Even after a zany week of player signings, every NFL team still has roster holes to fill.
Yes, that includes the New England Patriots.
Here’s a look at a remaining need for each team now that almost all of the top-tier talent is off the free-agent market.
— Dallas Cowboys
Defensive end. Demarcus Ware, who is the Cowboys’ all-time sack leader with 117, recently retired after playing his final three seasons in Denver. Dallas still hasn’t come close to replacing Ware’s productivity. No Cowboys player has registered more than eight sacks in any of the past three years since Ware’s release.
— Washington Redskins
General manager. I know, this isn’t a player position. But Scot McCloughan’s dismissal has created a hole in talent evaluation at the most inopportune time of year (i.e. free agency and the draft). The firing and behind-the-scenes drama surrounding it —not to mention uncertainty surrounding quarterback Kirk Cousins’ future with the franchise —have also put the franchise back in a negative light.
— Philadelphia Eagles
Cornerback. That position and wide receiver were the two biggest need areas entering the offseason. The Eagles handled the latter by signing veterans Alshon Jeffrey (Chicago) and Torrey Smith (San Francisco). The former will almost certainly be addressed early in April’s draft.
— New York Giants
Left/right tackle. Ereck Flowers can be a great right tackle. He’ll never be a great left tackle. Either way, the Giants need a solid complementary bookmark for Flowers. Newcomer D.J. Fluker isn't the answer either. A former right tackle in San Diego, Fluker said he was signed to play right guard.
— Chicago Bears
Quarterback. I’m not a fan of the Mike Glennon acquisition. But even if he becomes the next Paddy Driscoll —yeah, it feels like the 1920s since the Bears last had a great quarterback —general manager Ryan Pace andcoach John Fox must invest in a developmental passer after failing to draft one during the first two years of their 9-23 regime.
— Detroit Lions
Running back. Although considered a benchmark for rushing success, the 1,000-yard mark is a relatively modest accomplish during a 16-game season. Eve so, only one Lions running back has averaged at least 62.5 yards over the course of an entire year since quarterback Matt Stafford entered the NFL in 2009. That was Reggie Bush, who barely crossed over the four-digit mark with 1,006 yards in 2013. The Lions upgraded their offensive line with veteran right tackle Ricky Wagner (Baltimore) and right guard T.J. Lang (Green Bay). They now need a bell-cow running back so Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner can play the complementary roles for whichthey’re best suited.
— Green Bay Packers
Defensive line. Datone Jones is off to Minnesota, and Letroy Guion is set to miss the first four games this season because of a PED suspension. The Packers also have a long history of making defensive lineman a draft priority. Nose tackle Kenny Clark was last year’s No. 27 overall pick, and five other D-linemen were taken among Green Bay’s 11 first- and second-round picks between 2009 and 2013.
— Minnesota Vikings
Punter. The Vikings have other spots to fill, but finding a new specialist is paramount after Indianapolis signed Jeff Locke to replace the retired Pat McAfee. Locke not only posted Minnesota’s best career net average at 38.8 yards,but finding a punter whocan help tilt field position and assist the defense is paramount considering the questions surrounding Minnesota’s offense entering the post-Adrian Peterson era.
— New Orleans Saints
Cornerback. This could soon be addressed if the Saints manage to negotiate a contract with Malcolm Butler and arrange the subsequent measures needed to spring the restricted free agent from New England. Butler, Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams would form a quality cornerback trio to help support a pass rush that must improve from the past few seasons.
— Atlanta Falcons
Fullback. Patrick DiMarco, who proved an outstanding blocker in ex-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme, shuffled off to Buffalo on a four-year, $8.5 million contract. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff recently told an Atlanta radio station that he would be seeking an "athletic"replacement whohas versatility in the running and passing game. In other words, think San Francisco’s Kyle Juszczyk—only cheaper.
— Carolina Panthers
Running back. Jonathan Stewart turns 30 on March 21 and hasn’t played all 16 games in a season since 2011 because of injuries. His heir apparent isn’t on the roster, and Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has said this is a deep class for running backs. A sprier set of legs in the backfield paired with Stewart would help to take some of the offensive load off quarterback Cam Newton’s shoulders.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Backup quarterback. The Buccaneers tried to keep Glennon by offering him a contract that would have made him the league’s highest-paid second-stringer. He understandably left for a starting opportunity (and more money) in Chicago. Ryan Griffin has spent the past two seasons on Tampa Bay’s roster, but there’s no body of work to show he can adequately replace starter Jameis Winston in case of injury. A veteran will likely pop on Tampa Bay’s radar at some point before training camp opens.
