2018 NFL free agency: Biggest needs for each NFC team

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The free agency market officially opens at 4 p.m. ET on March 14. Before signings start flying fast and furious, Gregg Rosenthal provides three big needs for each NFC team (listed in alphabetical order):

Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback, offensive line, wide receiver

It's amazing that an offense with David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald could still be among the most talent-poor groups in football. New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is set up for failure, starting from scratch at quarterback with question marks at nearly every offensive line position. The Cardinals will find a veteran QB in free agency, possibly from the 2017 Vikings roster. It's a good bet they'll sign a starting-caliber receiver, too, because it's one of the deeper positions available.

Atlanta Falcons: Defensive tackle, guard, wide receiver

The Falcons' roster is as well put together as general manager Thomas Dimitroff's coiffed hair. This shouldn't be that surprising for a squad that led the Super Bowl 28-3 one season before having the ball down five points in Philly with first-and-goal late against the eventual Super Bowl champions. The Falcons could certainly use more beef on the defensive line, where Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn are likely to leave in free agency. The offensive line got pushed around too much in short-yardage situations, and some receiver depth after Julio Jones and Mo Sanu would help.

Carolina Panthers: Wide receiver, defensive end, safety

UPDATE: The Panthers began to address the receiver position on Friday, sending CB Daryl Worley to Philadelphia in exchange for Torrey Smith.

Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine, head coach Ron Rivera telegraphed the team's need for a veteran wide receiver à la Jerricho Cotchery to help stabilize the young room. There are plenty of slot receivers in free agency who could fill that role. While Rivera wants to get older at receiver, the team's defensive end position needs to get younger -- whether Julius Peppers returns or not. That might be tough to accomplish in free agency, so don't be surprised if the Panthers spend on a backup bruiser at running back to pair with Christian McCaffrey.

Chicago Bears: Wide receiver, cornerback, edge rusher

General manager Ryan Pace feels good about his quarterback and his head coach, which is a nice base to build an organization from, even if Mitchell Trubisky and Matt Nagy have a lot to prove. Pace is also fortunate that his needs match up with the depth of this free agent class. With a ton of cap space, the Bears are almost certain to spend big on a high-profile receiver and cornerback. It's just a matter of who. Finding a pass rusher will be tougher before the draft.

Dallas Cowboys: Wide receiver, linebacker, defensive tackle

The good news for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is that he doesn't have one screaming need above all others that will force him to overpay in free agency. The bad news is that nearly every position group on the roster could use help, at least for depth. Even if the team keeps Dez Bryant, Dak Prescott's pass-catching group has hit its ceiling. The linebacking corps is thin, with Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber set to leave. The defensive tackle bunch can get pushed around in the running game. After staying disciplined in free agency over the last few years, Jones has a war chest of cap space and plenty of issues. An old-school Cowboys fireworks show could follow.

Detroit Lions: Linebacker, defensive tackle, running back

New Lions coach Matt Patricia won't be surprised to learn the Lions were one of the toughest teams to write about in this exercise, as narrowing their list of needs to just three is quite challenging. Spots like defensive end and cornerback could also use starters, and they didn't even crack the list. General manager Bob Quinn can find some linebacker depth to surround Jarrad Davis in free agency, and the team could look for value at running back to support Ameer Abdullah. This defense needs an identity, and it's up to Quinn to build it.

Green Bay Packers: Cornerback, guard, tight end

UPDATE: The Packers are trading cornerback Damarious Randall to the Browns, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

The legacy of former general manager Ted Thompson is that the Packers are pretty solid throughout the roster without being exceptional at any position besides quarterback and tackle. That gives new general manager Brian Gutekunst flexibility in what to go after in this new world where free agency is no longer a dirty phrase. The Packers could be players in a deep cornerback market or try to find a tight end who could do for them what Martellus Bennett could not last season.

Los Angeles Rams: Edge defender, cornerback, center

Trading away Robert Quinn only further highlighted the need defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has for some edge pressure. With Connor Barwin also set to hit free agency, Phillips doesn't have a traditional outside linebacker who can win one-on-one matchups. The acquisition of Marcus Peters is only the start of the team's cornerback makeover. With Trumaine Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman free agents and Kayvon Webster hurt, the Rams are almost starting from scratch. General manager Les Snead might have had the best collection of free agents in football, so there's a lot of work to be done.

Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback, defensive tackle, guard

The Vikings don't just need a starting quarterback. They need a backup quarterback -- and a pair of starting guards to play in front of him. This is a dangerous spot to be in, with no guarantees the team can pick up where it left off last season. The defense has incredible continuity and talent, but the group could still use an influx of youth, especially next to Linval Joseph at defensive tackle.

New Orleans Saints: Linebacker, defensive end, tight end

The Saints signing an unathletic veteran linebacker in free agency is the foremost New Orleans tradition that doesn't include a parade. They are still looking, although Alex Anzalone showed promise before an injury last year. Alex Okafor's torn achilles injury last season opened up a hole opposite Cameron Jordan the team never truly filled. And while the Saints have needs at slot cornerback, the team's reported desire for a reunion with Jimmy Graham is proof that the Coby Fleener era could be ending soon at tight end.

New York Giants: Offensive line, running back, linebacker

It became almost too easy to blame the offensive line for all the Giants' troubles last season, but new general manager Dave Gettleman has his hands full. Both tackle spots could use an upgrade, while the team's best two interior players (Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg) are coming off injuries and set to be free agents. Gettleman could spend big money to sign his former Panthers buddy Andrew Norwell at guard, but you can't solve an entire line in one free-agent period. The Giants moved swiftly to begin addressing their huge need at linebacker (agreeing to trade for Alec Ogletree) and shouldn't have an issue finding a running back with some upside in the next couple weeks.

Philadelphia Eagles: Linebacker, wide receiver, defensive tackle

What to get the team that has everything? There is very little at linebacker beyond Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks, especially if Nigel Bradham leaves in free agency. The expected release of Torrey Smith could have Howie Roseman back in the market for a veteran wideout. (UPDATE: The Eagles traded Smith to Carolina in exchange for CB Daryl Worley on Friday.) Meanwhile, the team will want to stay well-stocked at defensive tackle if key reserve Beau Allen leaves. New trade acquisition Michael Bennett has the versatility to play inside, but it wouldn't hurt Philly to insert some more run-stuffing beef into the DT position. It isn't Roseman's style to have a quiet March.

San Francisco 49ers: Cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver

UPDATE: Richard Sherman has agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the 49ers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday.

Judging by the high cost of some of general manager John Lynch's early contract extensions, the 49ers are ready to spend. Again. The rebuilding of this roster has at least another year to go because Lynch should be signing in bulk at linebacker and cornerback, where at least two contributors are needed at each position. None of the skill positions beyond quarterback are close to settled. Lynch needs a strong month to make this team's playoff buzz last.

Seattle Seahawks: Offensive line, defensive end, running back

Coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Scouting Combine that the time was right for a new coaching staff and a new challenge leading the Seahawks. That challenge extends to reshaping a roster in transition, with plenty of familiar faces on defense leaving -- including DE Michael Bennett, who is heading to Philadelphia in a trade. Seattle desperately needs a youth infusion on the edge and offensive line upgrades at guard and right tackle. One year after striking out with Eddie Lacy, look for another free-agent running back to arrive.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Defensive end, cornerback, left tackle

The Bucs' defensive end spot is one of those positions that ends up on the "team needs" list every season just out of habit, and Tampa hasn't proven anyone wrong yet. Cornerback is also an issue, with Brent Grimes hitting free agency and Vernon Hargreaves coming off a rough second season. General manager Jason Licht may not see left tackle as a priority, but someone needs to say something about starter Donovan Smith getting Jameis Winston crushed on a weekly basis for three years running.

Washington Redskins: Defensive tackle, running back, cornerback

The Redskins were too easy to run on last season, with their last free-agent signings on the interior failing to pan out. The team also hasn't settled on a starting running back and could be looking to spend on a replacement for Terrelle Pryor out wide. With slot cornerback Kendall Fuller traded to Kansas City and starter Bashaud Breeland expected to leave, the Redskins are suddenly in search for a cornerback, too.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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