Photo Credit: Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports Images
The NFL’s offseason is in full swing and things are about to get crazy. Free agency opens on March 11 and NFL general managers instantaneously turn into teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert.
Teenage girls with a lot of money.
They’re going to throw that money at some guys who are deserving and some who aren’t simply because they're desperate. Desperate to improve their crappy team by overpaying a free agent someone else didn’t want enough to re-sign. Or at least desperate to look like they’re trying to improve their team to appease a fan base fed up with losing.
The draft rolls around in May for the first time, this year. Unlike free agency, the draft is more of a controlled chaos. The great thing is that every team gives themselves a grade of A+ after the draft, while espousing the potential of their new players and telling us they got exactly the guys they targeted.
It’s literally amazing how the draft just works out perfectly for every NFL team year after year.
A+’s all around!
While most teams will be focusing on personnel this offseason, others have bigger problems that have nothing to do with the players on the field.
With that in mind, we present to you the offseason focus for all 32 NFL teams.
32 Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals finished a surprising 10-6 in 2013 and they were in playoff contention until the final week of the season. Obviously, Bruce Arians is the real deal as a coach and there’s plenty of talent on defense. The Cardinals could use a left tackle and some secondary help, but their focus needs to be on identifying their quarterback of the future. Carson Palmer is 34 and although he played decently in 2013, he still only threw two more touchdowns than interceptions.
31 Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons were on the verge of being the class of the NFC not too long ago. Then they went 4-12 in 2013. Part of the reason for the fall off was injuries to guys like Roddy White and Julio Jones. The team’s top two receivers missed a combined 14 games. However, the main cause of the Falcons’ pitiful display in 2013 was the offensive and defensive lines. Atlanta has been saying Super Bowl or bust for too many years now. Their personnel acquisition strategy reflects that and now they have more holes than they're ever going to have Lombardi trophies. Take tight end Tony Gonzalez for example. They begged him to come back for one more run in 2013 and now the Falcons have a huge hole at tight end because Gonzalez is retired. It's time to figure out a new way to build a team in Atlanta.
30 Baltimore Ravens
Like pretty much everyone else in the AFC North, the Ravens were disappointing in 2013. The year before they got lucky and won a Super Bowl with a pretty much all-around average team. How dare we, you say? That Ravens team ranked 16th on offense and 16th on defense, which in the 32-team NFL is the definition of average. Then, in the offseason they gave their mediocre quarterback, Joe Flacco, $20 million a year. They had to jettison a bunch of guys because to do so. Guys like receiver Anquan Boldin, who had 1,100-plus yards for San Francisco in 2013 after Baltimore gave him away for a sixth-round pick. So now what? Baltimore’s focus needs to be on finding a leader. They lost their heart and soul when linebacker Ray Lewis retired after the Super Bowl win. That was obvious in 2013. Joe Flacco certainly isn’t going to turn into that fiery leader the Ravens need, $120 million or no.
29 Buffalo Bills
Boy, where to start? The Bills are perennial losers, except on Tecmo Super Bowl, where Thurman Thomas is a beast. But this isn’t a video game and it’s not 1991 either. The Bills have issues. The good news, if you’re a Bills fan – and thank God we’re not – is the team has plenty of young talent. If they added a receiver next to Stevie Johnson capable of being at least a No. 3 on another NFL team, that would be a step in the right direction.
28 Carolina Panthers
The Panthers won the NFC South in 2013 and surprisingly, were one of the best teams in the conference. Now they have to keep it going. They slapped the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy and his 16 sacks. Aging receiver Steve Smith has a pretty cap-unfriendly contract now and for the next three years. The Panthers’ focus this offseason has to be on the salary cap and figuring out a way to keep their core young players, which may be at the expense of their old players. That's the only way to sustain success in the NFL these days, though.
