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NFL Free Agency 2014: One Need Every Team Must Fill

Kristopher KnoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2014

NFL Free Agency 2014: One Need Every Team Must Fill

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    With free agency set to kick off in a matter of days and with NFL teams able to speak with available players over the weekend, you can rest assured that this year's top free agents will not remain unemployed for long.

    Though this year's draft class is considered to be one of the deepest in recent history, you can still expect a spending frenzy at 4 p.m. ET on March 11, when the free agent market officially opens.

    With rookie salaries held low by the rookie wage scale and with an all-time high $133 million salary cap in play, virtually every team will find a reason to open up its proverbial pocket book in free agency.

    However, there is a big difference between going all-in to fill a glaring need and tossing around cash in free agency just because a team can afford to do so (just ask Dan Snyder). With that in mind, we will take a look at each NFL franchise and identify one position that must be targeted during this year's free agency period. 

    In order to determine a position for each team, we will consider current roster needs, the strength of the needed positions in free agency and the likelihood of the team targeting/landing an impact player at the position early in May's draft. 

Buffalo Bills

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Position of Need: Offensive Tackle

     

    If the Buffalo Bills wind up losing Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd to free agencywhich appears very likely, according to a report from WGR 550 Buffalo radiothe team will be forced to refill the position one way or another during the offseason.

    Regardless of Byrd's future, however, the Bills could use an upgrade at right tackle and have to consider adding to the position during free agency. Last year's starter, Erik Pears, ranked just 55th overall among offensive tackles in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    This year's free-agent class features a handful of capable offensive tackles—including Michael Oher, Anthony Collins, Zach Strief, Tyson Clabo and Breno Giacomini—who would provide an upgrade on the right side of the offensive line.

    Adding one of these players would help solidify the right tackle position and provide Buffalo a little more flexibility with its ninth and 41st overall picks in May's draft. 

     

Miami Dolphins

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Position of Need: Offensive Tackle

     

    No quarterback was sacked more in 2013 than Miami Dolphin's signal-caller Ryan Tannehill (58 times). It should go without saying (but we're going to say it anyway) that the Dolphins need an upgrade at both offensive tackle positions.

    According to Pro Football Focus, right tackle Tyson Clabo was the best tackle on Miami's roster last season, and he ranked just 45th overall at the position. Jonathan Martin might have performed better after he left the team (ranked 60th among tackles), and his replacement, Bryant McKinnie, wasn't any better (ranked 65th).

    The good news is that the Dolphins don't have to be picky about which side of the line they improve first in free agency. If the team can solidify one side with a veteran and add a premier rookie at the other end via the draft, the offensive line may be in store for a quick turnaround.

    The other good news for Miami is that there are a number of enticing options available in this year's free-agent class, such as Eugene Monroe, Branden Albert and Anthony Collins. 

New England Patriots

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    Position of Need: Center

     

    Fans usually don't get too excited when their team goes after a center in free agency, but this is exactly what should happen in the case of the New England Patriots.

    Veteran center Ryan Wendell was one of the biggest weaknesses on the Patriots offense last season. He is set to become a free agent and probably will not be brought back. In fact, Wendell was such a liability that Pro Football Focus ranked him 35th in terms of pass protection among centers. (For those who haven't been keeping track, there are only 32 teams in the NFL.)

    The problem is that this year's top free-agent center, Alex Mack, was given the transition tag by the Cleveland Browns, so grabbing him would likely cost the Patriots a large lump of cash.

    However, there are other favorable options—like Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brian De La Puente—that will be available and would provide an upgrade over Wendell. 

     

New York Jets

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    Position of Need: Wide Receiver

     

    Like most teams that struggled to field an effective passing offense last season (the team ranked 31st, averaging 183.2 passing yards per game), the New York Jets are in need of help at the wide receiver position. Last year's leading receiver, Jeremy Kerley, totaled a mere 523 yards on 43 receptions.

