Projecting the top offseason needs for all 32 NFL teams: QB for the Steelers? WR for the Chiefs? | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF

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Projecting the top offseason needs for all 32 NFL teams: QB for the Steelers? WR for the Chiefs?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) pump fakes the ball by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Benson Mayowa (10) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

As a part of our partnership with ESPN, this is a part of a story that was originally published on ESPN+ and can be viewed in its entirety here with your ESPN+ subscription — Projecting the top offseason needs for all 32 NFL teams: QB for the Steelers? WR for the Chiefs?

As the season passes the halfway mark and more NFL fan bases shift their attention to the offseason with each passing week, NFL free agency is just around the corner and the draft evaluation process is already well underway.

The 2022 free-agent class looks to be headlined by star receivers in Davante AdamsChris Godwin and Allen Robinson. The 2022 draft class, on the other hand, is chock full of uncertainty at both quarterback and wide receiver in terms of who will be the top prospects when it's all said and done.

In order to work out which players every team should be pursuing in either free agency or the draft, we need to first identify each team's biggest needs. For example, the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs could use help at the wide receiver position, the Denver Broncos should find a long-term solution for quarterback and the Green Bay Packers need tight end options.

Here's an early list of potential need positions for all 32 franchises:

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WFT


ARIZONA CARDINALS

Biggest needs: Cornerback, interior defensive line

The Cardinals have proven a lot of doubters wrong already this season as their outside cornerback group, which raised a lot of questions before Week 1, has held up remarkably well. Malcolm Butler abruptly retired shortly before the season, and eight-year veteran Robert Alford — now 33 years old — hadn't played a snap of NFL football in two full seasons before Week 1.

Nevertheless, Alford's 74.0 coverage grade through Week 9 ranks 14th among outside cornerbacks with at least 100 snaps.

However, Alford signed a one-year deal for the veterans minimum for 2021 and is not a long-term solution on the outside opposite rookie Marco Wilson. His eventual departure will leave a big hole in the Cardinals' secondary, and Arizona needs to add help at cornerback for 2022 and beyond to keep its defensive unit among the league's elite.


ATLANTA FALCONS

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, interior offensive line

The Falcons' 60.7 pass-rushing grade currently ranks dead last in the NFL, and they are one of just two teams with fewer than 100 quarterback pressures on the season. Atlanta's edge rushers in particular have generated just 35 quarterback pressures through Week 9, by far the fewest in the league, and a lower total than eleven individual edge rushers have generated alone.

On the other side of the ball, Atlanta's pass-blocking grade of 54.3 ranks 27th. The Falcons' interior offensive linemen have allowed the second-most quarterback hits of any team with 16, and they've allowed a quarterback hit or sack on 6.8% of dropbacks — the worst rate in the NFL.

This team needs major upgrades in the trenches to keep Matt Ryan upright to close out his career.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

Biggest needs: Safety, running back, interior defensive line

Injuries have plagued the Ravens all season long, perhaps creating new positions of need as they await the return of key players, such as ballhawk cornerback Marcus Peters. The most recent injury was a torn pectoral/bicep for safety DeShon Elliott, an ascending young player on the back end.

Even with Elliott in the fold, Ravens safeties this season have forced an incomplete pass on just 4.1% of the balls thrown into their coverage — the third-lowest rate in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks have a 131.9 passer rating when targeting Ravens safeties so far this season, also third worst. The unit needs potentially multiple reinforcements to stop opposing teams' downfield aerial attacks in 2022.

The Ravens also have two interior defensive linemen in Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams who have been high-level playmakers for a long time, but who will be 36 and 33 years old, respectively, in 2022.

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen (41) makes a second-quarter sack on Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17). [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

BUFFALO BILLS

Biggest needs: Interior offensive line, interior defensive line

The Bills have made it a priority to load up on interior offensive linemen over the past few years, but injuries and underperformance have started to make the unit very susceptible. Perhaps the most shocking result of the 2021 season so far is the Jaguars‘ 9-6 upset win over Buffalo in Week 9. A major factor was the Bills' centers and guards allowing the most quarterback pressures (13) of any team in Week 9. The interior offensive line unit has now allowed 59 pressures on quarterback Josh Allen through eight contests, the fourth most of any team including those who have already played nine games in 2021.

