Just a few days into free agency, preconceived notions about many NFL teams' draft plans have significantly changed. It's an annual rite of passage in the offseason as we all gear up for the awesomeness that is the draft in late April.
Let's run through how the chaotic first wave of free agency has altered how some clubs may attack the draft.
Old Plan: GET A QUARTERBACK AT ANY COST
New Plan: Continue to address the offensive line, locate and acquire wideouts and defensive backs
With Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, the Cardinals don't absolutely, unequivocally have to trade up for a quarterback in this draft, although I do think that possibility is still firmly on the table. Braford's deal isn't cheap but is essentially a one-year pact, and Glennon is getting backup money. With the quarterback spot addressed to a certain degree, the Cardinals must turn to their ravaged offensive line -- I don't care who the starting signal-caller will be in 2018. The additions of Andre Smith and Justin Pugh show Arizona realizes its offensive line is in desperate need of makeover, and no one would fault them for drafting another blocker in one of the early rounds. Any of the top offensive line prospects would make sense for the Cardinals. With John Brown and Jaron Brown gone, wideout is suddenly a relatively big need. Larry Fitzgerald would be the perfect mentor for SMU's big-bodied receiver Courtland Sutton. Finding a versatile safety prospect to replace Tyrann Mathieu won't be an easy task yet should be a priority. Stanford safety Justin Reid on Day Two or even Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick would fill the void left by the Honey Badger's departure.
Old Plan: Bolster the offensive guard spot
New Plan: Plan for the future at receiver and at defensive tackle
Brandon Fusco isn't an All-Pro guard, yet his acquisition qualifies as the Falcons addressing the need at the guard spot. With Taylor Gabriel gone, and Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu both near 30 years old, Atlanta could start to plan ahead out wide, and with Dontari Poe gone, Grady Jarrett needs a buddy on the interior of the defense. Memphis' feisty pass-catcher Anthony Miller and the enormous Vita Vea from Washington would work well in Atlanta.
Old Plan: Get a wide receiver, or four
New Plan: Get Joe Flacco help of some kind
On paper, the Ravens kinda/sorta addressed their need at wide receiver, although the addition of John Brown doesn't alleviate the team's issues at that position. Ryan Grant's failed physical doesn't exactly help either; then again, the initial contract he signed with Baltimore was one of the biggest head-scratchers early in free agency. Even with Michael Crabtree added, the wideout position should be addressed somewhat early in the draft, yet it's more justifiable for Baltimore to lean offensive line in the first round. The re-signings of James Hurst and Matt Skura don't change anything on that front. Georgia's versatile offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn would be an underrated catalyst for offensive improvement, and Alabama's sharp-route running wideout Calvin Ridley would provide an upgrade to the receiver group.
Old Plan: QUARTERBACK
New Plan: Basically the same
AJ McCarron was not signed in Buffalo to be the team's long-term answer at the quarterback position. I mean, he inked a two-year, $10 million deal which, at most, can be worth $16.5 million if he hits all his play-time incentives. The Bills positioned themselves to move up for a quarterback with two first-round picks, and the trades of Tyrod Taylor and Cordy Glenn netted pick No. 12 and the opening selection in the third round. It's all about the rookie quarterback in Western New York. Signing Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy helped to address the defensive front seven, which is either the team's secondary or tertiary need, and that portion of the roster must still be upgraded in the draft. Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen -- and if a trade into the top five doesn't materialize, Baker Mayfield or Mason Rudolph -- would be logical selections for Buffalo.
Old Plan: Find a long-ball wideout for Cam Newton
New Plan: Find a nasty left guard to protect Cam Newton and boost the run game, check out the corner spot
With Andrew Norwell now a member of the Jaguars and no up-and-coming replacement on Carolina's roster, the Panthers must find a stand-in for arguably their most underrated offensive player, especially in Norv Turner's offense that features plenty of long-developing vertical routes. The Panthers actually missed Ted Ginn in 2017, and Torrey Smith was acquired via trade to fill the deep-ball specialist role. Gone from the secondary are Kurt Coleman and Daryl Worley, in is and Lorenzo Doss. The Bashaud Breeland failed physical is majorly hurtful for a club in need of improvement in the secondary. Texas' Holton Hill would likely be the type of long, ball-hawking quarterback Carolina's prefers on the boundary. UTEP's powerful guard Will Hernandez would be an exquisite fit in the vacancy created by Norwell's departure.