    With a crop of talented wideouts available in this year's draft, should the Jets really chase a veteran on the free-agent market? If the team truly hopes to surround quarterback Geno Smith with the talent he needs to develop into a franchise passer, New York had better consider it.

    There is too much free-agent talent available for the Jets to sit idle, and bringing back Braylon Edwards for another look isn't going to cut it. Adding an experienced wideout like Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks or Golden Tate would help aid Smith's develop in Year 2. 

Baltimore Ravens

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Position of Need: Offensive Tackle

     

    With Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher both set to hit the open market, it is fairly safe to say that the Baltimore Ravens could use help at the left and the right tackle positions.

    Even if the plan is to target a franchise player at one tackle position in the draft (and it should be), the Ravens would be smart to solidify at least one tackle spot via free agency.

    Fortunately, there is some depth at the position this year, though the smart move probably would have been to reach an agreement with Monroe prior to free agency.

    Still, the Ravens can get help from the likes of Branden Albert, Zach Strief and Anthony Collins as well. Adding any one of them would give Baltimore a viable starter at one tackle position while allowing the team to focus on the other in the weeks leading up to the draft.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Position of Need: Cornerback

     

    Considering the Cincinnati Bengals defense ranked fifth against the pass in 2013 (209 yards per game allowed), one wouldn't think the team would need much help in the secondary.

    However, the Bengals could still benefit from adding a free-agent cornerback because of Leon Hall's recent injury issues, the aging of Adam Jones and Terence Newman and the enigmatic struggle that has been the Dre Kirkpatrick experiment. 

    Many mock drafts, including this one from CBS Sports' Pete Prisco, have the Bengals taking another first-round cornerback. However, I think the team would be better served by drafting a playmaking safety or pass-rusher and adding a veteran corner through free agency.

    Fortunately, the Cincinnati secondary should still be good enough to make this more of a luxury/insurance plan rather than a need, and the Bengals should be able to make due with a mid-priced veteran like Tarelle Brown or Captain Munnerlyn. 

     

Cleveland Browns

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    Position of Need: Running Back

     

    The rushing attack of the Cleveland Browns was awful last season, as the team averaged just 86.4 yards per game on the ground to go along with a pathetic four rushing touchdowns on the year. 

    NFL.com's Bucky Brooks has the Browns selecting Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde at pick No. 26 in the first round of the draft. I feel that this would be a tremendous reach, however, especially considering the amount of talent and depth that this year's draft class holds at other positions.

    Instead, the Browns would be better off looking to add to the position in free agency. Despite the front-office changes that have occurred in Cleveland, NFL.com's Elliot Harrison still likes Ben Tate for the Browns, and so do I, provided he can be had at a reasonable cost.

    Should Tate's price tag be too high, Cleveland could take a look at guys like Knowshon Moreno, James Starks, and LeGarrette Blount, or they could see what former Minnesota Vikings backup Toby Gerhart (averaged 7.9 yards per carry last season) looks like as a starter. 

     

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Position of Need: Offensive Tackle

     

    Using a second-round pick on Ohio State product Mike Adams hasn't exactly worked out for the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    Last season, Adams ranked just 62nd overall among offensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. Replacing him in 2014 should at least be a consideration. In fact, Bleacher Report's Curt Popejoy made a spirited argument for the move early last season. 

    Pittsburgh could consider drafting a new tackle with their first-round pick (No. 15 overall) this year, but I believe they would be better off grabbing some secondary help or an offensive playmaker.

    Instead, the Steelers should take a look at adding an experienced veteran to their group, possibly one of the two former Ravens tackles who are available in free agency. 

Houston Texans

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Position of Need: Offensive Tackle

     

    The Houston Texans appear likely to go with a quarterback or a pass-rusher with the first overall pick in May's draft, and they will have a prime opportunity to add to other positions in free agency.

