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The 2020 NFL offseason is truly underway now.
The scouting combine has come and gone. The window for applying franchise or transition tags to players is open. Within the next fortnight, the new league year will arrive and free agency will officially begin.
Before you know it, it will be time for the 2020 NFL draft in Las Vegas.
During the season, every team’s to-do list is the same—win each week. But at this time of year, those lists vary wildly. Some fortunate clubs are patching holes and gearing up for a Super Bowl run. Others are in the early stages of a ground-up rebuild. Most are somewhere in between.
Regardless, every team has a list of goals it needs to accomplish this offseason—whether it’s players to bring back, outside free agents to add or position groups to address in the draft.
Here’s a look at three-step to-do lists for every NFL team over the coming weeks.
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Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
- Improve Kyler Murray’s protection
- Get Chandler Jones some help
- Upgrade the secondary
If his rookie season was any indication, the Arizona Cardinals have a keeper in Kyler Murray. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick threw for 3,722 yards and ran for 544 on the way to being named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
But Murray was also sacked a league-high 48 times behind an offensive line that ranked 26th in pass protection, according to Football Outsiders. The offensive line is easily the biggest offseason priority in Arizona.
While the Cards have already re-upped tackle D.J. Humphries, another lineman could be in play with the eighth overall pick.
The Cardinals also have multiple needs on defense. Byron Murphy may finally be the No. 2 corner they have needed for years, but they still require more depth at the position and an upgrade at strong safety.
They also need more pass-rushing help. The Cardinals have one of the best in the business in Chandler Jones, but their second-best pass-rusher in terms of 2019 sacks (Terrell Suggs, 5.5) was released during the season. The next-best player still on the roster is Rodney Gunter, who had three.
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Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
- Juice up the pass rush
- Move on from Devonta Freeman
- Improve the interior O-line
The Atlanta Falcons have already said they plan to move on from edge-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. As such, there’s improvement on the edge should be their top priority this offseason.
However, there isn’t an easy solution for that problem. With only $4.3 million in projected cap space, the best free-agent pass-rushers are light-years outside Atlanta’s price range.
The Falcons will need to free up more room under the cap, perhaps by waiving tailback Devonta Freeman. The soon-to-be 28-year-old finished with 1,066 total yards in 2019, but he averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry and scored only two rushing touchdowns.
Waiving him would leave Atlanta with a $6 million cap hit, but it would free up an extra $3.5 million.
The Falcons’ cap crunch also puts them in a rough spot with regard to bringing back their own free agents. If guard Wes Schweitzer departs, the interior of the offensive line will become an area of need as well.
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Julio Cortez/Associated Press
- Reload on defense
- Get better at wide receiver
- Take a breath
The 2019 season didn’t end like the Baltimore Ravens hoped, but after a 14-win regular season, they enter 2020 with the loftiest of expectations. That’s where “taking a breath” comes in.
The Ravens will enter the 2020 season as one of the favorites (along with Kansas City) to rep the AFC in Super Bowl LV in Tampa. But they didn’t get to where they are by putting the cart before the horse. They have to take every step in the offseason as it comes—from free agency to the draft to OTAs.
Regarding more concrete steps for the Ravens, two things stand out. The first is a reload on defense.
Matt Judon, who led the team in sacks last year, is set to hit free agency, and Baltimore has a history of letting edge-rushers coming off career years leave. The Ravens will need to find a replacement for Judon if he departs, and upgrades at inside linebacker would be welcome, too.
And while the Ravens throw to tight ends as much (if not more) than any team in the NFL and Marquise Brown had his moments as a rookie, the Ravens could use help at wide receiver—preferably a big-bodied red-zone target.
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Michael Wyke/Associated Press
- Get Josh Allen more passing-game weapons
- Improve the front seven
- Restructure or release Trent Murphy
The Buffalo Bills are in excellent position relative to the salary cap. Only two teams have a bigger war chest than Buffalo’s $82.3 million.