Old Plan: Could you get Mitchell Trubisky some receivers, please?
New Plan: Invest heavily in the defensive front seven
The Bears got the quarterback they traded up for a year ago a myriad legitimate pass-catching options in free agency. Way to go. Seriously. No sarcasm. Good job, Ryan Pace. Chicago even acquired a veteran backup in Chase Daniel. Now it's time to get established defensive coordinator Vic Fangio some weapons, especially up front. Linebacker Christian Jones and Pernell McPhee are goners. Akiem Hicks and Nick Kwiatkoski need help. Virginia Tech's freak linebacker Tremaine Edmunds would be a tremendous addition to this defense, as would an interior rusher like Michigan's Maurice Hurst or Washington's Vita Vea.
Old Plan: Get offensive tackle help, lots of it
New Plan: Bring in pass-catchers, multiple
The Bengals did well to add Bobby Hart and especially Cordy Glenn to the edges of an offensive line that collectively struggled for the vast majority of the 2017 campaign. Chris Baker represents a physical presence that was needed in the middle of the defensive line next to Geno Atkins. Yes, the Bengals may be hesitant to draft another receiver early after John Ross's nightmarish rookie campaign -- and we shouldn't write him off yet -- but there's no doubt the club could use more pass-catching help outside of A.J. Green, as Tyler Body and Cody Core have yet to make a sizable impact. Washington's Dante Pettis or Colorado State's Michael Gallup would be sensible options after Round 1.
Old Plan: Quarterback
New Plan: Still "quarterback," but how about left tackle?
With Tyrod Taylor, the Browns added arguably the best pure "bridge" signal-caller in football. He shouldn't preclude them from taking a quarterback with the first overall pick, although the former Bills starter being on the roster does somewhat reduce the pressure at that position. However, following Joe Thomas' retirement, Cleveland has a mammoth hole at a premium position, and there probably isn't a left tackle prospect worthy of the No. 4 overall selection in this draft class. Maybe a left tackle like Ohio State's Jamarco Jones -- who's ready to start right away -- in the second or third round?
Old Plan: Get Dak Prescott a deep threat
New Plan: Get Dak Prescott a deep threat... if not, look at linebacker
Dallas wasn't able to land Sammy Watkins in free agency, who would've been a wonderful complement to Dez Bryant and taken an extra defender out of the box for Ezekiel Elliott. So the need for a speedster -- say, Calvin Ridley from 'Bama or James Washington from Oklahoma State -- is still clearly there. With reliable run-stopping linebacker Anthony Hitchens now a member of the Chiefs, Dallas's need for a young linebacker to play next to Jaylon Smith -- and after the Sean Lee era is over -- is increased. Alabama's Rashaan Evans is an option there.
Old Plan: Quarterback
New Plan: Find Aqib Talib's replacement
Case Keenum is familiar with senior consultant Gary Kubiak and certainly lessens the Broncos' urgency to find a quarterback. While that position will likely still be considered at No. 5 overall, with Talib and Doss off the roster, cornerback is now a higher priority on Denver's offseason check list. Alabama's versatile defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick would work, and Ohio State's Denzel Ward and Louisville's Jaire Alexander have the skills to play on an island on the outside.
Old Plan: Fortify the edge-rusher and linebacker spots
New Plan: Peek at the edge-rusher spot, add interior offensive line talent and a running back
With Christian Jones and Devon Kennard acquired in free agency, the Lions did well to fix an issue in their defensive front seven from 2017. Those two, along with second-year player Jarrad Davis create a respectable trio at linebacker. Ziggy Ansah getting franchise tagged calms concerns on the edge, but it's still an area of need for Detroit. The Lions have made no secret about their desire to add talent to their backfield, and even if they sign someone like LeGarrette Blount or Frank Gore, this draft is rife with fun ball-carrier prospects. LSU's Derrius Guice would be the feature back Detroit's been trying to find for years.
Green Bay Packers
Old Plan: Pass-Catcher?
