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2009 Team Needs
Prior to free agency and the draft
By Jay Goldberg

 

AFC EAST

BUF


Major need
     Need     Upgrade possible     Depth/possible need     Not a need

   
QB I Like Edwards and believe he will be a solid NFL starter, but then I thought I saw something in Losman as well.  In any case, Losman is an UFA so the Bills need to address backup quarterback.  A late round pick on a young developmental quarterback could also be added.
RB Lynch and Jackson (a RFA) form a good one-two punch.  Look for the Bills to draft a young back on day two to compete with Omon for #3, and be in place in case Jackson leaves in 2010.
WR Hardy was drafted to start opposite Evans, who is a star, and he disappointed.  I wouldn't give up on him just yet; however, adding a veteran to compete to start would be a good idea.  Parrish is best served as a returner/#4 and Reed as a #3.
TE With Evans always gaining the attention of opposing defenses, and the Bills unable to find a receiver to take advantage of that situation to play opposite Evans; a tight end who could get open down the seam in the middle of the field would be a Godsend to young Mr. Edwards.  The catch here is that the Bills need a tight end who can also block since they use their tight end in the running game.  If the Bills don't select a tight end early, there is a young kid who could "fit the bill" who could be available day two in the draft (see my observations from the East West Shrine Games).
OL The Bills gave up too many sacks.  The lack of a cohesive unit for the Bills started with Peters' holdout.  With Preston and Fowler UFAs, the Bills will need to address center in the offseason.  They could also look to bring in some guards who could compete to start.
DL The Bills addressed defensive tackle before the 2008 season began and improved, but still finished 22nd in the league against the run.  However, they have a bigger need at end.  Schobel is a good player but is coming off injury and none of their other players are starting caliber.  Kelsay, Denney and Ellis are best served as backups. 
LB The Bills linebacking unit is solid and they will be fine with the players they have.  However, a dominate sideline to sideline WILL would make this unit special.  Crowell could have been the guy, but he got injured and is now an UFA.  
DB I think this unit could become one of the best secondaries in the NFL next season.  I like their corners McKelvin and McGee a lot, and safety Whitner is also top drawer.  With these three cornerstones in place, the Bills just need the finishing touches.  Simpson has been inconsistent, but I still like his skill set and wouldn't give up on him yet.   However, there is usually good value at safety on day two of the draft and the Bills should add one to their mix.  At the nickel, Greer is an UFA and I'm not sold on Corner so resigning Greer or adding a corner  is advisable.
ST The Bills' special teams are a strength.

MIA

Major need     Need     Upgrade possible     Depth/possible need     Not a need
   

QB With Pennington for now and Henne for later, the Fins are set at quarterback.  I am not a Beck fan (football, not music) so moving him in the offseason to a team that like him and drafting or signing a new #3 makes sense.
RB Brown made the Pro Bowl, but averaged less than 50 yards rushing a game over his last 6 regular season and 1 playoff games.  Add to that that Ricky Williams is an UFA, Cobbs is a better receiver than runner and the Dolphins lost promising practice squad player Parmalee during the season and what many think of as a strength, is, in my opinion, a need.
WR Ginn Jr. finally started to pay dividends at receiver.  He is best served as a #2 who needs attention, thus forcing opposing defenses to choose to play a safety over the top of the teams' #1 wideout, or risk Ginn Jr. getting open deep.  Of course a team could double both, but that would open up the running game.  Therefore, a true #1 receiver would transform this offense more than almost any other offense in football.  Camarillo, if he comes back from injury okay, Bess and even London offer good depth.
TE Fasano played well in his first year with Miami and Martin is a good receiver at tight end who can make plays downfield.  Haynos is a good blocker.
OL Carey is an UFA and the team will need to resign or bring in a right tackle since there is no replacement for him on their roster.  At guard, Thomas looked promising before his injury and Smiley is solid.  Satele is okay, but replaceable at center.  He would be perfect as a center/guard backup.  The Fins need at least one tackle (Carey or a starter) and possible a second to provide better depth.  A center is also a possibility.
DL This is a very underrated unit.  At end I love the potential of Langford.  He will blossom into a Pro Bowl caliber player next year.  Holliday, Starks and Merling provide good choices and depth opposite Langford.  Ferguson still gets it done at a high level on the nose.  Soliai looks the part, sometimes plays the part, but Miami will probably bring in some competition for him in the draft.
LB Porter's rebirth was fun to watch, but I don't think Miami will put all their eggs in that basket next year.  In fact they signed former Penn State DE/OLB,  Wake, who had over 20 sacks in Canada last year as a free agent.  Wake was a player with great measureables who didn't stick with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2005.  I liked him then and believe he could be the surprise of Miami's offseason.  Roth was fine playing opposite Porter but will need to improve in coverage to keep that job long term.  Inside Crowder is an UFA and may not be back, and Ayodele is steady, but replaceable as a starter.  Look for Miami to address inside linebacker in the draft.
DB The Dolphins' secondary was a unit I thought would be a mess at the beginnig of the season.  However, they came together and played fairly well as the season progressed.  At corner, Will Allen was reborn and looked like he did in his younger days with the Giants.  Goodman suddenly developed into a top cover corner.  late in the year, Nathan Jones became a big play nickel, especially on blitzes.  At safety, Bell was a tackling machine and Hill was steady and reliable.  A big play free safety would help this unit take the next step.  A young corner could also be added since Allen is aging and Jones isn't starting material.
ST Rookie kicker Carpenter was a nice find.  Paired with punter Fields, the Dolphins kicking game is solid.  Bess is a solid punt returner, but not a game-breaking threat.  Ginn Jr hasn't developed as a deference-making return man as envisioned when he was drafted.  Upgrades in the return game could be addressed in the offseason.