The key will be spending that cabbage wisely—and two areas stand out.
The first is the passing-game weaponry around young quarterback Josh Allen. Last year’s free-agent additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley were a huge help in that regard, but the Bills still need a big body on the boundary that can high-point passes in the red zone.
That might be best left to the early rounds of the NFL draft, with it looking less and less likely that players like Amari Cooper and A.J. Green will be going anywhere.
If the Bills are going to dish out a big contract in free agency, the pass rush is the place to do it. That would be an area of need even if Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips weren’t hitting free agency. If either of them leaves, that hole will become glaring.
Given that, moving on from Trent Murphy might at first seem counterproductive. But if the veteran defensive end isn’t willing to take a pay cut, his salary (nearly $9.8 million) and productivity don’t come close to matching.
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Mike McCarn/Associated Press
- Bolster the secondary
- Replace Luke Kuechly
- Add some edge-rushing help
For all of the problems the Carolina Panthers have after a second straight second-half free-fall, it appears quarterback won’t be one of them. New head coach Matt Rhule stated that he “absolutely” wants Cam Newton to stay in Carolina in 2020, per Andie Hagemann of NFL.com.
The Panthers still have plenty of issues, though.
Veteran cornerback James Bradberry is set to hit the open market, and as one of the top options at a premium position, he will likely command a hefty salary. If the 26-year-old signs elsewhere, an already shaky cornerback corps will become a hot mess.
The Panthers also have to fill the gaping hole that Luke Kuechly’s retirement left in the middle of their defense. Whether’s it’s with a free agent like Joe Schobert or Cory Littleton or a rookie like Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons or Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray, Carolina needs to make a hefty investment at inside linebacker.
The Panthers are in a similar situation on the edge. Brian Burns showed real potential as a rookie in 2019, but with veterans Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin both about to become free agents, the pass rush is going to need real help.
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Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press
- Make a call on Mitchell Trubisky
- Improve the offensive line
- Bring back Nick Kwiatkoski
Above all else, the Chicago Bears must decide upon the future of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
According to Paul Dehner of The Athletic (h/t Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk), the Bears have talked to the Cincinnati Bengals about veteran signal-caller Andy Dalton. If the Bears swing a trade for a proven starter like Dalton or spend big money on one in free agency, it would be a tacit admission that they don’t believe Trubisky is “the guy.”
That’s fine. But the Bears need to pick a decision and go.
Regardless of who starts under center for Chicago in Week 1 (and beyond), he’ll have a better chance of succeeding if the Bears improve an offensive line that ranked 20th or worse in both run blocking and pass protection at Football Outsiders.
The Bears also have a number of free agents on defense, including inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski. Of the two, bringing back Kwiatkoski is the wiser call. He’s significantly younger (26) and has shown flashes during his 22 starts over four NFL seasons.
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Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
- Draft Joe Burrow No. 1 overall
- Fix the offensive line in front of him
- Do something about the linebackers
The first item on this to-do list seems obvious. However, these are the Cincinnati Bengals, so we’ll go ahead and say it anyway.
After a record-setting season at LSU that included a national title and a Heisman Trophy, the Bengals should use the first overall pick in the 2020 draft on Joe Burrow. The Andy Dalton era is over in the Queen City.
However, Burrow may not fare much better than Dalton did if Cincinnati doesn’t improve the O-line in front of him. The Cordy Glenn experiment worked so well that the Bengals plan to release him outright if they can’t trade him, per ESPN’s Jenna Laine.
Linebackers have been a weak spot for the Bengals for years, and that hasn’t changed in 2020. Regardless of whether Nick Vigil returns, Cincinnati needs to add some range and athleticism at the position.
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David Richard/Associated Press
- Draft an offensive tackle at No. 10 overall
- Let Joe Schobert walk
- Improve the safety situation
It generally isn’t a great idea to get tunnel vision with a draft pick, especially in Round 1. But the Cleveland Browns need to take advantage of a deep draft class at offensive tackle and snag one at No. 10 overall.
