Earlier this week at the NFL Media offices ...
Joe Bob Editor: "We need your free agency primer by Friday ... AFC and NFC."
Me: "I thought 'primer' was paint."
JBE: "We want fans to know what areas their team can fill in free agency next week."
Me: "Doing team needs for 32 teams that fast is more work than painting my bathroom."
JBE: "You're doing it."
Me: "I'm asking the Competition Committee to challenge this."
Well, clearly I'm performing this exercise ... but I still have questions for Competition Committee frontman Jeff Fisher. Like where are y'all going with instant replay? Or perhaps more germane to this article's subject matter, what are your St. Louis Rams planning to do this offseason? Yes, the Rams have many areas to address this offseason, but they're certainly not alone. This is the NFL -- every team has needs.
So, with free agency on deck, it is my mission (order?) to appease Joe Bob Editor by identifying major needs for all 32 NFL franchises -- three areas each team should consider addressing when the market officially opens at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
If you feel my analysis is off anywhere, let me know. Love a (good) debate: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
We could go several directions here, even though this team went 11-5 last year. Getting Dwight Freeney on the cheap would be interesting, despite the fact he is in his mid-30s. Look how well other aging players -- John Abraham, Larry Foote, Tommy Kelly -- have done in Arizona. Mark Ingram would be another interesting acquisition, even though the Cards keep getting linked to DeMarco Murray.
Brandon Marshall traded? Yep, WR is now a need. If you were to argue that quarterback should be listed here, I wouldn't argue with you. That said, the Bears' paws were filed down by opposing offenses throughout 2014. Moving to a 3-4 will require some D-line housekeeping, like grabbing a true NT (Vince Wilfork?). OLB will probably be hit in the draft, while ILB could be addressed in either the draft or free agency.
The Cowboys are in jeopardy of losing multiple linebackers to free agency, with Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter and Justin Durant set to hit the open market. Sean Lee is coming off yet another injury. Pass rush is certainly an issue, as the Cowboys ranked 28th in that category last season. Offensive tackle Doug Free, who has started 75 games for Dallas in the last five seasons, is going to get paid by someone.
How the heck do you replace Ndamukong Suh, who appears to be on the way out the door? I don't want to step on anyone here, but who is going to fill his role? You, Kaffee? You, Lt. Weinberg? The Lions also need to find someone to play the nickel. Meanwhile, Rob Sims, who's started every game for Detroit since 2010, is a free agent.
Overall, this is clearly a quality team, but the Packers have a lot of little needs. How about someone who can man up on the nose, taking on multiple guys? That would help out the inside 'backers -- and helping out those guys will be key, considering Green Bay just released A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. Bryan Bulaga is a free agent and could command a fair amount of money in a tackle-thin market, so that's a potential hole to be addressed. Thinking GB drafts an ILB, signs a CB.
I could see the Vikings going after multiple offensive linemen. Linebacker is certainly a position of need. Is Gerald Hodges ready to be a full-time starter? Minnesota could sign one of the many available ILBs or draft one. I do not see them going after a wideout in free agency, but cornerback could be a consideration.
Time to go find a center. A solid corner would be nice, too. Though if it's going to be someone like Champ Bailey again, please just draft someone, Saints. Linebackers Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and/or Parys Haralson could be replaced this offseason. Thinking that position will be addressed in free agency and the draft (potentially via a high pick).
What an interesting year for the Giants, who are trying to right this ship behind the longstanding Jerry Reese/Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning triumvirate. If Dallas could do it last year, why not Big Blue in 2015? The G-Men need someone to get after the passer besides Jason Pierre-Paul. Safeties Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Quintin Demps are all free agents.
Initially had quarterback as an area of need -- but, yeah, had to swap that out for running back on Tuesday night. And honestly, if the Eagles are to add a passer of substance, it'll be through the draft anyway. Will they deal up to get former Chip Kelly pupil Marcus Mariota? Who knows, but if another team signs Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles will certainly need to find another wideout somewhere. Speaking of wideouts, who exactly is covering them in Philadelphia these days?
Consider me part of the camp that thinks Sam Bradford deserves every chance in the book to reclaim his career with the Rams. That said, with or without him penciled in as the starter, quarterback is far from settled. Offensive line represents a major area of concern for this team -- how about Doug Free? (The tackle won't come cheap.) Tight end and linebacker are addition spots to think about in free agency and the draft.
Michael Crabtree is a free agent. Anquan Boldin seems like he's been playing since 1949, but somehow is still effective. Bruce Ellington is ... well, we'll find out. Can the ground game thrive with Carlos Hyde sans Gore? Corners Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox are both free agents. That is problematic. The Darnell Dockett signing helps the D-line rotation, although NT is an area worth hitting further.
That first need up there would change drastically if Ndamukong Suh were to provide a play-with-the-best-D-in-the-league-because-I-feel-like-it discount. Everyone wants the Seahawks to go get a stud wideout. Why? This team darn near went back-to-back without a WR1. Signing a mid-tier guy makes sense. CB Byron Maxwell needs to be replaced.
Before you freak out, I have quarterback listed second because ... well, exactly who would the Bucs go after in the free-agent marketplace? After the failed Josh McCown experiment, it's probably going to be Mike Glennon vs. draft pick there. Offensive line is a need on multiple fronts. (Did you watch Tampa Bay last year?) Pass rush, too.
Do I think the Redskins need a quarterback? Absolutely. Do they? And, like I just said in the Bucs blurb, who are they going to go after at that position in this market? For this team, secondary trumps all. Corner is a huge need. Safety? Even bigger. (Washington can at least start Bashaud Breeland and David Amerson at CB.)