    A position the Texans must address, especially if they plan on drafting a signal-caller, is right tackle. Last year's primary starter, Ryan Harris, will be a free agent and probably isn't the team's best option, even if the Texans consider bringing him back. Harris ranked just 57th among all offensive tackles last year, according to Pro Football Focus

    Adding an experienced veteran like Eugene Monroe, Branden Albert or Anthony Collins in free agency would solidify the Texans' line for whoever comes in as Houston's new quarterback. 

Indianapolis Colts

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    Position of Need: Wide Receiver

     

    The Indianapolis Colts have already bolstered one unit with a free-agent signing, adding former Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson on a four-year, $22 million deal on Thursday, per ESPN.

    Now the Colts need to turn their free-agent focus to another area, though the need there may not immediately seem apparent.

    Though the Colts have maintained their reputation as a passing team with Andrew Luck under center, the passing offense was actually a middle-of-the-pack unit in 2013 (ranked 17th, averaging 232.8 yards per game). Of course, losing star wideout Reggie Wayne to injury didn't help matters.

    Still, the colts would be wise to add another veteran receiver, especially with Darrius Heyward-Bey headed for free agency. Heyward-Bey was fourth on the team with 29 receptions and 309 yards last season.

    Adding a mid-priced veteran like Jacoby Jones, Dexter McCluster or Ted Ginn would help replace Heyward-Bey's production and possibly boost Indianapolis' return game. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Position of Need: Defensive End

     

    The Jacksonville Jaguars desperately need a quarterback, and there is a good chance that the team will get its next signal-caller early in the draft.

    The Jaguars could also use a pass-rushing defensive end to fill in opposite Jason Babin. Despite starting 16 games last season, Tyson Alualu produced just 1.5 sacks and ranked just 48th overall among 4-3 defensive ends, according to Pro Football Focus

    This is where free agency should come into play.

    According to Spotrac.com, the Jaguars should enter free agency close to $40 million under the 2014 salary cap. With big-name players like Michael Bennett, Justin Tuck, Michael Johnson, Jared Allen and Everson Griffin expected to be available, Jacksonville cannot be afraid to make a splash in free agency.

    This holds especially true when you consider the need for excitement surrounding this recently stagnant franchise. 

     

     

Tennessee Titans

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    Position of Need: Cornerback

     

    Any time a team is in danger of losing an an All-Pro cornerback, it must at least consider reloading the position as soon as it gets an opportunity.

    According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, it appears as though the Titans and second-team All-Pro Alterraun Verner haven't come close to an agreement on a new contract, so it makes sense for Tennessee to start weighing its options in free agency.

    There are plenty of quality corners for the Titans to choose from, such as Aqib Talib and Tarell Brown, and adding one of them should be a priority, even if the team wants to target another defensive back on draft day.

    Don't be too surprised if the Titans take a look at Chris Owens, who isn't a big name but played under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton in Cleveland last season. 

Denver Broncos

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    Position of Need: Guard

     

    The offensive line of the Denver Broncos deserves credit for keeping quarterback Peyton Manning upright long enough to reach the Super Bowl last season, but there does appear to be one weak link among the bunch.

    Left guard Zane Beadles was credited with allowing an alarming 32 quarterback hurries in 2013 by Pro Football Focus, and he ranked just 51st overall among all offensive guards.

    While the Broncos will have an opportunity to draft a talented guard at some point in May's draft, their window with Manning is closing, and the team needs to add a lineman it knows can start immediately. 

    While this year's list of free-agent guards isn't exactly jaw-dropping, there are several veterans—like Geoff Schwartz, Travelle Wharton, Chad Rinehart and even Richie Incognito (if the team is willing to take a chance on him)—who could step in and provide an upgrade over Beadles, who is also scheduled to become a free agent. 

     

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Position of Need: Inside Linebacker

     

    The Kansas City Chiefs don't have a ton of holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball, but they should consider their free-agent options at inside linebacker since Akeem Jordan is set to hit the open market himself.

    Lining up a veritable playmaker like Karlos Dansby or Brandon Spikes next to a star defender like Derrick Johnson should be an enticing thought for the Chiefs, even if offensive help is a greater need.

