Atlanta, Carolina, Dallas among teams with most work left to do in free agency
The NFL draft is still several weeks away, leaving teams ample time to tweak their rosters in anticipation of that May extravaganza. A few general managers had better put that time to good use ...
Atlanta: The Falcons worked quickly once free agency opened to land Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson and Jon Asamoah. We're still waiting on phase two of the roster improvement. There remain glaring holes at the pass-rushing spots, tight end and safety -- some of which surely can be addressed in the draft, but expecting to pin down starters at multiple positions is aiming very high.
Atlanta may have missed the boat on guys who can play off the edge, with a dwindling crop of players available there, particularly those that would fit the 3-4 it appears Atlanta is transitioning to for 2014. There are at least stopgap solutions, though, at all of the spots listed above.
Carolina: "Cam Newton drops back to throw, fires downfield ... and Cam Newton runs under it for the touchdown!"
Unless that's the plan, then Carolina needs to get to work. If you check the team's WR depth chart on your computer, tumbleweed blows across your screen. Oh, and the Panthers also look pretty thin along the offensive line (where multiple players, including longtime LT Jordan Gross, have retired) and in the secondary.
Carolina also has no extra draft picks and does not go on the clock until No. 28 overall, a byproduct of its 2013 success. Even with a draft class that looks fairly deep, finding several starter-quality players will be a massive undertaking.
Cincinnati: The Bengals have work left to do mainly because they have not done any work since free agency opened. That's in line with the franchise M.O., but it may not make Marvin Lewis feel any better when he looks down the depth chart come training camp. Cincinnati has lost multiple starters -- OT Anthony Collins, DE Michael Johnson -- and seems dead set on filling those spots internally. Supplementing the roster with even one or two role players from free agency might go a long way.
Dallas: Jerry Jones reportedly has been courting DT Henry Melton and DE Jared Allen in recent days, either of which would be a step in the right direction for a Dallas defense that's extremely depleted up front. How much Jones actually can do is somewhat up in the air given his team's disastrous salary-cap situation this offseason. The roster already has required multiple cuts and contract restructurings to free up a little money, so continuing to add bodies might not be in the cards.
Detroit/Green Bay: Multiple needs remain for both teams, but the NFC North rivals are paired together because the real headache for each right now is at safety. The Lions lost Louis Delmas to the Vikings, while the Packers saw M.D. Jennings sign with Chicago. (The latter probably will not keep any Cheeseheads up at night.)
Those departures have Detroit and Green Bay sitting pretty barren on the back end, with Glover Quin and Morgan Burnett, respectively, in need of running partners. Will those answers come in the draft? Possibly, with a few early-round safeties out there. However, there are still a couple feasible answers in free agency as well, like former Dolphin Chris Clemons.
New York Jets: A couple swings and misses at the cornerback position have left the Jets with almost no choice but to court Antonio Cromartie, whom they cut earlier this offseason to save some cap space. If that's not the backup plan, then the Jets may have to get aggressive in the draft to add some help for Dee Milliner. At the very least, finding a veteran or two to round out the roster at CB would improve the situation.
Oakland: The Raiders have been churning out signings over the past few days -- James Jones, LaMarr Woodley, Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith. Those moves should steady a turbulent roster, though the number of 30-somethings brought on (even for short-term deals) is getting a little high for a team that's in the middle of a rebuild.
That said, GM Reggie McKenzie still has a sack full of money to spend this offseason and almost every position on his roster could use more of a talent infusion. Assuming McKenzie can do so without mortgaging the future, he should be exploring more ways to be competitive in 2014.
Pittsburgh: Aside from quarterback and maybe tight end, are there any positions on this team that could not stand a tweak? Pittsburgh, like Dallas, has had to make some tough decisions in recent offseasons because of questionable spending practices, leaving its hands tied a bit with regard to courting any elite free agents.
The result of the roster choices is that the Steelers have severe needs along the defensive line and are shy on talent at wideout, the offensive line, linebacker and in the secondary. Washington: Another team that paints a pretty rough picture at safety. The Redskins used two draft picks on the position last year to score Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. It's unclear if they trust either guy to be a full-time starter, though Thomas has the inside track for now. Washington did re-sign Brandon Meriweather to compete for a starting gig, so there's at least familiarity at the position. Is there enough talent?