Directly opposite their porous interior offensive line is an interior defensive line group that has been largely underwhelming, with 2019 No. 9 overall pick Ed Oliver still yet to earn a PFF grade of 70.0 or above in his career. Run-stuffer Harrison Phillips leads the way with his 74.3 run-defense grade — a top-15 mark at the position — but he is set to become a free agent after the season. Finally, nose tackle Star Lotulelei opted out in 2020 and has not gotten off to a great start in 2021, with his 53.1 overall grade on pace to be a career-low.


CAROLINA PANTHERS

Biggest needs: Offensive line, quarterback

The Panthers have made several marquee trades over the past year to address holes all over their roster but unfortunately still have major issues along the offensive line and at quarterback. With a bevy of options at the most important position in football, Carolina elected to trade significant draft capital and commit over $18.8 million in fully guaranteed money in 2022 for former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. But through nine weeks he looks as bad as he always has, even in offensive coordinator Joe Brady's quarterback-friendly system.

Darnold's 60.3 PFF passing grade ranks 29th among 36 qualifying quarterbacks, and his 15 turnover-worthy plays lead the league. Carolina took a gamble and it flopped, and new owner David Tepper doesn't seem too keen on waiting around to find the franchise quarterback. It's not all Darnold's fault, though, as his offensive line has allowed the second-most quarterback pressures in the NFL with 133, and it just lost starting center Matt Paradis for the season to make matters even worse. Whoever is under center next season will need much better protection in order to be successful.


CHICAGO BEARS

Biggest needs: Offensive line, wide receiver, cornerback

The Bears drafted offensive tackles with their two picks after trading up for franchise quarterback Justin Fields. While it remains to be seen whether they've found long-term solutions on the bookends, a swing tackle to provide depth is an important offseason need at the least. In the meantime, guard James Daniels is a pending free agent, and center Sam Mustipher is a former undrafted free agent who has struggled mightily to adjust to the NFL level, with his 48.1 pass-blocking grade being second-worst among centers in 2021.

While keeping Fields on his feet is priority No. 1, adding receiving threats for him to deliver the ball to is perhaps just as important. Second-year wideout Darnell Mooney is the only wide receiver currently under contract for 2022, and a divorce with franchise-tagged wide receiver Allen Robinson — whose 2021 67.6 PFF grade so far is a career-low — seems likely.

Finally, Bears cornerbacks have allowed 1,307 yards in coverage — the seventh most in the league. Outside of 2020 second-round pick Jaylon Johnson, Chicago could stand to add multiple cornerbacks to its roster in 2022.


CINCINNATI BENGALS

Biggest needs: Offensive line, cornerback

Many pundits during the 2021 draft cycle argued the Bengals needed to add tackle Penei Sewell in order to protect franchise quarterback Joe Burrow, but Cincinnati's tackles have actually held up fairly well so far this season. They've allowed quarterback pressure on just 9.9% of dropbacks, the sixth-lowest rate in the NFL.

However, it has been a different story on the interior, with the unit's 51.4 pass-blocking grade slotting in at 24th. Complicating matters further is the fact right tackle Riley Reiff and left guard Quinton Spain are both set to be free agents after the season.

Stopping opposing quarterbacks through the air also remains a priority, and Cincinnati has done its best to add secondary help in recent offseasons. However, they've had some bad luck, as Trae Waynes has played fewer than 100 snaps over the past season and a half since signing a three-year, $42 million contract in 2020.


CLEVELAND BROWNS

Biggest needs: Interior defensive line

There aren't many holes on this Browns' roster, though the departure of Odell Beckham Jr. certainly might open up some opportunities at wide receiver going forward. One spot is at interior defensive line, which could use some help even after Cleveland made a very underrated addition in bringing aboard former Seahawks second-round pick Malik McDowell this offseason.

