The offseason is all about getting better. Whether through the draft, free agency or trade, there are plenty of avenues for teams to improve, and now that the NFL Combine and the first major week of free agency are done with, teams have even more information to take advantage of.
Up until last week, these offseason needs hadn't changed all that much since the first iteration of this piece, but the NFL landscape has certainly shifted over the last 10 days or so, with even more moves to come once the 2020 NFL Draft kicks off on April 23.
Arizona Cardinals: Protection for Kyler Murray
Secondary needs: coverage help, interior defensive line
With no additions to the offensive line outside of returning left tackle D.J. Humphries, the Cardinals still need to address the group up front through free agency and the draft. Kyler Murray was at fault for the most sacks of any quarterback in the NFL this past season, so the pass protection wasn’t as bad as it might seem — and it was much improved over last season — but the Cardinals were one of the worst run-blocking teams in the NFL by PFF grade. Right tackle would be the first position to address.
Defensively, there are several young and intriguing pieces in coverage, but the results simply weren’t there last season. They allowed a 117.9 passer rating on targeted passes and allowed 75.5% of those throws to be completed, both league-worst marks during the regular season. Patrick Peterson’s contract is up after next season, and Byron Murphy struggled as a rookie. Adding another competitor to the cornerback room couldn’t hurt. Lastly, the Cardinals could look to continue to beef up the interior of their defensive line. They signed Jordan Phillips to a three-year deal, but his career-high PFF grade came at just 59.9 in 2017. The overall depth inside is lacking.
Atlanta Falcons: Cornerback after losing Desmond Trufant in free agency
Secondary needs: pass rushers, linebacker
There’s no getting around the fact that the Falcons were bad in coverage in 2019. They ranked 26th in expected points allowed per pass play, and Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield both disappointed with PFF coverage grades below 55.0. Their needs at the cornerback position are only exacerbated after losing their best cornerback, Desmond Trufant, in free agency to the Detroit Lions. If they don’t target one of the top remaining players on the free-agent market, cornerback should be an early priority in the draft.
Edge rusher is still a need for this team, as well. Dante Fowler Jr. was a solid pass rusher last season, earning a 73.4 pass-rushing grade, but his overall sack and pressure production in 2019 resulted in Atlanta overpaying for his services. That is, unless he continues to improve as he has the past several seasons. He figures to start across from Takkarist McKinley, but behind those two, there isn’t anyone whom the Falcons can feel comfortable with. Off-ball linebacker should also be addressed after letting De’Vondre Campbell walk in free agency. The Falcons know what they can expect out of Deion Jones, but Foyesade Oloukun is next on the depth chart. He earned a 62.7 grade on 310 defensive snaps in 2019.
Baltimore Ravens: Both outside and inside linebackers
Secondary needs: interior offensive line, wide receiver
Using blitzes and stunts to manufacture pressure allowed the Ravens to mask the fact that they didn’t have a dominant pass rush. Their best pass rusher — Matthew Judon — was brought back on the franchise tag, but even he benefited from the scheme, with 35 of his 62 pressures coming as unblocked or cleanup pressures. If he ends up getting traded on the tag, that leaves the position even barer. The addition of Calais Campbell helps the pass rush, though not as much as the run defense, but it still makes sense for Baltimore to attack this need throughout the remainder of the offseason. The same can be said for off-ball linebacker, where the Ravens are particularly thin — especially after seeing Josh Bynes sign with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Marshal Yanda’s retirement leaves an unfamiliar hole at the right guard spot that the Ravens will likely address before the start of next season, and though they were the run-heaviest team in the NFL this past season, they still could use another dynamic playmaker at wide receiver. Marquise Brown played well in his rookie season, generating a league-high 134.4 passer rating on his targets. However, the options that are next in line are either unproven (Miles Boykin) or unexciting (Willie Snead).
Buffalo Bills: A quality edge defender that won’t be over 30 years old this year
Secondary needs: offensive line depth, another pass-catching option
The Bills are another team without any glaring needs, but edge defender is probably at the top of the list after Lorenzo Alexander retired and Shaq Lawson left for the Miami Dolphins in free agency on a three-year, $30 million deal. Buffalo went out and signed Mario Addison, who is a fine option (pass-rushing grades between 66.5 and 75.8 over the past five seasons). They’re still missing that dominant edge rusher, though. Jerry Hughes has flashed that potential at times (85.9 pass-rushing grade in 2013 and 90.4 in 2018), but for the most part, he has been an average pass-rusher over the course of his career. The Bills' other option, Trent Murphy, has maxed out at a 73.8 pass-rushing grade. With Murphy being the last of the three guys to hit the 30-year old mark in December, they could add some youth to the position.
The offensive line is another area that the Bills can look to just a season after investing heavily in the unit. Quinton Spain was brought back on a reasonable deal, but Buffalo has yet to make any additions to a line that finished the 2019 season slotted at 21st in PFF’s offensive line rankings. They are banking on improvement with another season of continuity at this point. Lastly, the receiving group got a massive boost with the Stefon Diggs trade. That doesn’t mean the Bills should stop adding options in the passing game. A tight end to compete with Dawson Knox and Tyler Kroft or even a pass-catching running back like Theo Riddick makes some sense in Buffalo.
