2009 Team Needs
free agency and the draft
By Jay Goldberg
Not a need
||Flacco had a very good
rookie year and is the real deal. He will get better and be
a game-changer at quarterback throwing the deep ball. At
backup, Boller and Bouman are UFAs and Smith is untested.
Look for the Ravens to add an experienced quarterback to their
||In my opinion, McGahee is a
bit overrated and McClain is best served as a backup who can run
out the clock, and get tough yards in third and short and around
the goal line. Rice, on the other hand, is the real deal and
should be given the reins as the Ravens' lead back. I also
like the potential of Parmalee, who the Ravens stole off the
Dolphins practice squad. For this unit to be optimal,
McGahee should be cut lose in the offseason. Oh yeah, and
they have one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league in Neal
but he is an UFA.
||This unit needs a
consistent, reliable deep threat. Mason is still a solid
receiver. Clayton hasn't developed as hoped, and may be best
served as the team's third receiver. I always liked Williams
but he hasn't been able to stay on the field. The Ravens
need to address this position in the offseason. With
Flacco's arm, receivers that can stretch the field and catch the
ball would open up the offense.
||Heap has fallen from a top
option in the offense to an afterthought. His backup Wilcox
is an UFA. If the ravens want a block-first tight end, they
would be best served drafting a new starter and moving Heap while
they can still get some decent value for him.
||This unit played surprising
well, especially Gaither at left tackle replacing Ogden.
Center Brown is an UFA and he will either have to be brought back
or a replacement will have to be found for him. This is a
good draft for centers.
||The Ravens line is a
strength for the team. Ngata is tough to handle and has
become one of the better defensive players in the league.
Pryce is still solid at end, and Bannan filled in very well for
Gregg on the nose. All this team needs is some bodies to
compete for backup spots at end.
||Suggs, Lewis and Scott, the
teams three top linebackers are all UFAs. Johnson remains,
but he didn't take the step forward the team hoped for. He
is solid, but not the player Thomas was when he manned that spot
before leaving for New England.
||This is a deep and talented
unit. At corner Rolle and Washington are a top starting duo,
and the team can expect a bounce back year from McAllister in
2009. At safety Reed is as good as it gets, and Leonhard
played himself into a starting job for 2009, and with Landry,
Zbikowski and Nakamura all talented players on hand, Leonhard
keeping ascending to key starter says a lot about how well he
player. All this team could look to add in the offseason in
their secondary is a young developmental cornerback.
||Long time kicker Stover is
a free agent and the team will have to decide whether to bring him
back or draft one of the talented kickers available in this year's
draft. Koch is a good punter, Leonhard and Zbikowski
acceptable return men. However, it's time for Figurs to step
up and be the consistent, explosive return man he should be, or be
Not a need
||Assuming Palmer comes back
strong from injury, this is a strong unit for the Bengals.
Even if UFA Fitzpatrick leaves in free agency, Rowe, a player I
like is sitting in the wings to take his place as Palmer's
backup. I am not as high on Carson's kid brother Jordan.
||This has to be one of the
worst running back situations in the NFL. Perry hasn't and
doesn't look like he'll ever cut it as a starter. Watson is
a solid backup/emergency starter, but no more. This
situation is so dire that they have made resigning UFA Benson, a
priority. Benson had some good games, but isn't a runner to
build your team around.
||Houshmandzadeh is an UFA an
may be hard to resign. Ocho Cinco fell off the map, but
could re-emerge when Palmer gets back. Henry is talented but
with his off the filed troubles is not a player you can rely
on. As far as their two rookies go, I like Caldwell a lot
and expect him to take a big step next year, but I have some
doubts Simpson. Look for the Bengals to bring in a veteran
receiver to push to start and hopefully (if Caldwell comes thru)
be their third wideout.
||Last year the team signed
Utecht in free agency. Injuries caused him to miss much of
the season but he could be a good receiving tight end. Kelly
is more blocker than receiver, but his blocking fell off a bit
last year. Upgrades all around could be looked at in the
||The Bengals have some good
pieces and some questions along their offensive line.
Cutting to the chase, a center and a tackle could be secured
during the draft.
||The Bengals have given out
some long term contracts to linemen recently but the only one who
I would have signed to the contract he got was defensive tackle
Peko. The Bengals other starting tackle, Thornton is an UFA
and will probably not be resigned. Jason Shirley is a young
player waiting in the wings who I like. At end Odom and
Geathers have nice contracts, get hurt too often, and get too few
sacks. In a 4-3 you need at least one defensive ends who has
to be doubled every play, and still gets double-digit sacks.