    Bolstering the linebacking corps would help a good defense (ranked sixth in 2013, allowing 19.1 points per game) become even better, and it would also allow the Chiefs to focus on selecting offensive weapons in May's draft.

    With utility man Dexter McCluster possibly leaving via free agency, Kansas City is almost certain to look for a way to improve it's 25th-ranked passing offense (208.8 yards per game) early in the draft. 

Oakland Raiders

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    Position of Need: Wide Receiver

     

    The Oakland Raiders need help at multiple positions, and there is a good chance that their free-agent strategy will be determined by how sold the team is on taking a quarterback with the fifth overall pick in May.

    If Oakland believes a quarterback makes sense there, it will make wideout a more pressing free-agent need. However, the team could also pass on a quarterback and draft a playmaking wide receiversuch as Clemson's Sammy Watkinswith the fifth pick as well.

    Last season, the Raiders ranked just 24th in terms of passing offense (208.8 yards per game), and Rod Streater was the team's leading receiver with 888 yards; no other receiver managed to reach the 700-yard mark.

    The trick will be convincing a guy like Eric Decker or Julian Edelman that the Raiders are a team on the rise, and Oakland may end up having to overpay in order to bring in such talent.  

    Fortunately, the team should have the available cash to do exactly that, as the team is expected to enter free agency roughly $65 million below the salary cap, per Spotrac.com.

San Diego Chargers

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    Position of Need: Cornerback

     

    First-year head coach Mike McCoy had the San Diego Chargers playing like championship contenders late last season, even if the team barely slipped into the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

    If the Chargers are to actually become championship contenders in 2014, they could use a little retooling on the back end of the defense; the unit surrendered 258.7 yards per game through the air last season, ranking 29th in the league.

    Finding a veteran to replace Richard Marshall, should he leave via free agency, will be a high priority for the Chargers. Actually, addressing the positiong probably would have been a priority anyway, even if Marshall were not hitting the market. Marshall ranked just 101st overall among cornerbacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and fellow corner Shareece Wright ranked 102nd. 

    Targeting a corner in the draft would still be a wise option, but the team should also take a long look at other potential available free-agent talent like Aquib Talib, Walter Thurmond and Sam Shields. 

Dallas Cowboys

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    Defensive End

    The Dallas Cowboys could use some depth at the defensive end position and may need to outright reload if the team cannot find a way to afford DeMarcus Ware.

    The #Cowboys contacted DeMarcus Ware today to let him know they definitely wanted to keep him. But not at $13M per year. Decision time.

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2014

    While fellow end George Selvie performed respectably in Dallas' 32nd ranked defense (415.3 yards per game allowed), he ranked just 29th overall among 4-3 defensive ends, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    Finding a rotational end (or replacement for Ware) should be on the Cowboys' to-do list in free agency, though Dallas may have to overlook marquee free agents due to salary cap issues. The team is expected to be close to $1 million over the cap, according to ESPN's Todd Archer.

    Dallas should be able to bolster the position with a lower-priced free agent like Israel Idonije or Frostee Rucker, while leaving their high draft picks for a position of greater need like cornerback. 

     

     

New York Giants

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    Position of Need: Guard

     

    The retirement of longtime guard David Diehl leaves the New York Giants with a mammoth hole along the offensive line, though fans might argue his presence too often left a gaping hole in pass protection in 2013. Diehl ranked 80th among offensive guards in terms of pass protection last season, according to Pro Football Focus

    Regardless of how one might view Diehl's play with the team last season, he was a mainstay along the line and a two-time Super Bowl champion. His leadership and experience will likely be missed. 

    Adding a veteran free agent would at least ensure that the Giants will have some experience at the position next season, even if the team decides to use a high-round draft pick on Diehl's long-term replacement.

    Adding a guy like Geoff Schwartz, Chad Rinehart, Willie Colon or Brian Waters would help ease New York through the transition, though they may not provide a permanent answer at the position. 

