Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Team Needs & Roster Rankings

Monday, February 3, 2014

9. Indianapolis Colts

OL: It's no secret that Indy's offensive line has been a weakness during each of Andrew Luck's first two NFL seasons. GM Ryan Grigson tried to plug holes by signing RT Gosder Cherilus and LG Donald Thomas last spring, in addition to drafting OG Hugh Thornton. Cherilus was solid, but Thomas tore his quad in September and Thornton struggled badly as a third-round rookie, along with veteran C Samson Satele. Look for Grigson to make at least one splashy O-Line addition.

DB: Free safety Antoine Bethea and RCB Vontae Davis are the Colts' best defensive backs, and both are headed into free agency. Grigson will likely attempt to re-sign both, but talent is needed toward the back end of the depth chart. 2013 free agent pickup Greg Toler was an injury-riddled disappointment at left cornerback. Slot defender Darius Butler is a risk-taking coverage liability.

P/K: You may be sensing a theme here: Indianapolis has a lot of free agents. Included are K Adam Vinatieri and P Pat McAfee, both among the league's best at their positions. McAfee is a franchise tag candidate, while 41-year-old Vinatieri may be allowed to walk, price tag pending.

RB: Yet another Colts free agent is Donald Brown, who parlayed his contract year into a career-best season and bypassed Trent Richardson as Indianapolis' clear feature back during the playoffs. Brown isn't worth big money, but OC Pep Hamilton would likely prefer to have him back as a steadying presence. Richardson certainly won't be handed the job. Ahmad Bradshaw's deal is also up, and Vick Ballard is a below-average talent coming off a torn right ACL.

10. Kansas City Chiefs

OL: Left tackle Branden Albert, right guard Geoff Schwartz, and top interior reserve Jon Asamoah are all free agents. Left guard Jeff Allen struggled mightily for a second straight season, while C Rodney Hudson is entering a contract year. 2013 No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher was a letdown as a rookie, and swing tackle Donald Stephenson is best suited for a backup role. Beyond Fisher, the Chiefs have little settled long term on their offensive line. Expect multiple offseason moves here.

S: Incumbent FS Kendrick Lewis is a free agent and won't be back. The Chiefs have discussed moving Sanders Commings to safety, but the 2013 fifth-rounder played three snaps as a rookie and would be converting from cornerback. Ultimately, Kansas City's Week 1 bookend for SS Eric Berry likely isn't on the current roster. Jairus Byrd is the top safety in the 2014 free agent class.

QB: Alex Smith is locked into Kansas City's starting job after a career-best season, but remains closer to game manager than franchise quarterback, and his contract expires after 2014. Coach Andy Reid believes in taking at least one quarterback stab in every other draft, and a mid- to late-round flier makes sense. If Reid believes Tyler Bray is ready for primary backup duties, Kansas City could cut Chase Daniel and save $1.4 million versus the cap. The hypothetical rookie pick would be their No. 3.

WR: Dexter McCluster is scheduled for free agency, and Donnie Avery underwhelmed as a 2013 offseason signing. Dwayne Bowe is a passable No. 1, but Kansas City could use an explosive complementary No. 2 receiver. In Philly, Reid regularly drafted wideouts in the early rounds.

11. Philadelphia Eagles

S: Defense, defense, defense. The Eagles could use talent injections at all three levels, with safety as the most glaring deficiency. Strong safety Nate Allen's rookie deal is up, and free safety Pat Chung is fully expected to be released. Fifth-round pick Earl Wolff failed to distinguish himself in his first NFL season. Philadelphia may very well open next season with two new safety starters.

DT: Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are a formidable duo on the ends, but first-year DC Billy Davis was forced to rely too heavily on undersized rookie Bennie Logan at nose tackle in 2013. Logan can shoot gaps, but gets pushed around against the run. The Eagles turned to Logan because $11 million pickup Isaac Sopoaga flopped on the nose. Sopoaga was traded to New England in October.

WR: With Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin's contracts expiring, overpaid slot man Jason Avant is left as Philly's current No. 2 receiver behind DeSean Jackson. Maclin has hinted he'd be willing to accept less money to stay with the Eagles, which would smoothly shore up this hole. Cooper also seems unlikely to break the bank. It's not inconceivable that Philadelphia could bring back both.

CB: Offseason free agent addition Cary Williams predictably finished toward the latter end of Pro Football Focus' 2013 cornerback ratings, while bookend LCB Bradley Fletcher was better, but not great. Brandon Boykin is entrenched as Philly's long-term slot corner, but the outside positions are far from settled. Adding an early- to mid-round draft pick to compete for snaps would make sense.