Left tackle Greg Robinson is about to hit free agency and is facing drug trafficking charges. Right tackle Chris Hubbard has been mediocre at best over two years in Cleveland.
The second step for the Browns isn’t easy, but they’re already preparing to take it, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
Inside linebacker Joe Schobert piled up a team-high 133 tackles in 2019, but he isn’t an elite talent. Given the market reset at his position last year, Schobert could be in for a massive payday this offseason.
Schobert isn’t the only defensive starter who could leave Cleveland, as safety Damarious Randall is also about to become a free agent. Even if the Browns re-sign Randall, they’ll still need a second starter to pair with him. If Randall leaves, they will need to completely rebuild the safety spot.
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Ron Jenkins/Associated Press
- Retain Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper
- Replace departed defenders
- Get better at safety
Through some combination of contract extensions and/or tags, the Dallas Cowboys have to bring back both quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper. It’s a package deal—re-signing Prescott is a no-brainer, and Prescott’s numbers are far better since Cooper joined the team.
Re-signing both of them won’t be without consequence, though.
Even with nearly $77.3 million in cap space, Dallas may not be able to re-sign cornerback Byron Jones and edge-rusher Robert Quinn after handing out hefty deals to Prescott and Cooper. Both played major roles in 2019, so the Cowboys will need to procure replacements with cheaper free agents or early-round draft picks.
Safties Darian Thompson and Jeff Heath are also free agents and are unlikely to return. The back end of the Dallas defense was a weak spot even with those players on the field, so finding an upgrade (or two) at the safety position is also a priority.
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- Add wide receiver help
- Bolster the offensive line
- Re-sign or tag safety Justin Simmons
The last item on this list already appears to be a done deal. Per ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, Broncos general manager John Elway said the team will use the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons if it can’t reach an agreement on a long-term extension before then.
“We’re hoping to get a deal done before (March 18), but if we don’t get something done, we’ll use the tag,” Elway said.
The Broncos have also agreed to acquire veteran cornerback A.J. Bouye from the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, so Elway can now turn his attention to other positions. Chief among those is wide receiver.
Youngster Courtland Sutton is coming off a breakout season, but after the Broncos traded Emmanuel Sanders last year, there’s little talent behind him.
Denver will also need to improve its offensive line to help young quarterback Drew Luck to build upon his recent success. Tackle Garrett Bolles has been a disappointment over his three NFL seasons, and the Brons ranked 25th in the league in pass protection, according to Football Outsiders.
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- Stop with the Matthew Stafford nonsense
- Trade back from No. 3 and stockpile picks
- Rebuild the defense
There are few things the Detroit Lions don’t need to do after a miserable 2019 season, but moving on from quarterback Matthew Stafford tops the “don’t-do” list.
Stafford still has three years left on his current five-year, $135 million contract, which is reasonable by NFL quarterback standards. The 32-year-old shoulders little blame for the Lions’ struggles last year.
Detroit head coach Matt Patricia has vehemently denied that the Lions are shopping Stafford, but the rumors just won’t die. They need to.
Rather than taking Stafford’s successor with the No. 3 overall pick, the Lions should find a quarterback-needy team that’s willing to play Let’s Make a Deal. Trade rumors continue to also swirl around veteran cornerback Darius Slay, and if the Lions deal him, they’ll need significant help at every level of their defense.
Detroit needs every draft pick it can get its hands on. Trading down from No. 3 would be a great start.
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Duane Burleson/Associated Press
- Add a wide receiver opposite Davante Adams
- Move on from Blake Martinez—maybe
- Add a right tackle
The Green Bay Packers’ biggest offseason need isn’t a new one.
Young wideout Allen Lazard came on a bit down the stretch last year, but Green Bay needs to add a wide receiver to complement Davante Adams. The Packers only have roughly $20.5 million in cap space, so they may be better off targeting the deep wide receiver class in the 2020 draft.