That's not Odom. That's not Geathers.
||I like this unit, although
adding a young middle linebacker is advisable. However,
Rivers, Jeanty, Johnson and even Blackstock and Henderson give the
team quality and depth on the outside. Jones, a solid old
pro mans the middle.
||This is another good young
unit. Hall and Joseph are a good young tandem of
cornerbacks, and Jones played well as the third corner.
Ndukwe is a keeper at stong safety, and White showed promise at
free safety. Look for the Bengals to bring in competition
||Graham is an UFA so a
kicker will need to be secured in the offseason. Larsen is a
steady and Caldwell is a good kick return man but an upgrade at
punt returner could be looked for this offseason.
Not a need
||The Browns need to decide
between Anderson and Quinn and stick with the player they choose
and deal the other. The the team needs to secure a good
||I'm not sure Lewis has much
left in his tank. Harrison is a player I liked in the draft,
has shown big-play ability when given a chance, but hasn't been
used enough. Look for that to change this year. Wright
is an UFA. The Browns need a between the tackle-type to pair
with Harrison and cut Lewis. Lewis is a player you need to
feed the ball a lot so he can be effective in the fourth
quarter. I'd rather use a player who can be spotted with
Harrison and still be effective in the fourth quarter.
||Edwards has mad skills but
drops too many balls. Stallworth has mad speed but is too
often on the sideline with injuries or playing with injuries
negating his speed. Jurevicius is a tough kid, gets injured,
vows to play the following year, but then too often gets injured
again. Of their backups, Cribbs is a good gadget guy and
return man and Hubbard is an intriguing prospect. Still the
Browns need a more reliable and productive receiving corps.
||Winslow is a good player
despite his fall off in production last year. However, he
now wants more money and is quickly becoming one of those players
who may be more trouble than he's worth. Rucker was a nice
college player who I does not have the speed to be anything more
than a very average tight end (at best) in the NFL.
||This line is better than
they showed in 2008. The pieces are there, and with the
other needs on this team, I would roll the dice that they can
improve on their 2008 play.
||Outside of Rogers this unit
is very pedestrian. Williams did not adapt to the 3-4 as
hoped and S. Smith took a step back. Hopefully R. Smith will
come back from injury and help the problem at end some. I
like Rubin's potential at nose, and Thomas and Leonard held their
own when called upon at end.
||McGinest and Davis are
UFA's and I'll be very surprised if either is starting for the
Browns next year. Williams is on hand to step in for Davis
and play along side Jackson, who is a very good player.
Wimbley has been a disappointment. He was suppose to be
getting close to double-digit sacks annually by now but hasn't
come close the last two years. This team needs a backup
inside linebacker and at least one new starter outside.
||McDonald and Wright are two
young corners who have showed promise but also looked bad at
times. The jury is still out. Holly is sneaky good at
nickel but is an UFA, as is starting strong safety Jones.
Free safety Pool is another player who has had his ups and downs
but may be ready to put it all together. Lawson is a young
player to keep an eye on. He made the tem as a college
street free agent and is a player who was on my list of underrated
||Special teams are the
strength of this team. Dawson, Zastudil and Cribbs are a solid
Not a need
||If I was a GM and could
choose any quarterback in the NFL for now and the future, Big Ben
is the player I would select. Bothe Batch and Leftwich are
UFAs and with Dixon not ready to be the primary backup, the
Steelers will have to resign one of their own free agents or find
||Parker, Mendenhall, and
Moore are a terrific threesome at running back. McHugh and
Davis are solid at fullback.
||Ward, Holmes and Washington
are a very solid one, two, three. Sweed had a rough rookie
campaign but that was not a surprise since rookie receivers often
have trouble adjusting to the NFL and Sweed was coming off an
injury. He will improve.
||Miller is a good blocker
and very good receiver. Spaeth is a solid number two tight
end who had a nice game when he had to fill in for Miller.
||Starks and Smith are UFAs.
If both leave a left tackle will be needed. Right tackle
Colon would be better at guard. The Steelers will look at
tackles in free agency and in the draft.
||End Smith and Nose tackle
Hampton are top-drawer. Keisel and Kirschke are dependable
but not exceptional at end. The Steelers could add an end
who could push to start and a backup nose in the offseason.
||This is one of the best
linebacking units in the NFL. Outside Harrison and Woodley
are terrors. Inside Farrior is still a force, but is an UFA
and Foote played well. Timmons is on hand should Farrior not
resign with the team.
||Deep and talented describes
the Steelers' secondary. Even with McFadden an UFA, the team
still has Taylor, Gay, Townsend and Madison at corner.