NE

Major need     Need     Upgrade possible     Depth/possible need     Not a need
   

QB Brady is coming off a serious injury and Cassell is an UFA.  If Brady is healthy, O'Connell, a third round pick who made my list of underrated players in the draft, should be the next Cassell, a developing player to play behind Brady.  However, when the Pats have to decide on Cassell, Brady's status will be unknown.  Therefore, quarterback could be a need depending upon Brady's health and where Cassell ends up.
RB I'm officially off Maroney as the Pats long term feature back.  Think the Pats wish they would have gone DeAngelo Williams instead of Maroney.  I had Williams clearly ahead of him on my draft board.  Jordan is a free agent but will not be a major loss if he leaves.  Morris is better than many think, but has gotten banged up too much recently.  Faulk is a steady third down back.  If the Pats can upgrade this position, it would be advisable.
WR Moss and Welker are two of the best.  Gaffney is okay but is an UFA, and should be their #4 not their #3.  Washington is a good special teams player.  The Pats like using three wide receiver sets so they definitely need to upgrade the bottom of their roster.
TE Watson and Thomas are a good one-two, although Watson should be a more explosive weapon in the passing game than he has been.  Depth is needed.
OL Surprisingly, the Pats gave up the 5th most sacks in the league (and FYI were 12th in the league in pass attempts).  A lot of that was due to injuries and Cassell adjusting to the starting role.  Their line is a very good run-blocking line.  Look for the Pats to add some offensive lineman in the draft, a challenger for Kaczur at RT is possible, as is a versatile inside lineman who can play multiple positions.
DL This is a major strength with Seymour, Wilfork and Warren starting and Green, Wright and Smith rotating in.  While this is not a need position, if the PAts find fit and value in the draft here, they will add to their strength.
LB This position is starting to transition to a younger unit.  Mayo was a great addition as a rookie, and Guyton showed promise.  Thomas has not had the impact I expected after he was signed as a free agent and Vrabel still plays hard but his sacks were way down.  The Pats need a playmaker at outside linebacker and possibly, another young inside backer.
DB The Pats need a shut down corner.  Hobbs is a solid starter.  Wilhite, Wheatley and O'Neal are nickel and dime types.  Both the injured Harrison and Sanders are UFAs.  Meriweather played well and will get better.   The Pats need to find a long term answer to pair with Meriweather.
ST The Pats need an upgrade at punter.  They also use a starting corner to return kicks (Hobbs) and a starting receiver (Welker) to return punts.  If either got hurt in their special team roles the team would lose a valuable defensive/offensive player.  Therefore, a full time returner should be added.