— Seattle Seahawks
Offensive line. There’s good reason that Jacksonville moved new Seahawks signing Luke Joeckel from left tackle to left guard in 2016. He wasn’t particularly good at the former (not that he was spectacular at guard, either). The Seahawks also lost out on ex-Green Bay guard T.J. Lang, who spurned Seattle for more money from Detroit. The Seahawks needs more up front to kick-start their running game and better protect quarterback Russell Wilson.
— Arizona Cardinals
Running back. David Johnson is well en route to recovering from the leg injury that derailed his breakout 2016 season. But there are backup issues with Arizona planning to convert Andre Ellington to wide receiver and Chris Johnson and Stepfan Taylor both unrestricted free agents. David Johnson also could use some help after averaging 23.3 touches a game last season.
— Los Angeles Rams
Wide receiver. This group is a far cry from the one new head coach Sean McVay got to work with in Washington. Tavon Austin isn’t a true No. 1 wideout (even though he’s being paid like one). Neither is free-agent pickup Robert Woods from Buffalo. The Rams also don’t have a first-round pick to spend on the position after trading it to Tennessee last year for the chance to select quarterback Jared Goff.
— San Francisco 49ers
Quarterback. The 49ers face a franchise-altering decision come draft night —select a QB with the No. 2 overall pick or continue to wait in hopes of acquiring Washington’s Kirk Cousins whether via trade or free agency by the 2018 offseason. In the meantime, journeyman Brian Hoyer is set to handle the starting reigns for his seventh different NFL team.
— New York Jets
Quarterback. By not jumping on Mike Glennon (Chicago) or Brian Hoyer (San Francisco), the Jets have kept their options open in case something better comes along. But as the franchise debates journeymen like Robert Griffin III, Chase Daniel and Jay Cutler, the question remains —did the team squander a 2016 second-round draft pick, or is there any chance Christian Hackenberg can become a starter after being kept on ice his entire rookie season?
— Miami Dolphins
Cornerback. Byron Maxwell isn’t a shutdown corner even though Philadelphia paid him like one before trading him to the Dolphins last offseason. Thanks to a deep draft class, this is an area the Dolphins should be able to address with the No. 22 overall pick. The last cornerback Miami drafted in Round 1—Vontae Davis in 2009.
— Buffalo Bills
Wide receiver. Over the past two seasons, the Bills have let three wideouts—Chris Hogan (New England), Robert Woods (Los Angeles Rams) and Marquise Goodwin (San Francisco) —leave via free agency. Outside of Sammy Watkins and newcomer Philly Brown (Carolina), the combined 2016 catch total of other receivers on the roster is 16. And even if the Bills sign Andre Holmes as expected, he registered only 14 receptions last year in Oakland. Tyrod Taylor doesn’t have a chance of proving he can become Buffalo’s franchise quarterback without more help.
— New England Patriots
Cornerback. Just how pressing a need depends on whether Malcolm Butler returns in 2017 or leaves via trade/free agency (he was scheduled tovisitNew Orleans on Thursday). If he goes, the Patriots covered themselves with a No. 1 cornerback by signing Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore to a monster free-agent contract. But even if Butler stays, this is likely his final season in New England, and the Patriots should be looking toward the future. Plus, New England already lost another starting cornerback in Logan Ryan to Tennessee in free agency and doesn'thave a comparable replacement between backups Eric Rowe (a 2015 second-round draft flop in Philadelphia) and Cyrus Jones, who himself admits he had a lousy rookie season in 2016. Another challenge in addressing the position: New England traded its first-round pick to New Orleans for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
— Houston Texans
Quarterback. After ridding themselves of Brock Osweiler, the Texans appear all-in on landing Tony Romo as his replacement whether via trade or Dallas Cowboys release. Even if able to acquire him, Houston shouldn’t fool itself into thinking a 36-year-old with a lengthy injury history is a long-term fix. The same goes for the unproven Tom Savage, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Drafting a quarterback in the first three rounds would be wise.