12. Baltimore Ravens

OL: Baltimore's offensive line fell directly off a cliff, losing once-promising LG Kelechi Osemele to a year-ending back injury and trading for LT Eugene Monroe in an October move that cost the Ravens two 2014 middle-round picks but didn't solve the problems up front. Monroe and RT Michael Oher's contracts are now up, while overmatched C Gino Gradkowski will almost certainly not get back his starting job. Retaining Monroe, getting Osemele healthy, and upgrading center would be big offseason wins.

WR: Seemingly an annual need for GM Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore's wide receiver weakness was particularly exposed after Dennis Pitta's in-camp hip injury. New playcaller Gary Kubiak will want a possession threat in the Kevin Walter/DeAndre Hopkins mold to team with Torrey Smith. Jacoby Jones is a free agent, and versatile rising sophomore Marlon Brown would be a solid third option.

S: It's telling when your best safety is James Ihedigbo. First-round pick Matt Elam was stretched as a rookie starter, and Michael Huff was released six weeks into the season. As Ihedigbo's deal has now expired, Newsome will have to add at least one major contributor at safety this spring.

TE: I placed tight end low on this list because I fully expect Newsome to re-sign Pitta. At his introductory press conference, Kubiak spoke as if there's no question free agent Pitta will be on the 2014 roster. It's still a notable need, with only Matt Furstenburg and Nathan Overbay currently under contract at tight end. Free agents Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark shouldn’t be retained.

13. Detroit Lions

WR: Lions GM Martin Mayhew believed he had No. 2 receiver squared away for the long term when he invested back-to-back 2011 and 2012 second-round picks in Titus Young and Ryan Broyles. Young proceeded to go off the deep end, while Broyles has now torn both ACLs and his Achilles' tendon since his senior year at Oklahoma. Nate Burleson and Kris Durham haven't adequately filled the voids. It's back to square one for Mayhew, who may have to turn to free agency to address the position opposite Calvin Johnson. James Jones would be a quality add.

CB: Detroit has a lot of theoretical talent at corner, but little or nothing on which to hang its hat. LCB Chris Houston was benched down the stretch of 2013. Second-round pick Darius Slay lost his starting job to 33-year-old Rashean Mathis, who is now a free agent. Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, and Jonte Green all saw extensive playing time but failed to reliably nail down jobs.

TE: The Lions cut Tony Scheffler in October, and Brandon Pettigrew's rookie deal is up. Left behind are blocking-deficient Joseph Fauria and blocking-only Michael Williams at tight end. There is some belief that Detroit could use the franchise tag on Pettigrew, but he isn't worth it.

K: Detroit's two kickers under contract for 2014 are Giorgio Tavecchio and John Potter. The former has never attempted an NFL kick, while the latter has bounced around the league the past two seasons. 39-year-old free agent David Akers shouldn't be retained after a sub-par season.

14. Chicago Bears

DL: This was a nightmare position for the Bears' league-worst run defense, and is about to get even thinner with RE Julius Peppers' inevitable release. Beyond Peppers, the only worthwhile Chicago defensive linemen signed for 2014 are injury-riddled NT Stephen Paea, 2012 first-round disappointment Shea McClellin, and long-shot prospects Cornelius Washington and David Bass. LE Corey Wootton, and DTs Henry Melton, Nate Collins, and Jay Ratliff are all free agents.

LB: 2013 second-round pick Jon Bostic struggled so badly at middle linebacker in 2013 that the Bears are considering moving him outside or to the bench. Chicago has penciled in converted DE McClellin as its new strong-side starter. 33-year-old Lance Briggs probably has one season left at weak-side linebacker. Bears GM Phil Emery inarguably made the right decision to not pay Brian Urlacher last offseason, but is still searching for a replacement.

DB: Every level of this defense needs upgrades. Emery did well to retain LCB Tim Jennings, but isn't expected to pursue re-signing free agent RCB Charles Tillman or SS Major Wright. FS Chris Conte was awful in 2013 and must be replaced. There isn't a defense in football in more need of a full-on makeover than the Bears'. Even after Jay Cutler's $127 million megadeal, Emery will have over $20 million in salary cap room once Peppers, Michael Bush, and Earl Bennett are released.

C: The Bears likely feel comfortable entering 2014 with LT Jermon Bushrod, RT Jordan Mills, LG Matt Slauson, and RG Kyle Long locked into the starting lineup. C Roberto Garza is a free agent, however, and turns 35 in March. Garza has spent the last decade in Chicago and may be willing to settle for a hometown discount. He played well enough in 2013 to retain at the right price.