McDowell has a pass rush win rate of 13.7%, which ranks 18th among interior defensive linemen with at least 50 pass-rush snaps on the season. However, McDowell's 52.1 run defense grade and 30.5 tackling grade are troubling, and the unit overall has a 52.3 run defense grade. The unit's 24 defensive stops are tied for 28th in the NFL, and none of the defenders have an overall grade above 60.0. McDowell and Malik Jackson have logged far more snaps than anyone else on the interior, and both are set to be free agents after the season. Edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney occasionally kicks inside as well, but he's also set to test free agency once again.


DALLAS COWBOYS

Biggest needs: Cornerback

The Cowboys' defense took a massive leap forward from 2020 to 2021, with their 45.6 coverage grade in 2020 ranking 27th compared to a 62.6 coverage grade this season that ranks 15th. Rookies Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa both have top-15 pass-rush grades among rookies, with Parsons at the top of the list (90.5) and Odighizuwa second among rookie interior defenders at 63.2.

The team also used second- and third-round picks on cornerbacks, but neither has seen the field much at all during their rookie campaigns. Perhaps they can provide further solidification on the backend, but it can never hurt to add more coverage players.

Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) passes against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER BRONCOS

Biggest needs: Quarterback

Denver felt it couldn't pass on Alabama star cornerback Pat Surtain II in the first round of the 2021 draft, and he has lived up the billing so far in the NFL with his six incompletions forced and a 73.1 passer rating allowed when targeted, both top-25 marks among cornerbacks. However, taking Surtain meant passing on quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones, and now Denver needs to find its long-term signal-caller with a talented roster already in place.

Teddy Bridgewater has been very solid thus far, with his 76.4 passing grade ranking 16th among quarterbacks. However, his 3.4% rate of big-time throws ranks 25th, as he hasn't pushed the ball downfield with regularity. Bridgewater has taken 26 sacks on the season, which is third-most in the NFL, and some of that has to do with him holding on to the ball too long — his 2.84 average time to throw ranks ninth. We're not here to tear Bridgewater's game apart, but he has shown at this point he is a starter teams can win with, but not one who can carry a team to wins.


DETROIT LIONS

Biggest needs: Cornerback, safety, wide receiver

The good news for the Lions is they have extra first-round picks in the next two drafts as a result of the Matthew StaffordJared Goff blockbuster trade. The bad news is they're going to need to hit on a lot of their upcoming picks just to get this roster back to being competitive.

Detroit used the third overall pick in 2020 on cornerback Jeff Okudah, but a ruptured Achilles injury early in the 2021 campaign will keep him sidelined for a while. Regardless, the Lions' coverage unit has been historically bad for two seasons now, ranking dead last in 2020 with a 28.7 coverage grade and repeating that effort so far in 2021 with a league-low 29.6 coverage grade.

Since 2020, Detroit has allowed 7.95 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks, way ahead of the second-worst team at 7.38 yards per attempt. The Lions have also allowed an explosive pass play of 15-plus yards on 20% of opponent's dropbacks, a full three percentage points worse than the next team.

All of that said, their porous coverage unit might look good in practice going up against arguably the worst collection of wide receivers the NFL has to offer. The No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers on Detroit's depth chart during the offseason have yet to step on an NFL field this season.


GREEN BAY PACKERS

Biggest needs: Interior defensive line, tight end

The Packers continue to show why they tend to strictly adhere to their draft-and-develop mantra, as a lengthy list of injuries to key players on both sides of the ball hasn't slowed them down this season with solid depth all over the roster. However, they've been susceptible to the run over the past few years, and a lot of that has to do with a lack of interior defensive linemen to play alongside star nose tackle Kenny Clark.

Clark's 78.4 overall grade since 2020 is 13 points ahead of the next-best Packers interior defender, and his eight quarterback hits over the span is two more than all other players combined.

At tight end, Robert Tonyan is a pending free agent and tore his ACL in Week 8. He perhaps won't be ready for the start of 2022, wherever he is signed. Since 2020, Tonyan's 13 touchdown receptions are second only to the Chiefs' Travis Kelce. Beyond Tonyan is 37-year-old Marcedes Lewis, who remains one of the better blocking tight ends in football but has obvious limitations.