New Plan: Cornerback?
With Davante Adams recently extended and big 2018 cap numbers for Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, it was clear as day the Packers would have to make a tough decision regarding their reliable receiver group. Gone is Nelson. In is ... Jimmy Graham. Goodness. He'll be a blast with Aaron Rodgers this season. With Damarious Randall, who really came on in his third season, now in Cleveland, the Packers very well could be squarely in the cornerback market early in the draft. Denzel Ward from Ohio State or Iowa's ball-hawking corner Joshua Jackson would be sensible in Round 1.
Old Plan: Protect Deshaun Watson
New Plan: Tight End?
Zach Fulton, Seantrel Henderson, and Senio Kelemete aren't future Hall of Famers up front. But that trio of blocking help acquired in free agency clearly indicates the Texans' interest in protecting Watson as he comes off his knee-ligament tear. Without a first or second-round pick, Houston will have a somewhat difficult time adding more quality offensive line reinforcement, but with C.J. Fiedorowicz likely to have already played his last down in the NFL due to multiple concussions, getting Watson a reliable tight end would be smart. Notre Dame's Durham Smythe, an underrated receiving tight end with plus blocking ability, would make sense in one of the middle rounds.
Old Plan: Rebuild around Andrew Luck
New Plan: Rebuild around Andrew Luck
Despite more than $65 million in cap space a roster loaded with gaping holes, the Colts have been almost completely stagnant in free agency. Donte Moncrief jumped down to Jacksonville, and their best secondary member, Rashaan Melvin, has garnered plenty of interest on the open market. Bradley Chubb would be a picturesque addition to Indianapolis's front, but after the first few days in free agency, a trade down just might be more sensible for this franchise in the state of flux. However, the club is rife with early-round selections after the slight move back from No. 3 overall to No. 6 overall. Fantastic for GM Chris Ballard. Indianapolis should get one of the first two non-quarterback prospects on their board with their first selection.
Old Plan: Block better
New Plan: Pass-catchers
Whether it be a seam-threatening tight end or a big, perimeter wideout, the prudent thing for the Jaguars to do for Blake Bortles is get him more weapons, especially with Allen Robinson now on the Bears. Norwell will decrease interior pressure on Bortles and help Leonard Fournette. More offensive line depth wouldn't hurt though. Mike McGlinchey would make plenty of sense in the first round, as would the more compact Tyrell Crosby from Oregon.
Kansas City Chiefs
Old Plan: Build the passing offense around Patrick Mahomes
New Plan: Address the outside pass rush
The Sammy Watkins addition was enormous for the Chiefs, and his reputation as a downfield burner seemingly fits wonderfully with Mahomes's huge arm. Anthony Hitchens was signed to fill in for Derrick Johnson, and Kendall Fuller was a tremendous addition in the Alex Smith trade given the Marcus Peters swap. At this point, after Tamba Hali's release, the edge-rusher position is a major question mark for Kansas City. Even if Dee Ford suddenly emerges as a viable threat around the corner, the Chiefs must find more outside pass rush. Maybe a player like Josh Sweat from Florida State or the bendy Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from Oklahoma in Round 2?
Los Angeles Chargers
Old Plan: Offensive and defensive front
New Plan: Get some mass between Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram
The Chargers have one of the league's most well-rounded rosters, and signed Mike Pouncey to address their perpetual state of need along the offensive line. Pouncey isn't the player he was early in his career, but he was the best center available at the time and has 93 starts in his pro career. With his addition, the attentions should turn to the defensive tackle spot, as Corey Liuget needs a running mate on the interior between Los Angeles' stellar pass-rush duo. Vita Vea from Washington, Da'Ron Payne from Alabama or Taven Bryan from Florida would all be logical first-round selections for Anthony Lynn's squad.
Los Angeles Rams
Old Plan: Retool the secondary
New Plan: Get Jared Goff more pass-catching targets
While he'll likely net the team a compensatory third-round pick in 2019, the Rams traded cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round selection for a one-year rental of Sammy Watkins. Robert Woods was the more reliable receiver last year, but Watkins had a higher yards-per-reception average, scored three more touchdowns and drew deep coverage away from underneath targets. Wade Phillips must be giddy with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters -- along with the recently retained Lamarcus Joyner. Now, Los Angeles's attention turns to the pass-catchers for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
Old Plan: Plan for the future at quarterback?