Carolina Panthers: Almost every position on defense
Secondary needs: tight end, interior offensive line
The Panthers did not retain James Bradberry in free agency, and now they’re left with Donte Jackson (55.6 overall grade in 2019) and a whole bunch of unknowns at the position. At linebacker, they have a glaring need following the retirement of Luke Kuechly, who was in the conversation for league’s best linebacker nearly his entire career. Juston Burris figures to be the team’s starting strong safety, but he just played a career-high 409 defensive snaps in 2019. As for the defensive line, the Panthers lost Gerald McCoy to free agency without adding anyone to replace him, and Stephen Weatherly is far from a proven starter opposite Brian Burns. There isn’t a position they can’t upgrade.
On offense, they didn’t address tight end after Greg Olsen‘s departure. This isn’t a great year to need a tight end, but Carolina could take a shot on someone in the draft. The interior offensive line also stands out as an area of need. The Panthers traded away their best offensive lineman at right guard — Trai Turner — and did not re-sign last season’s starting left guard, Greg Van Roten. John Miller could be one answer, but even that isn’t a sure thing. The Panthers made some splashes in free agency by signing Teddy Bridgewater and Robby Anderson, but there are still plenty of questions surrounding this roster.
Chicago Bears: Two starting pieces in the secondary
Secondary needs: offensive line, receiving options
When the Bears released Prince Amukamara and did not re-sign Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, two glaring holes opened in the secondary. To this point, neither of them have been filled. Sure, Deon Bush could fill that safety spot, but he hasn’t played more than 250 defensive snaps since his rookie season in 2016, a year in which he recorded a 58.1 overall grade. Artie Burns could turn his career around and start opposite Kyle Fuller, but he played fewer than 400 defensive snaps over the last two seasons combined with the Pittsburgh Steelers, getting benched for poor play. The Bears should try to find better solutions so that they’re not forced to rely on those two to play significant snaps in 2020.
There are a few other positions throughout the offense that could use some work, with the offensive line being at the forefront. That group took a big step back from where it was a season ago, finishing 25th in our final offensive line rankings following the regular season. Additionally, the Bears could stand to improve the receiving options for presumed starting quarterback Nick Foles. They did sign Jimmy Graham to a two-year deal, but the money doesn’t align with his back-to-back sub-60.0 grades over the past two seasons. In his current state, he doesn’t add much to the passing game. Another wide receiver or tight end who can be a difference-maker would go a long way.
Cincinnati Bengals: A quarterback like Joe Burrow
Secondary needs: offensive line, linebacker
When the Bengals made the decision to go with Ryan Finley following their Week 9 bye, they made it clear that the Andy Dalton era in Cincinnati was over. Finley’s 28.2 PFF passing grade in his three starts — backed by an impressive zero big-time throws compared to 10 turnover-worthy plays — showed that he isn’t the long-term solution, either. Enter Joe Burrow. With the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, the Bengals would be foolish not to take Burrow, who is coming off arguably the greatest quarterback season we’ve seen since the start of the PFF College era in 2014. He has the potential to be a true franchise changer for a team desperately in need of one, and he has put to bed the rumors of him not wanting to play in Cincinnati.
Burrow to the Bengals is almost a given at this point, but the next priority should be putting an offensive line in place that can protect him. The Bengals focused on the defense in free agency, leaving the offensive line unaddressed to this point. Getting an upgrade at right tackle for Bobby Hart, who has graded below 60.0 in each of the past four seasons, is a priority. There are several spots on the interior that would benefit from competition, as well. The addition of Josh Bynes (75.0-plus grades in each of the past two seasons) certainly helps at linebacker. However, it still makes sense for Cincinnati to target that position at some point in the draft, given the struggles they had at that spot last season.
Cleveland Browns: A starting left tackle
Secondary needs: linebacker, depth on the defensive line
As a unit, the Browns’ offensive line slotted in at 23rd in PFF’s end-of-year offensive line rankings. A big part of that was the play they got from their tackles. Cleveland already made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason by signing Jack Conklin to man the right tackle spot. That still leaves an opening at left tackle following Greg Robinson‘s eventful offseason. Chris Hubbard is under contract for several more seasons, but he ranked just 36th out of 38 qualifying right tackles in PFF grade this past season. Ideally, he becomes a depth piece or cap casualty once they find their starting left tackle.
On defense, the Browns lost Joe Schobert and released Christian Kirksey, bringing in only BJ Goodson to counteract those departures. There is room for improvement in that group still. Similarly, they are thin behind a strong starting group on the defensive line. The Browns did not cut Olivier Vernon to save cap space, leaving a strong pairing with the returning Myles Garrett, but behind those two, there isn’t much to get excited about. The same can be said on the interior. Adding depth to the defensive line would be beneficial for the Browns as they look to reach their 2019 expectations in 2020.
