Outside linebacker: Rushing the passer and stopping the run is an urgent need after the defense ranked 27th in sacks and yielded a team record 5,938 yards. New defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt is returning the Bills to a base 4-3 and would like a force on the outside to complement a defensive line led by Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Mario Williams looks to sign with Buffalo.
Wide receiver: Stevie Johnson resigned, but Fitzpatrick needs more weapons, particularly speed receivers to stretch the field.If Williams signs. Wide receiver becomes the top priority. Losing out on Robert Meachem may have the Bills using their top pick on Michael Floyd, or early second on Stephan Hill or Alshon Jeffery.
Left tackle: Demetrius Bell is an unrestricted free agent and not a priority to be retained. He played in only six games last year due to injuries. Chris Hairston is the lone backup.The Bills 10th overall pick may reel in Riely Rieff, Jonathan Martin.Buffalo could persue free agents. Marcus McNeil,or Vernon Carey
Quarterback: The Dolphins’ fans want a young quarterback to build this team around, and owner Steve Ross is committed to upgrading the position through free agency and/or the draft. Solid free-agent options like Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, or Kyle Orton would be logical upgrades. Each veteran comes with positives and negatives. The draft is also an option, Offensive Cordinator Mike Shurman coached at Texas A&M, and has a relationship with Ryan Tannehill.
Outside Linebacker: The defense will move to a 3-4 base and needs to add outside linebackers to compliment Cameron Wake in 2011, he contributed just 8.5 sacks. Koa Misi, a second-round pick in 2010, has produced 5.5 sacks in his two seasons as a starter. This may need to be addressed in the draft. If Miami is able to secure a QB. Look for them to select Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples,Courtney Upshaw,or Zach Brown.
Offensive line: Marc Colombo allowed nine sacks and 35 quarterback pressures. The Dolphins offense allowed 52 sacks, and led the NFL in sacks per passing play. To fortify the offensive line, the Dolphins need a stronger bookend to put opposite Jake Long. Vernon Carey, the starting right guard, is a free agent. Miami might be looking at the entire right side being rebuilt. They resigned Lydon Murtha to compete for the right tackle spot.John Jerry is an options at right guard. Eric Winston will be a strong pick up. Steve Hutchinson and Nate Livings are options as well.
New England Patriots
Defensive end/outside linebacker: The Patriots sack leaders Andre Carter and Mark Anderson are free agents that look to be resigned. New England will continue to stay versatile on defense, but will need to add a young, athletic playmaking pass rusher on the edge.The Patriots have two first round picks, using a pick on a youthful impact player to rush the quarterback will help the 2011 31st ranked pass defense. Free agents Mario Williams, Aaron Smith, Frostee Rucker, and Matt Roth are in play. Through the draft Andre Branch, Vinny Curry,Cam Johnson,Zack Brown all may be available.
Wide Receiver: A deep threat opposite Wes Welker would not only help Tom Brady but the running game as well. The bottom of the first round could be a place to find such a talent. There are few top receiver free agents available, The draft would give New England possible choices of Kendall Wright, Alshon Jeffery, Mohamed Sanu,and Stephen Hill late in the first round.
Safety: New England cut starters James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather in training camp. The play in the middle of the back end of the defense was suspect. Patrick Chung is a solid starter when healthy, but he’s the only starting caliber safety on the New England depth chart . The team needs to add stability to the position , through either free agency or the draft. Or both. Laron Landry seems a fit, The draft could see Harrison Smith, George IIoka, and Brandon Taylor.
New York Jets
Safety: The Jets have had difficulty with opposing tight ends in recent seasons, and need to get younger and faster at this position. The biggest name on the free-agent board at this position is Washington’s LaRon Landry. A high draft pick will need to be spent if they are unable to sign Landry.
The top Safety in the draft Mark Barron should be available at the 16th pick.