Polamalu and Clark are a top safety tandem and Carter is a solid
||Reed and Sepulveda are fine
kickers. Holmes has some big moments in the punt return game
but it may be time for him to concentrate solely on wide
receiver. Russell is solid as a kick returned but not a game
breaker. An upgrade in the return game could be addressed in
Not a need
||Orton played okay, but it
is still questionable if he is the long term answer in
Chicago. Grossman is an UFA so look for the Bears to bring
in a veteran to compete with Orton. They could also add a
rookie in the draft to at worst, compete with Hanie for the number
three role, at best be an alternative to Orton down the line.
||Forte was a player who was
on my list of players who will have a better NFL career than many
drafted higher than them. He got off to a great start and
should be a top back in the league for years. Jones and
Peterson are reliable backups but Jones is an UFA who may look for
a team where he could get more playing time. Look for the
Bears to bring in a young player to compete to be Forte's primary
||Time to tear it down and
start again. Hester played well in spots and could develop
further, but is best served as a #3 and return man. He
was a better punt returner when he played less on offense.
Lloyd is an UFA who may be out of chances to compete for serious
playing time with any team. Booker is past his prime.
As I noted in my report card, Bennett was an okay pick, but I
liked Hawkins and Caldwell better. I don't see Bennett as
long term top starter in the league. Davis should also be a
role player, not a starter.
||It 's be time for Olsen to
be the full time starter. Clark is still effective but is an
UFA and could land in a better spot for himself than
Chicago. Davis is a big target and better receiving tight
end than blocker. Look for the team to add a blocking tight
||The teams line should be
strong on the left side, fine at center, and adequate on the right
side. If the Bears' line is the same as last year they'll be
okay, but an upgrade is possible at right guard and right tackle.
||This is a solid unit than
can play great play from time to time when Harris is motivated and
healthy. Still, the team could use a dominate pass rusher to
||Briggs is a great
player. Urlacher is now just good. A young middle
linebacker could be added in the draft. Roach is okay at
SAM, but an upgrade is possible.
||The Bears secondary is a
mixed bag. Tillman is a solid and sometimes unappreciated
corner. Graham played well but Chicago will most likely
bring in a corner to challenge him, with the loser taking over the
nickel from Manning who will probably be best served moving back
to free safety. However, he'll have to beat out Steltz.
Speaking of free safeties, Brown is a solid pro but gets injured
too often and it may be time for the team to move on from him permanently.
Payne, a keeper, is an emerging talent at strong safety.
||The Bears special teams are
in good hands. There should be few complaints with Gould,
Maynard, Hester and Manning
Not a need
||The one thing that has me
head-scratching with the Lions is that with their poor on the
field performance and lack of a top tier quarterback, Drew Stanton
hasn't sniffed the role of future starting quarterback.
Culpepper and Kitna are the veterans on the Lions roster.
Neither will be the quarterback when (if?) the Lions change their
losing ways. Orlovsky is an UFA.
||Smith came on as the year
progressed but I still have doubts that he will ever grow into a
feared starting running back. Johnson is an UFA and looks
old. Calhoun has never developed into the change-of-pace
back the Lions hoped he'd become. Best case, the Lions need
a back to share the load with Smith. worst case they need a
back to be their starter.
||The Lions' receiving corps
is a one-man show, Calvin Johnson. The best after Johnson
are McDonald, an UFA and Furrey. The Lions need to add two
or three receivers in the offseason.
||Campbell, who was injured
last year, is the best of a mediocre lot. This is another
position that could use an upgrade in the offseason.
||Most of the Lions' line is
in the okay but replaceable category. Cherilus is a building
block on the right side, Backus had some good moments on the left
but needs to cut down on penalties. Raiola and McCollum are
decent centers. The team needs to upgrade its guards.
||Avril showed flashes of
pass rush ability late in the season and could have a bigger role
in 2009. White is okay, and worst case is a good #3
defensive end. The Lions need to address the defensive
||Outside of Sims and Lewis
(for the bench) the Lions linebackers are all replaceable.