HOUSTON TEXANS

Biggest needs: Offensive line, cornerback, interior defensive line, edge rusher

The Texans could arguably stand to improve at every position on the roster, but shoring up the offensive line and adding several contributors at cornerback would go a long way. Particularly in run blocking, Houston's 48.0 grade ranks dead last, with its running backs averaging 0.7 yards before first contact with a defender, also dead last.

The Texans' coverage unit ranks 31st in the NFL with a 32.2 grade, and they've traded away their best players at the position, including sending Bradley Roby to the Saints.

Pick a spot and Houston could use help there.


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Biggest needs: Cornerback, edge rusher, wide receiver

The Colts' offense has progressively gotten better as the season has gone on, and new quarterback Carson Wentz, along with several of his offensive linemen, has gotten healthy. However, the defense has taken a big step back from a 2020 campaign in which it exceeded expectations.

The secondary in particular has experienced major regression, with top outside cornerback Xavier Rhodes going from a 77.5 coverage grade in 2020 to a 56.6 coverage grade so far this season. Star slot cornerback Kenny Moore II‘s 52.3 coverage grade so far this season would be the lowest mark of his career by over 16 points, as he has allowed over 50 yards in coverage in six out of nine contests this season. Over a span of 27 games during the 2019 and '20 seasons, Moore allowed over 50 yards in coverage just six times.

The Colts used their first two picks in the 2021 draft on edge rusher Kwity Paye and edge rusher/interior defender Dayo Odeyingbo, but more help is still needed. Indianapolis had a similar approach in 2018, adding two edge rushers in the second round, but neither panned out, and now both are set to hit free agency. A veteran presence getting after the quarterback outside, like they had with Justin Houston in 2019 and 2020, could go a long way.


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Biggest needs: Wide receiver

The Jaguars' No. 1 wideout DJ Chark is out for the season with an ankle injury, and he'll be testing the free-agent market after the 2021 campaign. In his absence, Jacksonville has the league's lowest receiving grade at 62.2, and its 22 explosive pass plays of 15-plus yards are tied for 28th. On contested targets, Jaguars receivers have come down with the ball just 38.7% of the time, which ranks tied for 25th.

There are many other holes to address on the roster, but 2021 No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence needs help to get his career on track and start consistently producing like everyone expected he could.


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Biggest needs: Wide receiver

The biggest question of the 2021 season has been some iteration of: What is going on with Patrick Mahomes? Through Week 9, Mahomes' 69.7 passing grade ranks 22nd among quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts on the season, far below what we're accustomed to seeing. From Week 5 to Week 9, Mahomes did not register a single game grade above 70.0 and had seven big-time throws vs. eight turnover-worthy plays. Only one other time has Mahomes failed to earn a 70.0 or better grade over a three-game stretch.

A major factor in all of those statistics is the Chiefs' lack of a tertiary weapon in the passing game. Opposing defenses are keying in on wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, and there are no difference-makers beyond those two on this roster. Since 2020, Hill and Kelce account for over 60% of the Chiefs' passing yards to wide receivers and tight ends. Spreading the ball around and forcing defenses to respect more options will open things up for everyone.

Kansas City brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster, among others, for a visit last offseason, but the team will need to try harder the next time around.

Oct 24, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Biggest needs: Interior defensive line, offensive line, wide receiver

The Raiders made the bold decision to trade center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Trent Brown before the 2021 season. And perhaps unsurprisingly the pass-blocking grade as a unit ranks 24th this season. Their 24 quarterback hits allowed are the sixth most, and their run-blocking grade of 48.7 is second-worst in the NFL. Keeping Derek Carr on his feet is key going forward, and it starts with improvement up front.

On the defensive line, edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue have emerged as one of the league's best tandems halfway through the season with 87 quarterback pressures — the second most of any duo. However, the defense's 51.0 run-defense grade is, in large part, due to poor play on the interior. Raiders interior defensive linemen have on average tackled the ball carrier 3.86 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, dead last in the NFL.