15. San Diego Chargers

CB: There wasn't a team in football with less effective corners this season. Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall, and Derek Cox finished 1-2-3 on the Chargers in cornerback snaps, and all three finished among Pro Football Focus' bottom-ten CBs, out of 110 qualifiers. Revamping the position is all but required. Marshall is a free agent, and $20 million megabust Cox may be cut.

NT: San Diego's defense coughed up 4.59 yards per carry in 2013, the sixth highest clip in the league. Cam Thomas didn't pan out at nose tackle and is now a free agent, while journeyman-type Sean Lissemore is left atop the depth chart. The Chargers are internally high on 2013 UDFA nose Byron Jerideau, but he didn't earn any rookie-year snaps. Nose tackle is a gaping hole.

OG: The Chargers have question marks at both guard positions, as LG Chad Rinehart's contract is up and RG Jeromey Clary isn't remotely worth his $4.55 million base salary. No. 3 guard Johnnie Troutman didn't show well enough in 2013 to be trusted as a starter. Re-signing Rinehart would win half the battle. San Diego will likely find its other 2014 guard via the draft or free agency.

WR: Rookie GM Tom Telesco stole Keenan Allen in the third round of last year's draft, but the rest of San Diego's wideout corps is subpar at best. Eddie Royal is an overpaid, middling slot receiver. Vincent Brown played so poorly in '13 that his roster spot may be in danger. Reports indicate 32-year-old Malcom Floyd's neck injury is career threatening, and Danario Alexander is a free agent. Complementing route-running maven Allen with a big-play burner would make sense.

16. Miami Dolphins

OL: Outgoing GM Jeff Ireland dove head first into 2013 free agency, ostensibly forgetting while submerged that good offensive linemen are important for young quarterbacks. The result was a league-high 58 sacks absorbed by Ryan Tannehill, who began to look shell shocked late in the season. Hopefully Ireland didn't ruin him for good. The Fins need new starters at every position except center. LG Richie Incognito, RG John Jerry, LT Bryant McKinnie, and RT Tyson Clabo are all free agents. Jonathan Martin isn't coming back, and he wasn't very good in the first place.

CB: Brent Grimes was Miami's best 2013 defensive player, but played on a one-year deal. He's a franchise tag candidate. RCB Nolan Carroll's contract is also up, and the Fins are likely to cut slot corner Dimitri Patterson due to an unwieldy $5.3 million salary. So it's conceivable that new GM Dennis Hickey will have to replace at least two-thirds of Miami's nickel package, if not all three.

DT: Once a strength of the Dolphins' defense, defensive tackle could quickly become a weakness should free agents Randy Starks and Paul Soliai both depart. As Jared Odrick is entering a walk year, Miami is clearly thinning at the position. Soliai and Starks are on the wrong side of 30, so they're going to look to max out in free agency. Expect multiple moves on the Dolphins' interior.

RB: New OC Bill Lazor will study the tape and determine whether Lamar Miller is capable of feature back duties. I tend to lean toward saying he is, but Miller obviously has improvements to make in his game. Career plodder Daniel Thomas definitely isn't the answer, and the organization was reportedly down on fifth-round pick Mike Gillislee after a nondescript first NFL season.

17. Washington Redskins

DB: Washington was shredded in the secondary throughout 2013, struggling at safety and corner. Rising sophomore CB David Amerson will probably enter the starting lineup, but incumbents Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall both have expiring deals. Hall has said he wants to re-sign with the Redskins, and is open to playing safety. Either way, multiple starters are needed in the back end.

LB: Perry Riley and Brian Orakpo are free agents, while London Fletcher is retiring at age 39. The Skins will prioritize re-signing top pass rusher Orakpo, but need two starters on the inside. Depth is also lacking at both linebacker spots. This position group may be headed for quite an overhaul.

OL: Outgoing coach Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme stockpiled undersized linemen with movement skills. New coach Jay Gruden ran a power-oriented run game in Cincinnati. LG Kory Lichtensteiger (6'2/284) and RT Tyler Polumbus (6'8/305) are questionable fits for the new offense, and Chris Chester (6'3/309) is on the small side for a right guard. Unless Gruden opts to keep the scheme in place -- a possibility -- the Redskins will have to start drafting differently.

WR: Shanahan and Gruden treat their No. 2 receivers similarly, utilizing rotations where blocking ability can be the greatest determinant of playing time. So Gruden won't necessarily seek a big-time playmaker to pair with Pierre Garcon. He still needs an upgrade on Leonard Hankerson, who's coming off LCL and ACL tears. Josh Morgan and Santana Moss are both free agents.