Wide receiver: The Jets need a veteran receiver to play opposite Santonio Holmes. With limited cap space the Jets will have to use an early spot to get the help Marc Sanchez needs. Landry signing would allow the Jets to draft a receiver at 16. Michael Floyd would be ideal.
Outside linebacker: The Jets still lack that consistent edge rusher who forces opponents to adjust their game plans. Aaron Maybin resurrected his career with six sacks in 2011. with the 16th pick Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw could be available.
Offensive Guard/Center: The Ravens are in need of a center and an offensive guard. They could potentially lose guard Ben Grubbs to free agency. General manager Ozzie Newsome said that the team plans to definitely add to the center position regardless of whether Birk returns or not. David Decastro, may not be available. Cordy Glenn, or Mike Adams could fit.
Wide receiver: The Ravens could use a third wide receiver since they’re expected to part ways with Lee Evans. They’re expected to explore the second-tier group of a deep free-agent receiver class.Deion Branch, Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn Jr. Draft wise Marvin McNutt, Nick Toon.
Safety: The Ravens are extremely thin at safety with both Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski being free agents who aren’t expected to return. Plus, starter Ed Reed’s health is an issue. However, this isn’t a very good free-agent class for safeties and it’s not a deep position in the draft.
Offensive line: The Steelers found an All-Pro center in 2010 and a starting tackle in 2011. Willie Colon, after missing two seasons with injuries, returns at right tackle. They need to strengthen their position at guard and find depth at tackle. In the draft Cordy Glenn, Mike Adams, Kelechi Osmle
Nose tackle: Casey Hampton, 34, had ACL surgery in January and his longtime, capable backup, Chris Hoke, retired. They need to find their nose tackle of the future, which could be 2012.Dontari Poe would fit perfect, but the Steelers would have to move up to get him.
Linebacker: There really is no vital need, but the Steelers could use another starter inside to go with Lawrence Timmons. James Farrior is 37 and Larry Foote turns 32, and they may cut strings with one of them. In the draft Dont’a Hightower, Luke Kuechly. Free agents Curtis Lofton, or Erin Henderson.
Offensive Guard: Nate Livings has been the starter at right guard the past three seasons but has been on a roller coaster. With three guards being free agents, he has the best chance of being re-signed.
Corner back: Kelly Jennings was mainly the corner in nickel situations once Leon Hall went down due to injury. Resigning Jennings will be priority, The Bengals have the financial means to acquire a top CB, possibly Arron Ross
Running back: Cedric Benson has three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Bengals but offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants to go more with a running back by committee. Benson will, at some point, separate from Cincinnati. The draft should align well for the Bengals to acquire a back mid-rounds.
Quarterback: Colt McCoy is 5-16 as a starter. He did not have a great supporting cast, but even if that improves McCoy is still deficient in throwing accurately downfield. He ranked 27th in passing last season. A recent push up the board of Ryan Tannehill may have Cleveland trade down.
Running back: This would change if the Browns re-sign Peyton Hillis, but either way it is a priority position because Hillis will be an unrestricted free agent without a new contract. If the Browns do nothing their top running back would be injury prone Montario Hardesty. A mid- third round pick of a Ohio native Isaiah Pead could be in order.
Outside linebacker: The Browns ranked 30th against the run last season. Scott Fujita finished 2010 and 2011 on injured reserve. The coaches say they want him back, but if he does return the Browns need to give him some competition for a starting job. Free agent Manny Lawson, or Courtney Upshaw in the draft.
Wide receiver: Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter will turn 31 before the start of the season. Johnson missed almost 10 games last season because of hamstring injuries. Jacoby Jones is a third receiver who hasn’t proved he can elevate his performance when he’s forced into the lineup. Expect the Texans to draft a receiver within the first 2 picks. 1st round Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, Ruben Randle, 2nd round Juron Criner, Nick Toon, Brian Quick.