     

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Position of Need: Safety

     

    What do you get a team that has plenty of offensive firepower but also the league's worst passing defense? You get them secondary help. 

    The Philadelphia Eagles, who allowed 289.8 yards per game through the air in 2013, will probably look to add a playmaking cornerback or safety early in the draft, but both positions should be looked at in free agency as well. 

    The safety position, in particular, caused Philadelphia problems in 2013. Nate Allen, who is entering free agency, ranked just 49th overall among safeties, according to Pro Football Focus, and Patrick Chung ranked 71st.

    Fortunately, there is a pair of former Oregon standouts on the market who could help head coach Chip Kelly greatly improve his defense. Adding either Jairus Byrd or T.J. ward would be a major boon to Philadelphia's defense, and the Eagles shouldn't be afraid to make a strong push for either of them. 

Washington Redskins

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    Position of Need: Safety

     

    The Washington Redskins finished last season ranked 31st in terms of scoring defense (29.9 points per game allowed), which should be a good indication of how much defensive help the team should try to add this offseason.

    Addressing the safety position in free agency would be a good start, as there are a few top-tier veterans available, and the Redskins won't have an opportunity to draft one in the first round of May's draft.

    Landing a big-name safety like Jairus Bryd or T.J. Ward would be a major victory for Washington, and it would help ease the pain of heading into the draft without a full arsenal of picks. 

    However, the Redskins would probably benefit from adding any of the top free-agent safeties. No safety on the team's current roster ranked higher than 80th at the position last season, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Chicago Bears

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    Position of Need: Defensive Tackle

     

    When a team runs a 4-3 defense and ranks dead last in the league in run defense (161.4 yards per game allowed), you know that there is need for an upgrade in the middle of the defensive line.

    This is the position the Chicago Bears find themselves in heading into free agency. Even if the Bears have their sights set on a rookie lineman in the draft, the team could still afford to add a rotational veteran, at the very least.

    Chicago might want to make a run at B.J. Raji, who played end and nose tackle in the rival Green Bay Packers' 3-4 system but is able to plug up any position on the line due to his mammoth 337-pound frame.

    The Bears also might want to look at Jason Hatcher and Randy Starks, both of whom were ranked as top-10 defensive tackles last season by Pro Football Focus and have experience in the middle in a 4-3 scheme. 

Detroit Lions

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    Position of Need: Wide Receiver

     

    The Detroit Lions need secondary help in a big way (the team ranked 23rd in passing defense in 2013, allowing 246.9 yards per game through the air), but I think they would be better served by going after a defensive playmaker in May's draft rather than in free agency.

    Instead, the Lions might want to take a look at some of the quality receivers that will be available on the open market. Last season, Detroit's second- and third-most productive receivers, respectively, were Reggie Bush (54 catches) and Joique Bell (53 receptions). In case you weren't aware, those two players are running backs.

    Someone needs to take a little pressure off Calvin Johnson in the passing game, and there are a number of starting-caliber wideouts and slot receivers hitting free agency this year.

    Lions fans would probably love to see Golden Tate, Julian Edelman or James Jones lined up alongside Johnson when their team has the football. 

Green Bay Packers

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    Position of Need: Tight End

     

    Tight end Jermichael Finley has been a mainstay on the Green Bay Packers offense for the past six seasons, but he is headed for free agency, and the team may have to find his replacement.

    Green Bay will likely have an opportunity to find a talented tight end with the 21st pick in May's draft, but if the Packers can land one of the better free-agent tight ends available on the market, it would allow the team to focus on other positions of need with that pick.

    While there are few real playmakers available outside of Jimmy Graham, who would cost a pair of first-round picks to acquire, there are some starting-caliber veterans who would likely find a happy home on the opposite end of Aaron Rodger's passes. 

    Guys like Brandon Pettigrew, John Carlson or Brandon Myers would help fill the void left by Finley, even if those aren't the most exciting names on the market. 