The Raiders are very thin at wide receiver as well, following the arrest and release of 2020 first-round pick Henry Ruggs III.


LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Biggest needs: Defensive line, linebacker

The Chargers fixed one of their trench units this past offseason, with their offensive line perhaps the most improved group in the NFL from 2020 to 2021. Last season, the offensive line ranked last in run blocking with a 46.5 grade and 30th in pass protection with a 54.5 grade. So far this season, the unit's run-blocking grade of 77.3 ranks sixth and its pass-blocking grade of 61.6 ranks 18th.

This upcoming offseason, the Chargers need to add one or multiple defensive linemen to play alongside All-Pro edge rusher Joey Bosa and experience the same year-over-year improvement as on the offensive line. Bosa's 31 quarterback pressures through Week 9 are twice as many as everyone else on the defensive line, and that's with him commanding a ton of chip blocks and attention each week. Linval Joseph is a very capable nose tackle but is set to be a free agent after the season, and Los Angeles needs to make several moves to improve or at least maintain the status quo.


LOS ANGELES RAMS

Biggest needs: Interior offensive line

The Titans got the better of the Rams in a big Sunday night showdown in Week 9, and that was in large part due to the dominance of Titans interior defender Jeffery Simmons. Simmons overpowered the Rams' interior offensive line, with his nine quarterback pressures, helping him surpass Rams interior defender Aaron Donald for the lead among interior defensive linemen through Week 9 with 42.

A big misconception with the Rams is that they don't value draft picks, even though they've made the fifth-most selections since 2017. They just don't value first-round draft picks, as they've made zero first-round selections since 2017 but have made it a priority to bring large draft classes aboard every season and load up on depth across the roster. This is why there are fewer holes than one might expect with the Rams admittedly going “all in” on the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Nevertheless, with center Brian Allen and right guard Austin Corbett set to reach free agency, the Rams will have some shoes to fill along the interior of their offensive line.


MIAMI DOLPHINS

Biggest needs: Offensive line

The Dolphins have used pick Nos. 18, 39 and 42 over the past two drafts on offensive linemen, and yet the unit is still a disaster. The most quarterback pressures allowed in a season per PFF charting was 297 by the Chargers in 2015. The 2021 Dolphins are currently on pace to allow 287.

Miami's 168 quarterback pressures allowed so far are 35 more than the next-highest team, the same goes for their 129 quarterback hurries allowed. Miami simply cannot properly evaluate Tua Tagovailoa or any quarterback under these conditions.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Biggest needs: Tight end, edge rusher

The Vikings traded a fourth-round pick for tight end Chris Herndon and a sixth-round pick, with Herndon set to hit free agency after the 2021 season. Herndon has just four targets, two receptions and nine receiving yards through Week 9, arguably making this one of the worst value trades in a long time. Fellow Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin will also be a free agent after the season.

Minnesota's second-round pick in 2019, tight end Irv Smith Jr., was expected to break out in 2021 before an injury knocked him out for the entire season. His return will be a big boost, but Minnesota needs more than one tight end to effectively run its wide-zone running scheme.

At edge rusher, star Danielle Hunter was also lost for the season to a torn pectoral muscle, making it the second season in a row he suffered a season-ending injury. Without Hunter in 2020, Minnesota had the second-worst pressure rate (20.7%) and worst pass rush win rate (27%) in the NFL. In the first game without Hunter this season, in Week 9, 34-year-old edge rusher Everson Griffen led the unit in snaps and was the only player to register to a pass rush grade above 60. Hunter might push his way out of Minnesota this offseason, and that is a frightening development for a team with no succession plan at a position that has generally been a strength.


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Biggest needs: Cornerback, linebacker

After trading away 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots could be losing another vital part of their defense — long-time linebacker Dont'a Hightower — to free agency in 2022.