New Plan: Upgrade the offensive line
Before free agency, Ryan Tannehill seemed like a potential cap casualty with a big 2018 cap number and minimal dead cap if released, meaning sizable savings for the cap-strapped Dolphins. Instead, Miami pushed the financial issues with Tannehill to the future -- classic Mike Tannenbaum -- and released Ndamukong Suh, the club's best player in 2017 despite a $9.1 million dead cap hit in 2018 and a $13.1 million dead cap hit next season. The $17 million saved by releasing Suh won't be available for the Dolphins until June 2. One would think the restructure of Tannehill's deal suggests Adam Gase and Co. wants the 2012 first-round pick as the team's starting quarterback for at least the next few seasons, thereby decreasing the chances the Dolphins pick a quarterback in Round 1 of this upcoming draft. With Mike Pouncey set to be released in Miami, and Laremy Tunsil being a disappointment so far, the club could use more help up front at center and left tackle, although Josh Sitton's presence will help the interior. Chukwuma Okorafor from Western Michigan or NC State's Will Richardson would be nice adds on Day 2.
Old Plan: Upgrade the offensive line
New Plan: Same
At no point were the Vikings in the rookie quarterback market, and if they didn't land Cousins, they likely would've kept one of their three free-agent signal-callers, who ultimately all signed elsewhere. Minnesota's blocking was one of the team's sole issues in a fantastic 2017 season that fell agonizingly short of a Super Bowl bid. The Vikings should target an eventual replacement for Riley Reiff at left tackle. Maybe Chukwuma Okorfor from Western Michigan.
New England Patriots
Old Plan: Add pieces at linebacker, on the edge, and cornerback
New Plan: Same, along with a need at left tackle
New England lost Danny Amendola, Malcolm Bulter, Dion Lewis, and somewhat surprisingly, Nate Solder in free agency. Bill Belichick drafted potential Solder replacement Tony Garcia last year, but he spent his entire rookie campaign on IR. The pass-rush and linebacker positions were weak links during yet another AFC title season -- although Adrian Clayborn's addition helps on the edge -- and without Butler, New England is definitely in the outside cornerback market now. Jason McCourty is fresh off a strong season in Cleveland, and even if Belichick can get a lot out of him at the age of 31, the Patriots need to find more defensive backs. Mike Hughes from UCF is a springy, ultra-aggressive cornerback who'd be a fun addition to the Patriots secondary. UCLA's Kolton Miller is eerily similar to Solder as a prospect.
New Orleans Saints
Old Plan: More pass-catchers and ... quarterback?
New Plan: Tight end
Drew Brees's new contract minimizes the pressure on the team to draft a quarterback, yet his heir apparent could still be added early in the draft. Now, with Brees back and after a season in which he showed no signs of slowing down, the Saints need to capitalize on their Super Bowl window. A red-zone threat at the tight end spot -- maybe South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert or Penn State's Mike Gesicki -- would boost the efficiency of the Saints' offense.
New York Giants
Old Plan: Quarterback, offensive tackle, and running back
New Plan: Interior offensive line
Everything the Giants have done this offseason indicates they're ready to move forward with Eli Manning in 2018 and away from a rookie quarterback (early) in the draft, which will be music to the ears of teams clearly wanting one. With Jonathan Stewart, Alec Ogletree, Kareem Martin, and Nate Solder in the fold, new GM Dave Gettleman addressed some obvious needs with veterans. With Weston Richburg now in San Francisco, a priority for the G-Men during the first two days of the draft should be finding a stud center. Arkansas' Frank Ragnow or Ohio State's Billy Price at the top of the second round would be logical.picks.
New York Jets
Old Plan: Quarterback
New Plan: Receivers for quarterback(s), edge-rusher
The Jets have made it plainly obvious... they moved to No. 3 to pick a signal-caller. It's going to be another crowded quarterback room in Florham Park this season. With a young, talented passer incoming, the receiver spot needs a few upgrades as does the offensive line. The outside pass rush is a need too. SMU's large wideout Courtland Sutton or highly athletic outside-rusher Marcus Davenport from UTSA are possibilities early.
