NFL Draft may be over, but these nine teams still have specific needs
The NFL Draft's over but needs remain. We target nine teams which could use free agents or trades to fill key roles. Ryan Mallett at QB for the Jags, anyone?
The NFL Draft, which concluded Saturday, does not solve all roster issues -- making this the perfect time to look at each roster and identify what is the most important personnel work still to be done.
For instance, even with the high-profile offensive tackles at the top of this draft, that position remains a question mark for several teams. There is always the hope that a late-round draftee or rookie free agent can emerge during camp to plug a roster leak, but that's risky. For some teams it is time to re-examine the free-agent market and/or get in the trade business to upgrade a key position.
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It's going to take between $4 million to $5 million of salary cap space for most teams to sign their draft class, which leads to more veterans being released or traded. There are eight to 10 teams, at least, looking to create salary cap space to sign their draft picks.
I found nine teams that didn't draft for a key position in the first four rounds and might have to reopen the free agent or trade avenues to acquire talent. They all might feel compelled to do so, but they all should be thinking about it.
Atlanta Falcons -- offensive tackle: If the Falcons had to play a game today, Lamar Holmes would be the starting right tackle, because Tyson Clabo was released. Holmes has zero NFL starts and has only been active for one. The Falcons did not draft a tackle, and they have less than $3 million of cap space. It would be good if they could re-sign Clabo, or they could to after Kansas City Chiefs free agent Eric Winston if he lowered his asking price.
Baltimore Ravens -- offensive tackle: The Ravens were a much better offensive line last year with Michael Oher at right tackle and Bryant McKinnie on the left side. Right now, Oher is penciled in on the left side, where he struggled, and Jah Reid is the starting right tackle. Last season, in nine games, Reid gave up four penalties and two sacks. While that doesn't sound bad, it puts Oher in a tough spot at left tackle. Although the Ravens drafted tackle Ricky Wagner from Wisconsin in the fifth round, the champs need McKinnie back to defend their title.
Dallas Cowboys -- defensive tackle: The Cowboys are building a new 4-3 defense and they didn't draft a rookie "3 technique" defensive tackle to build around. Right now, Jeremiah Ratliff and Jason Hatcher are the starting tackles and there are nine DTs on the roster. Ratliff is 32 and the rest are journeymen. The could have drafted Kawann Short or Johnathan Hankins, or even moved up few spots in the first round for Sylvester Williams or Datone Jones. Right now, the free-agent market is not very appealing but maybe there's a team out there converting to a 3-4 defense with a tackle who doesn't fit the new scheme. But that's a long shot.
Detroit Lions -- offensive tackle: If the Lions played today, Reilly Reiff would be the left tackle and Corey Hilliard would be the right tackle for a team that throws more than anyone in league. Reiff would survive, but he's a better right tackle. Hilliard has been around for five years and has five starts, four penalties and five sacks surrendered. The Lions did not draft an offensive tackle and need to use some of their $6.7 million of cap space to get a veteran. Clabo, Winston and McKinnie deserve consideration. Trading for Brandon Albert or even Jason Peters would be an expensive option. In a perfect world, they could convince the Jaguars to trade Eugene Monroe , now that No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel is in Jacksonville. But I talked with the Jaguars, and it sounds like they have no intention of trading Monroe. But if I were the Lions, I might keep trying.
Jacksonville Jaguars -- quarterback: This is the third coaching staff to work with Blaine Gabbert , and the club did not draft a QB. Tim Tebow is a free agent but he's not an upgrade from Gabbert -- though think it would make things interesting. Since there isn't even a third QB on the roster, signing a veteran is important issue. An undrafted rookie free agent is nice for camp but not to win the starting job. Is this a spot for Vince Young, Matt Leinart , Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer ?
New Orleans Saints -- outside linebacker: The Saints are going from a 4-3 to a 3-4. They made a nice move in drafting NT John Jenkins. Then they took a chance in the sixth round, picking Rufus Johnson in hopes that he can help them at OLB. But it would be nice to see a veteran on the roster besides Victor Butler . Right now there really isn't a solid player on the market, so they may have to wait it out a year or talk trade with a team like Pittsburgh. The Saints also lack salary cap space to make a deal. New Orleans will do a good job with what they have, but generating sacks without blitzing could be difficult.
New York Jets -- outside linebacker: The Jets are in the same situation as the Saints. They are trying to replace Calvin Pace and Antwan Barnes . They could have drafted Jarvis Jones but believed the value was in DL Sheldon Richardson. No argument on that decision but maybe taking a chance in the third round on Damontre Moore would have been worth it.
Oakland Raiders -- defensive tackle: The Raiders lost both defensive tackles to free agency and cap considerations. The penciled-in starters are Pat Sims and Vance Walker . They used a sixth-round pick on Stacy McGee. Sims has one start and one sack in the past two seasons, while Walker has 11 starts and five sacks over four seasons. Veterans like Corey Williams or Sed Ellis could add depth. Taking CB D.J. Hayden at No. 12 of the first round is open to debate when Richardson, Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd were on the board. In the second round, they took an offensive tackle when Kawann Short and Johnathan Hankins were on the board and in the third round took OLB Sio Moore when John Jenkins and Brandon Williams were available. I'm not questioning those calls, but they need more help inside on the defensive line.
Washington Redskins -- offensive tackle: Washington had their hands tied with the picks they gave up to draft Robert Griffin last year. They also have been dealing with salary cap penalties. Nonetheless, if they had to play a game today, Tyler Polumbus is the starting right tackle. He's not bad (started 15 games last season, yielding five sacks), but Bruce Allen is a master of acquiring veterans -- especially after the draft. The Skins have virtually no salary cap space, but I could see them making post-draft inquiries about Clabo and Winston. It's possible the club feels Jeremy Trueblood is the answer, and he's already on the roster.
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