the Super Bowl but need to get every draft pick right to put them over the top. Depth at TE and a field-stretching WR should be key middle-round focuses for the draft. Additionally, depth along the OL also is a consideration the team should make before the 2020 season.
While their DL rotation was essential to their 2019 campaign, the loss of DE Arik Armstead is problematic. Getting a replacement on Day 2 of the draft needs to be a major focus. LB, however, needs only a backup for MLB Fred Warner, but they will not be able to replace his production no matter what happens.
Although they were able to replace CB Ahkello Witherspoon with Emmanuel Moseley in the playoffs last season, the latter is a FA. The 49ers need to find a 3rd CB to start after Jason Verrett is also leaving to become a FA, and should do so on Day 2 of the draft. Finding backups at Safety should be where they spend at least one pick on Day 3.
Although last year’s rookie DK Metcalf showed he can become a capable WR2, he was inconsistent. Finding another reliable target for QB Russell Wilson needs to be an early-round pick, potentially one of their two in the late stages of Round 2. Adding depth at OT should be another use of their draft, but most likely in the final rounds.
The Seahawks’ main priorities are all on defense. Both DT and DE need additions, although Seattle has just under $60million which they should focus on the DL. Ndamukong Suh, Chris Jones or Matt Judon could each be targeted prior to the draft.
While LB has been one of the Seahawks’ strengths for the last decade or so, depth to the rotation at OLB is one area the team should address on Day 3 of the draft. Likewise, CB primarily needs depth, but they could choose to improve the position by taking one in Round 1 or 2. Depending on how they spend their money in FA will dictate what they do with their first-round selection.