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

 

AFC WEST

DEN


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

   
QB Cutler is a good young quarterback.  Ramsey is an UFA.  The team will need to resign Ramsey or bring in another quarterback to back up Cutler.  They could also draft a young quarterback to groom as a back on day two of the draft.
RB The Broncos have a lot of bodies here but no sure things.  Pittman is an UFA, Torain looked good in a brief stint but has been injured much more than healthy as a Bronco, Bell is best served as a change-of-pace back, Young has flashed in the past so their is some hope, Hillis is solid but doesn't have big-play ability, Aldridge can fly but is too small to be a number one back.  Look for Denver top add a back later in the draft to add to the mix of potential starters.
WR Marshall and Royal are two excellent starters, and Royal could excel in a Wes Welker-like role in ne coach McDaniel's offense.  Darrell Jackson is an UFA.  Chad Jackson is familiar with new offense since he was drafted by New England and could finally emerge as a contributor in the NFL.  Look for Denver to bring in a receiver or two since the new offense will use a lot of multiple receiver sets.
TE Graham is another player familiar with the new offense.  Scheffler's role could decrease because the new offense is not tight end oriented.  If Jackson comes back healthy it wouldn't surprise me if the Broncos moved Scheffler during the draft and grab a tight end who is a better blocking/receiving combination.
OL The Broncos' offensive line is solid.  Clady was a great pick and will have a long, Pro Bowl NFL career.  Harris did better than I expected at right tackle.  The Broncos need here is to bring in some bodies to compete for backup roles.
DL The Broncos are going to a 3-4 and I'm not sure who on their roster can fill out the starting lineup.  Powell could possibly kick outside to end in the 3-4, maybe Thomas can also.  Robertson was ushered out of New York because he didn't fit the 3-4 defense.  Crowder and Moss will have to try their hands at OLB.  This team needs to rebuild its entire defensive line.
LB In the 3-4, Williams will be one of the inside linebackers.  Woodyard is scrappy, but may be too small to play inside in the 3-4.  He could either mover to strong safety or be the team's nickel linebacker.  Webster is an UFA who will, most likely, not be brought back.  Outside Moss, Crowder and Winborn will get looks and the Broncos hope at least one comes through.  This team needs 3-4 linebackers.
DB I like the Broncos' cornerbacks.  Bailey and Bly are a very good starting pair, Bell and Williams showed some skills and can improve, and I'm still waiting for Paymah to stake a claim to a significant role on defense.  Strong safety Barrett is a player who I like a lot and who is only going to get better.  He has very good speed and makes big hits.  The team needs a new starting free safety.
ST Competition needs to be brought in for Prater, although he has a big leg and using him again next year would not be bad.  Kern is a good young punter.  Royal is an excellent young return man and based on the "New England" model, using the starting slot receiver (Welker in New England) on punts is not something that the new coach will frown upon.

KC

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

QB Too bad Croyle is so injury prone, I like his skills, but the team has to move on.  Thigpen played well when he took over and will be, at worst, given a chance to start.  Look for the Chiefs to bring in someone to compete for the starting job with Thigpen in camp.
RB Interestingly, the quarterback decision could impact the direction the Chiefs go at running back.  Johnson is not a good fit in the spread offense so he is not a good fit with Thigpen.  Charles is a better fit in that offense but not as a full time starter.  Smith is a solid sub.  Battle has good size and speed and could surprise in camp.  The need here depends on what the team decides to do with Johnson.
WR Bowe is a top talent.  Bradley has skills too, but needs to stay healthy.  Franklin and Robinson have potential, and Webb has also flashed at times, but the team needs to add a talented receiver as Bradley-insurance who can also play in three receiver sets.
TE Gonzalez is still the best tight end in the NFL.  There is talk he may want out of Kansas City.  Cottam is a terrific young prospect behind him.  I believe he will be very good when given the chance to start.  Depth is needed behind these two, especially if Gonzalez is traded.
OL The Chiefs are set on the left side.  They need improvement on the right side, especially if they move away from the spread offense.  One answer could be to move center Niswanger to right guard.  Then the team will need a center.
DL This unit needs to be rebuilt.  Hali must move back to right end and a pass rusher needs to be found at right end.  The team needs to install a scheme that makes better use Dorsey.  He was wasted last year.  DT Tyler should be a backup along with DE McBride.  Therefore, a starting tackle also needs to be secured.
LB Johnson and Williams have talent but did not have particularly good years last year, and both are most effective at WILL.  The Chiefs need a middle linebacker and a SAM.
DB This is the best unit on the Chiefs' defense.  Flowers, Carr and Leggett are three young promising corners.  Page is steady at free safety.  Pollard has mad skills but needs to be a more reliable tackler, if not Morgan could take away his starting spot.
ST The Chiefs need to bring in a kicker to challenge and hopefully unseat Barth.  Robinson needs to show he is the difference-making return man he was in college or he will be cut.  I like the kid's talent, but this could be a case where his unimpressive measureables indicate that he may not be able to transfer his skills to the NFL.