Green Bay’s limited cap space may make filling other needs tricky.
Inside linebacker Blake Martinez ranked second in the NFL last year with 155 tackles, which could help him land a massive contract. While the Packers would presumably like to keep the 26-year-old in Titletown, it may not be feasible.
The Packers face a similar situation at right tackle, as veteran Bryan Bulaga is also about to hit free agency. Even average tackles can net well north of $12 million per season, so unless Bulaga is willing to take a hometown discount, Green Bay could be forced to draft a cheaper replacement.
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Jason Behnken/Associated Press
- Add an edge-rusher
- Continue rebuilding the secondary
- Draft a running back
The Houston Texans went all-in on the present last year, making a number of deals to acquire veteran talent. Those moves helped get them win the AFC South, but it left them with only one pick in the first three rounds—at least until compensatory selections are awarded.
With nearly $61.3 million in cap space, most of Houston’s improvements this offseason will likely come via free agency. And despite all of the moves the Texans made last year, the secondary remains one of their biggest needs.
The Texans whiffed on more cornerbacks than they hit on over the past few years, and both Vernon Hargreaves and Bradley Roby are free agents and are 50-50 bets at best to return. The Texans have the cap room to take a run at a player like Byron Jones while still having enough left over to target an edge-rusher like Vic Beasley Jr.
If the Texans (as expected) receive a third-round compensatory pick for the loss of Tyrann Mathieu, they could spend it on a running back. It’s a deep class at the position, and Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller are both about to become free agents.
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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
- Sign a veteran quarterback
- Sign an edge-rusher
- Bolster the back end
During his tenure as general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, Chris Ballard has usually taken a measured approach to free agency. But with the second-most cap space in the NFL and three picks in the first two rounds in April’s draft, if ever there was a year for Ballard to get aggressive in the offseason, this is it.
Indy’s biggest question mark is at quarterback. After a 5-2 start last year, the Colts fell apart. While losing top receiver T.Y. Hilton for a significant stretch didn’t help, Jacoby Brissett’s play declined as the year wore on.
The free-agent market rarely features multiple quarterbacks with significant starting experience, but this year is the exception. Ballard needs to go get one.
That isn’t the only spot where the Colts should be willing to spend big. Last year’s addition of Justin Houston paid off, but he needs help on the edge. The return of offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo was welcome news for the team, and it shifts tertiary priorities from the offensive line to the defensive backfield, where both the cornerback and safety spots could use a boost.
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Michael Conroy/Associated Press
- Tag-and-trade Yannick Ngakoue
- Dump Nick Foles
- Get better at linebacker
The Jacksonville Jaguars made a big splash last offseason when they signed Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract. One injury-marred mess of a season later, it’s time to move on.
According to Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Jaguars have already sent out feelers regarding dumping the Super Bowl LII MVP. And that’s exactly what it would be—a salary dump. The Jaguars would likely either have to throw in a pick or eat some of Foles’ salary to make a deal happen.
They may face a similar situation with edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue. The 24-year-old has made it clear that he has no desire to remain in Jacksonville. The best the Jaguars can do at this point is franchise-tag Ngakoue and flip him to another team.
After linebacker Telvin Smith retired last offseason, it exposed a large hole in a once-stout Jaguars defense. If Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons somehow falls to No. 9, Jacksonville has to pounce. Otherwise, adding a rangy off-ball linebacker on Day 2 of the draft is a must.
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Steve Luciano/Associated Press
- Retain Chris Jones
- Get better in the defensive backfield
- Draft an upgrade at running back
What do you get for the team that has everything—including the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LIV?
For starters, you keep arguably the team’s best defensive player in town.
That Chiefs appear to be doing exactly that. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, they plan on franchise-tagging defensive tackle Chris Jones if they can’t sign him to a long-term extension.
