12. January 2021

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NFL Nation

Six NFL playoff games were lost, seven remain. The offseason is almost here – and for 24 teams, it’s already here – giving each team a chance to improve and make changes to prepare for the 2021 season.

How will free agency evolve? Who is going to get the players on the 2021 team? How will the change in management change the direction of a handful of franchises? All 32 teams need something this spring. That’s why we asked our NFL reporters to identify each team’s top needs as the offseason approaches.





Bring a first-class cutter.

Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison hosted the Bills’ passing race, which has the second-fastest percentage of success this season, but is 32 and 33, respectively. In 2020, Buffalo had a second round pick on Epenesa, who finished strong after spending the first week of the season as a healthy scratch, but the team could afford to add another marginal player as they look to the future. Nonetheless, this is a team with little or no obvious needs, and even the cornerback isn’t an immediate problem. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


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Add offensive weapons to the game.

The Dolphins were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2020 separating receivers and yards after contact, showing they need faster, more elusive players to threaten defenses. Miami’s offense simply wasn’t good enough to compete with the AFC elite. The improvements made by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the new offensive coordinator could help, but improvements in receivers and running backs should be the top priority this season, both in free agency and the draft, as the Dolphins want to surround their QB with enough weapons to succeed. — Cameron Wolfe


Improve the wide receiver group.

Damier Bird was the team’s No. 1 player in 2020, with 901 seconds played, nearly double his career record. While Byrd deserves praise for his efforts, he also played above his level. It shows why the Patriots, who also have a big question at quarterback, think a receiver should be their top priority this season. — Mike Reiss


The head coach’s decision is a fact.

The search is on and the Jets are in talks with all the right candidates, including high-profile coordinators Eric Benimi (Chiefs) and Robert Saleh (49ers). Now it’s a matter of finding the right fit. The Jets need more than X and O; they need a leader who can revitalize the organization and change a lost culture. Easier said than done. — Rich Cimini




Take the number one wide receiver.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson is partnered with Pro Bowl right back Mark Andrews and race star J.K. Dobbins. What Jackson and this offense need is a proven receiver. Baltimore leaned on Marqise Brown, but he was inconsistent despite his 100-yard run on the day of the team’s win over Tennessee. The Ravens need to repeat what Buffalo and Arizona did last season and acquire a new road goal for Jackson. — Jamison Hensley


Take care of the offensive line.

When quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a late-season injury, it was clear the Bengals needed to rebuild their line. Between the project and free agency, the Bengals should attack this unit in the offseason. As a rookie, Barrow has shown that he has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback – as long as he’s big. — Ben Baby


Add defensive support – especially on the second line.

The Browns need help on defense, especially in the defensive backs where they have suffered injuries and sometimes inconsistent play. Grant Delpit, making a comeback after suffering an Achilles injury during training camp, would help in the second round. But Cleveland could use reinforcements at all levels of the defense. — Jake Trotter


Solve their abuse problems.

After a shocking exit in the first round of the playoffs, the Steelers have a mountain of needs starting with a new player. The offensive system has been broken this season, especially in the run game. The solution goes beyond a new running back or an improved offensive line. The system itself is in need of revision. Maybe he’s the new offensive coordinator. Maybe this will give Matt Canada more responsibility. In any case, the Steelers need to find a solution before the 2021 season. — Brooke Pryor.




Go to the same page as Deshawn Watson.

The quarterback of the Texas franchise is said to be unhappy with the way Houston General Manager Cal McNair and the organization handled the hiring of the new General Manager, Nick Caserio. Mr. Watson would have liked more say in the hiring process and would have felt that Houston did not consider the candidates he approved. McNair said on Friday that he had reached out to Watson during his vacation, but had not heard from the quarterback. Houston hasn’t hired a head coach yet, but for that to happen they need to establish a relationship with Watson. -Sarah Bar Shop

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Pablo Torre and Israel Gutierrez wonder if Deshaun should ask Watson for an exchange and if so, should the Texans respect him and let him go?


Find out who the starting quarterback is next season.

Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett are free agents, making rookie Jacob Eason the only quarterback under contract for next season. Rivers is third on the team with nine career interceptions, but the Colts will have to determine if the 39-year-old can take them one or two steps further if they reinstate him. Buckle up, because the offseason will be filled with quarterback noise, especially as things in Philadelphia with Carson Wentz remain fuzzy for longer. — Mike Wells


Project Trevor Lawrence. The quarterback is the team’s biggest need, as he has been for the last 15 years. Fortunately, Jaguar has a better option and will take Clemson Lawrence, giving them a franchise call-up for the first time since Mark Brunell in the beginning. — Mike DiRocco.