Minnesota Vikings

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    Position of Need: Cornerback

     

    Should the Minnesota Vikings decide to pass on a quarterback with the eighth overall pick in May's draft, the team may decide to go with a rookie upgrade at the cornerback position.

    If the Vikings can solidify the position via free agency, however, it would allow Minnesota to go after one of those playmaking receivers or pass-rushers on draft day (or the aforementioned quarterback) while still upgrading a secondary that was downright awful in 2013.

    The Vikings ranked 31st in the league in terms of passing defense last season (287.2 yards allowed per game), and only Xavier Rhodes (10 passes defensed) brought any sense of respectability to Minnesota's cornerback group.

    Cornerback is one of the deeper free-agent positions this year, with notable names such as Aqib Talib, Alterraun Verner, Vonte Davis, Sam Shields and Captain Munnerlyn available for pursuit. Any one of them would provide a boost for new head coach Mike Zimmer and his rebuilding effort. 

Atlanta Falcons

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    Position of Need: Tight End

     

    The Atlanta Falcons are going to miss future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, no matter who the team gets to replace their recently-retired star. Adding a free-agent veteran to man the tight end position should help ease the transition, though.  

    Atlanta may look to draft a tight end in May, but it probably won't do so in Round 1, barring a trade. The sixth overall pick would be better spent on a stud pass-rusher or a franchise offensive tackle, and it wouldn't hurt for the Falcons to spend their second-round selection on one of these positions either.

    While this year's crop of free-agent tight ends isn't as deep as some other positions, there are a few capable veterans among the bunch. Solid starters like Jermichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew, Fred Davis and Brandon Myers should be available.

    Adding one of these players would allow the Falcons to ensure that they will have starting-caliber talent at the position next season and will not have to reach for a tight end during the draft. Still, truly replacing Gonzalez will be a nearly impossible order. 

     

Carolina Panthers

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    Wide Receiver

    Quarterback Cam Newton took a big step forward in his third year, leading the Carolina Panthers to a 12-4 record and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

    IF the Panthers want to see Newton take another step in 2014, the team needs to continue to surround him with talent, especially at the receiving end of his passes.

    Getting help at wide receiver becomes an even bigger priority if Carolina can't find a way to keep longtime veteran Steve Smith in their plans. 

    From Clemson pro day. RT @jjones9: Steve Smith tells ESPN: "I'm a Panther until I'm told otherwise" http://t.co/ylmL6HjNwT

    — Joe Person (@josephperson) March 6, 2014

    While the Panthers should certainly consider their options in May's draft, they also need to put some thought into how a guy like Eric Decker, Golden Tate or James Jones might look on their roster. 

New Orleans Saints

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    Position of Need: Offensive Tackle

     

    The New Orleans Saint probably won't work too hard to bring back 30-year-old linebacker Parys Haralson, but the team could still use an upgrade at the position even if they do. Haralson logged just 3.5 sacks in 2013 and was ranked 22nd overall among 3-4 outside linebackers by Pro Football Focus last season. 

    Unfortunately, there are not a lot of superior options available in free agency, and I fully expect the Saints to grab a linebacker early in the draft.

    Instead, the Saints should look for a free-agent upgrade at left tackle, where Charles Brown often allowed defenders to penetrate the otherwise sturdy offensive line last season. Brown was credited with allowing seven sacks and 33 quarterback hurries by Pro Football Focus and was ranked 66th among all tackles.

    Making a run at a capable tackle like Eugene Monroe or Anthony Collins would help solidify the entire line, and it would help keep quarterback Drew Brees on his feet for another run.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Offensive Tackle

    Over the next couple of months, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to have to decide if Mike Glennon is the answer at quarterback or if taking a quarterback in the draft is a better option. 

    If the Buccaneers are sold on Glennon, grabbing a left tackle with the seventh overall pick would make sense. However, Tampa will also have an opportunity to solidify the tackle position in free agency and target an offensive weapon or dominant edge-rusher with the pick instead.

