Every Team's Dream Free-Agent Acquisition
Before we get started on explaining everyone's dream free-agent signing this winter, we have to admit: There isn't a team in football that couldn't use Jimmy Graham, Greg Hardy or Brian Orakpo.
Three of the four franchise-tagged players are fairly universal in their ability to help teams. That doesn't mean even one of those pipe dreams is even a thought on a team's mind. Let's leave those long shots out of the discussion.
Instead, our 32-team slideshow focuses on realistic No. 1 goals for each franchise. Those aren't as fun as big, pie-in-the-sky dreams, but in the competitive free-market world, even the realistic top targets might be just as difficult to make come true.
Arizona Cardinals: Left Tackle Branden Albert
The Arizona Cardinals' need to improve on the offensive line has been apparent for years. Branden Albert is easily one of the best left tackles on the market.
Heck, he is one of the best players available at any position, ranking No. 4 in Pro Football Focus' Top 75 Free Agents. He just happens to be at the position the 10-win Cardinals need the most.
Atlanta Falcons: Defensive End Michael Bennett
The Atlanta Falcons have a nice ace in the hole outside of free agency. They "earned" the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. If they don't get an edge rusher or an edge protector in free agency, they will get at least one of those in the draft.
The question they need to answer is which position do they feel most confident in drafting. Jadeveon Clowney might be a pipe dream, so figure the Falcons to pour their free-agent resources into a defensive end. The Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett, who ranks as No. 1 in Pro Football Focus' Top 75 Free Agents, is the best pass-rusher on the board.
Baltimore Ravens: Left Tackle Eugene Monroe
The Baltimore Ravens are in an unfortunate position. Their dream free-agent signee is someone they stand to lose, left tackle Eugene Monroe.
The Ravens were short on offensive linemen when Monroe was in the fold. With right tackle Michael Oher also headed to free agency, and the Ravens also needing help on the inside, bringing back Monroe is clearly the Ravens' top priority this offseason.
Buffalo Bills: Right Tackle Zach Strief
The Buffalo Bills declined to do a second year of the franchise tag on free safety Jairus Byrd, a sign they are either confident they are going to come to a long-term deal or they just don't value that position enough. This brings us to offensive tackle.
The New Orleans Saints are far more cap-strapped than the Bills, according to Spotrac.com (subscription required), so their right tackle Zach Strief could be looking for a new place to call home. Strief is a solid pass-blocking right tackle, according to Pro Football Focus' ratings, and a young quarterback like EJ Manuel needs all the help he can get.
Carolina Panthers: Wide Receiver Hakeem Nicks
It is no secret the Carolina Panthers need a long-term running mate for quarterback Cam Newton. No matter how much you like a mobile passer, he still needs someone to get the ball to downfield.
Hakeem Nicks is from North Carolina and the No. 1 wide receiver available on the market, according to Pro Football Focus. It is a perfect fit. Now, if only Nicks can get back to his 2011 form, the Panthers might wind up with the steal of this year's free-agent class.
Chicago Bears: Strong Safety T.J. Ward
The Chicago Bears need defense, particularly someone to help fix their dead-last rush defense and their safety position. T.J. Ward is one player that solves both issues.
Ward is an even better fit for the Bears than a Jairus Byrd, because Ward earned the best rating against the run at the safety position this year, according to Pro Football Focus.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cornerback Alterraun Verner
The Cincinnati Bengals are in a fairly enviable position with the salary cap, according to Spotrac.com (subscription required) estimates, so they could be one of the most aggressive teams if they chose to be.
They had issues with a banged-up secondary last year, so they could use some fresh legs at cornerback. Alterraun Verner, 25, is the best young corner on the market and has his arrow pointing way up.
Cleveland Browns: Linebacker Brandon Spikes
You could legitimately put "all" as a dream addition for a talent-needy franchise like the Cleveland Browns. First, they have to retain center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward, then they need more help on the offensive line and at linebacker.
Oh, and do you happen to have a quarterback, a running back and another wide receiver, too, by the way?
A guy like Brandon Spikes would give the Browns a proven veteran run defender in a division that focuses on running the football and playing tough defense. It would also help shore up that spot, so the Browns can use their draft picks on the more pricey edge and skill positions.
Dallas Cowboys: Um, Bueller?
The Dallas Cowboys only recently came within a sniff of the salary cap when they restructured Tony Romo's contract, according to Nick Eatman of the Cowboys' official website. Their salary-cap situation is certainly prohibitive in adding anything in free agency this winter.
Their No. 1 priority right now is likely finding a way to afford the players they already have, including restructuring the contract of linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Ware. This might be a sad reality for Cowboys fans, but just keeping Ware on the roster might be the dream free-agent scenario for Big D.
Denver Broncos: Safety Jairus Byrd
The Denver Broncos have arguably the two most productive skill-position players headed for free agency in wide receiver Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno, but you can take them out of the most prolific offense in NFL history and Peyton Manning will still have plenty to work with.