Buy more baseball cars.

The inability to dominate the offense really hurt Tennessee’s defense last season. The Titans hesitated and missed last season by signing one-year contracts with Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley. After 19 sacks and 25% pressure, the Titans still need an icebreaker to add to their top four. — Turron Davenport



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Hire a new CEO.

The Broncos are interviewing right now. They have a young team, especially offensively, and salary flexibility. And while John Elway remains president of football operations, the new director will oversee the roster, draft and free agency. A big offseason under a new GM could put Denver back in the playoff conversation. This has simply been the team’s main mentality since former owner Pat Bowlen persuaded Elway to return to the organization in 2011. -Jeff Legwold


Figure out how to keep Tyrann Mathieu.

The chiefs have more than $190 million available for 2021, and not all of it is within the league’s salary cap. So you have an important job to do. They have to extend Mathieu’s contract, which would otherwise be in the last year of his contract, because it’s too important for them to lose it. Safety is the main goal of the expansion, with a ceiling of nearly $20 million. — Adam Thacher.


It’s the security coordinator.

The Raiders will look to rebuild their defense after Paul Guenther was fired with three games to go and Rod Marinelli took over as interim coach. Coach Jon Gruden wants to maintain a 4-3 lead (and Marinelli as defensive line coach), so any new coordinator will have to keep that in mind. Among those already associated with the work: Gus Bradley (coach of the Gruden linebackers in Tampa Bay from 2006 to 2008), Joe Barry (coach of the Gruden linebackers in Tampa Bay from 2002 to 2006 and son-in-law of Marinelli), Chris Richard (worked with Marinelli in Dallas) and Raheem Morris (worked with Gruden in Tampa Bay for many years). — Paul Gutierrez


Hire a head coach and equip the staff.

The search has begun, although the Chargers won’t say who they interviewed. We know the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemi is in the group and could be a good candidate for quarterback Justin Herbert. But whoever hired them can’t do so until after the Super Bowl. — Shelley Smith




Secure the guard.

When you have a unit that has allowed a franchise to score 473 points and is ranked 31st in Race Defense, you have to do everything you can to improve. Although the addition of new coordinator Dan Quinn was the first step, the Cowboys should help most levels of defense: Defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback and safety. Last year, they selected the best player available and chose CeeDee Lamb wide receiver at number 17 in the first round. They should take the best defensive player at number 10 this year and probably follow this rule for their entire draft class. — Todd Archer


Choose your poison: Number 1 WR or short at the rim.

The two holes are huge, and the Giants currently have neither. Both need to be addressed, probably one in Free Agency and the other in the project. They can’t start next season with Darius Slayton as the No. 1 receiver or Kyler Fackrell as the best runner. — Jordan Ranan.


Find the coach/quarterback combination.

After the Eagles fired Super Bowl winning coach Doug Pederson on Monday, the search for a new leader begins. Once they make a decision on this front, attention will quickly turn to the quarterback situation and whether they move on from Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts or both. The chances of Wentz staying in Philadelphia will likely increase, and the way he plays will be affected by the new coach. — Tim McManus.

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Find the quarterback of the future.

While Washington has had some good stories this season – the return of Alex Smith and the playoff performance of Taylor Heinicke – it needs a solid long-term solution. Smith is 37 years old; Heinicke started two NFL games, and durability would be an issue. The team also has Kyle Allen, but with the defense looking to win now, they will explore all options – a veteran would make sense, but they will also explore draft options. One observation: Coach Ron Rivera loves mobile quarterbacks. — John Keim.




Who’s the quarterback?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Bears have another big decision to make at quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky’s five-year option has been declined and Nick Foles has looked ineffective this season. Are the Bears preparing a new quarterback? You are… Swallow. re-sign the Pipes? Did they find another veteran? The story in Chicago remains the same. — Jeff Dickerson


Determine how much you need to rebuild.

The Lions will have a new general manager and head coach. What these two men do – and how they decide to build the franchise in their vision – will be the main need of the offseason through everything else. Discussions about the future of Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Romeo Okwara and entire position groups will depend on what these two men decide to do. — Michael Rothstein


Make a space on the statement.

