All eyes will be on Kirk Cousins in NFL free agency. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
The NFL’s so-called legal tampering window opens Monday, two days ahead of the start of free agency Wednesday. Teams will be looking to plug holes in their rosters with a free agent class that includes Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, Sheldon Richardson, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson and a host of other top talents.
To get an idea of which players teams could target, The Post’s national NFL writer, Mark Maske, broke down the biggest needs for every NFL team.
Needs: WR, LB, offensive line, TE, RB
Analysis: After Howie Roseman, the team’s top football front-office executive, said at the NFL Scouting Combine that the Eagles can’t stand pat on the heels of their Super Bowl title, they already have been active by trading for defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Daryl Worley. Their biggest offseason decision remains whether to trade backup quarterback Nick Foles, the reigning Super Bowl MVP. But there are issues to be addressed elsewhere. The Eagles traded wide receiver Torrey Smith and have a group of players eligible for free agency that includes linebacker Nigel Bradham, tight end Trey Burton and running back LeGarrette Blount. Left tackle Jason Peters is 36 and must return from an injury-shortened season.
[The Eagles’ trade for Michael Bennett shows they’re not standing pat]
Needs: LB, defensive line, WR
Analysis: There has been plenty of talk about wide receiver Dez Bryant’s contract and whether he will agree to rework it to remain with the team. But even if Bryant stays, the Cowboys might need wide receiver help. The defensive front seven also must be addressed.
Needs: CB, LB, defensive line, WR, offensive line
Analysis: The biggest issue has been settled, with the Redskins having arranged to trade for quarterback Alex Smith to compensate for the free agent departure of Cousins. The deal will cost the Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller, much to the consternation of some. With fellow cornerback Bashaud Breeland eligible for unrestricted free agency, the Redskins must address their secondary. Wide receiver also is an issue, with Terrelle Pryor back on the market after one disappointing season in Washington.
[Can the Redskins help Alex Smith replicate success from career year with Chiefs?]
New York Giants
Needs: Offensive line, RB, CB
Analysis: The eventual successor to Eli Manning at quarterback is likely to come on draft night rather than via free agency. But the offensive line must be fortified. The trade for Alec Ogletree helps at linebacker, but perhaps more can be done there. The release of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intensifies the need at cornerback.
Needs: QB, offensive line, CB
Analysis: Many within the NFL, including agents familiar with the quarterback market and executives with other QB-needy teams, expect Minnesota to be the landing spot for Cousins. His contract is likely to exceed the record $27.5 million average annual value of Jimmy Garoppolo’s recent deal with the 49ers. Cousins might sign a deal shorter than Garoppolo’s five-year contract. The Vikings might have to remake the position entirely, with Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater all eligible for free agency.
[Vikings emerge as favorites to land Kirk Cousins but Broncos reportedly ‘all-in’ for QB]
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patrici needs a rebuilt defense. (Darron Cummings/Associated Press)
Needs: Defensive line, offensive line, LB
Analysis: General Manager Bob Quinn got the coach of his choosing in Matt Patricia, and now he must rebuild the defense to Patricia’s liking. There is plenty of work to be done in the defensive front seven, especially with linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Paul Worrilow eligible for free agency. The Lions used their franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah but still could use some pass-rush help.
Green Bay Packers
Needs: CB, offensive line, TE
Analysis: The general manager transition from Ted Thompson to Brian Gutekunst promises to make the Packers players in free agency for a change. They already have agreed to trade cornerback Damarious Randall to the Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer. That bolsters the QB depth behind Aaron Rodgers but could leave the Packers looking for a cornerback. They also could use help on the interior of the offensive line, especially with guard Jahri Evans eligible for free agency.
Needs: CB, WR, offensive line, defensive line
Analysis: It’s up to newly hired Coach Matt Nagy to get the most out of would-be franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. That will take reinforcements around Trubisky on offense. The Bears used their transition-player tag on cornerback Kyle Fuller, so they will be able to retain him by matching any offer sheet he signs with another team.
Drew Brees still needs a deal to remain in New Orleans. (Stephen Lew/USA Today Sports)
New Orleans Saints
Needs: QB, TE, LB
Analysis: Despite the constant public assurances that Brees isn’t leaving New Orleans and a deal will be worked out soon to keep him with the Saints, it hasn’t happened yet. It still would be shocking if the quarterback leaves or even entertains other offers. But the longer the situation remains unresolved, the more interesting it becomes. There has been talk of a return to the Saints by tight end Jimmy Graham, who’s eligible for free agency and seemingly will not remain with the Seahawks.
