As the heart of the offseason quickly approaches, NFL teams are preparing their “to-do” and “wish” lists. With free agency less than a month away and the NFL Draft‘s April 30th start right around the corner, team’s must soon be finalizing their desired plans for the offseason.
In this series, we take a look at key moves – signings, draft picks, player extensions, etc. – each team should make over the course of the next three months in order to improve their franchise.
We begin with the dangerous AFC North and rejuvenated NFC North…
Baltimore Ravens: Draft Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin), Sign Denarius Moore (WR)
Justin Forsett was a pleasant surprise in 2014. However, considering his impending free agency and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak no longer being with the team, the Ravens must think elsewhere – and getting younger with Gordon would be the perfect move. Gordon is physical, fast and dependable…really he is everything Baltimore had envisioned in Bernard Pierce.
With Torrey Smith hitting the free agent market, the Ravens must add numbers to their passing game. When healthy, Denarius Moore has shown great ability to stretch the field. Combine that speed with Joe Flacco‘s arm and Baltimore could finally have the play-maker they once thought Smith was going to become.
Cincinnati Bengals: Sign Virgil Green (TE), Draft Malcolm Brown (DT, Texas), Extend AJ Green
The Bengals’ offense will mostly remain in tact for 2015, with exception of the tight end position. Tyler Eifert will be returning from injury and Jermaine Gresham is likely to leave via free agency. It will be important for Cincinnati to replace Gresham so Andy Dalton can have another security blanket. During his time in Denver, Green was buried below Julius Thomas on the depth chart, but has shown the ability at times to be a more than capable tight end. Add his 6-5″ frame to Eifert’s 6-6″ and the Bengals’ instantly become a nightmare in the passing game for opposing defenses. (And his price range fits perfectly with that of the Bengals’ front office.)
At the same time, Mike Brown must come to an agreement with star receiver AJ Green on a long term contract extension. When healthy, Green is one of the top receivers playing today and it is imperative that Cincinnati do all within their means to keep Green a Bengals for many years to come.
After finishing dead last in sacks last year, Cincinnati needs to improve their defensive line. With Brown, they not only will add a tackle that can stuff the run, but they will have a player capable of lining up next to Geno Atkins to attack the quarterback. It can’t hurt the Bengals to start rebuilding from the inside of the line out.
Cleveland Browns: Sign Kenny Britt (WR), Draft Benardrick McKinney (ILB, Mississippi State)
The Browns needed skilled wide receivers last season, and they especially need it now that Josh Gordon is gone for the season. Kenny Britt fell out of favor quickly with the Tennesee Titans but saw a nice resurgence with the Rams last season. He could provide Cleveland with a big threat that is able to stretch the field as well as make tough catches in traffic. Britt will nicely compliment Andrew Hawkins in the passing game.
In the AFC North, defenses have to be physical to have any hope of winning. The addition of McKinney would instantly give the Browns an imposing figurehead on defense. Like Donte
HitnerWhitner, McKinney isn’t afraid of laying big hits. His addition could go a long way towards establishing a new identity in Cleveland.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Draft Marcus Peters (CB, Washington), Extend Ben Roethlisberger
Being dismissed by Washington definitely raises a few red flags, but that is hardly something that has turned the Steelers away from talent in the past. Peters would fill a desperate need for Pittsburgh as the organization is aging quickly in the secondary. With Keith Butler taking over the defense, he will look to re-build the unit back to the once-dominating “Steel Curtain” of old. Peters would be a nice building block in that process.
It goes without saying, but the Steelers must do all they can do give Roethlisberger the last contract of his career this offseason. He has been the heart and soul of the franchise since he arrived and there is no reason to believe that will change.
Chicago Bears: Sign Da’Quan Bowers (DE), Draft Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
At 24, Bowers is still young with lots of football left to be played. He has shown moments of pure dominance, unfortunately they have been few and far between. Under new coach John Fox, Bowers could have a fresh start in the Windy City and the perfect opportunity to live up to the expectations bestowed upon him when he was drafted out of Clemson.
The Bears defense is not good, but they were especially horrid against the run last season. Shelton would give the Bears a big man in the middle to combat that exact problem. Draft Shelton, tell him to stop the run, let it happen. Seems like a simple formula for success, right? (If only…)
Detroit Lions: Sign Terrance Knighton (DT), Draft Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley both free agents, there is a good chance neither will return to the team in 2015. In light of their loss, the Lions will be forced to quickly find a replacement. Knighton is a productive player who will also be much more affordable than the aforementioned players. His signing might not be as sexy as Suh or Fairley, but it will give the Lions more options and opportunities financially going forward.
In need of help in the secondary, the Lions could (and should) turn to Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest, if he is still available. Johnson is reliable and would add some much needed youth and speed to a unit that over-performed at times last season.
It goes without saying how important it is for the Packers to bring Cobb back into the fold – not just for 2015, but for the long-term as well. Cobb has emerged as one of the most explosive players in the game and is a brilliant compliment to Jordy Nelson.
In a perfect world, the Packers would sign Julius Thomas this offseason – can you imagine him in this offense? But the fact of the matter is that there are too many needs on the defensive side of the ball to shell out two massive contracts this spring to the offense. However, Green Bay still needs help at the tight end position. Jermaine Gresham was a bit of a head case in Cincinnati and could use the change of scenery. Playing with Aaron Rodgers will improve his game even more, and he is a very good receiving tight end who is more than capable of holding his own blocking in the run game. This signing could end up being the steal of the offseason, if it comes to fruition.
Minnesota Vikings: Sign CJ Spiller (RB), Draft Brandon Sherff (OT, Iowa)
For now, the Vikings must most tread forward assuming as though they will be without the services of Adrian Peterson next season. Matt Asiata had moments of success in 2014, but Minnesota needs additional firepower for Teddy Bridgewater. Spiller could be a key addition for the team as he could be that dual threat Bridgewater is missing. The addition of Spiller would add even more speed in the running and passing attacks for coordinator Norv Turner.
Speaking of Bridgewater, you can never have too much protection for a young quarterback. Coming out of Iowa, Sherff is more than capable of becoming a mainstay for the Vikings. The combination of Sherff and Bridgewater could keep coach Mike Zimmer in Minnesota for many years to come.
Up next in our NFL series, the AFC and NFC South….
Cover Photo: Gazette Media
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