The dust has settled on the Seattle Seahawks’ wildly successful Super Bowl parade. The NFL scouting combine is over. Coaches and scouts are criss-crossing the United States in search of Blue players (playmakers and difference-makers) to plug and play, and still others to fill out the back end of the roster and increase competitiveness within the division.
When heading into the NFL’s new league year, teams first work hard to evaluate and grade their current rosters. Secondly, general managers and capologists search for cap casualties on the roster, players with contracts that can be reworked to create more cap space. Possible trades are explored, too, as players with high earning projections and extensive injury histories often sent packing.
Arizona – OT, RB, CB, OLB, ILB, OG
The Cardinals have a young, talented defense and could use an edge player in the way of a pass rusher, but head coach Bruce Arians will most likely focus on protecting quarterback Carson Palmer.
Atlanta – DE, OT, TE, OLB
Last season, the Falcons learned how hard it is to win games in the NFL with a high percentage of starters on injured reserve. Regardless, the window is closing fast on a franchise that has been so close to the prize. If Atlanta misses out on Jadeveon Clowney, there are still several pass rushers capable of upgrading a defense that lacks the ability to pressure the pocket.
Carolina – WR, OT, CB, OG
The Panthers slapped the franchise tag on DE Greg Hardy, retaining their talented and explosive edge player. Carolina could go several different ways in replacing recently retired OT Jordan Gross and aging-but-productive WR Steve Smith.
Chicago – DE, MLB, OLB, DB, OG
The Bears’ defense is getting long in the tooth and needs immediate upgrades – not only in the front seven, but the back end as well.
Dallas – DE, CB, DB, OG, DT, OLB
The Cowboys’ popcorn rotation at DE continues. DeMarcus Ware’s departure means that the Dallas front office will be looking long and hard at all kinds of pass rushers.
Detroit – DB, CB, WR, OLB, RB
The Lions’ struggles primarily were on the defensive side of the ball during 2013 season. With the cap-casualty loss of DB Louis Delmas and insufficient depth at cornerback the direction is pointing at defense as their priority. Adding a receiver will be key, as well.
Green Bay – TE, DB, OLB, OT, WR, QB
Green Bay, like most NFL teams, covets tall and athletic CBs – and the 2014 draft is loaded early at that position. Replacing Jermichael Finley at TE is a major need, too.
Minnesota – OLB, DB, NT, QB, WR, OG, OT
In signing DE Everson Griffen to a five-year deal this off season, along with QB Matt Cassel, the Vikings have filled two positional needs. Look for newly hired head coach Mike Zimmer to bring discipline to an organization that has sailed in circles for several years. Going defense-heavy in the draft would not be a surprise.
New Orleans – OT, OLB, NT, CB, ILB, DB, WR
Saints GM Mickey Loomis made several cuts during the offseason, including WR Lance Moore, and stamped Jimmy Graham with the non-exclusive tag (forcing interested teams to cough up two first-round picks). With a lot of holes to fill, the Saints could go in several different directions.
NYG – OLB, CB, DB, WR, OG
Replacing Hakeem Nicks at WR is an obvious need, but revamping a subpar defense will remain GM Jerry Reese’s main focus during free agency and the draft.
Philadelphia – OLB, DB, DE, OT, CB
After signing WR Jeremy Maclin to a one-year deal (though he missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL), wide receiver will not be their main focus. The Eagles will, however, concentrate on all three levels of defense: line, linebackers and secondary.
San Francisco – WR, CB, DB, DE, OLB
Michael Crabtree’s absence early in the 2013 season due to an Achilles injury was obvious, despite Anquan Boldin’s best efforts to hold down the fort. Will the 49ers target a playmaker at receiver? The NFC West remains all about defense, and San Francisco will most likely shift its needs toward that side of the ball.
Seattle – DE, TE, OT, OG, OC, OLB, RT
The Super Bowl champions were in cap trouble and made several cuts to get under the league-mandated limit by releasing WR Sidney Rice and DE Red Bryant, the latter of whom was picked up by Jacksonville. Signing UFA DE Michael Bennett back to the roster was astute, so the focus now turns to the offensive line.
St. Louis – OT, DB, OG, DT, WR
The Robert Griffin III trade is still paying dividends for the Rams, who hold the second and 13th picks (and nine selections in all) in this draft. With 102 underclassmen and several outstanding seniors, this draft is shaping up as one of the most talented drafts in decades. The Texans may have No. 1 overall pick, but the Rams hold a royal flush! No matter who Houston drafts first, the Rams are either assured of nabbing a great player second or trading out of the spot and acquiring more picks. One way or the other, protecting quarterback Sam Bradford is the key.
Tampa Bay – DE, OLB, TE, OT, QB
Adding veteran Mike Kafka will help with Mike Glennon’s classroom development. After the new staff’s evaluation of 2013, though, will the NC State product prove to be the right man to lead this team into the future? A pass rusher still remains at the top of the list, and Lovie Smith is a defensive-minded head coach.
Washington – ILB, NT, DB, WR, OG, OLB, WR
Replacing London Fletcher will be a monumental task when it comes to leadership, knowledge of the game and production. With new head coach Jay Gruden, there will be plenty of needs after evaluating his new squad.
Key: QB = Quarterback, RB = Running Back, FB = Fullback, TE = Tight End, WR = Wide Receiver, OC = Center, OG = Guard, OT = Offensive Tackle, CB = Corner Back, DB = Safeties, OLB = Outside Linebacker, ILB = Inside Linebacker, DT = Defensive Tackle, DE = Defensive End, PT = Punter, PK = Place Kicker, SNP = Snapper, RS = Return Specialist, ATH = Athlete