Dallas Cowboys: Cornerback to replace Byron Jones
Secondary needs: edge defender, receiving options
It’s a shame that the Cowboys weren’t able to retain Byron Jones, as he is exactly the type of player that they now need on their defense. Jones was a top-10 cornerback in PFF coverage grade over the past two seasons among qualifiers. Despite the lack of interceptions, he was a strong fit in their Cover-3 defense, showing the ability to limit production even if he wasn’t producing turnovers. Now, the Cowboys are left with Chidobe Awuzie as their No. 1 cornerback and either Anthony Brown moving back outside from the slot or new signing Maurice Canady (career-high 71.5 overall grade on 397 snaps last season) at the other outside spot. That’s shaky territory for a contender.
The next area of need comes along the defensive line. A starting edge defender should be a priority after losing Robert Quinn to a big-time offer from the Chicago Bears. Currently, the competition for the starting spot opposite Demarcus Lawrence consists of names such as Dorance Armstrong and Joe Jackson. Lastly, the Cowboys could use a receiver or tight end who specializes in producing plays over the middle of the field. Blake Jarwin has shown some potential, but he’s still a guy who has a career-high of 32 receptions in a season. Dallas also lost Randall Cobb in free agency, meaning slot wide receiver and tight end could be areas to address.
Denver Broncos: Speed at No. 2 wide receiver
Secondary needs: offensive line, cornerback
Last year, Courtland Sutton emerged as a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver who could step into the void left by Emmanuel Sanders after his trade and flourish in it. He was the only player to step up in that receiving corps, though. Tim Patrick led the rest of the Broncos’ wide receivers with only 1.18 yards per route run — almost a full yard less than Sutton — and DaeSean Hamilton was next in total receptions (28). If the Broncos want to fully evaluate Drew Lock next season with a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal, they need to give Sutton some help. I’d be surprised if that help didn’t come in the form of a wide receiver with speed at the 15th-overall pick.
The Broncos’ offensive line wasn’t as bad as the consensus claims, finishing 12th in PFF’s end-of-the-year offensive line rankings, but there is still room for improvement. Getting Graham Glasgow was a strong move by John Elway and company. Glasgow could slot in either at right guard or center, meaning the other position could still be addressed this offseason. After swapping Chris Harris Jr. for A.J. Bouye, Denver still has some questions about the second outside cornerback spot. They shouldn’t feel comfortable with Isaac Yiadom, Davontae Harris or De’Vante Bausby starting there going into 2020.
Detroit Lions: Starting options at guard
Secondary needs: pass rushers, cornerback
When they didn’t bring back Graham Glasgow, one question mark at starting guard became two. In his first season of starting action in 2019, Joe Dahl earned a 64.9 grade at left guard. He can certainly maintain that starting spot next season, but he’s not someone the Lions can’t look to improve upon. The right guard position is completely up in the air with 2019 undrafted free agent Beau Benzschawel probably drawing the first chance at starting snaps there right now. Getting some guys to provide depth and competition at those two guard spots is the Lions’ biggest need at this point.
Surprisingly, given the addition of Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels to a talented group from the 2018 season, the Lions weren’t able to get to the quarterback last year. Their 30.3% pressure rate during the 2019 season ranked 29th in the NFL — ahead of only the Dolphins, Seahawks and Falcons. Getting someone other than Flowers who can rush the passer should be in the cards. Lastly, the Lions swapped Darius Slay for Desmond Trufant at cornerback. Though Trufant is a solid option, that is still a downgrade, and the spot opposite Trufant isn’t solidified. Rookie cornerback Amani Oruwariye flashed some promising performances to close the season, but is he ready to take on a full-time starting job?
Green Bay Packers: A playmaker at wide receiver
Secondary needs: off-ball linebacker, interior defensive line
Davante Adams is hands-down one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and he has displayed that throughout his career. The Packers don’t really have a whole lot of reliable weapons in the passing game outside of Adams, though. Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both had PFF overall grades south of 60.0 last season, and while Allen Lazard has flashed some potential in his second season out of Iowa State, the Packers could use an upgrade at their No. 2 wide receiver spot. They brought in Devin Funchess off a lost season due to a clavicle injury, but he is more of a big-bodied, possession wide receiver, earning grades between 64.4 and 74.7 from 2015 to 2018. Green Bay needs to add some speed and after-the-catch ability to the group.
Next on the list for the Packers would be the linebacker position. Blake Martinez was the only player to play more than 300 snaps there for Green Bay last season, and he ended the year with a 58.7 overall grade — largely because he struggled in the run game (47.0 grade). They signed Christian Kirksey to replace him, but Kirksey last graded above 65.0 in 2016. Given the depth behind him, it’s still worth adding to the position. The same can be said for their interior defensive line, where Kenny Clark was the only player to record a pass-rushing grade higher than 60.0 for the Packers in 2019.