NYJ

Major need     Need     Upgrade possible     Depth/possible need     Not a need
   

QB Favre no. Clemens no with emphasis.  Ratliff, maybe, but not now.  He looked very good in preseason.  The Jets quarterback situation is mess.
RB Thomas Jones led the AFC in rushing yards and that was not a fluke.  He is a solid back who has mileage left on him.  Washington is as good as it gets as a change-of-pace, third-down back.  Some want to use him more but that would be a mistake.  Brain Westbrook he is not.  Richardson is still a very effective fullback.  Chatman is an UFA, so adding depth via the draft is possible.
WR Many say the Jets need a speed receiver.  However, I like Clowney when he was drafted by the Packers, a team too deep at receiver to give him time to develop.  I loved it when the Jets signed him to their practice squad.  I wrote watch him in camp last year and he was the talk of camp (with Ratliff) until he got hurt.  Now I'll say that this year he carves out a significant role as a speed receiver in the Jets offense.  I also like the tough, Kennan McCardell-like Cotchery and do-a-little-of-everything Brad Smith.  The player who keeps getting it done, but it seems like you're pulling teeth to get results is Coles.  I would look to replace him now rather than wait.  I think he could be one of those players that falls off abruptly.
TE Kellar is a stretch-the field, bulked-up wide receiver playing tight end.  He's a keeper.  Baker is underrated.  He does everything well, nothing great.  Franks place on the roster could be tied to Favre returning.
OL The Jets' line improved significantly, but they still had some spotty play.  However, as a whole the line is solid.  Bringing in some young players to provide depth and push the starters is what will most likely happen in the offseason.
DL Ellis, Jenkins, and Coleman are a good 3-4 front.  However, better depth is needed. Especially since Jenkins wore down late in the year.
LB Inside Barton and Harris were solid, but Barton is an UFA and may very well be on another team next year.  On the outside Thomas and Pace are okay but replaceable (yes, even Pace).  I firmly believe Gholston will have a breakout year under new coach Ryan.  He should play the Suggs-role as a hybrid end/linebacker and get double-difgit sacks.
DB The Jets have two studs and two holes.  Revis and Rhodes are the studs.  The Jets need a find a corner to play opposite Revis and a strong safety to pair with Rhodes.   Elam,. last year's starting strong safety is an UFA and the Jets will probably let him walk.  None of the corners that played with Revis last year are starting material.
ST Both Jets' kickers (Nugent, Feely) are UFAs.  They need to resign one of them.  The Jets need an upgrade at punter.  I liked Hodges coming out of college and thought he might finally get it together with the Jets, but he was too inconsistent.  Washington is a terrific return man.

NFC EAST

DAL

Major need
     Need     Upgrade possible     Depth/possible need     Not a need

   

QB Romo may not be winning the big games right now, but I have no doubt that he will be winning big games as his career progresses.  He is a very good quarterback who needs the team to get rid of T.O. so he can grow into more of a vocal leader.  T.O. is a quarterback killer, not just because of his selfishness, not just because of his spotty ands and rout-running, but because he makes it hard for a quarterback (particularly a young quarterback) to take charge of his team.  The Cowboys need better back ups than Johnson and Bollinger.
RB With Barber as a starter you need solid backups.  Not because of his talent but because of his reckless running style.  He is a top back.  I know the Cowboys fans were probably laughing at me when I said that the Cowboys should have drafted Johnson instead of Jones, and that Choice could be a better back for Dallas than Jones.  I don't look so foolish now.  Not that Jones played poorly.  He didn't, he played well before getting hurt.  With Barber, Jones and Choice the Cowboys are set at running back.
WR On paper, greatness.  In real life, a mess.  I would get rid of T.O.  When he called out Romo for throwing to Witten too  much in key situations, I would have said, "T.O. is a great playmaker.  When I want a big play, I look for T.O. first.  However, T.O. is not a great receiver.  He drops passes.  He doesn't always finish routes.  I'm not always confident he'll be where he is suppose to be when I throw before he's open.  Therefore, when I need to convert a third down, Witten is my guy."  Roy Williams has very good talent.  He won't show it until he becomes their #1 receiver.  Crayton is solid.  Austin has promise.  I would draft a young receiver to start as #3 and eventually replace Crayton as a starter, and of course, cut "the player."
TE Witten and Bennett is the best one-two punch at tight end in the league.
OL The Cowboys line looks better than it is in pass protection because of Romo.  Their interior line with Kosier coming back from injury is very good.  But it's time to replace Flozell Adams at left tackle.
DL Ratliff had a breakout season on the nose.  Spears and Canty are solid, but unspectacular players at end.  However, Canty is an UFA who will have suitors.  There is no starter waiting in the wings for him.  Depth needs to be addressed.
LB Ellis, Spencer and of course Ware give Dallas a terrific trio outside.  Bradie James had a monster year inside and deserved to go to the Pro Bowl.  Zach Thomas is an UFA who may look to go back to a team that plays a 4-3.  However, he played well enough for the Cowboys to resign him.  By the way here is a typical Jerry Jones situation.  One where it looks good on paper and for a time on the field, but wrecks team chemistry and growth.  If Ray Lewis an UFA isn't tagged and moves on, Jones could sign him, be applauded in the press, but stunt the growth of young Mr. James, a player who is working his way towards being the vocal leader of this defense.
DB Look for Scandrick, one of my underrated players in last year's draft to win the corner spot opposite Newman.  This will allow Henry to be the nickel, where he'll excel.  At safety, Hamlin is solid, but a strong safety who can cover and play in the box is needed.  It's time to move on permanently from Roy Williams.
ST Folk and McBriar are fine.  However, the Cowboys need an upgrade in their return game.  They tried with Pacman but that failed on many levels ("Levels, Jerry, Levels" - Cosmo Kramer). 

