2018 NFL free agency: Biggest needs for each AFC team

Print

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

Baltimore Ravens: Wide receiver, quarterback, offensive line

It's the same old story in Baltimore, where general manager Ozzie Newsome has once again acknowledged the necessity of starting over at wide receiver. While he's at it, Newsome should leave successor Eric DeCosta with the parting gift of a young quarterback to challenge the declining Joe Flacco. Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda's return from injury will bolster the offensive line, but center and right tackle remain question marks. On defense, expect the Ravens to target young legs in the secondary after addressing outside linebacker in last year's draft.

Buffalo Bills: Quarterback, linebacker, wide receiver

UPDATE: The Bills are trading quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Browns, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

Tyrod Taylor has been benched by two different regimes in two years. No matter what the Bills say publicly, they are in the market for a franchise quarterback. No matter who lines up under center, the next field general would stand to benefit from an influx of talent at wide receiver. The Bills are expected to lose free agent Jordan Matthews from one of the league's least productive units. While the defense is strong in the secondary, the linebacker corps is threadbare and the defensive line lacks depth.

Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive line, linebacker, defensive back

The Bengals can point to their beleaguered 2015 draft class for the decline of their once-stout offensive line. Early-round tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher have already gone bust, sabotaging Andy Dalton's pass protection as well as Joe Mixon's ground attack. With the exception of stalwart left guard Clint Boling, the offensive line needs help across the board. As promising as Cincinnati's defense was when healthy last season, Vontaze Burfict's occasional absences exposed a lack of quality depth at linebacker. Will the Bengals also target replacements for mainstays Michael Johnson and Adam Jones at defensive line and cornerback?

Cleveland Browns: Quarterback, running back, wide receiver

UPDATE: The Browns are trading for Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

One offensive coordinator recently predicted to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that the Browns' young defense is poised for greatness in 2018. The other side of the ball, however, is riddled with holes. As always, the fix starts at quarterback, likely to be addressed with the draft's No. 1 or No. 4 overall pick. With Isaiah Crowell set for departure and Corey Coleman falling out of favor, high-impact additions are needed at running back and wideout. As well as Jason McCourty played last season, he's entering the final year of his contract. Don't be surprised if Cleveland targets a cornerback early in the draft.

Denver Broncos: Quarterback, offensive line, defensive line

It's been evident since early December that John Elway will be on the warpath for a franchise quarterback after watching the sport's most important position hold the offense hostage last season. For all of the criticism directed at Trevor Siemian, he was too often stuck as a sitting duck behind a porous offensive line. At the very least, Elway must find an upgrade on Menelik Watson at right tackle. While Will Parks and Bradley Roby are ready for expanded roles in the secondary, the defensive front seven and the wide receiver corps could use fresh legs.

Houston Texans: Offensive line, tight end, running back, defensive back, defensive end

Yes, offensive line play is down across the league. But this group is particularly shambolic, with left tackle Duane Brown gone to Seattle, subpar starters Breno Giacomini and Xavier Su'a-Filo slated for free agency and the rest of the unit filled with question marks. Tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin spent last season trading concussions. Can the Texans count on them to play 16 games going forward? Lamar Miller is a candidate for release and D'Onta Foreman is recovering from a torn Achilles. The ground game could be in line for a complete remodeling effort.

Indianapolis Colts: Pass rusher, running back, cornerback, linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver

Where do we start? The backfield, offensive line and defense have been glaring weaknesses since the early days of Andrew Luck's career. With Vontae Davis in Buffalo and Rashaan Melvin set to reach free agency, cornerback joins linebacker as the biggest defensive needs behind a blue-chip edge rusher. Frank Gore has reached the end of the line in Indianapolis, shining a spotlight on a position that has held the offense back for a half-decade. Resources will also have to be poured into the blocking unit as well as the receiving corps.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Wide receiver, quarterback, tight end

The Jags opted against the franchise tag for Allen Robinson, which allows a receiver-needy outfit, such as the Bears or 49ers, to overpay for free agency's most intriguing receiver. With Marqise Lee also due to reach the open market and Allen Hurns in danger of being released, wideout looms as the shallowest position on the roster. While Marcedes Lewis remains an effective blocker, he could use a more athletic partner in the passing game. Speaking of the aerial attack, Jacksonville is in dire need of an insurance policy for unpredictable quarterback Blake Bortles.