That includes UFA Lenon, Nece and Dizon. The Lions need to
address linebacker in a big way.
||Bodden should rebound and
give the Lions one solid starting corner. Bullocks had his
moments, but needs to be moved to strong safety where his speed
and hitting ability can be better utilized, especially since he is
not adept at getting turnovers. Wilson, Pearson, and
Alexander are young players who are worth looking at in
camp. Fisher is another useful player, although he should be
a backup not a starter.
||Hansen still has it, but is
an UFA. Harris is a good punter. This team badly needs
a return man with game-breaking ability.
Not a need
||Despite their record, the
Packers made the correct decision in letting Favre go and turning
the team over to Rodgers. The team's decline was not his
fault. Rodgers will be one of the better quarterbacks in the
NFL for a long time. Youngsters Flynn and Brohm back him up.
||Grant held out, started
slowly, but came on strong as the season progressed. Jackson
and Wynn are talented backups, but Wynn gets hurt too often.
||This is a very strong and
very deep unit. Jennings is a star in the making. I
like him coming out of college and he's proven me right.
Driver still has gas in his tank. Nelson had a good rookie
year and looks like he will be a good NFL wideout. Jones and
Martin are also good receivers who can make plays when called
||Lee is an adequate but
replaceable starter. The Packers like Finley more than I do
so time will tell. Humphreys had some good moments.
||Tauscher was injured last
year and is an UFA. He is a solid right tackle but may not
be ready for camp no matter what team he plays for. Inside
Colledge, Spitz and Wells are solid, and if Barbre, a very
athletic lineman comes on, Coilledge could kick out to right
tackle. Left tackle Clifton is aging and a replacement for
the coming year is a possibility.
||The Packers are moving to a
3-4 defense. Pickett, Jolly and Jenkins may find roles in
the new alignment but Green Bay needs to add more talent to this
spot in the offseason.
||In the Packers' new 3-4
Kampman is an outside linebacker. Kampman has talent and
plays hard so that could work. Barnett will line up inside
in that alignment probably alongside Hawk, although Hawk could
kick outside. In any event, the Packers need at least one
starting linebacker, preferably an outside rush linebacker and an
experienced backup inside as Hawk-insurance.
||While the Packers' defense
fell apart last year, their secondary remained a strength.
Woodson, Harris and Williams are a good trio of corners and
Collins, Rouse and Bigby are a good trio of safeties.
||The players are in place
they just need to perform better. Crosby did not have as
good a year as he did last year. Kapinos was an improvement
down the stretch as a punter. Blackman and Nelson have
talent as return men but need to produce more consistently.
Not a need
||Jackson was over-drafted
and throw to the wolves way to soon. If he becomes a
productive starter it may have to be after he leaves the
Vikings. Frerotte is a journey man who Minnesota needs to
improve upon as a starter. Booty is not ready. This
team needs to find a quarterback.
||Peterson and Taylor are a
great one-two punch. Hicks is okay as a #3, but the Vikings
could bring in a young player who can double as a return
man. The team could also look to add a fullback. There
are a couple of good ones in the draft.
||Berrian got the big bucks
but is more of a big-play #2 receiver than a clutch number
one. Wade starts should be the team's #3. Rice hasn't
developed and may not get any better than he is right now. I
still have hopes for Allison, but his hiogh mark is also as a
big-play #2. The Vikings need a #1 receiver.
||Shiancoe is one for
two. He disappointed his first year with Minnesota, but had
a nice second year. Kleinsasser is an UFA. The Vikings
need depth here.
||The Vikings' line is
talented. While they could return their line in tact, they
could look to upgrade Cook at right tackle. Also starting
center Birk is an UFA.
||This unit is very talented
and deep. Allen, Edwards and Robison are the ends, and
Williams, Williams and Evans are the tackles. They also have
useful players beyond these six.
||The return of Henderson
will give the Vikings an excellent starting trio. Greenway
has lived up to his draft status and Leber has blossomed into a
solid player and team leader. The team may look to bring in
depth, but they have some skilled backups on hand.
||Williams and Griffin are a
solid pair of corners. Gordon is coming back from injury and
was starting to develop into a reliable nickel. McCauley is
a young player who will get a chance to compete for playing
time. At safety Sharper is an UFA, but Johnson is on hand to
take his place. Williams was hurt early, but played as
expected when he returned. Drafting a safety to compete for
a prime backup spot is a possibility.
||Longwell and Kluwe are
solid. The Vikings will look to add a returner who will
allow them to remove Berrian from punt returns and be an upgrade
in the kick return game.