NYG

Major need     Need     Upgrade possible     Depth/possible need     Not a need
   

QB Manning is a solid quarterback you can win with.  He is not a top tier guy and will never be.  Carr looked fine as his backup but is an UFA.
RB Both Ward and Jacobs are free agents.  The Giants will likely get only one back.  That should be Jacobs, with Bradshaw ready to take Ward's role in the offense., and RFA Ware ready to take Bradshaw's role. 
WR The Giants will need a make-over at receiver.  Burress could be welcomed back, but he also could be in jail, or playing for another team.  You have to plan as though he's gone.  Toomer is an UFA whose starting days are most likely behind him.  That leaves Hixon and Simth as sure contributors; Moss and Tyree as possible; and Manningham a player who needs to improve top contribute.  The Giants need a top flight receiver.
TE Boss played well enough to keep his job and expect improvement in his second year as a starter.  Matthews is a good blocker.  Johnson does everything okay.  Upgrades, especially behind Boss could be addressed.
OL The Giants' line is very, very good.  But it could be special if a dominate left tackle is added and Diehl goes back to guard.  In any case, depth is needed.
DL With Umenyiora coming back to pair with Tuck and Kiwanuka, the Giants have the best trio of defensive ends in the NFL.  Cofield and Robbins are solid at tackle and Alford is growing into a relaible rotation player as well.
LB Pierce is the one given in this unit, but his play was down a bit from his prior two years.  Blackburn and Clark are okay but replaceable starters.  Wilkinson was thought to be a starter, but injuries have probably robbed him of that chance. Kehl, Goff and DeOssie are all good athletes who could see their roles increase, especially Kehl, but none play the middle.
DB The Giants have an excellent secondary.  At corner Ross and Webster are a good, young duo. Dockery is a good #3 corner but is an UFA.  If he leaves, Thomas should replace him and perform well.  At safety Butler and Johnson start and are solid but not playmakers.  Phillips, is the better playmaker and should move into the starting lineup next year.
ST The Giants kicker and punter went to the Pro Bowl, but they also are eligible to play in old-timer games.  Bradshaw and McQuarters are fine returnmen but a game-breaker could be added as an upgrade.