If you watched the Super Bowl, you might consider offensive line the biggest priority for the Broncos, but the secondary was bad for most of the year, too. Manning can make do with what he has to work with in pass protection, but you win Super Bowls with defense.
Jairus Byrd would be a nice fit as a ball-hawking free safety to help improve the Broncos' 27th-ranked pass defense. Of course, signing him might mean the Broncos have to let the likes of Decker and Moreno go.
Detroit Lions: Cornerback Vontae Davis
When you play in a division against Aaron Rodgers and Marc Trestman's emerging passing attack, you need to find a way to defend on the back end. The Detroit Lions have some clear needs at cornerback.
Vontae Davis finished 2013 ranked third overall at the position, according to Pro Football Focus' ratings system. The player and the need are a match here, but the cap-strapped Lions now must find a way to afford a cover corner like him.
Green Bay Packers: Free Safety Jairus Byrd
The Green Bay Packers have had some notorious issues at safety in recent years. That is clear. The question is whether a historically fiscally-responsible franchise decides to use some of their salary-cap space to address the position.
Jairus Byrd is the best free safety on the market, so he would be a dream addition. The more likely scenario is the Packers wind up with a second-tier guy like Chris Clemons or Captain Munnerlyn.
But, hey, this is about shooting for the stars, right?
Houston Texans: Linebacker Karlos Dansby
The Houston Texans are likely to remake their offense with a young quarterback, so they have to help him out. They can do that by bolstering a defense that declined a year ago, particularly against the run.
Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby is coming off a career year at age 32, so if he proves to be a bargain again on the market because of his advanced age, he might become a possibility for the Texans.
Indianapolis Colts: Wide Receiver Eric Decker
When you have an Andrew Luck, you have to do everything in your power to outfit him with weapons. With nearly $41 million of salary-cap space, according to OvertheCap.com, the Colts have plenty of buying power.
Eric Decker might not be the physical marvel Hakeem Nicks is, but he is far more polished as a route-runner and he has the Peyton Manning seal of approval. A guy like Decker could be a 120-catch receiver annually, working as a go-to man for Luck.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive End Michael Bennett
It has been tough to be a Jacksonville Jaguars fan, but they have some reasons to be optimistic going forward. They have a solid salary-cap situation and some premium draft picks to get a lot better quickly.
Assuming they are not banking on drafting pass-rushing freak Jadeveon Clowney, they can sign the best pass-rushing, free-agent defensive end in football, Michael Bennett.
Bennett was a hired gun a year ago for the Seattle Seahawks, helping them to a Super Bowl title. Now, the Jags can make him set for life with a long-term deal.
Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn
When you play in a division against the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, you need to be sure you're strong in the secondary. The Kansas City Chiefs have some holes to fill at corner and free safety.
The problem is their salary-cap situation will keep them from competing for the best pieces on the market. A defensive back like Captain Munnerlyn would be a nice fit, even if he's not the dreamiest of names in free agency.
Miami Dolphins: Left Tackle Eugene Monroe
The Miami Dolphins don't just need an offensive lineman, they need an entire offensive line. When you work on those positions, you have to start at left tackle.
You can make a case for either Branden Albert or Eugene Monroe. Considering the Dolphins already failed to make a deal for Albert a year ago, we will put Monroe as their dream addition. You wouldn't go wrong with either of Pro Football Focus' top two available tackles, though.
Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback Alterraun Verner
The Minnesota Vikings need to shore up the second-worst pass defense in football, but merely signing a veteran back-end defender is not the answer. They need a long-term solution.
Again, Alterraun Verner is the best young cornerback on market. As opposed to a one- or two-year stopgap at the position, like Aqib Talib or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Verner would be an ideal fit with the Vikings' rebuilding program.
New England Patriots: Wide Receiver Eric Decker
The New England Patriots have far more holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball, but what is the fun in looking there this offseason?
Instead, let's kick up some payback for Bill Belichick, who spurned Wes Welker only to lose to him in the AFC Championship and suffer injury on top of the insults. Tom Brady was visibly frustrated working with young receivers, Danny Amendola didn't work out and Julian Edelman is more product of the system than talent.
Signing an Eric Decker might be a pipe dream, but you shouldn't put it past the Pats and Belichick to pull off a coup and weaken his chief rival in the AFC at the same time.
New Orleans Saints: Tight End Jimmy Graham
Signing Jimmy Graham is all but a certainty as a non-exclusive franchise player, but his pending contract negotiations still should be the New Orleans Saints' No. 1 priority.
This can potentially get sticky, especially if the Saints force Graham to play under the one-year franchise tender for a tight end, which is only $7.053 million, according to the NFL's official press release on players tagged Monday.
Graham wants wide receiver money. The Saints are prepared to argue he is a tight end.
Regardless, the Saints need to find a way to make Graham the highest-paid tight end in history and settle all questions before it is even debated in arbitration.
New York Giants: Cornerback Charles Tillman
The Giants sorely need offensive line help, but they also stand to lose three cornerbacks (Corey Webster, Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas) as well. That is where a veteran game-changer like Charles Tillman comes in.
