Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Team Needs & Roster Rankings

Monday, February 04, 2013



21. San Diego Chargers

OT: Want a quick explanation for San Diego's 2012 offensive collapse? (The Chargers led the NFL in total offense as recently as 2010.) It all starts up front. $25 million left tackle Jared Gaither refused to play through pain, and when he wasn't in the lineup starting tackles Mike Harris and Jeromey Clary were turnstiles in pass protection. Philip Rivers began seeing ghosts in the pocket, sensing pass rush that wasn't there. San Diego needs to clean house at this position.

CB: Starters Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason's contracts have both expired, leaving San Diego with only Marcus Gilchrist, Shareece Wright, and practice squad-type Greg Gatson under contract at corner. The Chargers need speed in the secondary after Jammer and Cason were all too often exposed deep. New coach Mike McCoy has ties to likely Panthers cap casualty Chris Gamble, while assistant Ken Whisenhunt knows free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie well.

RB: Perhaps McCoy and Whisenhunt will feel differently, but outgoing coach Norv Turner had decided that 2010 first-round pick Ryan Mathews was not the solution as a foundation back. Mathews proceeded to justify Turner's opinion in 2012, fracturing his collarbone twice and running tentatively when healthy. Backups Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle are both free agents, which means the Bolts will at the very least pursue a No. 2 back and possibly Mathews' replacement.

QB: While Rivers gets something of a pass because ex-GM A.J. Smith did such an abominable job of compiling receivers and offensive linemen, it's fair to wonder how many quality years -- if any -- San Diego's quarterback has left. Going on 32, Rivers' arm strength has eroded and he's become increasingly turnover prone. A developmental prospect capable of at least pushing underwhelming backup Charlie Whitehurst would be a nice addition for Whisenhunt to groom.

22. Philadelphia Eagles

QB: Owed a $15.5 million salary, Michael Vick is tentatively expected to be released sometime in March. 2012 third-round pick Nick Foles possesses some intriguing tools, but lacks the athleticism rookie coach Chip Kelly typically seeks in a signal caller. The Eagles are expected to sign Ravens practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon in the coming days, but Dixon probably isn't a viable candidate to start. Kelly would likely love to get his hands on West Virginia's Geno Smith.

CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent, and the Eagles will likely part with declining running mate Nnamdi Asomugha. Of Philadelphia's top three 2012 corners, only slot guy Brandon Boykin's roster spot is assured. Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes each have some potential, but lack starting experience. The Eagles need to add competition at both outside cornerback spots.

DT: Kelly is installing a 3-4 scheme, a major departure from Philly's defenses of seasons past. While Trent Cole and Brandon Graham should hold their own as stand-up rush 'backers, the Eagles lack a double team-commanding nose tackle to anchor. The Eagles should feel okay at end (Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox) and inside linebacker (DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks).

S: Kurt Coleman would be covering punts on a team with a good secondary, and Nate Allen hasn't been the same since rupturing his patellar tendon in 2010. At the very least, the Eagles need one new starting safety. Kenny Phillips and Louis Delmas would be attractive free agent additions.

23. Buffalo Bills

QB: Incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick will be released before his $3 million roster bonus comes due on March 13. New coach Doug Marrone subscribes to a run-first philosophy, which should theoretically allow Buffalo to ease in a rookie signal caller. The obvious pre-draft connection is Ryan Nassib, whom Marrone and first-year coordinator Nathaniel Hackett developed at Syracuse.

WR: "We want a guy who can go up and snatch the ball, that he’s open when he’s covered,” GM Buddy Nix explained after the season. “Go up and high point the ball and get it." The Bills envision $36 million receiver Stevie Johnson's future in the slot, and were involved in the Vincent Jackson bidding even after re-signing Johnson last offseason. Nix would probably love a Dwayne Bowe.

OG: The Bills could solidify this position for the long term by re-signing guard Andy Levitre, but he won't come cheap and intends to shop his wares. Top reserve Chad Rinehart is also a free agent. With Cordy Glenn and Chris Hairston at tackle, Eric Wood at center, and Kraig Urbik locked in at right guard, Levitre's left guard position is Buffalo's only real question mark on the line.