Hightower opted out of the 2020 season and exposed the lack of linebacker talent on the Patriots' roster, as New England chose to play as many defensive backs as possible all season long to limit the amount of snaps going to linebackers. The Patriots had 820 defensive snaps with a linebacker on the field in 2020, over 100 fewer than any other team. Ja'Whaun Bentley led the group with 590 snaps, which ranked 49th in the NFL. No other Patriots linebacker logged 300 snaps in 2020 — and none graded above 55.0 for the season — illustrating why they were kept off the field as much as possible.

At cornerback, New England's top option following its trade of Gilmore to the Panthers is pending free agent J.C. Jackson, whose 19 interceptions since 2019 are six more than the next-highest player in the league. New England might need to either pay up to retain Jackson or add a few outside cornerbacks in the offseason.


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Biggest needs: Quarterback, wide receiver

The Saints will have their work cut out for them this offseason, as they do most offseasons, projected to be roughly $55 million over the 2022 salary-cap ceiling without a quarterback or left tackle under contract. Their saving grace for 2021 was quarterback Jameis Winston taking a cheap, one-year flier as he worked to resurrect his career, but now after suffering a torn ACL in Week 8, he might not be ready or desirable for 2022. Winston's 66.3 PFF passing grade ranked 29th, so they might have been looking elsewhere regardless.

Wide receiver is also a glaring need, especially with so much uncertainty around star wideout Michael Thomas. Not just uncertainty about his ongoing recovery from a high-ankle sprain that has effectively knocked him out the past two seasons, but also uncertainty about whether he wants to play in New Orleans going forward. The Saints' leading receiver through Week 9 is 2019 undrafted free agent Deonte Harris, who was a special teams ace before earning a larger role in the passing game. Saints wide receivers have just 953 receiving yards on the season, which ranks 30th.


NEW YORK GIANTS

Biggest needs: Interior offensive line

The Giants tried to fix an area of obvious need right before the 2021 season began, making several trades for interior offensive linemen, acquiring former Bengals center Billy Price and former Ravens guard Ben Bredeson. Price has the fourth-worst pass-blocking grade among starting centers at 47.7, and Bredeson has the second-worst pass-blocking grade among guards at 24.7. The Giants pass-blocking grade as a unit is 49.8, which ranks 31st.

Now halfway through Daniel Jones‘ third season, he has never had adequate protection. New York needs to fix it once and for all, because it has spent a ton of money and resources on defense and pass-catchers already.


NEW YORK JETS

Biggest needs: Cornerback, edge rusher, safety, tight end

The Jets continue to completely overhaul their roster, and general manager Joe Douglas has stayed busy. A trade deadline deal for former Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif further solidifies an offensive line that has now seen significant investment at every spot, and New York might now be able to turn its attention — and dedicate resources — elsewhere.

The Jets rank 28th through Week 9 with a 44.0 coverage grade, as they chose to largely neglect the cornerback position this offseason and let some young draft picks get a chance to showcase their abilities.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, linebacker, safety

The Eagles lost their top edge rusher in Brandon Graham early in Week 2 this season after he had seven straight seasons with grades of 80.0 or better, clearly a monumental loss. However, Graham will be 34 years old in 2022, so they can't just rely on his return to fix everything opposite Josh Sweat. The Eagles' 2017 first-round pick, edge rusher Derek Barnett, is set to hit free agency and has been underwhelming in 2021 — generating a quarterback pressure on just 7.2% of pass-rush snaps.

At linebacker, the unit ranks 26th in coverage grade with a 44.7 mark and has allowed a 91.6% completion percentage that ranks dead last. The numbers are similarly bleak at safety, and both starters are set to be free agents after the season.

Philadelphia stands to have three first-round selections in the 2022 NFL draft, so they can make major strides in getting this team back in contention in a hurry.

Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Malik McDowell (58) sacks Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Biggest needs: Cornerback, quarterback

The Steelers made a trade with the Seahawks late in the offseason for cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, but he has played just four snaps on the season. Longtime stalwart Joe Haden is set to hit free agency, and a very young unit will be given a ton of responsibility in Mike Tomlin's versatile defensive scheme. The Steelers' 42.9 coverage grade ranks 29th on the season.

