Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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2018 NFL Team Needs

Monday, February 5, 2018



Oakland Raiders

Defense: Literally every position group on the Raiders’ defense needs upgrading. Oakland doesn’t get enough pass rush from anywhere but OLB Khalil Mack, and the Raiders’ run defense has been middling at best for years. Navorro Bowman improved Oakland’s inside linebacker play late last season, but his contract is up. With slot CB T.J. Carrie also headed for free agency, all five nickel-package jobs in the secondary should be up for competitive grabs.

Offensive Tackle: LT Donald Penn is still playing at a high level, but he turns 35 in April and is coming off foot surgery. RT Marshall Newhouse is the one major weakness on the Raiders’ line.

Wide Receiver: The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in December that the Raiders plan to move on from Michael Crabtree for a combination of production and locker-room concerns. Otherwise, Oakland lacks starting-caliber wide receivers aside from Amari Cooper. Wideout would remain a need even if Crabtree stays.

Philadelphia Eagles

Linebacker: MLB Jordan Hicks’ return will theoretically help, but Hicks is coming off a torn Achilles’ and has struggled to stay healthy since college. WLB Nigel Bradham is a free agent, and the Eagles have been trying to trade SLB Mychal Kendricks for years.

Running Back: LeGarrette Blount and 35-year-old Darren Sproles (ACL) are free agents. The Eagles have Jay Ajayi for one more year. Ajayi likely isn’t an extension candidate due to his past knee woes. Coach Doug Pederson has preferred committees over feature backs in Philadelphia.

Offensive Tackle: LT Jason Peters says he plans to play in 2018, but he tore his ACL and MCL last October and just turned 36. Lane Johnson is the Eagles’ left tackle of the future, and Peters fill-in Halapoulivaati Vaitai is better suited for a swing-reserve role.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Running Back: The Steelers can obviously shore up this need by retaining Le’Veon Bell, who claimed he’d consider retiring if franchise tagged again. The Steelers later leaked word Bell showed up late to games and Pittsburgh’s pre-Divisional Round walkthrough before losing to the Jaguars. 2017 third-round pick James Conner mixed promising moments with too many mistakes as a rookie, then underwent MCL surgery in December. Even if Bell returns, this has become a thin position in Pittsburgh.

Linebacker: The Steelers’ defense collapsed after losing ILB Ryan Shazier to a scary spinal injury in Week 13. Shazier’s career is in doubt. On the edge, 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree has been a disappointment and should face competition for his starting job. Dupree shouldn’t have been playing over James Harrison.

Safety: Steelers FS Mike Mitchell is uncertain to return at his $5 million salary, and SS Sean Davis finished dead last (89th of 89) in Pro Football Focus’ safety grades. Pittsburgh had far too many defensive breakdowns that resulted in big plays in the second half of last year. Many were on the safeties.

San Francisco 49ers

Interior Offensive Line: C Daniel Kilgore and RG Brandon Fusco’s contracts are up after both had rough 2017 seasons, and LG Laken Tomlinson should face competition to keep his job. OTs Joe Staley and Trent Brown could use better injury luck, but both are quality starters when on the field. This is coach Kyle Shanahan’s opportunity to remake San Francisco’s interior line with athletic zone blockers.

Cornerback: Shanahan and GM John Lynch had a successful first offseason, but the roster Trent Baalke left them was so barren the 49ers remain long on needs. San Francisco could use a plus-sized “X” receiver to upgrade their downfield and red-zone passing games, running back help if free agent Carlos Hyde walks, and more linebacker talent next to MLB Reuben Foster, who is already in the NFL’s substance-abuse program and got busted for marijuana possession in January. At corner, the Niners have even less to hang their hats on, although 2017 third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon held his own in a starting role down the stretch. At very least, the 49ers need to find a starter opposite him.

Edge Pass Rusher: Even though Jimmy Garoppolo is presently unsigned, I left quarterback off the 49ers’ needs list because Garoppolo isn’t going anywhere, and in a worst-case scenario will be franchise tagged. Beginning at corner and extending to outside pass rusher, the 49ers’ pass defense needs a major talent injection after the team finished 27th in sacks (30) and 28th in pass-defense DVOA. With Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas entrenched as defensive line building blocks, the 49ers could quickly morph their front into one of the NFL’s nastiest by landing a true edge rusher.

Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Guard: The Seahawks acquired LT Duane Brown with another year left on his deal and will get back George Fant (ACL) to compete with struggling RT Germain Ifedi. Steady C Justin Britt is signed through 2020. Top guard candidates Ethan Pocic and Rees Odhiambo were both major 2017 liabilities. The Seahawks need to prioritize adding a veteran to stabilize their interior line.