LB: GM Nix wants "a guy who can run and cover and can match up against a slot or a tight end" to play between Nick Barnett and Nigel Bradham. Buffalo has soured on 2011 third-rounder Kelvin Sheppard and is in the market for a middle linebacker. Free agency is bone dry at this position.

24. Cleveland Browns

LB: Phil Taylor, Billy Winn, Ahtyba Rubin, and John Hughes give new defensive coordinator Ray Horton intriguing options on the line. D'Qwell Jackson and James-Michael Johnson could be a formidable inside linebacker duo. Outside rush 'backers are essential in Horton's 3-4, however, and would-be defensive end convert Jabaal Sheard is the Browns' only realistic option there.

CB: Joe Haden is among the league's best cover guys at left corner, but 34-year-old right corner Sheldon Brown is a free agent and isn't expected back. The depth chart is rounded out by Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade, and Johnson Bademosi, none of whose performances will endear themselves to the new-look Browns on 2012 game tape. Horton likes big, physical press corners.

QB: By now, it's no secret that new Browns personnel boss Mike Lombardi is not a fan of 2012 first-round pick Brandon Weeden. Coming off a 14-touchdown, 17-pick rookie season, Weeden didn't do enough to enter camp locked in as the starter. Lombardi has long been a fan of Patriots backup Ryan Mallett, who is expected to be available for offseason trade. Perhaps Lombardi will dangle this year's 68th overall pick and a future second-rounder to acquire big-armed Mallett.

TE: It remains to be seen how new coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner view Jordan Cameron. Ben Watson and Alex Smith are free agents, leaving athletic specimen Cameron -- an ex-basketball player -- atop Cleveland's tight end depth chart. Tight ends have consistently been an integral part of both Chudzinski and Turner's offenses through the years.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

DE: Top defensive end Michael Bennett is scheduled for free agency, and would-be bookend Adrian Clayborn is coming off a torn ACL. 2011 second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers has yet to establish himself as a capable starter. The Bucs finished the season last in the NFC in sacks, exacerbating deficiencies in the back end. They must find a core pass rusher this offseason.

CB: A combination of no pass rush and utter lack of reliable cover men can quickly torpedo any pass defense. So it isn't surprising that the Bucs surrendered the most passing yards in the league in 2012. Top corner E.J. Biggers is up for free agency, and Eric Wright is expected to be released. Tampa Bay currently does not have a cornerback it can count on to be a 2013 starter.

QB: After a 2012 season that wasn't nearly as good as his stats suggest, Josh Freeman will enter a contract year without any plans from the Bucs to give him an extension. Freeman still struggles with accuracy and when surrounded by bodies, even if his vertical-passing arm is among the league's elite. GM Mark Dominik plans to upgrade the backup quarterback spot on Dan Orlovsky.

DT: Gerald McCoy is a difference-making three-technique tackle, but nose guard Roy Miller is an unrestricted free agent and defensive tackle already had depth concerns. Even if Miller re-signs, the Bucs could use a third interior lineman to bolster the rotation and provide productive snaps.

26. St. Louis Rams

OL: St. Louis fielded the most rag-tag offensive line in football last season and remains desperate for reliable, effective blockers. There isn't a position on the front five that couldn't use an upgrade. Only right guard Harvey Dahl and left tackle Rodger Saffold can be considered quality starters, and the latter is entering a contract year. Pricey center Scott Wells' right knee may be shot.

S: The Rams will need two new starting safeties if they release Quintin Mikell, which is expected. They'll happily let free agent free safety Craig Dahl walk. St. Louis has built one of the NFL's more promising cornerback depth charts, but the secondary has a ways to go before it's solidified.

LB: Middle man James Laurinaitis is St. Louis' only worthwhile every-down linebacker. Weak-side starter Jo-Lonn Dunbar was exposed as a 2012 pass defender, and strong-side 'backer Rocky McIntosh's contract has run out. Both outside positions should be open to competition in 2013.

WR: Seemingly an annual offseason need for the Rams, receiver is slowly getting better but not quite there yet. While 2012 fourth-round pick Chris Givens flashed big-play ability and separation skills, fellow rookie Brian Quick was slow to develop. Top receiver Danny Amendola is a free agent. If the Rams re-sign Amendola, it's still possible that they'll continue to build this position from within. They've certainly not yet soured on Quick, who was last year's 33rd overall pick.

