Every NFL Team’s 2019 Offseason To-Do List

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Every NFL Team’s 2019 Offseason To-Do List

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    While the offseason might seem like an excruciating slog to fans, it’s an unending sprint of important landmarks for NFL teams that hope to craft a competitive roster before the next season begins. 

    It is only February, and it seems like the New England Patriots lifted the Lombardi Trophy mere days ago, yet the NFL draft process has already barreled through the Senior Bowl and Shrine week. The combine, pro days, tag season and free agency, to name a few big stops along the process before training camp, will come and go just as quickly. 

    That’s a lot for teams to juggle, and those who organize and attack those events best will often see the most appreciable gains in the win column. Rest assured Bill Belichick already has those Patriots humming along, whereas one team still hasn’t found a defensive coordinator (Cincinnati).

    Below, let’s attempt to outline the optimal blueprint for each NFL team. While taken on a case-by-case basis, rebuilding franchises will usually spend more money or take risks, whereas would-be contenders will dial in on talent retention and need-filling through free agency and the draft. 

         

1 of 32

    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Draft Nick Bosa 
  • Attack offensive line in free agency  
  • Surround Josh Rosen with weapons 

The Kliff Kingsbury era for the Arizona Cardinals starts with the top overall pick, where outside drafting a quarterback or running back, the team can’t go wrong. 

Arizona is stuck in the NFL’s biggest rebuild, so the offseason has to center on making sure Rosen succeeds under center. This means taking the best player available at No. 1, Nick Bosa, as he can help fix one set of trenches. 

But the trenches in front of Rosen are arguably more important after he took 45 sacks in 14 games. With names such as Donovan Smith and others headed to free agency, the Cardinals don’t have an excuse to ignore the offensive line. 

Generally speaking, they need to get as much talent around Rosen as possible. This can mean grabbing veteran receivers on the open market or drafting for the future behind Larry Fitzgerald.

2 of 32

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    To-Do List: 

  • Get Grady Jarrett under contract 
  • Reshape offensive line 
  • Add pass-rushers

Coordinator Dirk Koetter is responsible for getting the most out of the Atlanta Falcons’ vast array of weapons, which might be easier than it sounds if said weapons can stay healthy. 

But bigger moves will need to happen, too. The Falcons can’t afford to lose six-sack man Jarrett as he steps into his prime and perhaps has yet to hit a massive ceiling. The 25-year-old is a game-changing presence on the interior, and regardless of price, losing him in the middle would set the entire unit back. 

The offensive line needs a massive overhaul, too, with arguably four spots that need addressing. Free agency has notable names available, and the Falcons’ No. 14 overall pick could net them a player such as Jawaan Taylor or Cody Ford. 

Pressure will be key as well, so last year’s 37 sacks won’t cut it. With Jarrett back, the Falcons will need to focus on at least drafting rotational rushers. 

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Bring back Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs
  • Add offensive playmakers  
  • Beef up interior offensive line

Trading quarterback Joe Flacco would have been one of the bigger talking points for the Baltimore Ravens. 

With that out of the way, the Ravens can focus on getting Smith and Suggs back under contract. The former is entering his prime at age 26 and is coming off 8.5 sacks, and the latter might be 36 but posted seven of his own. 

Getting those guys back is a holding-pattern move so the offense around Lamar Jackson can get a huge boost. James Hurst and others struggled massively on the interior of the offensive line last year, and the skill players who flank the young quarterback aren’t anything to get excited about. 

Needing versatile backs and big-play wideouts, the Ravens have to give most of their attention to Jackson’s success and development. 

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Rebuild the offensive line 
  • Cut LeSean McCoy
  • Focus asset expenditure on propping up Josh Allen

Notice a trend? 

The Buffalo Bills also have a young quarterback worth rallying around but a serious problem in the offensive trenches. Center Ryan Groy, right guard John Miller and right tackle Jordan Mills are all headed to free agency, which isn’t such a bad thing. 

Buffalo’s premium picks need to address as many spots on the offensive line as possible, and some big-money gambles in free agency wouldn’t hurt either. Unfortunately, the situations at wideout and tight end aren’t encouraging, but if Allen can stay upright, maybe he’ll help guys emerge. 