Needs: WR, RB, CB, safety
Analysis: Norv Turner was brought in as offensive coordinator to try to help quarterback Cam Newton develop as a passer. Giving Newton better receivers also would help. The Panthers have lined up a trade for Torrey Smith, but they shouldn’t stop there. After releasing Jonathan Stewart, Carolina also will need a running back to pair with Christian McCaffrey. The trade of Worley to the Eagles creates the possibility of a cornerback being added.
[‘They saved my dad’s life’: Christian McCaffrey helps in rescue after horrifying fall]
Needs: Defensive line, WR
Analysis: The defensive line needs attention, with Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn eligible for free agency. The Falcons, one season removed from their Super Bowl appearance and coming off another playoff year that ended with a near miss loss at Philadelphia, also could use a wide receiver to complement Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Needs: Offensive line, defensive line, RB, CB
Analysis: The Buccaneers released running back Doug Martin and defensive end Chris Baker, and cornerback Brent Grimes is among their potential free agents. They must improve their pass rush.
Los Angeles Rams
Needs: Defensive line, LB, WR, offensive line
Analysis: The Rams are an ascending team with a great nucleus in place, and they’ve moved quickly this offseason to trade for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. But trading away Robert Quinn and Ogletree has intensified the need to bolster the defensive front seven, and the Rams must deal with a group of their own free agents that includes wide receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Connor Barwin.
Needs: CB, safety, defensive line, offensive line, WR, RB
Analysis: The dismantling of the familiar Seahawks accelerated with the trade of defensive end Michael Bennett and the release of cornerback Richard Sherman. The Seattle defense must be remade by General Manager John Schneider.
Needs: QB, WR, offensive line, safety
Analysis: The Cardinals could be in the running for Keenum to fill their quarterback void. They must remake their offensive line and, even with Larry Fitzgerald’s return, the wide receiver spot needs attention. Safety Tyrann Mathieu might have to take a pay cut as part of a reworked contract to stay.
San Francisco 49ers
Needs: Pass rush, offensive line, WR, CB, LB
Analysis: The Niners, after winning their final five games of last season, have begun the offseason by re-signing Garoppolo and adding Sherman a day after he was released by the Seahawks. That’s a great start, and it’s not difficult to envision the 49ers emerging as the top challenger in the NFC West to the Rams. But don’t get carried away. As Coach Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch have reminded everyone, this was a 5-11 team and there remains plenty of work to be done.
[The 49ers have big aspirations. Now they have Richard Sherman, too.]
The Patriots need depth at tight end as Rob Gronkowski’s future remains unclear. (Elsa/Getty Images)
New England Patriots
Needs: CB, pass rush, LB, RB, TE, offensive line
Analysis: The expected departure of cornerback Malcolm Butler as a free agent, following his still-mysterious benching in the Super Bowl, creates a need at that position. The pass rush must be improved and linebacker help is needed. The offensive line requires work, and depth is needed at running back and tight end, especially with Rob Gronkowski’s talk of possible retirement.
Needs: QB, offensive line, WR, defensive line
Analysis: The trade of quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Browns netted a very good return for the Bills, in the form of the first pick in the third round of the NFL draft. But it leaves the Bills in a start-over situation at QB. They certainly aren’t going to turn over the starting job to Nathan Peterman, who struggled so much as a rookie last season. The good news for them is that there are options, both in free agency and in the draft. And now the Bills, with five of the top 65 choices, could move up on draft night for a quarterback.
Needs: WR, QB, LB, CB, offensive line
Analysis: The trade of wide receiver Jarvis Landry means the Dolphins need a difference-maker to replace him. Ryan Tannehill presumably returns as the starter at quarterback, but the Dolphins probably need to add at the position with Jay Cutler and Matt Moore both eligible for free agency. The arrival of Robert Quinn via the trade with the Rams helps the defensive front seven, but that doesn’t mean the Dolphins should stop there.
New York Jets
Needs: QB, RB, defensive line
Analysis: If Cousins indeed goes to the Vikings, what are the Jets going to do at quarterback? They certainly could address the situation on draft night, but they probably need to get a veteran to go with any prized rookie. And whichever quarterback they get, much work must be done to improve the surrounding cast. General Manager Mike Maccagnan has close to $90 million in estimated salary cap space, a league high entering free agency, with which to work.
[The NFL’s quarterback market is bursting with options for a change]
What’s the Plan B behind Le’Veon Bell for the Steelers? (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)
Needs: Safety, LB
Analysis: Franchise-tagged running back Le’Veon Bell has said he will show up at some point and play the 2018 season even if he doesn’t agree to a long-term deal by the mid-July deadline, but do the Steelers have to have a Plan B at the position in case things don’t work out? The bigger priorities, however, should be on defense, especially at linebacker and safety.