27. Tennessee Titans

OL: Tennessee's tackle spots remain strong with Michael Roos on the left side and David Stewart on the right, but all three interior line positions have question marks. 35-year-old left guard Steve Hutchinson is a retirement candidate after knee surgery. Center Fernando Velasco is a restricted free agent, and right guard involved musical chairs in 2012 with Deuce Lutui and Leroy Harris both noticeably struggling. Interior penetration by defenses was a problem throughout the year.

S: The Titans' safety play was among the league's poorest last season. Free safety Michael Griffin's five-year, $35 million deal is looking regrettable in hindsight, and strong safety was a revolving door of Jordan Babineaux, Robert Johnson, and Al Afalava. Tennessee must fortify the latter position in particular, allowing Griffin to focus on covering centerfield. He is an awful tackler.

QB: It's fair to wonder if Jake Locker is the long-term quarterback answer in Nashville after he made no noticeable 2012 strides. If anything, Locker may have taken a step back. His accuracy hasn't improved since the University of Washington, and Locker will miss a chunk of offseason work while recovering from left (non-throwing) shoulder surgery. Backup Matt Hasselbeck, going on 38, has nothing left in his arm and probably will be cut due to a prohibitive $5.5 million salary.

RB: Chris Johnson is expected to return despite a whopping $10 million base salary, but the Titans have zero depth behind him. Javon Ringer is a free agent, and Jamie Harper is an upright plodder. Ideally, Tennessee would find a power back to complement finesse runner Johnson.

28. Kansas City Chiefs

QB: Matt Cassel won't see a penny of his $7.5 million salary. He'll likely be cut in February. Since the end of the regular season, a number of signs have pointed to Alex Smith being atop new coach Andy Reid's wish list. Smith -- or Kevin Kolb, if released by Arizona -- could serve as the Chiefs' band-aid quarterback as Reid develops a younger player with franchise-caliber potential.

CB: The Chiefs knew quickly that 2012 free-agent signing Stanford Routt was a bust. They cut him in early November, and usual slot corner Javier Arenas was stretched as Routt's replacement in the starting lineup. Top cornerback Brandon Flowers is signed through 2016, but Kansas City must find a capable starter opposite him. Jalil Brown is an underwhelming in-house candidate.

DE: Reid is keeping the 3-4 in place, but he'll have to renovate Kansas City's defensive line. Right end Glenn Dorsey is a free agent, and left end Tyson Jackson is a likely cap casualty due to a massive $14.72 million base salary. The Chiefs were consistently moved in the run game in 2012.

WR: The Chiefs can solidify receiver by re-signing Dwayne Bowe. Left tackle is another need area, but can be fortified if free agent Branden Albert returns healthy. Albert battled chronic back injuries last season. If those two players leave, tackle and wideout suddenly move near the top of Kansas City's team needs. 2011 first-round receiver Jon Baldwin has been a bust thus far, and there isn't another viable starting wideout on the roster. Likewise, there is no Albert replacement.

29. Arizona Cardinals

QB: A misfit for new coach Bruce Arians' vertical attack, Kevin Kolb figures to be cut ahead of his $2 million March 15 roster bonus. John Skelton isn't getting better, and Ryan Lindley is a long-term project. Among draft-eligible quarterbacks, big-armed Mike Glennon of N.C. State would best fit Arians' system. The Cardinals still must upgrade their line before installing a rookie QB.

OT: The Cards can get by with Lyle Sendlein, Daryn Colledge, and Nate Potter on the interior, but tackle is a major issue. Bobby Massie wasn't remotely ready to play as a rookie, and Levi Brown -- back from injury -- belongs at right tackle or guard. If Arizona doesn't deem a quarterback worthy of the No. 7 overall pick, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher would be quite nice as a fallback plan.

LB: New Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' background is in the 4-3. Arizona currently has 3-4 personnel. If Bowles plans on changing the scheme, the Cards will need a weak-side end to rush opposite Calais Campbell, and at least one 4-3 outside 'backer. For the 4-3, Bowles might consider keeping Stewart Bradley to man the middle, with Daryl Washington on the weak side.