Houston Texans: A primary option at wide receiver
Secondary needs: improvements in coverage, pass rushers
When you lose a player like DeAndre Hopkins, a giant hole is always going to open up. He has been the second most valuable wide receiver in the NFL behind only Julio Jones over the last five seasons, and he is someone that Deshaun Watson could always rely on, no matter the situation. Now players such as Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Randall Cobb, who would be good complementary pieces around Hopkins, all look a little less appealing when they become the go-to options in the passing attack. It’s going to be tough for Houston to find an elite-level wide receiver this offseason with the top options gone in free agency and no first-round pick in the upcoming draft, but they put themselves in a position where they have to try.
The Texans may think they have addressed the secondary sufficiently as well, but their big moves were re-signing Bradley Roby and bringing in Eric Murray and Jaylen Watkins. It’s hard to see that changing the fact that their cornerbacks earned a higher PFF coverage grade than only the Dolphins in 2019. They should still look to add pieces to the secondary before next season. The same is true for their pass rush. J.J. Watt got back to being an absolute game wrecker prior to his injury and upon his return. Whitney Mercilus earned his worst pass-rushing grade since 2014 (59.6), however, and the pass-rushing options outside of those two aren’t plentiful.
Indianapolis Colts: Another pass-catching option for Philip Rivers
Secondary needs: edge rusher, cornerback
The Colts found their quarterback for 2020 in Philip Rivers. They've left a position that many expected them to address — wide receiver — untouched, though. Injuries to T.Y. Hilton (478 snaps), Devin Funchess (36 snaps) and second-round pick Parris Campbell (196 snaps) left the group particularly thin in 2019, but there is still room to add another playmaker heading into next year with Hilton and Campbell presumably returning to full strength. Campbell is an unknown at this point, and Zach Pascal was impressive last season with his opportunity in an increased role (73.7 overall grade) but is probably best suited as a complementary guy. Adding another threat, at either tight end or wide receiver, would help the Colts contend next season.
It appears that the Colts do intend to compete next season with the moves they’ve made this offseason. Trading for DeForest Buckner is one such move, but there are still questions at the edge spot opposite Justin Houston. Kemoko Turay was off to a hot start prior to going down with injury, but he was used almost exclusively as a designated pass rusher. Cornerback also becomes a question mark after parting ways with Pierre Desir. There are some young players there who played well in stretches (Rock Ya-Sin and Marvell Tell III) but few proven commodities on the roster that have played extensively outside.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A cornerback who doesn’t specialize in the slot
Secondary needs: offensive line, interior defensive line
Jacksonville compounded the questionable decision to trade away A.J. Bouye for a fourth-round pick as part of their defensive fire sale by bringing in Darqueze Dennard rather than a cornerback with starting experience outside. In a vacuum, the Dennard deal is a good one. He has the 12th highest slot coverage grade among qualifiers over the past three seasons. The issue is that the Jaguars already have D.J. Hayden in the slot, a player who is coming off two consecutive grades of 74.0 or higher. The only cornerbacks with any kind of meaningful experience out wide are Tre Herndon, who earned a 54.1 coverage grade with the Jaguars in 2019, and Hayden, who saw his career take a massive step forward once he moved to the slot full-time with Jacksonville.
The Jaguars’ offensive and defensive lines could use some help, as well. Left tackle Cam Robinson (54.8 overall PFF grade) and the right guard tandem of A.J. Cann (54.8) and Will Richardson (43.0) were the weakest links offensively, while the defensive line could use some reinforcements on the interior to pair with Taven Bryan’s promising sophomore campaign. As PFF's Mike Renner pointed out, however, targeting Derrick Brown with the ninth overall draft pick as many expect the Jaguars to do would likely be a mistake given the red flags he carries as a pass rusher.
Kansas City Chiefs: Additional options at cornerback
Secondary needs: pass rushers, linebacker
Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton have both shown they can provide solid play at cornerback, but neither is a proven, lockdown defender at this point in their careers. Outside of those two, Bashaud Breeland seems unlikely to return in 2020 after picking up a 43.9 PFF coverage grade in 560 coverage snaps during the regular season. The secondary also lost Kendall Fuller back to the Redskins on a four-year deal. The Chiefs could stand to add a couple of cornerbacks to improve the competition there.
The franchise tag of Chris Jones could merely be a temporary fix if the Chiefs decide to trade him, as they did with Dee Ford last offseason. Even if he returns, though, the Chiefs could still look to add to the defensive line. Alex Okafor and Tanoh Kpassagnon both recorded pass-rushing grades below 55.0 in 2019. Damien Wilson (55.3 overall grade), Anthony Hitchens (49.0) and Ben Niemann (59.7) are all candidates to be replaced with upgrades at linebacker heading into 2020, as well.