27 Chicago Bears
The Bears locked up quarterback Jay Cutler for seven years and more than $126 million when the offseason began. In the process, they handed the NFC North title to the Green Bay Packers for the next seven seasons. Seriously, if the Bears want to compete, they need to do something about their old and crusty defense. Young Brian Urlacher is not walking through that door. The Bears focus: defense, defense and defense.
26 Cincinnati Bengals
If you’re a Bengals fan you have to love the fact that you’re in the playoffs every year now. If you’re not a Bengals fan, you have to laugh at how average the Bengals still are. They’re that team just good enough to make the playoffs and lose in the first round each and every time. They’re like the Houston Oilers of the 1990s. Actually, maybe not. The Houston Oilers of the ‘90s were fun to watch. Since they’ve decided they’re going to stick with The Red Rocket, Andy Dalton, the Bengals need to focus on how the hell they’re going to win a playoff game. In other words, how do we cover up the fact that we have a quarterback that scares no one except small children?
25 Cleveland Browns
Oh boy, the dysfunction. Unlike Bengals fans, we actually feel sorry for Browns fans. They deserve better. The Browns started their offseason by firing coach Rob Chudzinski... after one season on the job. Then they took forever finding a replacement as rumors ran rampant that no one really wanted the job. How can you blame them? Owner Jimmy Haslam has a quick trigger finger. Oh, and he was also under investigation for criminal fraud for most of 2013. So, yeah, the Browns need a quarterback, but they should focus on not being the laughingstock of the league first.
24 Dallas Cowboys
Speaking of laughingstocks... the Dallas Cowboys. America’s Team. Right. This is definitely the shit show I want associated with my country... The Cowboys are supposed to be perennial playoff contenders, but they haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. In fact, they’ve made the tourney only four times since the millennium began. The Cowboys’ biggest problem is they’ve become a circus, and the reason for that is owner/general manager Jerry Jones. If Jones could get out of his own way, the Cowboys might actually be decent, but his ego will never let that happen. Going into the 2014 league year, the Boys have the least amount of salary cap space of any team. So you know this isn't getting better anytime soon.
23 Denver Broncos
It’s pretty safe to say the Broncos have only one concern – keeping Peyton Manning upright and giving him enough weapons to make one last run. Unfortunately, he’ll end up choking in the playoffs like he always does (unless he’s facing Rex Grossman in the Super Bowl). Don't tell that to the Broncos, though.
22 Detroit Lions
The Lions have a nice collection of young talent on both sides of the ball. After leading the NFC North for a good chunk of 2013, the Lions imploded down the stretch and handed the division to Green Bay. That’s what happens when you have young talent and a total buffoon as a head coach. The Lions tried to remedy the latter by firing Jim Schwartz and hiring retread Jim Caldwell to lead the ship in 2014. He, in turn, saddled new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi with getting quarterback Matthew Stafford’s head screwed on right. If Lombardi is able to do that, then the Lions are dangerous. Big if.
21 Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been trying to fix their defense for three seasons now. Since winning the Super Bowl following the 2010 season, the Packers defense has been a sieve. And since the Packers are notorious for NOT signing free agents, they’ve tried to plug all of their holes through the draft. That hasn’t worked so well. The defense was bad in 2011, it was bad in 2012 and it was bad again last season. So general manager Ted Thompson will need to take a fourth crack at it in 2014.
20 Houston Texans
This is an interesting team. They managed to suck bad enough in 2013 to secure the No. 1 overall draft choice. Somehow, they still managed to field the seventh-ranked defense in the NFL though. The focus for the Texans has to be two-fold. They need to figure out their quarterback situation because Matt Schaub turned into Tim Couch in 2013. They also need to figure out how to not screw up that No. 1 pick. The obvious answer is to choose a QB at No. 1. But if you can show us a can't-miss quarterback prospect in this year's draft, we'll show you a unicorn.