It might sound counterintuitive to cut McCoy given the above, but doing so would save $6.5 million. Buffalo being Buffalo and undergoing a serious rebuild means the front office will need as much free cap space as possible. 

5 of 32

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Acquire an edge-rusher 
  • Patch other holes in both lines 
  • Find quarterback help

The Carolina Panthers already tackled one major need this offseason by wrapping up Eric Reid on a three-year, $22 million extension. 

Now the real work can begin. 

Julius Peppers has retired, and the team only had 35 sacks last year anyway, so an elite edge-rushing prospect at No. 16 makes plenty of sense, though it isn’t a bad year to spend money in free agency, either. 

The D-line’s interior could use assistance given that Dontari Poe couldn’t help stop the bleeding against the run. And several big names along their offensive line are free agents. 

Which, of course, leads to the Cam Newton situation and his January shoulder surgery. The Panthers can’t afford to turn back to a Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen if something happens again.

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Find a kicker
  • Bring back the defensive backfield studs 
  • Stack the deck with pass-rushers 

At the risk of making Chicago Bears fans hurt too much: The team needs to make a move at kicker. Cody Parkey, among other things, missed seven kicks during the regular season. 

Elsewhere, the Bears should want to keep the gang together on defense, which means getting breakout performers such as safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Bryce Callahan back under contract. 

This could lead the Bears to gobble up some pass-rushing prospects or veterans, because while Khalil Mack is technically a one-man show, adding rushing talent opposite him could still help. Leonard Floyd, the ninth pick in 2016, only tallied four sacks in 2018 over his first full 16-game campaign. 

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Revamp the linebacker unit 
  • Upgrade at tight end
  • Find right-side offensive line starters

New Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has to clean up the old regime’s mess. 

The first big problem is arguably the league’s worst linebacker unit. Vontaze Burfict looks like a cut candidate, and Preston Brown is a free agent, so finding two new starters is a must. This can happen at pick No. 11 and in free agency—especially thanks to a deep class for the latter. 

Tight end will continue to hold back the Bengals if they keep leaning on Tyler Eifert, too. Even if they bring him back on another one-year prove-it deal, a high draft asset or big money should to go toward spacing the offense with a threat at the position. 

Both spots to the right of 2018 first-round center Billy Price need do-overs, too. Realistically, the Bengals needed to reset at four of the five O-line positions this time last year and ended up drafting Price and trading for Cordy Glenn. That leaves the two spots on the right side in need of starter-caliber play, or Taylor—a Sean McVay understudy—and his offensive acumen won’t matter much. 

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Boost the run defense
  • Feed Baker Mayfield weapons
  • Bring back Briean Boddy-Calhoun, other free agents

The Cleveland Browns got started on the second point by rolling the dice on Kareem Hunt. 

That’s great from a talent perspective, but Hunt isn’t a big-play wideout who can change games. Mayfield needs one of those alongside Jarvis Landry to open things up. 

Defensively, the Browns ranked 28th against the rush last year, so interior defensive line or linebacker talent—if not both—is a must. 

Cleveland needs to retain its swelling talent base, too. On the Boddy-Calhoun front, keep in mind Denzel Ward suffered a pair of concussions last year and Terrance Mitchell broke an arm, so they shouldn’t let young secondary talent walk.

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Upgrade safety
  • Gun for a top tight end 
  • Find a starting-caliber tackle

Earl Thomas, anyone? 

Thomas is a free agent and has been a fun speculatory point regarding the Dallas Cowboys for a few years. Those Cowboys just happen to need a new starter in the defensive backfield to at least replace Jeff Heath. If not Thomas, they’ll need somebody else. 

There’s a similar story with tight end, which is one of Dak Prescott’s favorite targets. Geoff Swaim only turned nine games into 242 yards and a score last season, so the Cowboys have to find somebody who can capitalize on all the attention defenses will throw at Amari Cooper. 

Offensive tackle is also an issue for the Cowboys, as Cameron Fleming was underwhelming in spot duty. Adding a possible starter on the right side will do much to keep Prescott healthy. 

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Draft a quarterback 
  • Fix defensive line’s interior 
  • Revamp offensive line 

The Denver Broncos seem all-in on the Flacco train, which is great, but it’s a short-term move with little upside. 

If the Broncos want to stack the odds in their favor, drafting another signal-caller makes sense. This doesn’t have to happen in the first round, as a developmental player to learn from Flacco would fit in fine. 

The first-round pick might have to go toward fixing the heart of the defense, anyway. Domata Peko is a free agent, and the unit ranked outside the top 20 against the run last season. 

Also problematic is the offensive trench. Tackle Jared Veldheer and center Matt Paradis are free agents, and one could argue the two guard spots need upgrades. A potential franchise quarterback won’t last long given that outlook. 

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Replace Ezekiel Ansah
  • Find the right tight end 
  • Upgrade cornerback 

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia doesn’t figure to care much for bringing back Ezekiel Ansah, who’ll get a huge contract on the open market despite an inability to stay on the field consistently. 

The Lions can fix this by splurging on a deep free-agent class or addressing the gap with the No. 8 pick. Either way, the middling defense can’t afford to go without a premier pass-rusher. 

Having to watch tight end Eric Ebron excel in Indianapolis painted a  sour picture for the Lions, who drafted him No. 10 in 2014. They have to get somebody with more upside than last year’s weird tandem of Levine Toilolo and Luke Willson, or the offense won’t improve much. 

Back on the defensive side, Nevin Lawson turned out to be a nice find at cornerback. But overall, that positional group in particular had problems meeting the level of play necessary to compete in a division that boasts Aaron Rodgers and other talented quarterbacks. 

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Spend at safety 
  • Redo the edge-rushing outlook 
  • Tight end 

Head coach Matt LaFleur has a big task in front of him in finding a similar mindset to Rodgers’. 

Beyond that, the Packers gave up an even 25 points per game last year while struggling in the defensive backfield despite being comfortable enough to trade safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. With a rare strong free-agent class featuring Thomas, as well as two first-round picks in tow, Green Bay has to do something there. 

Ditto for pass rushing. Clay Matthews is a free agent, and Nick Perry isn’t living up to his $14.4 million cap hit. Given the talent in free agency and the first round, there’s no excuse for the Packers to sit on their hands. The same applies to tight end after Jimmy Graham‘s arrival produced a thud to the tune of 55 catches on 89 targets for 636 yards and two scores. 

13 of 32

    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Fix the offensive line
  • Bring back Tyrann Mathieu
  • Replace pass-rushing production

The Houston Texans should use their first two picks to address the offensive line. 

Deshaun Watson, after all, took 62 sacks last season. Some of that was on him, but most of it was on the league’s worst line. Hardly anyone should be safe as the Texans go nuclear on the unit. 

This shouldn’t distract the team from bringing back Mathieu or at the very least attempting to replace some of Jadeveon Clowney‘s production. Houston should reward Mathieu for his solid play last year after he bet on himself on a one-year deal. A deep free-agent class means the Texans could avoid doling out major cash to Clowney, a free agent, while also recouping a chunk of his pass-rushing productivity. 

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Add talent to the secondary 
  • Get Andrew Luck a reliable target 
  • Add pass-rushers

Darius Leonard led one of the NFL’s most surprising defensive turnarounds for the Indianapolis Colts last year. 

But Leonard can only do so much while covering for a secondary that was mediocre at best outside Pierre Desir. And no Colts defender tallied double-digit sacks, so going after a productive player or two in that arena makes sense. 

Luck could also use help after receiver played well next to T.Y. Hilton. Even if this is overpaying for Golden Tate or a similar receiver, a proven producer would be great. 

Luckily for the Colts, they have the league’s highest free-cap number and can afford to not only pay the market’s best wideout but can even gun for a Clowney or Demarcus Lawrence to boost defensive pressure. 

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Address quarterback 
  • Add a big-play tight end
  • Upgrade offensive trenches

The Jacksonville Jaguars are in perhaps the oddest position of any team. On one hand, it looks like the Jags could be a playoff contender if they add the right player under center. On the other, a complete rebuild wouldn’t be out of the question. 

Either way, it starts at quarterback. Blake Bortles fizzled again last season, losing snaps to Cody Kessler. The Jaguars have to either invest in a signal-caller on draft day or go after a free-agent option such as Teddy Bridgewater or possibly Nick Foles

But it can’t stop there. Tight end is a dead zone of a position on the roster, with James O’Shaughnessy leading the team in receiving there last season—on 24 catches (fifth on the club). A veteran or impressionable rookie will need a big-play artist there. 

Up front, A.J. Cann is a free agent, and players on the left side of the O-line got hurt, so outright starters and an uptick in depth quality are a must if the offense hopes to carry its weight.

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Replace or bring back Dee Ford
  • Repeat with Orlando Scandrick
  • Move or restructure Eric Berry and Justin Houston

Things aren’t perfect on the offensive side for the Kansas City Chiefs, but Patrick Mahomes sure makes it easy to focus on the defense. 

That’s good, as the Chiefs have problems. Ford heads to the open market after he tallied 13 sacks and should land one of the bigger deals of free agency. Kansas City has to decide whether it can pay him, and if not, counterbalancing the loss with a lesser free agent is a must. 

While Scandrick wasn’t amazing last year, the market and draft don’t look too hot for cornerbacks. If the Chiefs don’t bring him back, a first-round corner should be a priority. 

Wrapping it up, the Chiefs are looking at a $16.5 million cap hit for Berry next season and a $20.6 million hit for Houston. With the former hurt (heel) and the latter fading at age 30, clearing the books to afford a guy like Ford is a forward-thinking move the Chiefs need to consider. 

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Bring back Darius Philon
  • Add to the defensive interior
  • Upgrade offensive tackle

With Philip Rivers still humming along and blue-chip defensive centerpieces in tow, the Los Angeles Chargers are free to attack the trenches. 

The first priority should be getting Philon back under contract. He’s only 25 and a solid interior disruptor on the D-line. Keep in mind both Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget are also free agents, so bolstering the rotation up front while Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram apply pressure is a must. 

Sam Tevi on the right side was a weak point for the offensive line, so the Chargers might want to consider at least grabbing a plug-and-play prospect in the first round—no quality tackles make it to free agency anymore, anyway.

18 of 32

    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Upgrade edge-rusher 
  • Add a safety 
  • Get help for Aaron Donald

The Los Angeles Rams aren’t strangers to massive moves, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see them aim at the top of the mountain of edge-rushers. 

The Rams tried to get Wade Phillips’ scheme a pass-rusher last season with the move for Dante Fowler Jr., which was underwhelming. Maybe paying big money to Demarcus Lawrence or otherwise would be smart, as it would help the entire unit.

Behind the pass-rushers, the secondary will need to compensate for the possible loss of safety Lamarcus Joyner, who’ll head to market again. A solid draft class for safeties could mean a good value pick late in the first round. 

Ndamukong Suh will also head to free agency after a so-so showing, so adding a lane-clogger next to Donald has to make the short list. 

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Move on from Ryan Tannehill 
  • Save salary space 
  • Improve offensive line

The Miami Dolphins are heading into a massive rebuild.

As rebuilds tend to, it starts under center. Tannehill is going on 31 years old and just had another injury-shortened season. He’s still an interesting trade chip for some team that thinks it can figure him out, so unloading him and going after a Bridgewater in free agency or using the No. 13 pick on the position is a must. 

Speaking of shedding salary, the Dolphins only have about $11 million in cap space but a ton of cash tied up in underperformers. Tannehill is one ($26 million cap hit in 2019), but so is DeVante Parker ($9.3 million), Danny Amendola ($6 million) and Andre Branch ($9 million), to name a few. Tossing bad expenditures by the wayside and bringing in a new approach is part of the process. 

Likewise, an offensive line that coughed up 52 sacks last year and hasn’t kept its quarterback healthy needs to be revamped. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Dolphins should let a tackle like Ja’Wuan James walk in free agency, but an upgrade there and multiple others along the interior will need to occur in front of a potential franchise passer. 

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Nuclear option on the offensive line
  • Find a third option 
  • Retain core free agents 

The Minnesota Vikings committed the biggest sin of all: acquiring what they hope is a franchise quarterback without taking the offensive trenches seriously. 

Kirk Cousins was mediocre as a result, struggling under the spotlight as usual while taking 40 sacks over 16 games. The interior of the offensive line is a disaster, which could mean a move to guard for left tackle Riley Reiff, who struggled as well. If that happens, a left tackle prospect in the first round has to follow, though it shouldn’t mean the Vikings stop drafting linemen there. 

While Cousins got the big money (three years, $84 million), the offense needs to flow through ubertalented running back Dalvin Cook. But this would require a quality third receiving option behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. It’s currently tight end Kyle Rudolph, but he’s not as dynamic as he used to be (just four scores in 2018). Whether it comes via spending cash on a tight end or drafting a third wideout in the middle rounds, the Vikings need a space-creator. 

All this attention on the offense means a holding pattern on the defense, where contributors Sheldon Richardson and Anthony Barr are set for free agency. Retaining those two under the watchful eye of Mike Zimmer while the offense fixes its problems is the likely process. 

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Future tight end 
  • Replace pass-rushing production 
  • Quarterback 

What does a team with everything need? 

Quite a bit, actually. The New England Patriots would be wise to find starter-quality depth behind tight end Rob Gronkowski. While few tight ends can change the game in the way he can as a blocker, Gronk is going on 30 years old and had another injury-riddled season while only catching three scores. 

The Patriots could also lose prominent defender Trey Flowers—a Swiss army knife of a player who applies pressure in underrated ways yet also stands stout against the run. Grooming the next Flowers would be a difficult ask. 

And as always, the Patriots need to think about the future after Tom Brady retires. It’s presumably a one- to three-year window, which aligns nicely with a rookie deal. 

Overall, the Patriots are fortunate the upcoming draft class is flush with tight ends and edge defenders and has some interesting middle-round targets under center. 

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Upgrade tight end  
  • More weapons
  • Long-term quarterback  

The quest to go all-in around Drew Brees‘ final seasons continues. 

For the New Orleans Saints to do so, they’ll need a better starter at tight end than a Josh Hill or Dan Arnold after Benjamin Watson’s retirement. It is a deep position in the draft, and Brees can help anyone along, so it should work out. 

But why stop there? The Saints didn’t have anyone notable on the receiving depth chart by season’s end after Michael Thomas—to the point they rolled the dice on Dez Bryant, who immediately got hurt. They could lean on Cameron Meredith again, who showed serious promise in Chicago before he hurt his knee in New Orleans, but the better idea is coughing up cap space for a well-known player like a Golden Tate. 

Like the Patriots with Brady, the Saints need to have an eye on Brees’ shelf life. It is hard to imagine Bridgewater wants to stick around on the bench for another year or two, so drafting a QB needs to be a priority. 

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Find Eli Manning’s replacement
  • Get offensive tackle right 
  • Retain Landon Collins or find someone similar

All the spectacular weapons surrounding the quarterback position don’t mean much for the New York Giants if said quarterback isn’t effective. 

The Giants still seem all-in on the idea of riding Eli Manning, which makes sense when one considers the other option is Kyle Lauletta. If the Giants don’t make a big splash for a rookie, they need to at least be thinking about the long term in the middle rounds. 

But the offensive line isn’t ready for a rookie anyway. Nate Solder was a decent stopgap solution, yet the Giants still allowed 47 sacks. Getting the ball out faster and better use of the team’s weapons would help, but it’s no secret New York could use two new long-term tackles. 

The team also looks poised to lose Collins at one of the league’s premier positions. He’s only 25, so coughing up the necessary cash to keep him wouldn’t come as a surprise. But if the Giants don’t want to spend, then free agency has lesser choices, and the draft is always an option. 

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Upgrade wideout
  • Upgrade tight end 
  • Upgrade running back

So begins the push to make sure Sam Darnold succeeds—because it sure isn’t happening with the current roster.

Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse were uninspiring at wideout, with only one (Anderson) catching more than a single touchdown. Coughing up cash for a reliable veteran to help Darnold would be a solid move, but grabbing a prospect with big upside is also necessary. 

Tight end should get similar treatment. Chris Herndon, a 2018 fourth-round pick, has some serious upside. But adding a prominent veteran and/or grabbing more upside in the draft to develop alongside Darnold would only increase the chances the signal-caller excels. 

Then there is running back, where Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell were also as uninspiring (this was assuredly the last team picked in Madden at all times). Blowing massive cap space on a Le’Veon Bell wouldn’t be the worst move in the world while Darnold develops, but given the nature of the position, the Jets could find a viable starter in the middle rounds of the draft, too. 

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Restock on pass-rushers
  • Rebuild at wideout 
  • Follow best-player-available approach

The Jon Gruden element makes the Oakland Raiders the NFL’s most unpredictable team. 

If the Raiders are content with quarterback Derek Carr for at least another year, they should try to recapture some of the immense value lost in the Khalil Mack trade. A trio of first-round picks could help the pass rush, and quite a bit of assistance is necessary after the team only registered 13 sacks last year. 

Gruden and the front office also have to worry about the hole left by Amari Cooper’s successful move to Dallas. Jared Cook, a tight end, led the team with 896 yards receiving last year. Two of the three top receivers were non-wideouts—the exception being 33-year-old Jordy Nelson

And generally speaking, a team that’s facing this big of a rebuild needs to take a best-player-available approach and stock up on talent. This should align with need often, given the Raiders’ problems, but even taking someone at a position of strength, such as the interior of the defensive line, shouldn’t be out of the question. 

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Find a long-term plan at left tackle
  • Upgrade cornerback 
  • Nail down running back 

Jason Peters is 37 years old, so the Philadelphia Eagles need to be serious about a replacement this offseason or it won’t end up mattering if the front office picked Carson Wentz or Foles at quarterback. 

With any luck, the Eagles won’t take the same approach with Peters as they did at cornerback. Ronald Darby is a free agent, and middle- to late-round gambles like Avonte Maddox (fourth round) and Jalen Mills (seventh) have face-planted. The Eagles need to treat it like the premium position it is and splurge on a top free agent or get one high in the draft. 

Running back wasn’t much more encouraging with Wendell Smallwood and a hodgepodge of others leading the charge. A proven veteran such as a Mark Ingram II might be a good idea in free agency, though good names should fall on draft day, too. 

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Prioritize linebacker 
  • Spend at corner 
  • Solve the wideout problem

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense hasn’t been the same since Ryan Shazier’s December 2017 injury, and no amount of adjustments can fix it. Steelers linebackers struggle in coverage and are a part of the opponent’s game plan, so the team could address the position at pick No. 20. 

But drafting has been part of the problem, even at outside linebacker, as Bud Dupree hasn’t been reliable despite being a first-round selection in 2015. The same problem persists at cornerback, where 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns has been mostly miserable. Gambling on a Morris Claiborne or otherwise in free agency might be the only way to get assured production there. 

Of course, there is also the Antonio Brown problem. If the front office doesn’t think the tandem of 
JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington can carry the load, the area needs to be hit at least once in free agency or early in the draft, as losing Brown and Le’Veon Bell in one offseason is a major issue. 

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    Darryl Webb/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Take edge-rusher at No. 2
  • Grab the best secondary leader possible 
  • Make a big splash on offense

No excuses: The San Francisco 49ers have to add a premium edge-rushing talent with the second pick. 

The 49ers seemed like an obvious trade partner with the Raiders for Mack given the poor state of the pass rush. They didn’t land him and then cobbled together 37 sacks last season, as 2017 top-three pick Solomon Thomas tallied just one—down from his three as a rookie. Ohio State’s Nick Bosa seems like the obvious answer. 

The secondary also needs help after the entire unit allowed 27.2 points per game. Richard Sherman, 30, isn’t getting any younger, and both free agency and the draft offer plenty of affordable options at both cornerback and safety. 