That isn’t the only decision the Chiefs must make this offseason. Cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller are both pending free agents, and whether the Chiefs retain or replace them, they will have to work hard to keep the secondary from backsliding.
Running back Damien Williams is also about to hit free agency. The Chiefs shouldn’t have to break the bank to bring the 27-year-old back, but they could spend one of their early-round picks on a deep running back class to add more explosiveness at the position.
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Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
- Stand pat at QB with Derek Carr
- Add passing-game weapons
- Improve the linebackers
The Las Vegas Raiders have plenty of salary-cap space ($50.3 million) and draft capital (two first-rounders and three third-rounders). They also have holes on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback isn’t one of them.
It might be fun to imagine Tom Brady taking snaps for the Silver and Black, but he won’t make the Raiders any better than the quarterback they already have. Derek Carr might not be Patrick Mahomes, but he isn’t exactly David Blough, either.
Carr might fare better in 2020 if the Raiders receiving corps isn’t one of the weakest in the NFL again. Oakland should spend one of its two first-round picks on a top-tier wide receiver and perhaps bring in another via free agency.
The Raiders linebackers were also a hot mess in 2019. They need a linchpin player at that spot, whether it’s a free agent like Joe Schobert or Blake Martinez or an early-round pick.
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Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
- Add a quarterback—or two
- Franchise-tag Hunter Henry
- Place a first-round tender on Austin Ekeler
The Los Angeles Chargers have needs on defense as well. But with the Philip Rivers era officially over, this to-do list will focus on their offense.
Their biggest decision is what to do at quarterback. Will the Chargers roll with a veteran like Tom Brady, Jameis Winston or Teddy Bridgewater? Pair a lower-end veteran like Case Keenum with a rookie like Oregon’s Justin Herbert? Roll with Herbert and backup Tyrod Taylor?
That decision could shape the franchise’s fortunes for years.
Whoever starts under center in L.A. will have a nice array of weaponry at his disposal. The Chargers are likely to franchise-tag tight end Hunter Henry, per ESPN’s Jenna Laine, which makes sense given his injury history.
However, the ground game is much murkier, with both Melvin Gordon III and Austin Ekeler on the verge of free agency. Ekeler is a restricted free agent coming off his best NFL season, and putting a first-round tender on the 24-year-old should keep him in L.A.
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- Trade Todd Gurley II or Brandin Cooks
- Re-up Cory Littleton
- Add offensive line help
The first item on this list is likely more wishful thinking than a realistic goal.
Both wide receiver Brandin Cooks and tailback Todd Gurley II carry massive cap hits and are coming off of disappointing, injury-ravaged seasons. If the Rams can find a taker for either player, dumping them would be a smart move in the long term.
The Rams don’t have a ton of cap space ($14.8 million), but they need to allot a significant portion of that toward bringing back inside linebacker Cory Littleton. The 26-year-old is one of the NFL’s more underrated players at his position and has led the team in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
The Rams can’t afford to lose him.
The Rams made the Super Bowl two years ago in part because of one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, but that line backslid in 2019. Regardless of whether Andrew Whitworth is back in 2020, spending a Day 2 pick on a tackle like Auburn’s Prince Tega Wanogho would be a solid use of draft capital.
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- Be patient with the rebuild
- Be frugal in free agency
- Draft Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
The Miami Dolphins made it abundantly clear with last year’s veteran purge that they were in this rebuild for the long haul. They dealt a number of veterans to stockpile assets.
In 2020, the Dolphins have more first-round picks (three) than any team in the NFL. They also have more cap space ($88.1 million) than any team in the league.
The Dolphins may want to make a big splash, but they need to resist that temptation. They overperformed last year and aren’t likely to make the playoffs in 2020. They shouldn’t burn big chunks of cap space on high-priced free agents.
If the Dolphins do want to get aggressive, moving up to land Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa could make sense. Back in January 2019, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported they were “thinking about rebuilding and trying to land one of the trumpeted quarterbacks from the class of 2020” such as Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
They might as well see it through.
