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

 

AFC SOUTH

HOU


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

   
QB Schaub played better than I thought he would this year, but remains injury-prone.  Rosenfels is a fine backup but he has to take fewer chances.  Still he has proven he can move the offense.  Since Schaub is injury-prone and Rosenfels is a free agent after next year, look for the Texans to add a young, developmental quarterback in the draft, hopefully on who could be ready if needed in a pinch in 2010.
RB Wow, Slaton had a great rookie year and it's a good thing because Green's days as a NFL-starter are behind him.  Look for Green and Brown not to be invited back, leaving only Taylor and Moats behind Slaton.  That's not good enough.  The Texans will add a backup, most likely a big back, to their running back mix.  At 5'9", 200 pounds, Slaton could wear down quickly (career-wise) if not teamed with a big, physical back to do the Steely Dan-like dirty work.
WR Johnson is top-drawer.  Walter had a very nice year, but on a Super Bowl contender is a #3, not a #2.  He does take advantage of defense's concentration on Johnson, but doesn't help alleviate that attention.  On the bench, I like Anderson as a future #3 and Davis has his moments.  If the Texans want to take the next step, they should find a more dangerous option than Walter to line-up opposite Johnson. 
TE I like the Texans' trio at tight end.  Daniels is a good blocker and fine receiver.  Dreessen was a player I liked coming out of college and it's nice to see him finding a role in the NFL.  So far he's been used primarily as a blocker, but the kid can catch as well.  Harris is okay as a third option who also long snaps.
OL The Texan' offensive line had a good year.  There are no stars, but they play well as a unit and the Texans will be in good hands if the starting unit comes back in tact next year.  They could use some depth at guard and the one starter who could be challenged is center Chip Meyers.  This draft is deep at center, especially centers who showed at Senior Bowl practices that they can move over to guard and play well there as well.  Lokk for the Texans to grab one of those players.
DL This unit is better on paper than on the field.  With three #1 draft picks one would expect a dominate unit.  However, outside of Williams, this unit was pedestrian.  AT tackle, I still have high hopes for Okoye, but Johnson is another story.  It may be time to find a starter to replace him and move him to the bench.  At end opposite Williams, how can the starter (Weaver) have zero sacks in two years given all the attention paid to Williams?  I do like Bulman and Nading as role players/backups on their bench.
LB Ryans continue to be a top player in the middle.  Diles proved to be one of the more active SAMs in the league before he got hurt.  Adibi showed promise at WILL after replacing the injured Greenwood, who was a steady but replaceable starter prior to his injury anyway; but Adibi is no sure thing.  Competition for backup spots is also advised.
DB The Texans have some interesting pieces in their secondary and could build a solid one from the players on hand, but I look for them to bring in additional players to compete for spots at both corner ands safety.  I like Robinson at one corner, but he is an UFA.  Opposite him Cowboy's castoff Reeves played well but is better served as a backup who can step in for an injured starter.  Bennett took a step back last year but has potential.  Molden will be starting his second year and has good skills, although while he will be solid at corner, he might be special at strong safety.  He is a tough kid who can hit and cover.  At  safety the Texans liked what they saw in Wilson and were satisfied with Ferguson but upgrades for one or both could be secured.
ST Outside of kicker and long-snapper this unit could find upgrades.  Punter Turk had a down year, Jones was brilliant at times but also showed poor hands at times returning punts, and Davis didn't look as explosive as he has in the past returning kicks.