Defensive Line: Seahawks DE Cliff Avril’s (neck) career is in doubt, DL Michael Bennett believes he’ll be released, and stud DT Sheldon Richardson is a free agent. 2017 top draft pick Malik McDowell missed his entire rookie year following an ATV accident, then was arrested in December outside of a bar. The Seahawks may have found a gem in DE Dion Jordan, but Jordan is not signed for 2018. Long a team strength, Seattle can’t afford to let its defensive line wither away, which at this point is a real possibility.

Pass Catcher: Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson, and Luke Willson’s contracts are up, leaving Nick Vannett atop the tight end depth chart and Amara Darboh and Tanner McEvoy as third receiver candidates behind Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Lockett hasn’t been the same since breaking his leg toward the end of the 2016 season, and shouldn’t be counted on as a starter. Seattle’s needs extend to defensive back depending on LCB Richard Sherman (Achilles’) and SS Kam Chancellor’s (neck) futures. The Seahawks have theoretical running back depth in Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise, Mike Davis, Thomas Rawls, and J.D. McKissic, but no clear backfield solution.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defensive Back: The Bucs must find multiple starters in the secondary with FS Keith Tandy and LCB Brent Grimes’ contracts up and 2016 first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves underperforming through two seasons. The coaching staff spoke openly after the season about the possibility Hargreaves would be better suited at slot corner long term. Tampa Bay finished 31st in pass-defense DVOA and will likely undergo an offseason overhaul in the secondary.

Running Back: Doug Martin will be released and Charles Sims is a free agent, leaving Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers as the Bucs’ only two backs signed for the 2018 season. Tampa Bay was heavily linked to Dalvin Cook before last year’s draft. Expect at least two running back additions.

Offensive Guard: With LG Kevin Pamphile and his backup Evan Smith headed to free agency, the Bucs’ left guard job is wide open. RG J.R. Sweezy has also been discussed as a release candidate. Sweezy missed all of 2016 due to back surgery, then struggled mightily in his 2017 return. A fourth Bucs need is defensive line, where 2017 free agent pickup DT Chris Baker disappointed and another speed rusher would come in handy off the edge.

Tennessee Titans

Offensive Line: What was a 2016 strength could become a weakness quickly if the Titans don’t keep supplementing their line. RT Jack Conklin tore his ACL in the playoffs and is probably a long shot to be ready for Week 1. RG Josh Kline is a free agent, and LT Taylor Lewan and LG Quinton Spain are entering contract years.

Running Back: The Titans will likely release DeMarco Murray, saving $6.5 million under the cap. Derrick Henry probably won’t be handed the full-time feature back job free of competition. Henry has been a limited passing-game participant in both college and the pros, so the Titans may target a free agent like Jerick McKinnon as a change-of-pace and receiving complement.

Cornerback: Help in the defensive front seven also warrants mentioning here; edge rusher is a major need, and underrated DE DaQuan Jones and ILB Avery Williamson are free agents. 2016 second-round OLB Kevin Dodd has been a disappointment. On the back end, the Titans could complete their secondary with a boundary corner to book end promising LCB Adoree Jackson and keep Logan Ryan in the slot.

Washington Redskins

Defensive Front Seven: The Redskins play with a rag-tag group up front, where they finished 29th in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA and may lose ILB Zach Brown to free agency. Fellow free agent Junior Galette supplied a spark off the bench, leaving Washington’s outside pass rush thin if Galette moves on. Preston Smith maintains upside at age 25, but he has been a replacement-level edge presence to this point. To keep it simple, the Skins need more run stoppers and more pass rushers.

Defensive Back: Expected to let Bashaud Breeland walk in free agency, even after trading away emerging star slot corner Kendall Fuller, the Redskins are left with only LCB Josh Norman and to-date spot starter Quinton Dunbar as bankable cornerback assets. 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau had promise coming out of UCLA, but couldn’t get on the field as a rookie. As the Skins are believed to have given up on Su’a Cravens, Montae Nicholson and Deshazor Everett are the remaining in-house candidates to compete opposite FS D.J. Swearinger. The Redskins’ pass defense should have been much better than it was the past two seasons.

Pass Catcher: What once was one of the NFL’s deepest and most diverse pass-catcher corps enters the 2018 offseason with major question marks. Terrelle Pryor didn’t work out on a one-year deal, and Jordan Reed further showed he can’t be relied on to stay healthy. Vernon Davis is 34, and Josh Doctson’s development has been slow. Top WR Jamison Crowder is entering his contract year. In terms of alternative needs, running back and center are additional positions Washington may look to upgrade.



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



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