Old Plan: Cornerbacks and linebackers
New Plan: Heightened need at corner
The Raiders had immense problems creating turnovers in 2017, and they lose their most reliable cornerback in T.J. Carrie to the Browns. Obviously, they hope 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley can live up to the billing, and with Tahir Whitehead adde, their need at linebacker is reduced, as he's one of the more underrated three-down linebackers in football.
Old Plan: Maybe locate a Jason Peters replacement
New Plan: Offensive tackle and running back?
The Eagles have been super-active in the trade and free-agent markets, and their defensive line is downright unfair heading into 2018. Nigel Bradham was retained, a significant, positive development at linebacker. So really, the reigning Super Bowl champions are truly in best-player-available mode, although adding a promising left tackle prospect like Tyrell Crosby from Oregon would be a shrewd peek ahead to the future, and LeGarrette Blount seems likely to land elsewhere, so dipping into this loaded running back class would be smart. Nick Chubb from Georgia?
Old Plan: Linebacker and safety
New Plan: Same
As is usually the case, the Steelers were quiet during first wave of free agency. They weren't necessarily hit by teams poaching any of their key players either, so their pre-free agency draft plans are unchanged.
San Francisco 49ers
Old Plan: Get Jimmy G some toys
New Plan: Get Jimmy G more toys
Signing underrated center Weston Richburg and athletic running back Jerick McKinnon will make some things easier for Jimmy Garoppolo, yet the 49ers are still clearly in need of wide receiver help, even with speedster Marquise Goodwin signing a contract extension. SMU's Courtland Sutton has some Julio Jones to his game, which could make him a favorite prospect of head coach Kyle Shanahan. The big wideout will likely be available at No. 9 overall.
Old Plan: Rebuild the Legion of Boom
New Plan: Rebuild the Legion of Boom, bolster the offensive line, get Russell Wilson pass-catchers (good luck)
The Seahawks find themselves in a super-unique, difficult situation. They have their well-paid, franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson, but their famed defense has quickly gone by the wayside, and the offensive line is average at its absolute best. Not to mention, Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson left in free agency. Outside of quarterback, the Seahawks really could go in any direction in the first round and it'd be perfectly logical. Keep in mind too, they have a Round 1 selection then not another until Round 4, so this would be the ideal year for a trade back.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Old Plan: Acquire starting-caliber defensive backs
New Plan: Same, because the Bucs invested in the defensive line in free agency
Buccaneers GM Jason Licht quietly did some nice work early in free agency, signing run-stuffing extraordinaire Mitch Unrein away from the Bears and solid rotational defensive tackle Beau Allen from the Eagles. Tampa Bay still must add a premier edge-rusher -- like Davenport from UTSA -- and two or three defensive backs in the draft, even with Brent Grimes returning for another season. Derwin James from Florida State or Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama should be prime targets.
Old Plan: Find an alpha pass-rusher and/or linebacker
New Plan: Same
The Titans weren't shy with their spending in free agency, as they inked Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, Josh Kline, and DaQuan Jones to very lucrative deals. Butler eases pressure on 2017 first-round cornerback Adoree' Jackson and formulates a familiar outside tandem with former Patriots teammate Logan Ryan in what looks like an underrated secondary on paper. Lewis is the ideal complement to Derrick Henry, who finally will take over lead-back duties for the Titans. Tennessee has gotten quality ROI on Brian Orakpo, yet he turns 32 this summer. The loss of Avery Williamson, a mid-round-pick-turned star in the middle, really hurts. Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch would make plenty of sense in Round 1.
Old Plan: Acquire a premier linebacker, build the passing offense around Alex Smith
New Plan: Prioritize the cornerback spot
While the Brian Quick re-signing isn't big, it's important after Ryan Grant's departure. To fill the field-stretcher role, Paul Richardson was signed from the Seahawks, and Zach Brown re-upped at linebacker. Solid. After losing Bashaud Breeland in free agency and Kendall Fuller in a trade, cornerback has to be in play in Round 1 as well, especially considering Josh Norman's age. Jaire Alexander from Louisville would be a nice fit in Washington's defense.