2009 Team Needs
free agency and the draft
By Jay Goldberg
Not a need
||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
||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.
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.
||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
||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.
||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.
||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
||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.
||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.
Not a need
||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
||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
||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
||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
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||The Colts' kicking and
return games are in good hands and could get even better with the
return of Rushing from injury.
Not a need
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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
||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
||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.
||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.
||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.
Not a need
||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.
||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.
||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
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
Not a need
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||Outside of competition for
Douglas as a punt returner, this unit has no needs.
Not a need
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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
Not a need
||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.
||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
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
Not a need
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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.
||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
||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.
||Special teams is a strength
for the Bucs. Returner Smith, kicker Bryant and punter
Bidwell all excel at what they do.