Las Vegas Raiders: Help in the secondary
Secondary needs: wide receiver, depth on offensive line
Problems have existed in the Raiders’ secondary for years now, and they’ve tried to remedy that by bringing in players through the draft and free agency in recent seasons. It hasn’t worked to this point. The secondary was still a major issue in 2019. No team in the NFL allowed more expected points per pass play than the Raiders, and they were one of the more susceptible teams to big plays, allowing 2,196 passing yards on gains of 20-plus yards. That was more than any other team in the league. They brought in players such as Eli Apple (career-high 64.2 coverage grade) and Jeff Heath (one season graded above 70.0 on significant snaps), but both guys seem more like band-aids than long-term solutions.
Another position that the Raiders went after this past offseason but needs attention once again is wide receiver. Obviously, the saga that was Antonio Brown’s 2019 season has a lot to do with that. Tyrell Williams was thrust into a No. 1 role that he isn’t best suited for. Hunter Renfrow had a strong rookie season with a 76.0 overall grade, but the Raiders should continue to be on the hunt for dynamic receivers as they prepare to make the move to Las Vegas. Nelson Agholor isn’t going to be that top option in the passing game. Outside of the questions about how good Kolton Miller can be, last season showed that the depth behind Miller and Trent Brown could be improved. With Richie Incognito turning 37 prior to the start of the season, it wouldn’t help to add another guard as well.
Los Angeles Chargers: A left tackle to continue the offensive line overhaul
Secondary needs: quarterback, third wide receiver
The Chargers’ offensive line has been the biggest deficiency on their team for some time now. They haven’t had a team pass-blocking grade ranked higher than 26th in the league since the 2014 season. That’s five years of bottom-of-the-barrel performances, and that begins to take a toll on an offense. They had dismal play from tackles Sam Tevi and Trent Scott, who combined to allow 88 quarterback pressures — second-most among tackle duos in 2019. The additions of veterans Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga have seemingly solidified the right side of their offensive line, but they still are without a strong option at left tackle. With injury concerns still lingering over Mike Pouncey, the center and left guard spots are in flux, too.
The man that line has protected — Philip Rivers — is moving on, which leaves the Chargers in quarterback limbo. Despite the disdain it may be met with, going into the 2020 season with Tyrod Taylor at starter could lead to success, but they also have the draft to potentially find their next starter.
You can argue that off-ball linebacker or interior defensive line would be next on the list, but the depth and versatility they have in their secondary helps offset their linebacker need, and the addition of Linval Joseph added some size inside. One area where they do need to add is wide receiver. Keenan Allen (80.3 overall grade in 2019), Mike Williams (74.1) and Hunter Henry (73.2) form a very good trio, but the depth behind Allen and Williams is lacking. An injection of speed to that group would help matters offensively.
Los Angeles Rams: Offensive linemen that can get the Rams’ line back to its 2018 form
Secondary needs: edge defender, linebacker
The Rams’ offensive line was one of the better units in the league in 2018, and their offense flourished behind it as a result. That all fell apart this past season, with injuries and personnel changes taking a toll on the group. They finished the season 31st in PFF’s offensive line rankings. They brought back Andrew Whitworth, their top offensive lineman with a 72.8 overall grade in 2019, but he goes into next season at 38 years old. There isn’t a position on the line the Rams can’t look to improve on in 2020 or for the future.
Los Angeles should also look to add some new pieces defensively. Edge defender becomes an area of need with the departure of Dante Fowler Jr., even following the addition of Leonard Floyd. Floyd’s career-high pass-rushing grade came at 64.8 as a rookie in 2016. The starting spot on the other side will likely come down to Samson Ebukam (66.7 overall grade in 2019) or Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (115 snaps since entering the league in 2019). Either way, Aaron Donald will be doing the heavy lifting. Off-ball linebacker also sticks out as a need after the departure of one of the league’s best coverage linebackers, Cory Littleton.
Miami Dolphins: Quarterback of the future
Secondary needs: offensive line, safety
When it comes to “bridge starters,” Fitzpatrick is one of the better options in the league. His volatile playstyle brings a certain level of down-to-down excitement to the viewing experience, and his 76.5 overall PFF grade this past season ranked 14th among quarterbacks. Additionally, he developed chemistry with breakout receiver DeVante Parker down the stretch. But at this stage of his career, we know what Fitzpatrick is — a stop-gap solution for a team looking for a long-term option at quarterback. The Dolphins are in a strong position to make a play for that quarterback in the draft (Tua Tagovailoa) after failing to address the position so far in free agency.
They also need an offensive line to protect whomever that quarterback is because their group up front last season was the worst in the NFL. They had the fastest time to pressure allowed in the league, along with the highest quick pressure rate allowed (33%). That’s a good way to ruin the start of any young quarterback’s career. Miami signed guys like Ted Karras and Ereck Flowers, who figure to be starters inside, but they didn’t make any moves that lead you to believe the group up front will be significantly improved in 2020. In addition to the offensive line, safety sticks out with Eric Rowe earning a grade of only 58.9 as a starter last season and some uncertainty surrounding who plays free safety.