19 Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are still ascending. They know that and the NFL knows that. As long as Andrew Luck is healthy, that’s likely to be the case. The Colts’ focus as an organization needs to be how to get over the hump. Going to the divisional round of the playoffs is swell, but winning championships is why Luck was drafted.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars
For the first time in longer than we can remember, the Jaguars actually showed some life here and there in 2013. Don’t be confused, though. There’s probably as little talent on this roster as any in the NFL. The Jags need to figure how to stop constantly being in rebuilding mode. They also need to figure out how to get those in Jacksonville to actually come to their games. A decent product on the field might do it. The Jaguars' focus right now simply has to be on becoming average. They’ve been so bad for so long, 8-8 would probably feel like a division championship. Baby steps.
17 Kansas City Chiefs
Boy did the Chiefs look great coming out of the gate 9-0 in 2013. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, they finished 2-5 and then blew a huge halftime lead to Indianapolis and lost in the wild card round of the playoffs. On the bright side, no one expected the Chiefs to finish 11-5 in 2013. On the flip side of that coin... what a debacle down the stretch. The playoff loss highlighted how terrible the Chiefs' receiving corps is. That should be the team’s focus in the personnel department, but they probably also need a psychologist to get their minds right.
16 Miami Dolphins
It doesn’t matter what the Dolphins do in free agency, the draft or anything else this offseason. This is an organization that needs to focus on one thing and one thing only – washing the stench of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin debacle off. Good luck with that.
15 Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson plays for the Vikings. What a total and complete waste of a great career that’s been. He’s clearly not there yet, but Peterson is getting near the end of the line. Too bad for him, the Vikings look like they’re entering a rebuilding phase. We could sit here and say the Vikings need to clean up their mess of a quarterback situation – and they certainly need to spend some time on that. However, their defense isn’t any good either. The Vikings need to focus on acquiring talent and doing so quickly if they’re going to at least let Peterson sniff the playoffs before he retires.
14 New England Patriots
Somehow, these clowns reload each and every year. They usually do it with nobodies and castoffs. They’ll probably do it again this year. Nothing changes in New England. Keep doing things the Patriot Way and that’s that.
13 New Orleans Saints
The Saints gave big money to quarterback Drew Brees a few years ago. Now they have to give big money to tight end Jimmy Graham and they’re not sitting pretty in salary cap land. The Saints have reacted by axing a number of veterans – the kind that can still contribute. Guys like Darren Sproles, Lance Moore, Roman Harper and Will Smith. Once they work out what’s sure to be a massive deal with Graham, then the Saints have to focus on how they fill those holes – both in production and in leadership.
12 New York Giants
If you watched the Giants play in 2013 and you’re reading this, well... congratulations on not shooting yourself in the face. The 2013 Giants played a brand of football that was a whole lot of ugly all over the field. Most of that ugliness came from the offense. Quarterback Eli Manning led the league in picks with 27. Part of the reason for that – other than him not really being that great of a quarterback – is Manning had no running game to speak of. The Giants churned out a pathetic 83.2 yards per game last season. Only three teams were worse. That screams “fix me!”
11 New York Jets
Quick, who had the Jets winning eight games last season? If you raised your hand, get the hell out of here. You’re a liar and we don’t like liars. The Jets managed those eight wins behind a stout defense. Meanwhile, their offense looked like a seven-car pileup on the Jersey Turnpike. If you figure the Jets are sticking with Geno Smith at quarterback, and they probably are after investing a second-round draft pick in him in 2013, then they desperately need some wide receivers who can make him look serviceable once in a while. And don’t stop at one. You need at least two, Gang Green.
10 Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are in a real nice spot this offseason. Sure, they suck, but they lead the NFL in available salary cap space with more than $64 million. General manager Reggie McKenzie needs to figure out how to spend that dough and how to spend it wisely. It’s as simple as that.
9 Philadelphia Eagles
After unexpectedly finishing 10-6 in coach Chip Kelly’s first season, the Eagles started their offseason by locking up a number of their own players, including receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. So now what? There are still some holes on the roster, including safety. The Eagles' main focus needs to be on not doing something stupid like they did in 2011. That's when they signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to a five-year, $60 million deal. He only lasted two uneventful seasons in Philly.