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- Bid farewell to Xavier Rhodes
- Add help at cornerback
- Hang on to Stefon Diggs
It might seem odd to suggest the Minnesota Vikings should get rid of Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes and then add help at that same position.
However, the Vikings are projected to have a league-low $1.4 million in cap space, while Rhodes carries a $12.9 million cap hit. And the fact that he was a Pro Bowler in 2019 is a glaring indictment of that honor, as he spent most of the season getting roasted like a Christmas ham.
Bidding goodbye to Rhodes could mean massive changes on the back end for the Vikings, as Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and Marcus Sherels are all scheduled to hit free agency as well. However, Minnesota should not show wide receiver Stefon Diggs the door.
Diggs may not be happy about his role in Minnesota. He also isn’t able to carry the Vikings offense on his own. But Diggs is a valuable part of a team with aspirations of a February vacation in Tampa.
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Bill Sikes/Associated Press
- Re-sign Tom Brady
- Improve the wide receivers
- Bring back Devin McCourty
That the first to-do on this list even needs to be mentioned is mind-boggling. That recent tea leaves seem to be pointing toward it not happening is just…my head hurts.
Is Tom Brady the player he used to be? Of course not. He’ll be 43 when the season starts. But the notion that the New England Patriots would be better off without the most successful signal-caller in NFL history (or vice versa) is hubris run amok—from player and team.
If Brady moves on, the dynasty is dead. It’s that simple.
The Patriots don’t need a new quarterback. They need better weapons for the one they have. Outside of Julian Edelman, the Patriots’ receivers are a mess. The Mohamed Sanu trade didn’t work. Adding weapons in the passing game has to be a high priority.
The Patriots also have a few prominent in-house free agents who aren’t named Brady. Among them, the most important to bring back is safety Devin McCourty. The 32-year-old still has a few good seasons left in the tank and has been a fixture on the back end for the Patriots for the past decade.
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Mark Brown/Getty Images
- Clear cap space
- Get a deal done with Alvin Kamara
- Add a wide receiver opposite Michael Thomas
The New Orleans Saints need to embark upon some house-cleaning this offseason.
Finding the cash to re-up Drew Brees will require some cost-cutting moves. Per John Sigler of Saints Wire, cutting cornerback Janoris Jenkins, guard Nick Easton, corner Patrick Robinson and edge-rusher Mario Edwards Jr. would clear nearly $22 million off the books.
The Saints may need to slash even more salary than that. In addition to a deal for Brees, star tailback Alvin Kamara is entering the final year of his rookie deal. A Saints team with its eyes on the Super Bowl can’t afford a Kamara holdout dragging into the summer or the regular season.
The final step here has seemingly dogged the Saints for years: the inability to find a dependable No. 2 receiver to pair with Michael Thomas. This year’s draft class is deep, though, and players like Alabama speedster Henry Ruggs III and LSU’s Justin Jefferson could be available when the Saints pick at No. 24.
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Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
- Let Leonard Williams test the market
- Add pass-rushing help
- Trade back from No. 4 overall if possible
The New York Giants traded a pair of picks in October to the crosstown rival New York Jets in exchange for defensive lineman Leonard Williams. That trade didn’t provide much in the way of results, but all indications are that the Giants will make a substantial financial investment in Williams in 2020, whether it’s with the franchise tag or an extension.
That could be doubling down on a bad decision.
Williams is an excellent edge-setter, but run defenders typically don’t make $16-18 million per season. The Giants would be better off spending that type of money on a player who can regularly get to the quarterback. The tag’s not a terrible idea, but it just punts the decision down the road a season.
That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t bring Williams back. But they only should at the right price.
The Giants will likely have their choice of any edge-rusher not named Chase Young, any offensive tackle or Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons at No. 4 overall. But there are so many viable options toward the top of the draft that trading back to recoup one of the picks from the Williams trade would be far savvier.