OAK

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

QB Russell took a nice step forward.  Considering the lack of talent at receiver that was no minor accomplishment.  Russell will be fine.  Walter will return as an unhappy backup.  Tuiasosopo is an UFA.  He should be available to be resigned if Oaklnad cannot upgrade that position in the offseason.
RB Fargas, McFadden and Bush give the Raiders a talented three-headed option at running back.  Unless they move one of their three backs, the Raiders have no need at running back.
WR If I could give this a rating worse than red I would.  Youngsters Higgins, Schilens and Shields could fill the final three receiver spots, but the team needs two new starters.  Of the three young players, if Shields is healthy he could have the best 2009.
TE Miller is developing into one of the better tight ends in the league.  Stewart, a goods blocker,  is an UFA.  Strong is a young player with a chance to be a solid backup tight end.
OL Grove and Carlisle are UFAs who the team has a decent shot at resigning.  Gallery has developed into a very good guard.  Henderson played left tackle, but the team would be best served if it found a stud left tackle and moved Henderson to the right side.  Depth is also needed.
DL The Raiders defensive line has a lot of "ehh".  Each player has some pluses as well as some minuses.  Burgess should be the best of the bunch but he had an injury-plagued and off year.  The team will have to find a role for Kelly because of the contract they gave him.  He is just okay.  A playmaker outside and a run-stuffer inside are needed.
LB This is a good unit.  Some blame Morrison in the middle for deficiencies in the run game.  Not me, I blame the Raiders' tackles.  Howard is an athletic WILL who keeps improving.  I like him, but he has his detractors too.  The team does need a SAM.  Alston is best served as a WILL.
DB Asomugha and Chris Johnson are a good cornerback tandem, however Johnson is an UFA.  So is backup corner Miller.  Routt hasn't developed as hoped but there is still time.  The Raiders will look to add a corner to either start if Johnson leaves or to be their nickel.  At safety Wilson was all the team hoped for when signed as a free agent from the Giants.  An upgrade from Huff and Eugene could be added at free safety.
ST Punter Lechler, the best in the biz, is a free agent.  So is Miller a dynamic kick return man.  Higgins (punt return) and Janikowski (kicker) are fine.

SD

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

QB Rivers, Volek and Whitehurst are a very solid one, two, three.
RB There appears to be a war of words between LT and GM Smith.  LT could be gone this offseason.  Sproles is an UFA and, if he can get a bigger role than the Chargers will offer him, could bolt.  Bennett flashed, but don't get too excited, he has done that from time to time in his career but doesn't have long term staying power.  Hester is a good fullback, can fill in at running back, but is not starting material as a halfback.  The Chargers will add a running back higher in the draft than many think.
WR This is an underrated unit.  Chambers, Jackson, Floyd, and Naanee are four good receivers.  This doesn't even include former high draft pick Craig Davis.
TE Tight end is another very good and deep unit.  Gates is top drawer, Manumaleuna plays well whenever he is given a chance,  Wilson is a solid backup and special teams' player, and Chandler. is a young player worth watching.
OL The line did not perform as well in 2008 as it did in prior years, or was it the runners fault?  Starting right guard Goff is an UFA and will need to be replaced.  The team could also look for a new right tackle.
DL Olshansky, Williams and Castillo are a good starting defensive line.  The unit needs better backups so these big bodies can get a little more rest and stay fresher.
LB This unit needs the return of Merriman and will get it.  He makes Phillips a better player.  Tucker got valuable experience with Merriman out and now will be a top reserve.  Cooper is a stud in the middle.  Dobbins is steady.  He beat out Wilhelm, a player who may need a change of scenery to resurrect his career.
DB I love this teams' corners.  Jammer, Cromartie and Cason give the team three players othyer teams would love to have.  Weddle had a solid rookie year but needs to play under a bit more control.  I believe he will successfully make that adjustment.  Hart's play fell off and he was replaced by Gregory.  Look for San Diego to try to upgrade free safety in the offseason.
ST Kaeding and Scifres are fine.  Sproles is a great return man but is an UFA and will, most likely, have to be replaced when he leaves for another team.