Kansas City Chiefs: Linebacker, defensive back, defensive line

The defense seemed to grow old overnight, necessitating a full-blown rebuilding effort. With the futures of Tamba Hali and Dee Ford in question, Justin Houston is in the market for a bookend edge rusher. While last summer's Reggie Ragland trade brought a thumper in the run game, he needs a running mate on the inside now that Derrick Johnson's 13-year career in Kansas City has reached its end. Having added Kendall Fuller and David Amerson to replace cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Darrelle Revis, the defensive-backfield overhaul is just getting started.

Los Angeles Chargers: Offensive line, defensive tackle, linebacker

The Bolts had one of the lowest sack rates in the league, due in large part to Philip Rivers' pre-snap adjustments and ability to beat the blitz. Blocking woes were more noticeable in the ground attack, which struggled with consistency throughout the 2017 season. Upgrades are in order at center as well as right tackle. While the defense was one of the stingiest in the league down the stretch, the Chargers need wide bodies on the interior and better tacklers at linebacker.

Miami Dolphins: Offensive line, tight end, linebacker

UPDATE: The Dolphins are trading receiver Jarvis Landry to the Browns, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

Poor Mike Pouncey has been bookended by anemic guard play for the entirety of his seven-year career at center. As usual, the Dolphins are seeking upgrades along the frontline. Last year's Julius Thomas experiment failed miserably, leaving tight end as a vacancy in Adam Gase's offense. With Lawrence Timmons likely to be released and Raekwon McMillan coming off ACL surgery, linebacker and cornerback are the two areas most in need of reinforcements on defense. Miami is also rumored to be on the hunt for a young quarterback to push Ryan Tannehill.

New England Patriots: Tackle, pass rusher, middle linebacker

For all of the consternation over Malcolm Butler's Super Bowl absence, ex-coordinator Matt Patricia was working with smoke and mirrors on the defensive front seven. Even with Dont'a Hightower returning from a pectoral injury, the Patriots are in the market for a talent infusion at linebacker. Edge rusher has been a dire need ever since Chandler Jones was traded to Arizona two years ago. With Butler likely to seek greener pastures, cornerback depth should also be addressed. On the other side of the ball, Tom Brady's blindside will need a new bodyguard if Nate Solder goes to the highest bidder.

New York Jets: Quarterback, cornerback, pass rusher

It's quite a challenge to limit this exercise to fewer than a half-dozen positions. I was tempted to simply list offense, defense and special teams. The Jets are fully expected to ante up in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. If that bid fails, they could opt to re-sign Josh McCown and target the quarterback of the future with the No. 6 overall draft pick. Either way, the next signal-caller will need help in the backfield and along the offensive line. Outside of safety, the other side of the ball has depth issues at every position. Cornerback and pass rusher are especially pressing issues.

Oakland Raiders: Cornerback, linebacker, defensive line

When Jon Gruden spoke at the NFL Scouting Combine last week, he acknowledged the need for help at every level of the defense. Even if Gruden was impressed by 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley's work in training camp last summer, cornerback remains the primary roster weakness. Outside of 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, the defensive front seven is noticeably lacking in playmakers. The other side of the ball could use depth at both tackle spots.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker, safety, running back

Ryan Shazier's career-threatening spinal injury exposed a glaring hole in the middle of Pittsburgh's defense, as his uncanny range and closing speed masked weaknesses in the run game as well as in coverage. Mike Mitchell is a candidate for release, leaving free safety as a need opposite Sean Davis. Barring a breakthrough in negotiations toward a long-term contract, the Steelers have to think about life without Le'Veon Bell in the backfield.

Tennessee Titans: Pass rusher, defensive line, cornerback

More than anything, the Titans need blue-chip talent and weekly difference-makers on both sides of the ball. While the offense could use help at third-down back, slot receiver and on the interior of the offensive line, it's defense that will be addressed early in the draft. Kevin Dodd has been an unmitigated bust as the insurance policy for aging outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Jurrell Casey is a one-man gang on the defensive line. For as much promise as Adoree' Jackson showed as a rookie, there's still a need on the other side so Logan Ryan can slide back into the slot.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop