Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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2018 NFL Team Needs

Monday, February 5, 2018



Los Angeles Chargers

Linebacker: Hamstring and ankle injuries have cost WLB Denzel Perryman 13 games over the past two seasons. In Gus Bradley’s scheme, starting jobs at middle and strong-side linebacker are up for grabs. Despite one of the NFL’s most-talented fronts keyed by Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Corey Liuget, the Chargers finished a lowly 27th in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA due in large part to substandard linebacker play.

Defensive Line: Bosa, Ingram, and Liuget are all signed long term and give the Bolts a defensive bedrock complemented by CBs Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King, arguably the NFL’s deepest cornerback room. NT Brandon Mebane is falling off at age 33, however, and Los Angeles is short on depth behind its three D-Line studs. The Bolts could use another run stuffer and at least one more pass rusher, either on the interior or off the edge.

Quarterback: Philip Rivers has two years left on his deal and is still playing at a high level, but his ability to stretch the field has waned. The time is right to begin grooming a quarterback for the future on a talented roster. With that said, the Chargers may hold off on drafting an early-round signal caller for one more year. In that understandable case, hunting for free safety help and competition for C Spencer Pulley would address more immediate needs. Oh, and about that kicker dilemma.

Los Angeles Rams

Secondary: Stud LCB Trumaine Johnson and slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman are unrestricted free agents coming off strong years. Free agent FS Lamarcus Joyner is set to become one of the highest-paid safeties in the league. RCB Kayvon Webster tore his Achilles’ in December and probably won’t be ready for the season. If the Broncos cut LCB Aqib Talib as some around the league expect, the Rams would be a sensible landing spot, reuniting Talib with ex-Denver DC Wade Phillips.

Defensive Front Seven: The Rams have two individual stars in the front seven (DT Aaron Donald, EDGE Robert Quinn) and several plus contributors (DE Michael Brockers, underrated OLB Matt Longacre, NT/DE Ethan Westbrooks, ILBs Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree). With OLB Connor Barwin’s contract up, this unit still needs another outside pass rusher to complement Quinn and general defensive line depth.

Interior Offensive Line: I almost went wide receiver as the Rams’ No. 3 need; they’ll have to find a field stretcher for Sean McVay’s “DeSean Jackson Role” if free agent Sammy Watkins gets away. Beat writers expect Los Angeles to retain Watkins with the franchise tag. Up front, 33-year-old stopgap C John Sullivan’s contract expires and RG Jamon Brown will likely face competition.

Miami Dolphins

Offensive Line: Laremy Tunsil surprisingly struggled in his transition from guard to left tackle. Injuries cost RT Ja’Wuan James 17 games over the past three seasons. James is now entering a contract year. Both guard positions are perennial liabilities in Miami, and nothing changed there in 2017.

Pass Catcher: One hallmark of coach Adam Gase’s offense is a mismatch-creating pass-catching tight end, a role Julius Thomas so unsuccessfully filled last season that he is considered a lock to be released. The Dolphins’ need for a chain-moving presence is enhanced by Jarvis Landry’s potential free-agent exit, although the team seems high on Jakeem Grant as a slot receiver prospect. Jimmy Graham, Trey Burton, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Tyler Eifert are the top tight ends on the free-agent market.

Quarterback: I could have gone a number of ways here. Cornerback help, a running back to pair with Kenyan Drake, and defensive line reinforcements should be included on EVP Mike Tannenbaum’s to-do list. Quarterback is the most important position in pro sports, however, and Miami’s quarterback future is murky. Both Jay Cutler and Matt Moore are free agents, and neither is a short- or long-term solution. How will Ryan Tannehill’s knee bounce back after he missed all of 2017? Unless they have the utmost confidence in Tannehill, a quarterback should be in play at the Dolphins’ No. 11 overall pick.

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback: As Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Bradford are all up for free agency, the Vikings’ quarterback depth chart is currently rounded out by 2017 UDFA Kyle Sloter. Re-signing any of those signal callers remains in play, but this would be a homerun landing spot for Kirk Cousins.

Interior Offensive Line: The Vikings’ O-Line went from offense wrecker in 2016 to competent in 2017, and that improvement was enough for some to deem this a plus unit. The Vikings still have multiple question marks on the interior, particularly with LG Nick Easton and C Pat Elflein coming off ankle surgeries. RG Joe Berger was Minnesota’s best interior blocker last season, but he is a 36-year-old free agent.

Slot Corner: More bodies are also needed on Minnesota’s interior defensive line, where critical rotational DTs Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen are free agents. The Vikings essentially used a slot corner rotation inside of Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes in 2017, mostly playing Terence Newman on early downs and Mackensie Alexander in passing situations. Newman is a free agent entering his age-40 season (literally), and Alexander hasn’t shown quite enough to be gift wrapped the full-time position.

New England Patriots

Defensive Front Seven: The 2017 Patriots fielded what amounted to a rag-tag defensive front. Linebacker will be improved by WLB Dont’a Hightower’s (pectoral) return, although Hightower has now missed 22 games in the past four years. Run defense was a problem for the entire regular season. New England has lacked a dominant pass rusher since trading away Chandler Jones.

Cornerback: The Patriots’ struggles at slot corner and LCB Malcolm Butler’s free agency push cornerback toward the top of their needs. Butler's mysterious Super Bowl benching almost certainly foreshadows his exit. Neither Jonathan Jones nor Eric Rowe ever pinned down nickel duties.

Offensive Tackle: The Patriots will likely use a draft pick on a quarterback, which arguably qualifies as a fourth need. Running back is another needy spot; Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden are all free agents. Due to LT Nate Solder’s free agency and New England’s 2017 revolving door at right tackle, offensive line adjustments are forthcoming, particularly if the Pats let inconsistent Solder walk. Marcus Cannon should return from his ankle injury to solidify right tackle.

New Orleans Saints

Defensive Front Seven: The Saints’ 2017 run defense was rarely exposed because they played with so many leads, but New Orleans finished 23rd in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA, versus ranking fifth against the pass. Free agent DE Alex Okafor sparked the Saints’ early-season pass rush before tearing his Achilles’ in late November. All three Saints starting linebackers are replacement-level contributors. Up front, New Orleans needs another edge rusher and another disruptor inside.

Slot Corner: Free agent Kenny Vaccaro operated as the Saints’ slot corner for most of 2017. P.J. Williams predictably struggled in Vaccaro’s late-season absence, getting torched by the Panthers in the Wild Card Round. Marcus Lattimore and Ken Crawley are gems on the outside, but they need slot help.

Pass Catcher: Despite Drew Brees’ free agency, I left quarterback off this list because Brees has made clear he won’t play anywhere but New Orleans. A pass-catcher upgrade is pressing with Ted Ginn going on age 33 and restricted free agent Willie Snead apparently falling out of favor. Coby Fleener has flopped in New Orleans and may be released.

New York Giants

Quarterback: Albeit without Odell Beckham, Eli Manning set a 13-year low in yards per attempt (6.1) last season and got benched for Geno Smith. Formerly one of the NFL’s most underrated deep throwers, Eli has lost several miles per hour off his fastball. The Giants haven’t drafted inside the top five since Manning entered the league in 2004. They need to draft his replacement at the No. 2 overall pick.

Offensive Line: Both new GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur stated adamantly in January that they believe Eli has good football left. To deliver on that promise, Gettleman will have to surround Manning with better line play. The Giants could afford an overhaul of all five offensive line starters. Top free agent guard Andrew Norwell was an undrafted free agent discovery of Gettleman’s with the Panthers, and might be a good place to start.

Linebacker: Running back with Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen’s contracts up, cornerback, and wide receiver if/when Brandon Marshall is released also qualify as needs for a Giants roster ex-GM Jerry Reese left in patchwork condition. For a team that gets burned annually by tight ends, however, a change in culture at linebacker figures to be prioritized by Gettleman, who oversaw the NFL’s most athletic linebacker units in Carolina. Reese emphasized thumpers over range.

New York Jets

Quarterback: Josh McCown is a free agent going on age 39, leaving Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg, and Joel Stave to round out Gang Green’s quarterback depth chart. Petty has shown nothing to suggest he has more than a backup’s future, and the Jets have been too embarrassed of Hackenberg’s lack of developmental progress to put him on the field. The Jets are expected to be the Broncos’ most competitive suitors for Kirk Cousins.

Pass Rusher: If you can’t rush the passer and cover, you’re probably not going to have a good defense. And the Jets didn’t, finishing 28th in sacks (28) and getting roasted deep; New York allowed the NFL’s second-most 20-plus-yard completions (61). Free agent MLB Demario Davis led the team in sacks (5.0). On the interior and off the edge, the Jets need multiple pass-rush additions.

Cornerback: Inside linebacker, tight end, center, and wide receiver are also need areas on a barren Jets roster. Cornerback offers more positional value for defensive-minded coach Todd Bowles, whose man-coverage background has yet to be fully implemented with the Jets due to deficient cornerback personnel. The Jets have almost nothing to hang their hat on at corner.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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