    Last year's starter, Donald Penn, ranked 30th among all offensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) so there is room for improvement either way. 

    Guys like Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe ant Anthony Collins should be at the top of Tampa's list.

    NFL Free Agency Rumors: Buccaneers to be "big players" for Branden Albert http://t.co/j25q9vkgHB

    — Sander Philipse (@Bucs_Nation) February 20, 2014

    While the Buccaneers do not have tons of money available to spend (they will be around $12 million under the cap, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora), Tampa should be able to work out a creative deal in order to add top talent to the position. 

     

Arizona Cardinals

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    Position of Need: Offensive Tackle

     

    The Arizona Cardinals just missed the playoffs at 10-6 last season and appear to be on the verge of becoming a perennial contender. However, the team is going to need some offensive line help as long as statuesque quarterback Carson Palmer is under center.

    Grabbing a franchise lineman in the draft should be a priority, but both tackle positions were a weakness in 2013, so improving at least one of them should be a goal in free agency. 

    Last season, right tackle Eric Winston was rated 69th overall among offensive tackles, and left tackle Bradley Sowell was ranked 76th by Pro Football Focus.

    Adding virtually any of the notable free-agent tackles would improve the Cardinals' offensive line, but Arizona shouldn't be afraid to go all-in on one of the top guys, as the team is extremely close to being a challenger in the NFC West. 

     

     

San Francisco 49ers

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    Position of Need: Wide Receiver

     

    At least the San Francisco 49ers got a little more production out of Jon Baldwin (three catches for 28 yards in 2013) than they did his predecessor, A.J. Jenkins.

    The 49ers could still use another wideout to complement Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, however, as they need to boost last season's 30th-ranked passing offense (186.2 yards per game). With Crabtree injured for much of the season, the 49ers third-best receiver in 2013 (behind Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis) was Bruce Miller, who had a whopping 25 receptions for 243 yards.

    Adding a quick, shifty receiver who can help stretch the field would greatly benefit San Francisco as it tries to make a push at a fourth consecutive NFC Championship appearance.

    Adding a guy like James Jones, Eric Decker or Julian Edelman would help quarterback Colin Kaepernick continue to grow as a passer, and it might just provide enough firepower for the 49ers to finally make a successful run.  

     

Seattle Seahawks

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    Position: Wide Receiver

     

    The Seattle Seahawks do not have many glaring needs (few Super Bowl champions do), but the team could use a little help at wide receiver, especially after cutting Sidney Rice and with Golden Tate set for free agency.

    The Seahawks could target a wideout in May's draft, but with the last pick in the first round, they may find better value in one of this year's many talented offensive linemen or one of the top tight ends.

    This doesn't mean Seattle shouldn't draft a receiver at some point, but it should also consider picking from a fairly impressive group of free agents beforehand. 

    Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, Julian Edelman and James Jones headline a solid class of free-agent wideouts. 

    While general manager John Schneider probably won't go overboard on free-agent spending (Rice's release was a money-saving move, after all), he may be able to convince potential targets to take less money to join the franchise's title defense. 

St. Louis Rams

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    Position of Need: Safety

     

    Even with starting quarterback Sam Bradford out for much of the season, the St. Louis Rams were a strong 7-9 football team in 2013.

    A major weakness, however, could be found on the back end of the Rams defense, where the safety position was a major liability. Safeties Rodney McCleod and T.J. McDonald ranked just 76th and 77th overall, respectively, among safeties in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Armed with the second and 13th overall picks in the draft, the Rams could look to add a rookie to the equation, but St. Louis would probably be better served snagging offensive line help and a playmaking receiver with their first-round picks.

    While McCleod and McDonald are young players (McDonald was a rookie last year, McCloud was in his second season) and have room to grow, finding an immediate upgrade for one of them in free agency shouldn't be difficult. 

    Guys like Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner and Louis Delmas should be available, and the Rams could always consider bringing back Darian Stewart, who started six games in 2013. 

     

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