CB: With only right cornerback Patrick Peterson entrenched as a starter, Arizona has holes at left and slot corner. Incumbent starter William Gay is a prime release candidate, Michael Adams and Greg Toler are free agents, and 2012 third-rounder Jamell Fleming didn't show much as a rookie.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

QB: The Jags finally have a pair of competent receivers in Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, but they lack someone capable of consistently getting them the ball. Blaine Gabbert is a bust. Chad Henne is a career backup. Jacksonville will draft second overall in late April, and West Virginia's Geno Smith would be an awfully nice fit for new coordinator Jedd Fisch's West Coast offense.

CB: The Jaguars are headed for a makeover in the backend. Top corner Derek Cox and nickel back Rashean Mathis are both free agents, while Aaron Ross is a candidate to be released. New Jags coach Gus Bradley has a history of success with big, physical press-man cornerbacks who don't necessarily cost a lot of money or high picks. Bradley's corners need to be route disruptors.

LB: Jacksonville's defense got rag-dolled in the run game last season. Many of the failures can be attributed to poor play up front, but there are more holes to fill at linebacker. Stalwart strong-side 'backer Daryl Smith is a free agent after an injury-ruined season. Weak-side starter Russell Allen fared better in a utilityman role. The Jaguars need to find at least one new starting linebacker.

RB: Maurice Jones-Drew suffered a Lisfranc fracture early in the 2012 season. Backup Rashad Jennings flopped in the feature back role, before getting injured himself. Jennings is now a free agent and unlikely to be retained. Jones-Drew has a ton of wear on his tires and is coming off a serious injury. Jacksonville needs to begin thinking about MJD's long-term replacement.

31. New York Jets

QB: Where to begin. The Jets' roster disintegrated under since-fired GM Mike Tannenbaum to the point that it's arguably the worst collection of talent in football. Although Mark Sanchez is certain to return because Tannenbaum guaranteed his $8.25 million salary, the Jets would be better off never putting Sanchez on the field again. Due to cap concerns, New York will likely have to go cheap on a quarterback competitor, drafting one or scooping up a veteran off the scrap heap.

RB: Impending free agent Shonn Greene head-scratchingly set a career high for carries in 2012 despite rushing for a career-worst yards per attempt. He's not expected back, leaving fellow plodder Bilal Powell atop the depth chart. The Jets are desperate for an injection of burst and explosion in the backfield. They've twiddled their thumbs with faux "power backs" for far too long.

TE: Free agent Dustin Keller has all but begged out of New York and will likely depart for greener pastures. Backup Jeff Cumberland is a stiff-moving, upright tight end lacking field-stretching ability. The Jets need an athletic tight end and another wide receiver for their next quarterback.

OL: While center Nick Mangold, left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and right guard Brandon Moore are still going strong, right tackle and left guard are needy positions on the line. We didn't even get to defense, where New York is desperate for an edge rusher. Calvin Pace will almost certainly be cut. Safety is yet another problem area as starters LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell head to free agency. As alluded to previously, this Jets roster is a complete and utter mess.

32. Oakland Raiders

OL: Khalif Barnes and Willie Smith are turnstiles at right tackle. Right guard Mike Brisiel was signed for ex-offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's zone-blocking scheme, which has since been scrapped. Left guard Cooper Carlisle is going on age 36 and entering free agency. After the Raiders couldn't clear a running lane without a holding penalty in 2012, left tackle Jared Veldheer and center Stefen Wisniewski may be the only salvageable parts on this putrid offensive line.

CB: The Raiders got so desperate last year that they converted safety Michael Huff to cornerback during the season. Huff is moving back to safety, and Oakland doesn't have a single solid starting corner left on the roster. They’ll have to address this position in both free agency and the draft.

DE: Three Oakland defensive ends -- Lamarr Houston, Matt Shaughnessy, and Andre Carter -- played 300 or more snaps in 2012. The first is entering a contract year, and the latter two are offseason free agents. Lacking talent both at pass rusher and cornerback, the Raiders' pass defense is headed for another very long year. GM Reggie McKenzie will have to get creative.

LB: Strong-side linebacker Philip Wheeler was the Raiders' only quality starter at this position a year ago. Rolando McClain will be cut, while Miles Burris and Kaelin Burnett are projects. Oakland also needs an influx of talent at quarterback, tight end, and defensive tackle. This is the worst roster in the league.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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