Given the fact that a franchise quarterback already seems locked down with Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco should make a big move for a Le’Veon Bell or a wideout like Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. This is the same front office that gave Jerick McKinnon a massive deal, so it isn’t afraid to pull off something big.

If one of these items presents itself, the 49ers have nothing to lose. 

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Retain Frank Clark 
  • Draft a guard 
  • Add a run-stuffing tackle

The Seattle Seahawks should bring back Frank Clark at almost any price. He’s only 25 and put up 13 sacks a season ago—the third year in a row he’s had at least nine. But even if he returns, the defensive line would just be Clark and a bunch of middling talents. 

A run-stopping tackle is also a must, as the Seahawks coughed up nearly five yards per rush last season. He doesn’t have to be flashy, but he does need to be effective so the defensive rebuild can proceed. 

On the other side of the ball, guards D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy are free agents. The protection in front of Russell Wilson wasn’t as bad as it had been, but the replaceable performances of those two suggest the Seahawks might as well get a prospect on a cheap rookie deal—perhaps as early as the first round. 

That, too, would help last year’s first-rounder, running back Rashaad Penny.

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Retain Donovan Smith
  • Prioritize pressure
  • Spend at safety 

Bruce Arians seems ready to give one more shot to an embattled Jameis Winston, so the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to keep the passer safe. 

To that end, bringing back Smith is the offseason’s biggest need. Teams rarely let starting-caliber tackles slip to market because the college game isn’t producing those at a consistent clip. Whether it is via a tag or otherwise, the Buccaneers can’t let the veteran get away. 

Retaining him will let the Buccaneers draft an elite pass-rushing prospect at No. 5. The all-in gamble on the trio of Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry and Vita Vea had middling results in this area last year, resulting in just 38 team sacks, as JPP did the heavy lifting with 12.5. Another premier edge-rushing prospect would create a ripple effect on the rest of the unit. 

Even then, safety will still be a problem. The Buccaneers have a ton of names at the spot but little in the way of a surefire starter. A solid free-agent class poses a good avenue for improvement, as does the early second round. 

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Get Harold Landry a running mate 
  • Find a consistent wideout 
  • Address the defensive interior

It’s too early to throw in the towel on 25-year-old quarterback Marcus Mariota, so the Tennessee Titans need to focus elsewhere. 

With Derrick Morgan headed to free agency and Brian Orakpo retiring, the Titans need to grab somebody who can win matchups opposite Landry. The defense already has an interior disruptor thanks to Jurrell Casey, so a top-20 pass-rusher or big free agent would work wonders. 

Mariota needs a viable second option, too. With Corey Davis blossoming, a veteran like Tate or even Adam Humphries would fit nicely and give the passing game a consistent option at wideout. 

Nose tackle Bennie Logan is also on his way to free agency, so grabbing a run-plugging player to start next to Casey will keep that part of the unit humming. 

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    To-Do List: 

  • Figure out quarterback 
  • Nail down a productive receiver 
  • Find a starting guard 

Alex Smith’s leg injury threw a serious wrench in the Washington Redskins’ plans, leaving the team with Colt McCoy as the starter in the interim (though he’s rehabbing a broken leg) and leaving the future cloudy if they don’t make a move. 

Said move can happen in free agency with a Bridgewater, via trade with a Tannehill or even with the No. 15 pick. The team has to do something, because a superb defense and strong running game look ready to win with some help. 

That said, wideout is a problem. Josh Doctson, a first-round pick in 2016, caught 44 passes on 78 targets last year during a supposed potential breakout season. Free-agent addition Paul Richardson didn’t live up to his contract, playing in seven games. Whatever avenue the Redskins take under center, the remaining assets need to be used to address the weapons around the position. 

Don’t forget guard, where Brandon Scherff is one of the NFL’s best on the right side but the team keeps going back to Shawn Lauvao on the left and getting mediocre results. Eliminating that problem can boost what is otherwise one of the NFL’s best units. 

          

Salary cap info provided by Spotrac.

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