Minnesota Vikings: Cornerbacks who can cover as well as the Vikings’ linebackers and safeties can
Secondary needs: wide receiver, interior offensive line
The Vikings were boxed into a tough spot this offseason. For the most part, they have a strong defense, but they lost the three cornerbacks who played the most snaps for the team in 2019. Their defense last season had the highest-graded linebacker in the NFL (Eric Kendricks) and a safety duo that combined for the highest forced incompletion rate in the NFL (Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith). With Harris returning (for now) on the franchise tag, that’s a strong base. Cornerback is left with a whole lot of question marks, however. The Vikings are relying a lot on guys like Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd as the roster currently sits.
The Stefon Diggs trade finally happened, quickly turning a strong wide receiver group, at least at the top, into a giant position of need. Behind Adam Thielen, who has four consecutive overall grades of 75.0 or higher, the Vikings are very thin. Signing Tajae Sharpe doesn’t change matters there all that much. Additionally, the Vikings’ interior offensive line was routinely abused in pass protection. They combined to allow a pressure roughly once every five dropbacks, which ranked last among all teams in 2019. Upgrades there, along with wide receiver, should be in order this offseason.
New England Patriots: A G.O.A.T. replacement
Secondary needs: receiving options, pass-rushers
It’s going to be weird seeing Tom Brady in a Buccaneers’ uniform, and his change of scenery leaves New England in unfamiliar territory because…they need a new starting quarterback.
It may be intentional as a part of their plan to secure a quarterback atop the 2021 NFL Draft, but their only options on the roster right now are Cody Kessler, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. It’s hard to see them being competitive in 2020 unless they make a play for Andy Dalton, Cam Newton or Jameis Winston.
As much as people want to pile on Tom Brady for having a down year last season — which he did, by his standards — the weapons at his disposal were among the worst in the NFL. The Patriots haven’t done a good job of drafting skill position players in recent seasons, and that left them thin after Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement and the departures of high-risk signings in Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown.
There were a lot of rookie wide receivers who made legitimate impacts in 2019; N’Keal Harry wasn’t one of them, and he posted a 66.6 overall grade in limited action. Whether it be at wide receiver to give Julian Edelman some help or at tight end to step into Gronk's shoes, the Patriots need to go after offensive weapons that can get open.
Lastly, the Patriots do a good job of manufacturing pressure with blitzes and stunts, but they had only one player with 200 or more pass-rushing snaps and a pass-rushing grade north of 70.0 in 2019—that player (Danny Shelton) left in free agency. The Patriots had a great defense this past season, but the individual pass-rush talent could be bolstered.
New Orleans Saints: Cornerback
Secondary needs: quarterback, wide receiver
With Drew Brees‘ return and the addition of veterans such as Emmanuel Sanders and Malcolm Jenkins, the Saints’ Super Bowl window is still very much open. There aren’t too many glaring needs on this roster, though cornerback depth might qualify as the biggest one.
Marshon Lattimore’s job is secure as one of the outside cornerbacks, and rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was fantastic in the slot a season ago. Janoris Jenkins will draw the start at the other cornerback position after getting an extension with the team, but the Saints could still stand to add some depth behind those guys.
Though the announcement of Drew Brees’ return clears things up for 2020, there is still a need to look for the long-term answer at the position. Taysom Hill is nearly 30 years old without any starting experience, so it’s doubtful that he becomes that answer. As for wide receiver, the addition of Sanders was a massive win for the Saints. He’ll give Michael Thomas a running mate unlike anything he has had to this point in his career. The Saints shouldn’t be afraid to add another wide receiver to the group from the talented rookie class, however.
New York Giants: A reliable edge rusher
Secondary needs: offensive tackle, cornerback
With the fourth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Giants aren’t likely to win the Chase Young sweepstakes. But Young or no Young, they need a reliable pass-rushing option off the edge. Markus Golden impressed with a double-digit sack total this past season, but he enters free agency with a 63.0 PFF pass-rushing grade that indicates he wasn’t as strong in that department as his sack total would suggest. The Giants have not brought him back, and their only move in free agency at the edge rusher position was signing Kyler Fackrell, whose career-high 69.0 pass-rushing grade came back in 2018. They shouldn’t be done there.
The tackle duo of Mike Remmers and Nate Solder also allowed more combined pressures than any starting duo in the NFL a season ago. The Giants are locked into Solder at left tackle with his current contract situation, but Remmers left in free agency, so New York now has a vacancy at right tackle that needs to be filled, and recent signee Cameron Fleming is better suited for the swing tackle role than the full-time starter role, as he has played more than 500 offensive snaps just once in his six-year career (543 in 2017 with the Patriots).
Lastly, the Giants will be rolling with free agent acquisition James Bradberry and Deandre Baker at starting cornerback, but they still need a solid option in the slot and could use quality depth behind those two outside.