Tillman would give the Giants defense an attitude it hasn't had in years. Sure, he is a bit older and coming off injury, but that also makes him a bit more affordable for a team that has a lot of free agents and a lot of holes.
New York Jets: Wide Receiver Hakeem Nicks
The New York Jets clearly need some weapons, especially if they are going to be sticking with Geno Smith as their long-term solution at quarterback.
You can make a case Eric Decker is a better, safer free-agent signee than Hakeem Nicks, but it would be a tough sell to get Decker to join a shaky quarterback situation like that of the Jets'. Nicks might be more interested in money than a receiver-friendly situation, and Nicks has already won a Super Bowl in New York.
The Jets can throw more money at a wide receiver than any other team in football.
Oakland Raiders: Free Safety Jairus Byrd
The Oakland Raiders have so many holes, you can a case for just about every premium free agent to be a dream for them. Let's start with the area you have to have tight when you are playing in the AFC West against the offenses of the Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs: The secondary.
Jairus Byrd is easily the top defensive back on the market and the Raiders have the most salary-cap space in the NFL, according to Spotrac.com (subscription required).
Philadelphia Eagles: Free Safety Jairus Byrd
When you have the high-tempo attack of Chip Kelly, you stand to be playing a lot of high-scoring games. It is partially the reason the Philadelphia Eagles had the worst pass defense in football last season.
Still, a dearth of talent on the back end of the secondary is even a bigger reason for that.
Expect the Eagles to be among the most aggressive teams for a safety or cornerback, because they have to be. Jairus Byrd can help turn the Eagles' fortunes around defending the pass in a hurry.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Left Tackle Anthony Collins
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of holes to fill and little cap space to do it. They have to be bargain shoppers this offseason.
Consider stealing the likes of left tackle Anthony Collins from the AFC North-champion Cincinnati Bengals to be a dream scenario. We all know they have struggled to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright in the pocket the past few years.
St. Louis Rams: Safety Chris Clemons
The Rams have arguably the best drafting power in football this May, owning the No. 2 and No. 13 overall picks. They are going to get two players who are potentially better than any two free-agent signings.
That's good, because the Rams don't have a whole lot of cap space to work with, according to OvertheCap.com.
When the Rams dip into free agency, we figure it will be to find a second-tier guy at safety like Chris Clemons.
San Diego Chargers: Cornerback Aqib Talib
The San Diego Chargers don't just need one cornerback. They might need three.
So, figure them to try to draft one and sign another. When you are challenging Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC West, you cannot try to make do with scraps either.
Aqib Talib might be a pipe dream with his asking price this offseason, but the Chargers are so needy for a shutdown guy right away, they have to try.
San Francisco 49ers: Strong Safety T.J. Ward
Helping out Colin Kaepernick in the passing game might be a bigger priority, but the 49ers might bank on "a sorry receiver like Michael Crabtree," the re-signed Anquan Boldin, tight end Vernon Davis and a draftee there.
With Donte Whitner a free agent, the 49ers are going to have to spend on a safety somehow. If run-stuffing safety T.J. Ward has designs on playing with an elite defense and playing for a championship, San Francisco is an ideal landing spot for him.
Seattle Seahawks: Guard Jon Asamoah
The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl, but they still need to get better offensively. A year of health from Percy Harvin would help, along with adding another wide receiver.
Instead of them going back to the well on another mistake like Sidney Rice, count a guard like Jon Asamoah to be the ideal addition to their running game and inside protection for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Defensive End Michael Johnson
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Lovie Smith as their next head coach, it was a sign they are all-in on defense. When you have Darrelle Revis on your roster, you should be.
Now, the Bucs need a pass-rusher to help Smith play the type of pressure defense that made his Chicago Bears teams a winner. Michael Bennett already signed his way out of Tampa Bay a year ago, so consider Bengals edge-rusher Michael Johnson a consolation prize in free agency this go around.
Tennessee Titans: Cornerback Alterraun Verner
The Tennessee Titans had an effective secondary a year ago, thanks in large part to the development of 25-year-old cornerback Alterraun Verner. It won't be easy bringing him back, especially because so many teams need good, young, shutdown defenders like him on the back end.
If the Titans decide running back Chris Johnson is a luxury they cannot afford, it can free up the money to keep the home-grown Verner around long term.
Washington Redskins: Wide Receiver Eric Decker
Robert Griffin III's NFL career has been two different tales, equal parts triumph and tragedy. Regardless of which version you expect to show up in 2014, we can all admit he needs help downfield. Pierre Garcon just isn't enough.
Sure, the defense has its holes, but RGIII is your best player. You start by propping him up.
After Brian Orakpo is given his long-term deal—or franchise tender—count the Redskins as one of the teams in the hunt for a receiving threat for their young franchise passer. If Eric Decker leaves the cozy situation he has with Peyton Manning, figure him to be all right with working with RGIII for the foreseeable future.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!