IND

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

QB Manning is as good as it gets at quarterback.  No one will really know about Sorgi until he is tested.  Obviously the Colts' coaching staff likes him.  A development quarterback could be added in the draft.
RB Addai didn't emerge as a top tier back as many expected (including me) this year.  Some of it, but only some was due to injury.  Rhodes is an UFA.  Hart showed flashes before being injured.  Simpson and Ball also looked good in limited playing time.  Look for the Colts to either resign Rhodes or bring another veteran into the mix.
WR Time is finally catching up to Harrison.  Given his fall off he is no longer worth the big salary cap figure that he will carry if he doesn't redo his contract.  Wayne and Gonzalez are excellent receivers but if whether or not Harrison leaves a younger player will be added to the mix.  Hall and Garcon are also on hand, but neither projects to being a full time starter in the Colts' three receiver offense. 
TE Clark is still a very effective tight end.  Robinson was okay in his role as second tight end but it wouldn't be surprising if an upgrade is secured.  Santi and Tamme have potential and Tamme could replace Robinson.  This is not a need area but if a good tight end falls into the Colts' lap they will pull the trigger. 
OL The Colts' line is talented, deep and young.  Saturday is an UFA, however Richard is waiting in the wings.  Outside of a late round flyer on, or signing of a 'b' level tackle for depth, and adding depth inside should Saturday leave, the Colts' offensive line should remain intact.
DL It seems like annually the Colts are looking for defensive tackles who can stuff the run.  This year is no exception.  Dawson and Foster are okay but very replaceable as starters.  At end Freeney and Mathis can get after the quarterback, Brock is solid against the run, and Howard is a player top watch as a future sacker.
LB Even with Hagler an UFA, the Colts have a lot of quality players to choose from at linebacker.  Session has the look of a future star, Keiaho is a solid sideline-to-sideline WILL, and Bracket is steady in the middle.  Wheeler is a good young backup while Davis is okay as a backup MIKE, but is not the future in the middle for the Colts.  A young middle linebacker to apprentice behind Bracket should be added.
DB At corner, Hayden is an UFA and the Colts need to resign him.  Jackson was playing well opposite him until he got hurt.  Jennings stepped in and was fine but is best served as a nickel and backup.  Ratliff is a good player to have on your bench.  At safety, the Colts have the best and deepest unit in the NFL.  Sanders and Bethea are Pro Bowl level starter, backup Bullitt isn't far behind, Girodano has proven to be a very capable fill in, and Silva is a young, heady player I like.  The Colts need to resign Hayden or replace him with a qualtiy free agent or high draft pick.
ST The Colts' kicking and return games are in good hands and could get even better with the return of Rushing from injury.

JAC

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

QB The Jaguars have an interesting decision at quarterback.  After an excellent 2007, Garrad had a major drop off in 2008.  Lemon is a decent backup.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Jacksonville draft a quarterback a little higher in the draft than many expect.
RB Jones-Drew will take over as the primary back.  Taylor will have to redo his contract to return as Drew's top backup.  I'm not sure he will, I'm not sure he wants to.  Washington, a player I liked more than many coming out of college, showed promise.  
WR If Matt Jones can keep his "nose" clean, the Jags have one of their starting receivers.  However, it's time for Northcutt to be regulated to the role he should have, slot receiver.  Williamson and Williams have had many chances in their NFL careers and neither has developed into the player teams hoped for when they were drafted.  Walker has flashed but you cannot go into next season counting on him as a starter.  Porter continues to be a waste. Jacksonville badly needs a receiver to start opposite Jones, one with deep speed and the potential to be their #1 receiver.
TE Lewis has developed into a good two-way tight end.  If Wrighster can continue his comeback, the Jacksonville will have a reliable backup.  In either case adding at least one tight end is something Jacksonville needs to do min the offseason.
OL Injuries and poor play affected this unit.  The Jaguars need a left tackle and possibly a right tackle too.  Barnes is an UFA who will, most likely, be allowed to leave while Pashos' play has been up and down.  In addition both starting guards are returning from injury, and their center Meester is okay but is an UFA.  This unit is a mess.
DL Even the tackles let the Jaguars down this year.  Without Stroud, Henderson struggled, but the goal should be to add a better starter than Meier (who is a good third tackle) rather than give up on Henderson.  At end, look for Harvey to take a big step in 2009.  However it's time for the Hayward/Spicer show to move out of town.  Groves, is a good sacker, but miscast as a defensive end.  He would be much better playing OLB in a 3-4 defense.  So Jacksonville needs a starting defensive end and a starting defensive tackle.
LB Peterson is an UFA and Del Rio will gladly escort him to the door.  Durant, Smith and Ingram form a good young starting unit.  However, depth needs to be addressed.
DB This unit is much better on paper than in real life.  The Jaguars will have to decide if the unit will improve with a better pass rush and playing together more, or if they have to make some moves that will surprise the masses.  Mathis was a top corner a couple of years back, but didn't play to that level last year.  However, he's a keeper, at least for now.  The Jaguars overvalued both Williams and Florence but both, particularly Williams are capable NFL players.  Sensabaugh is developing into a solid strong safety.  Nelson was suppose to be a big play free safety but hasn't taken that step, and in fact, makes too many mistakes.  However, he is still young and could grow into the playmaker the team hoped he would be when he was drafted.  While brining in a corner and/or a safety would make sense, with all needs on this team, rolling the dice with what they have could be the most logical decision, and could pay dividends.
ST The Jaguars special teams are okay, but there is the potential for them to get better.  Scobee is a solid kicker despite some late season misses.  Witherspoon was up and down as a rookie but the kid is a very good athlete with tremendous speed and he could get better in year two of his career.  At punter, the Jags have two on the roster, both fairly comparable so maybe the camp competition will bring out the best in one of them.