NFC WEST 

ARZ

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

   

QB Warner is an UFA and has also uttered the "R" word (retirement).  Leinart i9s waiting in the wings.  Third QB, St. Pierre is also an UFA.
RB James has a big price tag and will, most likely, not be back.  Arrington is an UFA.  Despite what they might hope and think, Hightower is not a starting caliber NFL running back.  He is an excellent change-of-pace battering ram who can be used in short yardage and on the goal line.  The Cardinals will draft a starting running back.
WR Even if Boldin moves on, which is what he is saying he wants right now, receiver is a position of strength for Arizona.  Fitzgerald is one of the best players in the league and will be fine paired with Breaston if not Boldin.  Urban has also shown some good things and Doucet has potential.
TE Spach is an UFA.  Pope is a tall tight end who hasn't developed as quickly as the Cardinals had envisioned.  Of all the Cardinals tight end, however, I like the potential of Patrick.  Still, the team will look for possible upgrades at tight end.
OL This is a solid unit.  In a draft deep at center, the Cards could bring in competition for Sendlein.  They could also add depth.
DL Look for youngsters Watson and Campbell to move into the starting lineup next year improving an already solid unit.   Dockett is the other starter.  Branch and Iwebema are young players with talent who provide depth.
LB Dansby is an UFA who Arizona cannot afford to lose.  OLB/DE hybrid Berry is also an UFA, although LaBoy, if he can stay healthy is a better player in the Cardinals' scheme.  Hayes and Okeafor are solid starters.  If Dansby leaves, Arizona will need to find a replacement.  They also need an OLB/DE as a backup if Berry leaves because of LaBoy's history nof injuries.
DB Rodgers-Cromartie had a nice rokkie year and will get better.  Hood is okay opposite him, but the Cardinals' could be best served with him at nickel and Brown at dime.  Wilson is one of the best safeties in the league.  I like Rolle at free safety.  Francisco is a good backup safety.  A corner who could start might be added.
ST The Cardinals kicking and punting games are fine, but they could use a dynamic return man, especially of Breaston moves into the starting line-up.

STL

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

QB Bulger has gone from top starter to middle of the pack starter very quickly.  It's time for the Rams to draft their quarterback of the future.  How soon the future is, depends upon how Bulger rebounds next year.  To make matters worse, Trent Green is the backup and the last thing anyone wants to see if Green taking a big hit, again.
RB Jackson is one of the better running backs in the league, but both Minor an UFA and Pittman are best as the #3 backs on the roster, not the primary backup.  Leonard is also not a back I would feel comfortable turning the offense over to if Jackson got hurt.
WR Holt carries a big cap number and it will be interesting to see if he gets moved in the offseason.  Avery is going to be a star in the league.  I had a first round grade on this kid and was not surprised he was the first receiver taken in the draft.  Just check out his workout numbers which show why he is so good on the field.  After Holt and Avery, however, Stanley is a valuable player to have as a backup receiver, but that's about it for me.  I'm not as high on Burton as the Rams are and Bennett cannot stay healthy.
TE McMichael coming back from injury will help.  Klopfenstein hasn't developed as I thought he would, but I wouldn't give up yet.  Becht is a good blocker.  This is a solid unit.
OL Ingocnito is an UFA, but the Rams have some young guards they like ready to step in.  Pace is still a solid old pro at left tackle.  However, an upgrade over Barron at right tackle and a center could be added.
DL If Little is healthy, he gives the Rams bookend ends (Long).  At tackle, Ryan is okay on the nose, but could be improved upon and, if not, a better backup is needed.  Carricker is wasted at tackle.  he has good athletic ability and should be an end.  that won't happen with Little and Long on hand.  Glover is an UFA.
LB This team needs a true middle linebacker.  Witherspoon is best served at WILL.  If Witherspoon stays in the middle, Tinoisamoa is a solid WILL.  An upgrade at SAM is needed and more depth.
DB Bartell is an UFA and is heading for a big pay day, either with the Rams or another team.  It's time for Hill to step up and be the corner he has the innate ability to be.  Wade is another corner with potential.  However, if Bartell leaves corner will be a need.  At safety Atogwe has developed into a better free safety than I thought he would be.  However, the team needs an upgrade at strong safety.
ST The Rams kicking/punting game is a strength. Stanley is a young return man who could take a big step next year.

