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NFL pro personnel types now in business of roster-hunting for depth

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The Rams have eight wide receivers on their roster, which means Amendola could be expendable. (US Presswire)  
The Rams have eight wide receivers on their roster, which means Amendola could be expendable. (US Presswire)  

Once the NFL Draft is over, teams use minicamps to look at rookies and, more important, pinpoint depth or lack of it on their rosters.

When I was in pro personnel, we used May to study the other 31 teams' depth. Occasionally we discovered a natural trade partner with a team that had a surplus where we had a deficiency.

At the very least we created a solid list of teams that may have a good player buried on their depth chart because of veteran signings and draftees. The idea: If teams really draft "the best available player," that could mean adding a quality rookie to an already strong position on their roster.

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I went through all 32 rosters as if I were still in pro personnel and looking for solid roster depth. As always there are teams in envious position-depth situations.

There are other driving forces behind personnel decisions this time of year, including:

 Creating salary cap space for rookie signings
 Scheme changes (i.e., going from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4)
 Satisfying position depth

There are some fairly standard parameters for how many players a team will keep at a position when rosters are trimmed to 53:

 A team employing a 4-3 defense typically keeps eight defensive linemen, six linebackers, and 10 defensive backs for a total of 24.
 If the offense keeps three quarterbacks, five wide receivers, four running backs/fullback, three tight ends and 10 linemen that adds up to 25 offensive players.
 This leaves four spots for a long snapper, kicker, punter and return specialist. The numbers vary slightly but when you take a look at your favorite team's roster this is a good benchmark.

If your team employs a 3-4 defense switch the defensive linemen and linebacker numbers.

Here are teams I would consider calling, just in case they're interested in moving a player at a certain position, listed by team and the position of interest.

Buffalo Bills: defensive line
With the addition of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Bills have turned their defensive line into a strength. Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Dawn Edwards, Alex Carrington and Torrell Troupe are all solid tackles. Would the fifth-best be available?

Cincinnati Bengals: defensive line, cornerback
The Bengals are starting to stockpile talent. When you look at their defensive tackles -- with draft additions of Devon Still and Brandon Thompson alongside veterans Peko, Atkins, Sims and Hayden there could be one on the bubble. As for corners they drafted Kirkpatrick and Prater to go along with Clements, Pacman, Hall, Allen and Newman. Not all seven will make the team.

Dallas Cowboys: defensive line, cornerback
Keep an eye on the defensive line, where Dallas added Tyrone Crawford in the third round. A number of teams would love a shot at 2010 seventh-rounder Sean Lissemore if he were available. As for the corners there are rumors Michael Jenkins is available, but the compensation would have to come way down to make sense.

Detroit Lions: defensive line
The Lions have great depth in the defensive line adding fourth-rounder Ronnell Lewis to a group that includes Suh, Vanden Bosch, Williams and Avril as starters and a backups at each spot who could start for a number of teams in Jackson, Young, Fairley and Hill. Behind them are Fluellen, E. Brown and Lewis.

Green Bay Packers: defensive line
The Packers turned a negative into a positive by drafting Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels into a group that included Pickett, Raji, Wynn, Hargrove (suspension) Jones and Neal. One will come free from this group.

New England Patriots: wide receiver
The Patriots keep three tight ends and play a lot of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers) They presently have 10 wide receivers on their roster after adding Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Gonzalez and Donte' Stallworth to a group that already had Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Ochocinco and Slater. There's little doubt a veteran receiver or two will fall out of this group.

New York Giants: middle linebacker, tight end
The Giants have four middle linebackers on the roster in Boley, Herzlich, Jones and Blackburn. One will become available. As for tight ends, there are seven on the roster. Not all are worthy pick-ups but keep an eye on the group.

Philadelphia Eagles: defensive end
This is a very impressive group when it comes to depth. Drafting Vinny Curry in the second round when Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham were already on the roster loads up the Eagles on pass rushers. A team in need of a 4-3 end should try and make a deal.

San Diego Chargers: outside linebacker
The Chargers needed to improve at OLB and signed Jarrett Johnson from the Ravens (I'm sure the Ravens wished they still had him in light of the Suggs injury) and then drafted Melvin Ingram. Shaun Phillips is a mainstay. Larry English never lived up to the billing and Travis LaBoy and Antwan Barnes are on the roster. Keep an eye on this group during camp.

St. Louis Rams: wide receiver, cornerback
That's right, the Rams actually could have a player at WR or CB by the time camp rolls around. They drafted WRs Brian Quick and Chris Givens to go along with veterans Amendola, Gibson, Steve Smith, Alexander, and two 2011 draft picks (Salas and Pettis). The Rams are not keeping eight wide receivers. As for the corner situation, Cortland Finnegan was brought in and Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson were drafted. That leaves Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy and a few others fighting for the final spots.

You can bet that pro personnel types are studying other rosters to see where there may be a little overflow, then possibly making a call or two based on those findings to solve their own depth issues.


Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.
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