TEN

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

QB Collins and Simms are UFAs.  While it is advisable that the Titans' resign Collins, I'm still a believer in Young and believe the Titans can win with him at quarterback.  However, whether Collins or another player, the Titans need to sign an experienced quarterback.
RB Johnson and White form an excellent one-two punch for Tennessee.  I "talked up" Johnson as a prospect last year, and he didn't let me down.  In 2009 he will be even better. 
WR McCareins and Jones are UFAs.  The Titans' will, most likely, let McCareins walk, and look to resign Jones.  Gage, when healthy has played well for Tennessee.  Hawkins is a kid I love and I look for him to win the starting spot opposite Gage in camp.  However, whether Jones, other free agents, or thru the draft, the Titans will need to add a couple of receivers ready to immediately to their receiver mix.  
TE Sciafe is an UFA and despite a late season drop off in production is an emerging talent.  Crumpler's best days are behind him, but is still a plus tight end.  Stevens is a young player with potential.  The need here will depend on what Sciafe does.
OL The Titans have one of the better lines in the NFL.  They also have good depth.  Outside of some camp bodies and competition for bottom of the roster spots, this unit is set.
DL Haynesworth is an UFA and the Titans desperately need to resign him.  Brown, Vanden Bosch, and Kearse complete a solid starting unit.  Jones is a future starter, and he will be a good one.  Ford looked good rushing the passer.  In addition to resigning Haynesworth, another pass rushing end who could challenge Ford as Kearse's eventual replacement could be addressed this offseason.
LB This unit is very steady.  Bullocks is a top player, while Tulloch and Thornton are reliable, steady pros.  While not a need, I could see the Titans grabbing a linebacker if a good one falls to them in the draft at spot where he represents value and offers an upgrade for either Thornton or Tulloch.
DB This may be the best starting secondary in the NFL.  Harper and Finnegan are an excellent par of corners.  In fact Finnegan is so good, he could be that rare RFA who teams will give up draft picks to get.  So Tennessee would be well served to sign him long term now.  In addition Hope and Griffin are a solid pair of safeties.  The one caution flag here is that nickel Fuller is an UFA who could leave if given a chance to start elsewhere.  King is also an UFA.  The Titans will have to address depth here in the offseason, whether bringing back some of their own or looking towards free agency or the draft.
ST Bironas, one of the league's top kickers is an UFA as is punter Hentrick and return men Carr and Jones.  Obviously special teams will be an area that the Titans will need to address in the offseason.

NFC SOUTH 

ATL

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

   

QB Ryan had a great rookie year and has a very promising future as a starting NFL quarterback.  Redman has the experience and skills you like in a backup quarterback.
RB Turner and Norwood are an excellent one-two punch.  I also like Brown a player I had a late third/early fourth round grade on in last year's draft who Atlanta stole in round six.
WR White is now one of the best receivers in the league.  He has speed, is tough and has good hands.  Jenkins is a solid a #2 and Douglas is a promising slot receiver.  The team also has a reliable veteran in Finneran and the once (and still?) promising Laurent Robinson.  This is another good unit.
TE Hartsock can block and Peele can catch.  They should be the second tight end (blocker) and third tight end (second tight end receiving option).  However, a starter is needed.
OL The Falcons' line was surprisingly effective.  While upgrades aren't necessary, Dahl an UFA and Clabo on the right side could be improved upon if the right free agent or college player can be secured.
DL This is a make or break season for Anderson.  Playing opposite Abraham he should have been able to get more sacks.  At tackle Babineaux had a good season but is an UFA, and Jackson remained a force against the run but needs to be spelled more than most to remain effective.  A big body to play behind Jackson and a pass rushing end as insurance against Anderson not taking the next step should be considered.  If the team does not resign Babineaux, an under tackle will also have to be secured.
LB Boley, a good player, did not thrive in the new system and will most likely be playing elsewhere in 2009.  Wire, who split time with Boley, is adequate, but better served as a back up. Brooking has some good moments, but his overall performance is in decline.  Lofton is a good young middle linebacker.  This unit could have a new SAM and a new WILL next year.
DB I may be in the minority but I really like the Falcons corners, Houston, Foxworth and Jackson.  At safety, Milloy and Coleman are steady pros and DeCoud is a young player with promise who will push to start next year.  Depth beyond these six is all that is needed.
ST Outside of competition for Douglas as a punt returner, this unit has no needs. 

CAR

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

QB Except for the Panthers' biggest game of the year, their playoff game, Delhomme's comeback from injury was a success.  At one time Moore showed promise but he hasn't maintained it.  McCown is an okay backup.  The Panthers may think about drafting a quarter they can groom as a future starter.
RB I had DeAngelo Williams graded much higher than other backs who were graded by other analysts higher than or as his equal.  That included Maroney, White and Addai.  So I was not surprised to see his success.  Look for Williams to continue to hold off Stewart as starter.  However, Stewart provides a great tandem with and excellent insurance for Williams.  Goings is a fine third back who has played well in his career when given opportunities.
WR Smith and Muhammad are a great starting combo.  Hackett was disappointing and I'm not sure Jarrett will ever grow into more than a #4.  Therefore, Carolina needs a wideout who can play in the slot for a couple of years, and take over for Muhammad in a couple of years.
TE Just think what a tight end that could stretch the field would mean to this team.  King is okay, Rosario flashed, and Barnidge has potential, but a big-time tight end could make this offense very very tough to stop.  Defenses have to stack the box against Williams/Stewart, have to double Smith, have to be cautious of Muhammad, and that would leave a tight end with speed one on one with a linebacker often.
OL Gross is an UFA and signing him is considered a higher priority than signing Peppers.  That should tell you how good he is.  If the Panthers resign Gross they will return a very good line with good depth.  If not they will need to address left tackle.
DL Peppers is an UFA and Brayton is okay but could be replaced by Johnson.  If Peppers is gone (like he wants) Carolina will need a dominate pass rusher.  At tackle, Lewis and Kemoeatu are solid but if a game-changer could be secured it would upgrade the unit.  Worst case they did a tackle for depth.
LB Davis and Beason are top starters.  Diggs is a reliable veteran, who could be pushed by Connor.  Landon Johnson is also on hand but he didn't play as well as he did for the Bengals.  The Panthers will add depth here this offseason.
DB This is a solid unit top to bottom.  Gamble, Lucas and Marshall are all starting-caliber NFL corners.  Wilson is a young corner with promise.  Strong safety Harris has played well since coming over from the Bears, and free safety Godfrey was a good looking rookie who will only get better.  In fact, I look for Godfrey to become a good playmaker.  Teal and Salley are okay backup safeties, but competition will brought in for them.
ST Long snapper Kyle is an UFA, but he will  most likely be brought back.  Returner Mark Jones is also an UFA.  Their kicking/punting game is in good hands.