As for the quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger has had a remarkable career, but at this point all he is doing is causing fans to forget about those glory days. Out of 34 quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks, Roethlisberger's 56.5 passing grade ranks 32nd. Roethlisberger has thrown short of the first-down marker on 60.5% of passes — the highest rate in the NFL. His average time to throw of 2.3 seconds is the quickest in the NFL because he is too immobile to evade pressure. He is quite simply not physically capable of being an elite NFL quarterback at this stage in his career.


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Biggest needs: Cornerback, guard

The 49ers took a gamble on uber-talented cornerback Jason Verrett, but unfortunately the injury bug struck once again in Week 1. From 2016 to '19, Verrett appeared in just six games due to various injuries but was able to play 97% of defensive snaps in 13 games in 2020. Serving as their top cornerback by a good margin, Verrett's loss was a big one, and he is one of several 49ers cornerbacks set to hit free agency.

At guard, Laken Tomlinson has flown under the radar a bit on the left side playing next to perhaps the best offensive lineman in the NFL in left tackle Trent Williams, but his 82.0 run-blocking grade since 2020 ranks eighth at the position. Tomlinson has taken a big step forward in pass protection this season as well, allowing zero sacks and just two quarterback hits through Week 9 while earning a career-high 80.4 grade. San Francisco might be wise to keep Tomlinson around.


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Biggest needs: Cornerback, offensive line

Quarterback Russell Wilson has covered up the fact that the Seahawks are devoid of talent at several spots along the roster with his miraculous play over the past few seasons, particularly along the offensive line. The unit currently ranks 23rd in pass protection with a 57.9 grade, but that includes pending free-agent left tackle Duane Brown, whose 67.9 pass-blocking grade is second on the team. If Seattle lets Brown leave, which seems very possible given Brown wanted an extension this past offseason and didn't get one, the Seahawks will have even more issues in pass protection.

At cornerback, the Seahawks have rotated players across different spots, benched players at times and made trades all in an effort to find consistent starters. Their 50.9 coverage grade ranks 26th, and the cornerbacks have allowed a target to get open on 48.2% of dropbacks, which is the ninth-worst rate in the league.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Biggest needs: Cornerback

Tampa Bay was able to return all 22 starters from its Super Bowl roster and will face some challenges in an attempt to do so once more. Even with one of the league's most talented and deep rosters, cornerback play has been a thorn in the Bucs' side for all of 2021. Injuries to starters Carlton DavisJamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting have exposed a vulnerability on the backend.

Davis very well could be considered the top cornerback on the free-agent market this offseason due to his big frame at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and his ability to play both man coverage and zone principles. While Tampa plays a ton of zone coverage, Davis often travels with opposing teams' top wide receivers — which in the NFC South has meant battles with Michael Thomas, Calvin Ridley and DJ Moore in recent seasons. Davis could be this offseason's James Bradberry — a really strong signing by the New York Giants in 2020.


TENNESSEE TITANS

Biggest needs: Tight end

The Titans have built a strong roster over the past few years and showed they don't have many weaknesses to speak of when they rattled off consecutive wins against the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Rams over the past month.

One spot of note is at tight end, as former Titans tight end Jonnu Smith signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Patriots this past offseason. This season, all three of Tennessee's top contributors at the position are pending free agents, and none of them have reached 20 targets so far through Week 9.


WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Biggest needs: Cornerback, wide receiver

Washington has been arguably the most disappointing group in 2021, as its defense has fallen off a cliff compared to the extremely lofty expectations set before the season. The team's coverage grade of 37.6 ranks 30th in the league, and opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 113.5 against it, which also ranks 30th. They've surrendered 58 explosive receptions of 15-plus yards, which is the third-most of any team. And the only two teams that have allowed more explosive receptions this season played an additional game while Washington was on a bye.

At wide receiver, Curtis Samuel was the big-ticket free-agent addition but has played just 30 snaps on the season as he deals with a lingering groin issue. Terry McLaurin is truly a one-man operation, with more receiving yards than all of the other wide receivers on the roster combined and over 350 more receiving yards than the next-best Washington wideout.

Tackle Lifes financial Challenges. Western Southern Financial Group.
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