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- Add a wide receiver or two
- Bring in O-line help
- Juice up the pass rush
Considering how the 2019 season started, the latter half went surprisingly well for the New York Jets. But keeping that momentum going into 2020 will require some personnel additions.
There’s at least a modicum of hope that Robby Anderson will return to New York in 2020. But as the best wideout likely to hit the open market, Anderson is apt to command a fat paycheck.
Even if he stays, the Jets could stand to add around him. If he leaves, wide receiver will become a major priority for Gang Green.
According to Football Outsiders, the Jets also had a bottom-three offensive line in 2019 in both run blocking and pass protection. If Sam Darnold is going to take a step forward in 2020, the Jets have to improve the protection in front of him.
New York had its issues getting after opposing signal-callers in 2019, too. The team’s 35 sacks checked in outside the top 20. Given that, the Jets could stand to use a chunk of cap space adding athleticism to the pass rush.
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Mark Tenally/Associated Press
- Revamp the wideout corps
- Add talent at cornerback
- Bring in help at linebacker
The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East in 2019, but they enter the offseason with plenty of holes to fill.
The largest is easily at wide receiver.
There have been rumblings that the Eagles are ready to move on from Alshon Jeffery. Add to that Nelson Agholor’s pending free agency, and they could essentially be starting over at wideout. Expect general manager Howie Roseman to hit the position hard both in free agency and the draft.
There’s a similar void at the cornerback spot. Veteran Ronald Darby is about to hit the open market, and the rest of the secondary consists mainly of young players who have underperformed more often than not. If the Eagles don’t spend the 21st overall pick on a wide receiver, they’ll likely do so on a cornerback instead.
The release of veteran Nigel Bradham also leaves the Eagles thin at linebacker. The need there isn’t quite as drastic as at wide receiver and cornerback, but a second-tier free agent like Nick Kwiatkoski or Day 2 pick would be a wise addition.
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Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
- Trim the fat to clear cap space
- Hit the half-off table in free agency
- Add a wide receiver on Day 2 of the draft
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t in position to do a lot this offseason. In addition to having the least cap space in the AFC ($1.6 million), Pittsburgh has only five draft picks pending the awarding of compensatory selections.
According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, the Steelers are expected to franchise-tag edge-rusher Bud Dupree. To clear the cap space to do that and sign their draft class, heads will have to roll in the Steel City.
Overpaid veterans like guard Ramon Foster, inside linebacker Mark Barron and tight end Vance McDonald are all candidates to have their contracts restructured or be released outright. Even then, any additions Pittsburgh makes in free agency will need to come later, once sticker prices go down.
One of the Steelers’ biggest areas of need is at wide receiver opposite JuJu Smith Schuster. The depth of this year’s class means a first-round talent might drop to them in Round 2. The compensatory pick they will receive for losing Le’Veon Bell last year could serve as a plan B in this regard, too.
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John Hefti/Associated Press
- Re-sign defensive lineman Arik Armstead
- Bring back wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders
- Draft a safety in Round 1
The San Francisco 49ers nearly won Super Bowl LIV before faltering late. The best thing general manager John Lynch can do in 2020 is keep the band together.
Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the 49ers are working on an extension for defensive lineman Arik Armstead after his breakout 2019 season. It likely won’t be cheap, but it makes sense for San Francisco to keep the league’s best defensive line intact if his asking price isn’t outrageous.
Similarly, it would be smart to bring back wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a short-term deal. It will take some cap-wrangling (releasing tailback Jerick McKinnon would clear some space), but Sanders might be willing to take less money for the chance to make one more deep playoff run.
The 49ers have only one selection in the first four rounds. Given that, using the 31st pick to address a big-time need on the back end would be wise, especially if Jimmie Ward walks in free agency.
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- Sign a veteran edge-rusher
- Get better at cornerback
- Add depth at running back
The Seattle Seahawks are in a pickle.