New York Jets: A wide receiver who can do it all for Sam Darnold
Secondary needs: cornerback, edge defender
If the Jets don’t select a wide receiver in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft, I’m not entirely sure what their plan is offensively. Yes, they signed Breshad Perriman, but that isn’t an improvement on what they had last season with Robby Anderson — and that wide receiver group last season was not good. Perriman (72.8 receiving grade in 2019) is a solid enough deep threat on a good offense, but he is in no way a No. 1 option. Considering the top guy on the Jets’ roster was Jamison Crowder prior to that move, that is something that they are missing. Jerry Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb or Henry Ruggs would all be solid selections for the Jets at 11.
At cornerback, they did return Brian Poole on a one-year deal to man the slot and added Pierre Desir after his release from the Indianapolis Colts, but looking at the roster, that’s still not enough. The Jets’ 2019 leaders in outside cornerback snaps were Darryl Roberts (cut), Blessuan Austin (355 snaps of solid play as a sixth-round rookie out of Rutgers), Arthur Maulet (over 100 snaps for the first time in his three-year career) and Trumaine Johnson (cut). When you add in that their addition — Desir — only has one season of above-average play as a starter (2018), it becomes clear that they need someone established at the position. The same can be said for edge defender, where the Jets once again lack feasible options.
Philadelphia Eagles: A field-stretching wide receiver
Secondary needs: linebacker, offensive tackle
The Eagles’ 2019 season was defined in large part by their attrition, particularly at offensive skill positions, down the stretch. A lack of wide receivers — and specifically Desean Jackson, due to injury — created a season in which running back Miles Sanders led the team in receiving yards on passes 20 or more yards downfield. It’s hard to have an effective passing game when that is your reality. Jackson should be back and healthy in 2020, but the Eagles could still benefit by adding a speedy receiver or two this offseason. That is something they have surprisingly not done yet through the first week-plus of free agency.
The secondary was a major area of need for the Eagles. With the trade for Darius Slay and the signing of Nickell Robey-Coleman, that group is suddenly a much-improved one. That isn’t to say that they should ignore the back end of their defense now, but it isn’t a glaring need anymore. A linebacking corps that is headlined by Jatavis Brown, Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards and Duke Riley isn’t ideal, nor is the depth at tackle behind Lane Johnson and Andre Dillard. Those are both areas that Philadelphia can look to in the draft and remainder of free agency.
Pittsburgh Steelers: More options along the offensive line
Secondary needs: safety, quarterback
The Steelers have had one of the most stable and consistent offensive lines in the NFL over the last several seasons, but it could be time to inject some new life into the group, particularly on the interior. Ramon Foster retired, Maurkice Pouncey is coming off the lowest PFF grade of his career and carries a cap hit of $11 million in both 2020 and 2021 and B.J. Finney joined the Seahawks in free agency on a new deal. It would behoove the Steelers to start looking toward the future at those positions, even after what was a strong Stefen Wisniewski signing and the likely move by Matt Feiler to left guard. The right tackle position will also be up in the air with Feiler’s move, leaving it a battle between Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner.
At safety, the Steelers have their starters for now in Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, but two years into his career, Edmunds has turned in overall grades of 63.7 and 63.6, so he hasn’t quite shown that he is irreplaceable.
Lastly, many Steeler fans don’t believe that quarterback is a need given that Ben Roethlisberger is set to return from injury, but Mason Rudolph (53.0 overall grade) and Devlin Hodges (45.8 overall grade) were among the worst quarterbacks in the NFL last season. At 38 years old and coming off a major elbow injury, as good as he may feel right now, Roethlisberger is not invincible. It’s not a top priority, but the Steelers should consider addressing the backup quarterback spot so they don’t end up in a position similar to the one they were in last year.
San Francisco 49ers: The 2020 version of Emmanuel Sanders
Secondary needs: cornerback, interior offensive line
The 49ers did a good job of keeping Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward, but they could not do the same for Emmanuel Sanders. He will be missed. Sanders has some of the surest hands in the league and dropped only one pass on 96 targets last season. Now, they are in a similar position to the one they were in at the beginning of last season, with Deebo Samuel and little else of note at the wide receiver position. Even Samuel didn’t truly start to emerge until Sanders joined the team. San Francisco should target one of the top three wide receivers on the board with the first-round pick that they obtained from the Colts in the DeForest Buckner trade.
At cornerback, Richard Sherman is still performing at a high level, earning PFF’s Coverage Defender of the Year award, but the 49ers are in the market for an upgrade at the other outside cornerback spot. Ahkello Witherspoon has been up and down over the course of his three-year career, and while Emmanuel Moseley was solid last season, he hasn’t shown enough to deter the 49ers from challenging him with competition for that outside spot.
The right guard position is the other big question mark for San Francisco after releasing Mike Person. None of Daniel Brunskill, Ben Garland or Tom Compton are exciting alternatives for that starting spot.
Seattle Seahawks: A revamped offensive line
Secondary needs: defensive line, slot cornerback
No qualifying quarterback has been under pressure on a higher percentage of their dropbacks since entering the league than Russell Wilson has — he’s the only quarterback over 40% since 2012. Things weren’t any better in 2019, as the Seahawks were one of the worst pass-blocking teams in the NFL; they allowed pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 26.7% of his dropbacks and forced him into improvisation mode more often than you’d like to see. Duane Brown has been the only truly consistent player on that line, so upgrades anywhere else make sense heading into next year.