— Indianapolis Colts
Edge rusher. Robert Mathis, the franchise’s all-time sack leader, retired in the offseason, and outside linebacker Erik Walden (team-high 11 sacks in 2016) is a free agent the Colts aren’t bending over to bring back. Free-agent additions Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo are a start, but more help is needed.
— Jacksonville Jaguars
Tight end. Julius Thomas was a free-agent bust in his two seasons. But his trade to Miami creates a hole for a pass-catching threat to complement blocking specialist Marcedes Lewis. Youngsters Ben Koyack and Neal Sterling, who combined for 31 catches in 2016, could be given a shot if the Jaguars stand pat at the position.
— Tennessee Titans
Wide receiver. Kendall Wright’s free-agent flight to Chicago and second-round mistakes made by the previous front-office on the departed Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter have general manager Jon Robinson looking to find more weapons for quarterback Marcus Mariota. The draft is the most likely avenue with the Titans holding the No. 5 and 18 picks in the first round.
— Cincinnati Bengals
Defensive line. It’s time for the Bengals to invest in a young defensive tackle to complement the beastly Geno Atkins. Cincinnati has selected only one DT (Devon Still in 2012) in the first two rounds of the past 22 drafts. The Bengals also need more outside pass rush. Carlos Dunlap had eight sacks in 2016. The rest of Cincinnati’s defensive ends had 10 combined.
— Cleveland Browns
Quarterback. Unless the Browns go with second-year QB Cody Kessler after a nondescript rookie season, Cleveland will be fielding its 27th different starter since returning as an NFL franchise in 1999. Jimmy Garoppolo, DeShaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky and newcomer Brock Osweiler are the most plausible candidates depending on whether the Browns make a move via the draft or free agency.
— Pittsburgh Steelers
Inside and outside linebacker. The Steelers suffered losses at both spots with the offseason defections of Lawrence Timmons (Miami) and Jarvis Jones (Arizona). The Steelers then lost out on the bidding for potential Timmons replacement Dont’a Hightower, who instead re-signed with New England. James Harrison can’t play forever, either (although I wish he would).
— Baltimore Ravens
Offensive line. Following the loss of right tackle Ricky Wagner, the Ravens parted ways with another starter in center Jeremy Zuttah. Shipping the latter to San Francisco for a 12-spot swap of sixth-round draft choices was a curious decision considering the 30-year-old Zuttah was a 2017 Pro Bowl alternate (although injury prone), and the move only cleared $2.4 million in salary cap space.
— Denver Broncos
Left tackle. As much as I believe the Broncos should make a push for Tony Romo, whoever is playing quarterback must have his blindside protected. King Dunlap, who played under new Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in San Diego, and ex-Denver starter Ryan Clady are veteran free agent options, but the Broncos may instead wait, hoping to land a left tackle in a draft analysts consider weak for offensive line talent.
— Kansas City Chiefs
Inside linebacker. Kansas City’s defensive play spiraled last December once DerrickJohnson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury and no remotely comparable replacement in the wings. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee the 34-year-old Johnson will regain his previous form. The Chiefs are in the market for a modest veteran signing. The Kansas City Star reported that Gerald Hodges (San Francisco) recently took a free-agent visit but left without a contract.
— Oakland Raiders
Interior defensive help. The “eliminate-the-gray” defensive mantra being espoused by coach Jack Del Rio centers around getting a better pass rush from the defensive tackles and upgrading at inside linebacker. The Raiders are bullish on the futures of Mario Edwards Jr. and Jihad Ward but will likely look for additional help. Buffalo linebacker Zach Brown, fresh off a 149-tackle campaign, wasset for a Thursday free-agent visit.
— Los Angeles Chargers
Linebacker. The Chargers were running a 3-4 system featuring two inside linebackers (Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman) that weren’t exactly fleet of foot. Those days are numbered, as Gus Bradley brings a Seattle-style 4-3 attack to Los Angeles where quickness is key for the LB corps. General manager Tom Telesco believes Jatavis Brown is a perfect fit at outside linebacker. Melvin Ingram also can excel as an edge rusher in any scheme. The Chargers, though, need to start the transition to speedier linebackers that better fit the system.