18. Dallas Cowboys

DT: This is pretty telling: Dallas' top returning defensive tackle is Tyrone Crawford, a onetime defensive end with zero career starts who missed the entire season with a torn Achilles' tendon. The Cowboys were lit up in 2013 run defense and couldn't keep opposing offensive guards from getting to the second level and removing their linebackers from plays. Dallas needs two new starting defensive tackles. New DC Rod Marinelli favors one gap shooter next to a space eater.

S: Barry Church and Jeff Heath would be the Cowboys' starting safeties if the season began today. 2013 third-round pick J.J. Wilcox flashed promise as a rookie run defender, but was out of his depth in pass coverage. Church is a replacement-level player, while Heath is best suited for special teams. Adding at least one starter this offseason is an absolute must. Two wouldn't hurt.

DE: DeMarcus Ware's body looks to be breaking down going on age 32, while microfracture surgery threatens to shorten or severely restrict what's left of free agent LE Anthony Spencer's career. The Cowboys got positive 2013 contributions from George Selvie and Martez Wilson, but they are role players. Dallas needs a new starting left end, and must begin thinking about the post-Ware era.

LB: The Cowboys expect MLB Sean Lee (neck) to be healthy for 2014, but weak-side linebacker is just as critical a position in Marinelli's defense, and incumbent Bruce Carter was a complete flop there last season. Carter is 26 and talented enough for Marinelli to try "coaching up," but will have to face competition. Ernie Sims is a free agent, and Justin Durant ($1.25 million) may be released.

19. Arizona Cardinals

OT: Multiple rumors have already linked the Cardinals to free agent LT Branden Albert, who will be looking to break the bank. Arizona has suffered through Levi Brown, D'Anthony Batiste, and Bradley Sowell long enough. Immobile 34-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer functions at a far more efficient clip when well protected. Palmer was not well protected for most of last season.

LB: John Abraham's tank is nearing E going on age 36, while a pedestrian foursome of Lorenzo Alexander, Sam Acho, Alex Okafor, and Dontay Moch round out Arizona's outside linebackers. This club needs fresh legs at edge rusher. Inside 'backer is another concern with Karlos Dansby entering free agency. The Cardinals did use a 2013 second-round pick on Kevin Minter and may stay in-house with Dansby's replacement, though Minter earned zero playing time as a rookie.

CB: Cardinals GM Steve Keim will soon commit a mammoth contract to No. 1 corner Patrick Peterson, but Arizona's depth chart is thin thereafter as sub-package contributor Antoine Cason enters free agency. Arizona's 2013 slot corner was FS Tyrann Mathieu, who suffered left ACL and LCL tears in early December. No. 2 cornerback Jerraud Powers is a below-average NFL starter.

QB: Coach Bruce Arians likes Drew Stanton as a backup, but he isn't seen as Palmer's heir apparent. Arians did keep Ken Whisenhunt holdover Ryan Lindley on the 2013 roster and may have seen some potential. The structure of Palmer's contract indicates he's entering his final year in Arizona. The Cardinals are a sleeper team to draft a quarterback in May's first round.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

DL: The Steelers are expected to part with free agents Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood, leaving LE Cameron Heyward as their lone locked-in starter. As Pittsburgh's front was pushed around in 2013 run defense, DC Dick LeBeau reined in NT Steve McLendon's snaps down the stretch. Pittsburgh needs both front-end linemen and depth. They might use their first-round pick here.

OL: Hiring Mike Munchak as position coach should go a long way toward maximizing Pittsburgh's in-house linemen, but adding talent would help a lot more. OT Mike Adams has been a 2012 second-round bust, while 2011 second-rounder Marcus Gilbert is a below-average starter at best. The Steelers do return a solid interior of LG Ramon Foster, C Maurkice Pouncey, and RG David DeCastro. Undersized T/G Kelvin Beachum (6'3/303) gets handled as a run blocker and would be best employed as a versatile reserve. Expect GM Kevin Colbert to draft yet another early- to mid-round tackle.

WR: The Steelers' philosophy is to replace free agent departures from within. Nos. 2 and 3 receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery's contracts are both expiring, pushing 2013 third-round pick Markus Wheaton to the forefront opposite Antonio Brown. Wheaton earned under 200 offensive snaps as a rookie, however, so Pittsburgh likely won't be handing him a starting job. Even if Wheaton wins, the Steelers need a third receiver. Cotchery should be cheap to keep.

CB: Overpaid Ike Taylor ($7 million) turns 34 in May and is a potential salary cap casualty, while LCB Cortez Allen fell short of expectations in his first season as a near-full-time player. Nickel back William Gay is coming off a solid year, which historically means he's due for a dreadful one. The Steelers need to get younger at cornerback. They need a No. 1 corner replacement for Taylor.

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

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