And yes, that includes following their signings of guys like Cedric Ogbuehi (last season with 200-plus snaps was in 2017 with a 56.6 overall grade) and Brandon Shell (grade below 65.0 in each of past three seasons). B.J. Finney was a solid reserve for the Steelers at times, but his career high in snaps came last season, a year in which he earned just a 56.9 overall grade. The Seahawks’ offensive line moves were quantity over quality.
The Seahawks will also need to look for reinforcements to the defensive line, particularly if they aren’t able to retain Jadeveon Clowney. Even with Clowney last season, the Seahawks forced more pressure than only the Dolphins. Signing Bruce Irvin, who has graded at 59.1 and 62.9 overall the last two seasons, is not going to turn the tide.
At cornerback, the trade to acquire Quinton Dunbar should give Seattle a major boost in Tre Flowers’ spot, but they still need to find a slot cornerback. They ran base defense on an absurd 70% of their defensive snaps in 2019, nearly double the amount of any other team. Getting someone to cover the slot in nickel should be a priority so the Seahawks’ linebackers don’t get exposed in coverage.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Protection for Tom Brady
Secondary needs: safety, pass-catching running back
While the Buccaneers' offensive line was better than many people believe last season, they need to upgrade at the tackle position. Donovan Smith is coming off a career-high 70.8 overall grade in 2019 and figures to have the left tackle spot locked up given his contract, but right tackle is still open for improvement. The assumed starter, as of now, is Joe Haeg, who last played in a starting role during the 2017 season with the Colts (at right tackle). Haeg earned an overall grade of 64.1 that season, so there is room for a better option, either in the draft or in free agency, with someone like Jason Peters. Protecting the 43-year old Tom Brady should be at the top of the Buccaneers’ to-do list.
Safety is another position that Tampa Bay could look to. A torn Achilles kept Justin Evans off the field last season, but the guys who did see significant snaps at safety — Jordan Whitehead (45.2), Andrew Adams (62.7) and Mike Edwards (58.2) — all graded below 65.0. The cornerback duo of Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean impressed down the stretch, so it would benefit the Buccaneers to add some competition to find similar success at safety.
Lastly, the Buccaneers should look to add a running back at some point this offseason, specifically one that serves as a receiving threat out of the backfield. Ronald Jones has yet to record a receiving grade of 60.0 in two NFL seasons, and Brady has made use of pass-catching running backs throughout his career.
Tennessee Titans: Pass-rushing talent
Secondary needs: cornerback, offensive tackle
The Titans had nine players log 100 or more pass-rushing snaps last season. The only one with a pressure rate above 10.0% was Cameron Wake, whom the Titans recently released. Granted, he is 38 years old, but Wake is still a better pass-rusher than Vic Beasley Jr. is at this moment in time, as his highest pressure rate in the last three seasons came at just 10.5% last year. Harold Landry hasn’t yet shown the ability to consistently win as a pass-rusher, either, failing to crack a 65.0 pass-rushing grade in each of his first two seasons. That means the Titans still need to find a difference-maker off the edge to improve on their 32% pressure rate as a team that ranked 27th in the NFL in 2019.
The next area Tennessee has to look at is at cornerback. They should feel secure in Adoree’ Jackson, a player who is coming off a career-high 80.0 grade in 2019, but there are questions beyond him. Logan Ryan is still on the free agent market, and Malcolm Butler is coming off a career-low 64.2 coverage grade in 2019. As for their offensive line, the Titans took the value on Dennis Kelly to replace Jack Conklin at right tackle. It’s a solid move on their part given that Kelly has graded well in a part-time capacity over the last two seasons, but it does leave them thin behind Kelly and Taylor Lewan.
Washington Redskins: Quality starting options at outside cornerback
Secondary needs: wide receiver, tight end
The Redskins had one high-level player at cornerback (Quinton Dunbar) this past season. That was a good start heading into 2020, then the relationship fractured, leading to them trading Dunbar to the Seahawks. He ranked second among all cornerbacks in coverage grade (89.5) last season to only Richard Sherman. No other Redskins cornerback topped 65.0.
Washington brought back Kendall Fuller, but he has never played more than 250 snaps in a season at wide cornerback over the course of his four-year career. Right now, there aren’t any clear-cut solutions to what they’re going to do out wide. They need to add options in the draft and through the remainder of free agency.
At wide receiver, Terry McLaurin was a revelation as a rookie. He produced an 85.7 PFF receiving grade, one of the highest marks that we’ve seen from a rookie wide receiver in the PFF era. Similar to Dunbar at the cornerback position, no other Redskins wide receiver topped the 65.0 receiving grade mark. Washington should look to add secondary options behind McLaurin, both at the wide receiver and tight end position, to give Dwayne Haskins more to work with as he enters his second season.