The Packers are almost never in a bad position thanks to Russ Ball’s caution in negotiating contracts, but the offseason will be difficult. They are nearly $26 million over the projected 2021 cap, making it difficult to reallocate players like center Corey Linsley and fullback Aaron Jones. Director Brian Gutekunst has some tough decisions to make, and Ball will have to try to create a cap room. The cash floor is not a problem for the Packers, but the ceiling space is. — Rob Demovsky


Add help in the trenches.

Some would say that buying smugglers is priority one. Others will say that the need for a quality safety officer is most important. In any case, the Vikings should focus on free agency (once they make a move to create a space of captivity) and the selections should focus on strengthening the defensive and offensive lines. Minnesota produced a 23 sack franchise this year, while Interior O-line representatives accounted for 20 of quarterback Kirk Cousins’ 39 sacks in 2020. — Courtney Cronin




Determine the direction of the franchise.

The list of a team’s needs can be awfully long when you consider how extreme they want to be in the offseason. But of course, you have to start by finding the right general manager and coach to guide this team through the big decisions. Those decisions will include the fate of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the fourth option in the NFL draft. — Mike Triplett

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Make a decision about the quarterback.

Teddy Bridgewater, though he was robbed for 13 games by best player Christian McCaffrey, did not prove he could be a franchise quarterback for this team that should be a playoff contender. A record of 0 to 8 in the number of winning workouts reinforces this point. The fact that he had four players with 1,000 yards of total offense, but only 15 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions is another blow to him. Bridgewater can be a game manager and mentor to a young player, but in the long run he is not the solution. — David Newton


Identify the long-term quarterback.

Drew Brees may retire after this season, leaving a void at the position for the first time in 15 years. If he does, Saints’ coach Sean Payton has repeatedly suggested that the next QB is in the house, citing both Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston (who will be a free agent). But the Saints will also need to seriously consider a BQ of development in the project. — Mike Triplett


Bring back Chris Godwin… and the other stars.

Tom Brady said during Sunday Night Football’s broadcast of the Bucks’ wild play that Godwin had some of the best hands he had ever seen. If they want to maintain the continuity in the offense that Brady has been talking about all season, they need to re-sign Godwin. But he’s not the only one. The Bucs have a payroll of about $30 million and also need to find a way to bring back linebackers Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David. — Jenna Lane.




Add another wide and solid receiver.

Except for DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals weren’t really threatened by their wide receivers. Larry Fitzgerald showed signs of being 37, Christian Kirk played plays but wasn’t as dangerous as he could have been, though it wasn’t entirely his fault, and the rest of the receiving corps was inconsistent. For the Cardinals to move to the next step and make the playoffs, they need a WR2 who can complement Hopkins and force the defense to not put all its resources on Hopkins. So far, Arizona has not. — Josh Weinfuss.


Find a backup quarterback to challenge Jared Goff.

Maybe it’s the current backup, John Wolford. Maybe the Rams will sign an experienced veteran. They could also use a mid-round pick to develop the talent of coach Sean McVay and consider bringing him in if Goff weakens. But the fact is that competition brings out the best in every player, and while Goff has the talent to lead the Rams to the playoffs, he has had inconsistent performances the past two seasons. And the Rams need to try a new way to challenge him. — Lindsay Tyree

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Understand the quarterback’s situation.

Yes, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have repeatedly stated that they expect Jimmy Garoppolo to be their starter in 2021. But they also left a little room for maneuver, suggesting that they think about possible improvements to each position on an annual basis. This means knowing if the Garoppolo legal updates will be available, if you can actually buy them and how much they will cost. If such an update isn’t available, they’ll have to find a better plan behind Garoppolo, as the Nick Mullens (restricted) and C.J. Beathard (unrestricted) backups are installed as free agents. The lineup is too good to screw up another season because Garoppolo is injured, which means the position should take a step forward even if he’s not in the starting rotation. — Nick Wagoner


A clear answer to the question of what happened in the attack and a plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

An upgrade at tight end and on the offensive line would have helped, but the group of players that struggled through much of the second half of the season and in the wild loss to the Rams was about the same group of players that led the NFL in the first nine weeks. This suggests that the offensive ineptitude that condemned the Seahawks was not only in tackling and training, but also in personnel and execution. In addition, it will be difficult to make significant additions without first or third round picks, especially since all the money will have to be set aside for key players who need new contracts, most notably securing Jamal Adams. — Brady Henderson

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