PHI

Major need     Need     Upgrade possible     Depth/possible need     Not a need
   

QB McNabb is under contract, should be back and will be back.  If the Eagles trade him and go to Kolb they will be in trouble.  I expect Kolb's success to  more like Beck the Miami quarterback than Beck the singer.  I'm not convinced that A. J. Feeley isn't the better option at backup quarterback.
RB Westbrook is a great back.  Buckhalter is underrated and an UFA who some team could give a chance to compete for significant playing time.  Booker was a disappointment.  Look for the Eagles to add a banger in the draft to help in short yardage and goal line situations and possibly replace Buckhalter as Westbrook's primary backup.  There are good options in the draft.
WR This unit is much maligned but is better than given credit for.  I like the Jackson.  I like Curtis.  Both can stretch the field.  Jackson can take a short pass and go the distance.  Curtis has reliable hands and is a great route runner.  Avant, Baskett, Brown and Lewis are all NFL-caliber receivers, but yes upgrades can be found.  What is needed here is a big receiver to pair with Curtis moving Jackson to the slot.  However, you can do a lot worse than having Jackson and Curtis as your starters.
TE Smith is an UFA, and with Celek passing him by, he will most likely move on.  That means the Eagles will need a quality tight end to pair with Celek.
OL For a team that throws as often as the Eagles do, the Eagles were 7th in the league giving up only 23 sacks.  However, starting tackles Runyon and Thomas are UFAs and at their advanced ages decisions have to made as to whom to resign (my guess LT Thomas is back, RT Runyon is not).  Inside the Eagles blocked well and Jean-Gilles started showing the talent I knew he had before getting injured.  A right tackle will probably be needed.
DL This is a team strength.  At end the team goes five deep.  Inside Patterson and Bunkley form a terrific young duo and Haws is a fine young third tackle. 
LB Bradley played better than I expected in the middle.  Gocong looks like a keeper at SAM.  Gaither took a step back this year and was replaced by Jordan who looked very good in the regular season but was no where to be found during the playoffs.  An upgrade at WILL is possible.
DB Samuel and Brown are a top pair starting corners.  Hansen's solid play makes trading Sheppard more likely.  At safety starter Dawkins and backup/special teams ace Considine are UFAs.  Dawkins is probably going nowhere, but the Eagles have his replacement in place with Quintin Demps.  Mikell has developed into a top strong safety.
ST A very solid unit wit Akers, Rocca, Demps and Jackson.

WAS

Major need     Need     Upgrade possible     Depth/possible need     Not a need
   

QB With Campbell, a young quarterback I like and believe will grow into a top tier QB, the vet Collins and the surprising Colt Brennan, the Redskins are fine here.
RB Portis is starting to show his age.  I know he had a a very productive year, but he was banged up all the time and missed a lot of practice time during the week.  While he did get his yards per rush back up over 4.0 (4.3), he only averaged 3.5 yards a run during the second half of the season and his long run was only 29 yards.  Portis came into the league as a speed back with home-run hitting ability and has admirably transformed into a between the tackles, move the chains type.  While his toughness and mind say yes to that role, his body is quickly saying no.  Betts has shown flashes in his career, but time is passing him by.  He will remain a solid backup even when Portis is replaced.
WR Randle El and Moss are a talented but mismatched pair of starting receivers.  I can see starting one or the other, but not both.  Thomas and Kelly were nowhere to be found their rookie years.  Thomas should come on nexst year, I'm not as convinced about Kelly.
TE Cooley is great for this offense and an underrated player.  Fred Davis should develop into a reliable #2 tight end.  Yoder is okay but could be replaced by a blocking tight end.
OL The line started off great but were not as successful in the second half.  Was it them or Campbell and Portis?  Kendall is an UFA so analyzing this correctly is important.  I vote for the line's poor play in the pass offense, Portis in the run offense.  In any case, a make over will be needed whether for the upcoming year or for a short time down the line.
DL Starters Evans and Golston are UFAs.  The other two Griffin and Carter are the better players.  The line played well against the run, but offered little in the way of a pass rush.  Hopefully Jason Taylor will be back and healthy to help with the pass rush.  How ironic is it that Taylor wanted out because the Dolphins were rebuilding and it ended up that Miami made the playoffs and the Redskins did not.  Oh well.  Washington needs to upgrade this unit.  They need a pass rusher and a defensive tackle if Golston bolts.
LB Fletcher-Baker keeps rolling on at a very high level and McIntosh looks like an emerging talent.  Washington has never recovered enough from injuries to be the force he once was.  It's time to move on.
DB Rogers, Hall and the veteran Springs give the Redskins three good corners.  Smoot may not be as good as he once was, but as a fourth corner you couldn't ask for more.  Landry and Horton make up one of the best young safety combos in the league.   Doughty is an UFA so depth at safety needs to be added.
ST Suisham is an UFA.  One of the Jets' UFA kickers (Feely or Nugent) could be an upgrade.  Plackemeier is also replaceable.  Cartwright and Randle El's best return days may be behind them.