SF

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

QB I thought Rodgers was better than Smith and boy is that proving right.  Hill is a keeper.  I believe he will not only be the 49ers starting quarterback, but will play well and hold the job for years.  O'Sullivan is an UFA who, most likely, won't be back.  A veteran backup should be added.
RB Gore, Foster and Robinson are a good unit.  The 49ers could bring in competition for a backup role.
WR I love the potential of Jason Hill, even more than Josh Morgan who seems to held in slightly higher regard Hill.  Both should have break out campaigns in 2009.  Bruce is still a solid pro.  Johnson is an UFA.  Zeigler is another kid I like, a lot, he has great hands.  Look for the 49ers to add a receiver to be their #5 wideout who can compete to be their top return man.
TE No one is happier to see Martz go than Davis.  He was a forgotten option on the passing game for Martz.  However, he is a good two-way (block, catch) tight end.  Walker is a good receiving threat.  Bajema is a good blocker.
OL With the possible exception of right tackle (Snyder), the 49ers line should come back intact next year.  Depth is needed.
DL This is a steady unit that has room to improve if Balmer can contribute in his sophomore season.  Sopoaga,  Franklin, and Smith are a solid starting unit.  Depth at nose tackle could be a concern because Fields is an UFA.
LB Willis is the best young linebacker in the league.  Spikes played well next to him.  ON the outside Haralson came on strong and is a pass rushing force at OLB.  At one time I thought Lawson was going to be a terror at OLB in the 49ers' 3-4.  I no longer feel that way.  Many point to injuries slowing him down, but I remember disappointment prior to the injuries, especially as far as rushing the passer was concerned.  The team also needs to address depth here.
DB The 49ers need a corner to come in and start opposite Clements.  Harris is okay, but aging, Spencer looked like a good nickel before getting injured, and Strickland has also looked good at time, but is best served  as a backup.  At safety Lewis is an in the box strong safety who isn't at his best in coverage and Roman represents the "safe" in safety.  He doesn't make mistakes, but he doesn't make big plays either.  It's time for some changes in teh 49ers secondary.
ST Nedney and Lee are solid, Rossum is a good return man but is an UFA.  If he leaves the 49ers will need a new one.

SEA

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

QB Hasselbeck needs a bounce back year.  Wallace played well when Hasselbeck was out and will be looking to move on soon.  Frye is an UFA.  Seattle needs to draft a young quarterback to groom behind Hasselbeck.
RB Morris is an UFA.  Jones had opportunities in Dallas and Seattle to grab the major share of the running game and didn't.  He may get another shot with the Seahawks, but it wouldn't surprise me if Seattle drafted a back to pair with Duckett, whose role should expand in 2009.
WR Branch is the best of the bunch but is injury-prone.  Engram and Robinson are UFAs.  Burleson and Obomanu are returning from injuries, but neither is a feared option.  Seattle needs to add a couple of receivers, one in free agency and one in the draft.
TE Carlson had a nice rookie year.  He should start for years.  Heller, a good blocker, is an UFA.  Newton showed some promise.
OL This line has some pieces and could an efficient line could be put together from those pieces.  However Womack and Willis are UFAs so a guard could be added to the mix and upgrades will be looked at all along the line except for left tackle.
DL Kerney, Tapp and Jackson are a good trio at end.  Mebane is a player on the rise at tackle.  Bernard is an UFA.  Red Bryant is a young player with mad skills who could step in.  Look for Seattle to add a pass rusher to play off the bench and a tackle.
LB Hill is an UFA as is backup Lewis.  If Hill leaves Seattle will have to find a replacement because they do not have one on their bench.  Peterson and Tatupu are very good starter.  depth is needed but will have to come from rookies if Hill is signed because of all the money Seattle will have tied up in their three starting linebackers.
DB Trufant, Wilson, Jennings and Babineaux are a solid group of corners.  However, if a strating caliber corner with size falls into their lap in the draft I could see the Seahawks pulling the trigger.  Grant and Russell are steady, aging, replaceable safeties.  Look for Seattle to look at safeties in the draft.
ST The Seahawks special teams are solid all around.