After trading for Jadeveon Clowney last year, Seattle would undoubtedly like to bring him back in 2020. But the 27-year-old could receive $20-plus million per season on the open market, and the Seahawks reportedly don’t want to “break the bank” to keep him, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler. They also promised not to franchise-tag him, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Seahawks may have to lower their sights a bit and settle for a second-tier player like Jason Pierre-Paul or Robert Quinn, especially if they want to re-sign defensive tackle Jarran Reed.
Once the draft rolls around in April, general manager John Schneider needs to focus on a few areas. The days of the “Legion of Boom” are long gone in the secondary, and the Seahawks need help at cornerback.
After injuries ravaged the running back position again in 2019, the Seahawks could also stand to bring in backfield depth. It’s a good year to do so, as Day 2 tailbacks like LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins could contribute immediately.
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- Solve the quarterback conundrum
- Franchise-tag Shaquil Barrett
- Add an offensive tackle or cornerback at pick No. 14
In a vacuum, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would appear to have an easy call with quarterback Jameis Winston. He’s the type of player the franchise tag was made for.
But coming off a breakout season in which he led the NFL with 19.5 sacks, so is edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett.
In Barrett’s five seasons with the Broncos, he had 14 sacks. Tampa Bay can’t afford to let him leave, but it would be wildly risky to give him more than $100 million on a long-term deal.
Tagging Barrett would preclude the Bucs from doing so with Winston, but head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to extend the 2015 No. 1 overall pick.
The Bucs have nearly $79.9 million in cap space, which could enable them to be a major player in free agency. Whether its Winston, Tom Brady, Teddy Bridgewater or someone else, they need to make a quick decision. Hesitating and getting stuck with their third choice could be disastrous.
Tampa Bay has an easier call with its No. 14 overall pick. If one of this year’s top offensive tackles like Louisville’s Mekhi Becton is still available, he’d make a ton of sense there. If not, grabbing a corner like Florida’s C.J. Henderson would also be a good play.
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- Bring back Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill
- Replace FA departures in the secondary and on the OL
- Add a pass-rusher
According to ESPN’s Matthew Berry, the Tennessee Titans plan to franchise-tag tailback Derrick Henry if they can’t agree upon a long-term deal and allow quarterback Ryan Tannehill to test the open market.
It’s understandable that Tennessee is wary of making a massive long-term financial commitment to either player. But allowing Tannehill to test the free-agent waters is a risky play. If the Titans get frozen out of the quarterback carousel this year, all of last season’s progress will go up in smoke.
Tannehill and Henry aren’t Tennessee’s only prominent free agents. The Titans likely won’t be able to bring back tackle Jack Conklin and cornerback Logan Ryan. Whether it’s with less expensive veterans or rookies, they’ll need to obtain replacements for both players.
Tennessee also needs edge-rushing help opposite Harold Landry. A player like Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara or Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos could be in play late in Round 1.
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- Draft Chase Young at No. 2 overall
- Get Brandon Scherff and Trent Williams back out there
- Add help at wide receiver
Until just recently, 99 percent of mock drafts had the Washington Redskins drafting Ohio State edge-rusher Chase Young at No. 2 overall.
However, there’s recently been growing speculation that the Redskins could select a quarterback in Round 1 for the second year in a row, passing on Young for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
That would be a very Washington thing to do—in a bad way.
The Redskins just spent a top-15 pick on Dwayne Haskins, who improved as his rookie season wore on. Even if Tagovailoa’s rehab from a dislocated hip progresses well, it doesn’t erase the rest of his significant injury history. And Young is regarded in some circles as the best overall prospect in this draft—a wildly athletic, generational talent at a premium position.
The wiser course of action would involve adding Young to a front seven that already boasts a fair amount of talent. Then bring back guard Brandon Scherff and mend fences with veteran tackle Trent Williams (trade request notwithstanding). Furthermore, add talent opposite 2019 rookie sensation Terry McLaurin at wide receiver.
In other words, put Haskins in the best position to succeed by building a complete team around him.