8 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are one of those teams that are just hanging around. A few years ago they were perennial contenders. Now they just have too many guys who are past their prime and not enough guys in them. It’s time for the Steelers to tear it down and start anew, but they’re too proud of an organization to do such a thing. That leaves them with this directive – figure out which veterans to keep and at what cost and which to replace with younger, cheaper talent. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve already seen this plan in action. The Steelers have restructured safety Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller and cut several veterans, including tackle Levi Brown.
7 San Diego Chargers
The Chargers were a surprise playoff team in 2013, sneaking into a wild card slot. They managed to do that despite playing in a division with a 13-win Denver team and an 11-win Kansas City team. Obviously, the Chargers will focus on repeating and improving upon that success. In order to do that, they’re going to need to improve on the defensive side of the ball. The Bolts’ offense ranked fifth in 2013. They’re defense ranked 23rd.
6 San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have been consistently good since Jim Harbaugh became the team’s coach in 2011. What could threaten that consistency? What appears to be a growing rift between Harbaugh and the organization. Look, let’s get down to brass tacks. Jim Harbaugh is a whiny coach. Always has been. Always will be. Harbaugh wants a new contract. He doesn’t get along with general manager Trent Baalke. His act is said to be wearing thin throughout the organization. The powers that be in the 49ers hierarchy need to either figure out how their coach and GM can coexist or they need to get rid of one of them. If they don’t, this season could turn into a circus, which is usually reserved for places like Dallas.
5 Seattle Seahawks
Life is good when you’re the Super Bowl champions. It’s even better when you’re the champs and don’t have to worry about a lot of roster turnover. Really, what the Seahawks have to focus on is next offseason. That’s when core guys like cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas are scheduled to be free agents. It would behoove Seattle to lock those guys up now.
4 St. Louis Rams
It’s all about quarterback Sam Bradford in St. Louis. Bradford has been decent enough when he’s been healthy, but he’s only made it through a full season twice in his four-year pro career. The Rams went out of their way last year to give Bradford weapons, signing tight end Jared Cook in free agency and drafting receiver Tavon Austin. Bradford needs to stay healthy and demonstrate he can utilize those weapons, especially now that the Rams have another bell cow running back in Zac Stacy. Ultimately, that comes down to the guys up front. If the Rams can put together a decent offensive line, they’ll know exactly what they have in their quarterback.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Well, they’ve got a new coach in Lovie Smith. They’ve got some hideous new uniforms. So now what? Like John Holmes would say, it’s time to fill some holes. And the Buccos have plenty of them. We’d start with the offensive line. Tampa gave up 47 sacks last season, which tied for the sixth-highest total in the league. Their backs averaged an un-noteworthy 3.8 yards per carry. That tied for 25th best in the league. So, can’t protect the passer and can’t create any rushing lanes. A good bet Tampa will put a lot of time into their line this offseason and rightfully so.
2 Tennessee Titans
The Titans have to be the most non-descript franchise in the NFL. If they just disappeared tomorrow would anyone even notice? Maybe a few people in Nashville. No one else. The big question for the Titans is what to do about running back Chris Johnson? This guy ran for 2,006 yards in 2009. Then he got paid (average salary: nearly $13.5 million per year) and became just another guy. In 2013, he averaged a career-worst 3.9 yards per carry. He’s also become a complainer. Time to cut your losses and move on? That is the question.
1 Washington Redskins
Plain and simple, the Redskins need to figure out who’s in charge. It certainly wasn’t former coach Mike Shanahan. He got canned. It might be meddlesome owner Daniel Snyder, but he has no business being charge of anything related to football. Or maybe it’s quarterback Robert Griffin III. Good old Bob helped usher Shanny right out the door by constantly undermining him in the media last season. Frankly, Bob needs to learn to STFU. Amazingly, the Skins are now a bigger clown show than the Cowboys. Figure out where the leadership is going to come from and maybe that can be remedied.
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