NO

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

QB Brees is a top quarterback.  Brunell is the backup, it's questionable how he would perform at this point in his career if he was needed for a long stretch of games.  Harrington, the third quarterback, is an UFA.  Look for New Orleans to address the backup quarterback position this offseason.
RB Bush is a useful offensive weapon, but not the explosive one hoped for when the Saints' selected him in the draft.  Thomas is a solid runner, but I'm not sure he is top-drawer.  McAllister hasn't recovered from his injuries.  Stecker, an underrated player is an UFA.  Surprisingly, after usi8ng a high pick on Reggie Bush a few years ago, the Saints have a need at running back
WR Colston should bounce back after dealing with a thumb injury last year.  Moore played very well and has a nice future in the league.  Henderson is an UFA.  He has great speed and makes some big plays, but has shown inconsistent hands.  Patten is a solid veteran and Meachem, who hasn't developed as quickly as hoped for, is still a promising prospect.  The Saints may add another useful body at receiver, but that is about it.
TE Shockey and Miller are a nice one-two punch.  However, Shockey is moody and injury prone.  Campbell, an excellent blocker is coming off injury and is an UFA.  Personally, I would add a tight end, especially if Campbell walks.
OL The Saints have an efficient, productive offensive line.  However, right tackle Stinchcomb is an UFA and Evans is a RFA.  While the Saints have depth, their backups are best served remaining in backup roles, not moving into the starting lineup.
DL The Saints invested heavily in Smith and Grant and their performance is going in the wrong direction.  McCray looked like their best end at times last year.   Ellis is a keeper who will be playing in Pro Bowls very soon.  Young, Thomas and Clancy are reliable vets who can be plugged in next to Ellis.  The Saints need a defensive end, but won't bring in a top talent because of the money they have already committed to that position. 
LB Vilma is an UFA.  If he leaves, there isn't a good option to start on their roster.  Shanle and Futija are solid.  However, with or without Vilma, the Saints lack a difference-maker, a player other teams have to prepare for at linebacker.  They such a player.
DB The Saints have a lot of good players at corner, but were riddled with injuries last year.  I like Gay, Porter, McKenzie and Young to be a capable unit, although if a true shut down corner can be secured, the Saints should jump on that opportunity.  At safety, Harper is fine at strong safety, but it may be time to re-think free safety.  Bullocks has not become the player the team expected him to be and Kaesviharn is solid, but replaceable as a starter.
ST The Saints young kickers earned a second chance in 2009.  Bush is best as a playmaker returning punts.  Roby is a good kick returner but may have to beat out a bottom of the roster receiver to keep the job.

TB

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

QB Garcia and McCown are UFAs.  Johnson is a player I like but he isn't ready yet.  Griese is nothing more than a stop gap as a starter.  The Bucs will have to sort out this position this offseason.
RB Graham is a tough kid, a solid football player, a team guy, but perhaps his value long term as a starting running back can be seen in the fact that he was moved (unselfishly) to fullback when the team was hit with a rash of injuries.  How many of the top halfbacks in the league would have the ball taken out away from them to play fullback?  That said, Graham is a capable starter, but one who could be replaced by a game-breaking back, one like Cadillac Williams used to be before his two tragic knee injuries.  The team also has Dunn, who is still a useful change-of-pace, third down back.  It's hard to gauge what the Bucs will do at running back, but without a game-changer, I'll list it as a need.
WR The Bucs finally get production from a receiver not named Galloway, and that receiver, Bryant, is a an UFA.  So between Galloway's age and fragile nature, Hilliard's age, and Bryant and Clayton being UFAs, this position needs a lot of attention this offseason.
TE Former Seahawk Stevens had a nice year for the Bucs but is an UFA.  Smith is a good young tight end, but he hasn't taken his game to the next level and starting to look like what you are seeing is what you'll get.
OL The Bucs line performed very well and should continue to be a strength.  In addition to their starters, I like their reserves inside.  Backup tackles, however, could be added.
DL It's time for the Bucs to revamp their defensive line.  Haye and adams are keeper, Carter and Hovan need to be replaced.  The Bucs need an end and a tackle.
LB This may be heresy, but the Bucs may be best off moving on from Brooks and starting June at his natural WILL position, rather than playing him at SAM where he is overmatched.  Ruud is a terrific middle linebacker.  Black would be a candidate to start if Brooks moved on.  In any case a true SAM linebacker should be added to compete for playing time.
DB Barber is aging, but still is more plus than minus.  Buchanon is an UFA.  There are no options to start behind these two, therefore the Bucs need at least one, maybe two corners.  At safety the team is in better shape.  Jackson and Phillips are a nice starting tandem and I like the potential of Piscitelli.
ST Special teams is a strength for the Bucs.  Returner Smith, kicker Bryant and punter Bidwell all excel at what they do.