Needs: WR, TE
Analysis: The Ravens tried but failed to land Jarvis Landry as the franchise-tagged wide receiver instead was traded to the Browns by the Dolphins. Baltimore simply must get better in the passing game as it seeks to end a postseason drought that now has reached three seasons.
Needs: CB, offensive line
Analysis: The Bengals declined to exercise an option in the contract of cornerback Adam Jones, making him a free agent. They told him that they’re interested in re-signing him. But if Jones moves on, he’ll have to be replaced. Chris Baker has been signed to bolster the defensive line. The Bengals might focus on improving their offensive line. The departure of backup quarterback AJ McCarron in free agency will create a need for depth behind Andy Dalton.
Needs: Offensive line, defensive line, CB, RB, WR
Analysis: John Dorsey, the team’s new general manager, already has been busy by arranging trades for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and cornerback Damarious Randall. But there is plenty more to be done. This is a team, after all, coming off a winless season. The Browns still have abundant salary cap space, although down from the more than $100 million they had before their flurry of trades, and must balance which roster voids to fill now and which to address during the NFL draft, in which they possess five of the first 64 picks. Even if left tackle Joe Thomas decides to continue playing, his eventual replacement probably must be added sooner rather than later. The Browns have the first and fourth overall selections in the draft and probably will use one of them on a quarterback. Could they use the other on running back Saquon Barkley? Such an approach would lessen the need to add a running back in free agency. But more help at wideout and cornerback would be welcome, even with the trades for Landry and Randall.
[The Browns — yes, the Browns — are a team to watch after trading for Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor]
Jacksonville must find Blake Bortles help at wide receiver. (Don Wright/Associated Press)
Needs: WR, TE, offensive line
Analysis: The Jaguars gave quarterback Blake Bortles a new contract after he helped them to reach the AFC title game. It will be interesting to see whether they bring in another quarterback as an insurance policy. More importantly, they must give Bortles some help at wide receiver with Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee among their players eligible for free agency.
Needs: Pass rush, RB, offensive line, LB
Analysis: The Titans have Derrick Henry to take over at running back but, with DeMarco Murray’s release, might need to add a complementary runner. But the top priority should be adding to the pass rush, perhaps with multiple moves.
Needs: RB, offensive line, WR
Analysis: The Colts told Frank Gore that they won’t re-sign him, opting to go younger at running back. That could mean that the team plans to draft a player at that position, but adding a free agent also could be an option. The Colts would be wise to devote far more attention and resources to their offensive line than they did in the past, with hopes that quarterback Andrew Luck finally will return to the field after missing all of the 2017 season following shoulder surgery.
Needs: Offensive line, safety, CB, defensive line, RB
Analysis: As quarterback Deshaun Watson returns from the knee injury that cut short his brilliant rookie season, properly safeguarding him next season should be the leading priority. The offensive line must be restocked. There are needs all over this roster, but ensuring that Watson is protected must be the top task.
Kansas City Chiefs
Needs: CB, LB
Analysis: The trade of Peters to the Rams creates a big issue at cornerback, and it’s debatable whether the arrivals of Fuller and David Amerson are enough. A remaking of the defensive front seven might be in order.
Los Angeles Chargers
Needs: Offensive line, LB, safety, TE
Analysis: Antonio Gates is eligible for free agency. The future Hall of Famer no longer is the team’s top tight end as Hunter Henry has taken over as a productive pass catcher. But Gates should end his career with the Chargers, and re-signing him should be regarded by the franchise as a must.
Needs: RB, WR, defensive line, CB
Analysis: There has been speculation about running back Marshawn Lynch and wide receiver Michael Crabtree not being in the Raiders’ plans. But little seems certain as the team tries to shape its roster to the liking of Coach Jon Gruden, who lamented at the NFL Scouting Combine that he must make decisions about players he barely knows because of his lack of contact with them under the sport’s offseason rules. Help is needed just about everywhere on defense, but the need at cornerback is particularly glaring.
[Jon Gruden must solve two big problems for the Raiders to harbor playoff hopes]
Needs: QB, offensive line
Analysis: Keenum could be the fallback plan for the Broncos at quarterback if they lose Cousins to the Vikings, as so many expect. But what if they miss out on Keenum, also? Front-office czar John Elway said he would be ready to adjust to the market once it begins to form, and Elway and the Broncos might have to be resourceful. Elway also must focus on the offensive line and tweak a defense that needs to remain dominant if Denver is going to have much hope of returning to contender status quickly.
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