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2017 NFL free agency: Needs for each NFC team

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The free agency market officially opens at 4 p.m. ET on March 9. Before signings start flying fast and furious, Gregg Rosenthal provides three big needs for each NFC team (listed in alphabetical order):

Arizona Cardinals: Cornerback, guard, quarterback

This season has the feel of a last hurrah in the desert because of the dalliances with retirement by Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. That puts pressure on GM Steve Keim to plug problem areas, pronto. The process should start at cornerback, where the team needs a starter opposite Patrick Peterson. Inside linebacker and guard are two other areas to address while Keim monitors potential quarterbacks of the future for Bruce Arians to groom.

Atlanta Falcons: Defensive end, defensive tackle, safety

Thanks to great recent drafts, the Falcons have fewer pressing needs than nearly any team in football. (Unless you count replacing the impact made by their old offensive coordinator.) That freedom should allow general manager Thomas Dimitroff to look for value in free agency, with an eye toward doubling down on team speed on defense. Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, De'Vondre Campbell and Grady Jarrett form part of a nice young core, but the Falcons still lack the depth up front to have a great front seven.

Carolina Panthers: Offensive tackle, defensive end, wide receiver

It feels like half the league desperately needs an offensive tackle and the other half desperately needs a pass rusher. The Panthers need both. Receiver might not sound like a huge need, but Cam Newton could use a speedier wideout who can gain separation, especially with Ted Ginn Jr. set to hit free agency.

Chicago Bears: Quarterback, cornerback, offensive tackle

The Bears aren't likely to wait until the draft to find a starting quarterback, making them prime candidates to go after younger options like Mike Glennon and potential trade candidate Jimmy Garoppolo. Embattled GM Ryan Pace also will be looking for someone to protect said quarterback. Investing in a starting cornerback to add credibility would help. There's a reason this team won only three games in 2016.

Dallas Cowboys: Defensive end, cornerback, tight end

Cowboys fans were convinced the team's pass-rush deficiency was a fake news story created by the biased media -- until Dallas reached the playoffs and couldn't breathe on Aaron Rodgers without blitzing. Finding a pass rusher will be easier in the draft than free agency, but that shouldn't stop the Cowboys from trying. There are also big decisions to make with three starters in the secondary hitting the market. (Backup running back isn't on this list, but that probably won't stop owner Jerry Jones from batting eyes at longtime obsession Adrian Peterson.)

Detroit Lions: Defensive end, running back, linebacker

The good news for GM Bob Quinn is that one of his biggest needs, running back, could be the easiest position to fill via free agency this season. The bad news is, when it comes to pass rushers and three-down linebackers who can cover fast, large, route-running humans, Quinn will be picking through scraps like the rest of his colleagues.

Green Bay Packers: Cornerback, linebacker, running back

No team had more players on our Top 101 free agents list, so GM Ted Thompson might have to interrupt his usual March slumber. Re-signing Nick Perry, perhaps the best pass rusher set to hit free agency, would be a fine start. Injuries didn't help, but Green Bay didn't have nearly enough talent at cornerback to hold up against quality pass attacks last year. Thompson's allergy to players from other teams manifested in a lack of depth at that spot and inside linebacker. The Packers also will be looking for heft in the backfield if running back Eddie Lacy departs via free agency.

Los Angeles Rams: Defensive back, offensive line, wide receiver

The problems on the offensive line and at wide receiver are not new for the Rams -- and neither is the habit of paying mid-tier starters like superstars. (Tavon Austin, Mark Barron and Michael Brockers have the team's three highest cap figures, counting for $36.9 million against the cap in 2017.) The secondary, on the other hand, could quickly go from a strength under ex-coordinator Gregg Williams to an uncertainty under new coordinator Wade Phillips. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has been tagged a second straight year, but safety T.J. McDonald is a free agent just one year after the Rams lost two quality starters (Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod) to the marketplace. The bright spot here is that Phillips often spins magic from surprising sources.

Minnesota Vikings: Offensive tackle, linebacker, running back

Everyone needs a tackle. No tackles are available. The issue is familiar to Minnesota, and it threatens to torpedo the Twin Cities tenures of coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman. Even though Adrian Peterson -- who the Vikings will allow to become a free agent -- might be an awkward scheme fit with coordinator Pat Shurmur, Minnesota still might give him the best offer in free agency because of sentimentality. Don't be shocked if he returns to the team. Both linebacker and defensive tackle are potential needs, based on the futures of LB Chad Greenway (a 34-year-old free agent) and DT Sharrif Floyd (a fifth-year pro entering the final year of his contract and a possible cut candidate).

New Orleans Saints: Defensive end, linebacker, cornerback

The Saints need pass-rush help, speed to replace their stop-gap linebackers and another starter at cornerback. The previous sentence was brought to you by Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and the years 2012-17.

New York Giants: Offensive tackle, linebacker, quarterback

Giants GM Jerry Reese should start cutting his losses at some vital positions. Former No. 9 overall pick Ereck Flowers doesn't fit as a starting left tackle, and the team's right side is no better. The Giants are also a dark-horse team to draft a quarterback, as Eli Manning held back his talented young receivers last season. With so much money invested in the defensive line after using the franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul, the team will be looking to find starters on the cheap at linebacker. Again.

Philadelphia Eagles: Wide receiver, cornerback, running back

Talking about the Eagles' need at wide receiver has grown into a bigger cliché than sending cameras to get B-roll of cheesesteaks at Geno's or Pat's before Eagles games. GM Howie Roseman and VP of football operations Alec Halaby figure to address the problem in free agency and the draft. The same two-pronged approach could be necessary at cornerback, with no returning standouts. The expected release of Ryan Mathews will also leave the team's backfield barren beyond two somewhat duplicative talents in Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles.

San Francisco 49ers: Quarterback, wide receiver, edge rusher

New coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch don't have to be picky. There are few areas on the 49ers' roster that couldn't use refurbishing, although the offensive line and secondary can get by for now. Shanahan was given a six-year contract primarily to fix the passing game, and he's nearly starting from scratch, other than wideout Torrey Smith. San Francisco won't have the luxury of waiting until the draft to find a quarterback, although any pursuit via trade of Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo will impact how high they take a signal caller.

Seattle Seahawks: Offensive line, defensive tackle, linebacker

The Seahawks are in an enviable position because of continuity, with quality starters throughout the roster. GM John Schneider could look for upgrades at wide receiver, running back, cornerback and the team's usual "let's save some money" positions of strong-side linebacker and defensive tackle. Or Schneider could spend every single free-agent dollar and draft pick on the offensive line, because nothing else has worked to fix that unit during his seven seasons in Seattle.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Safety, running back, wide receiver

The Bucs have buzz because of quarterback Jameis Winston and receiver Mike Evans. They also have a roster that doesn't look much better overall than many of the wilting groups that inspired four head-coaching changes in Tampa in the last nine seasons. Both starting-safety spots are open, and cornerback is thin. The Bucs need to find replacements for Vincent Jackson at receiver and likely Doug Martin at running back. Don't be surprised if they spend plenty this month.

Washington Redskins: Defensive line, safety, inside linebacker

The Redskins have a surprising amount of depth-chart potholes for a team coming off two winning seasons. The biggest problems start on defense. The best player from a weak defensive line, Chris Baker, could leave in free agency. Second-year pro Su'a Cravens is moving to one safety spot, but there's another starting job to fill. It's a chicken-or-egg problem, with the linemen exposing a poor inside linebacker group. If the Redskins spend only on defense, they will have to accept that a lot of receiver production will scurry out of the building in the form of veteran free agents DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.

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