Outside linebacker: Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wants at least three who can put pressure on the quarterback. If they lose Mario Williams in free agency, Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed will be the starters. Expect them to use one of their first two picks on a replacement for Williams. They’ll hope to hit a home run the way they did last year when they selected Reed in the second round.Andre Branch, Vinny Curry, Shea McClellin,Zach Brown and Bobby Wagner all fit the Texans scheme.
Interior offensive line: Center Chris Myers and right guard Mike Brisiel will be unrestricted free agents March 13 if they don’t sign new contracts. Myers and left guard Wade Smith will be 31 this season and Brisiel 29. They should use a mid-round pick on a player who can be developed to play guard and center on a line that was terrific last season. Peter Konz, Amini Silatolu,David Molk maybe available,
Wide receiver: re-signing veteran Reggie Wayne will help solidify a depleted corps, and give Luck an experienced veteran to lean on.Will need to improve depth at wide receiver. Adding a big, physical receiver would be a major move for the Colts. Ruben Randle, Alshon Jeffery, Mohamed Sanu.
Defensive line: Since it appears as if Indianapolis will be switching to a 3-4 defensive alignment under coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, the Colts need to find an athletic run-stopping nose tackle to anchor the middle of the defensive line. There doesn’t seem to be a player on the roster to fill that role. Devon Still may be available along with Brandon Thompson and Kendall Reves.
Cornerback: After the 2005 draft, when the Colts added future starters Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, the franchise appeared to be set at cornerback for the immediate future. But Jackson had injury issues before moving on to Philadelphia. Hayden also had several injuries late in his career with Indianapolis. Both were productive early, though, and helped lead the Colts defense in the Super Bowl win over Chicago. Jerraud Powers has been impressive but has had problems staying healthy the last couple of years. Brandon Boykin, Chase Minnifield mid-second round. Free Agents Jason Allen, and Marcus Trufant. For irony Tracey Porter.
Defensive end: The Titans just addressed this area two years ago with a first-round pick in Derrick Morgan. But he has been bothered by a knee injury. Add that Jason Jones, Dave Ball and William Hayes are free agents, the need for an outside pass rusher rockets to the top of the wish list this offseason. A first round pick in the sorts of Whitney Mercilus, Nick Perry, or maybe Andre Branch.
Cornerback: The Titans have confidence in their young corners Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner, but depth is a weakness with the exit of Cortland Finnegan and two little tested players next in line Chris Hawkins and Tommie Campbell. A thin free agent crop of Corners could push the Titans to draft the position before they planned.
Guard: Jake Scott is a free agent, and though he could eventually be brought back, the Titans are likely to shop around in free agency and look around in the draft to see if they can upgrade with a younger player. In-house hopeful Fernando Velasco is also a possibility to crack the starting lineup in camp at guard or center
Wide receiver: Easily the most glaring need for the Jaguars.They not only need a No. 1 receiver, they need a No. 2 wideout as well. Mike Thomas, the team’s leading receiver last season, is more suited for a slot position and at best should be looked on as a No. 3. Thomas finished with 44 catches for 415 yards and one touchdown, as the team’s top receiver.The Jags would like to find at least one veteran receiver to come in and be an established No. 1 the first day of camp, and draft at least one quality receiver with the potential to start as high as No. 2 on the priority list of receivers.
Cornerback: This isn’t as high priority as the receiver spot, but with the uncertainty surrounding veteran Rashean Mathis, it makes cornerback a spot the Jaguars must shore up. Mathis had his best season since he was selected as a starter to the Pro Bowl team following the 2006 season. But he’ll be 32 this year and coming off ACL season-ending surgery that forced him to miss the final six games of the season, it’s questionable whether the Jaguars will re-sign him. . The Jaguars do have Derek Cox at the other corner, but need depth and nickel help. This spot will have the Jaguars investing a high pick in the draft.
Defensive end: Matt Roth started the team’s first nine games and although he only recorded 3.5 sacks in those nine games, the Jaguars liked what they saw in the seven-year veteran who was signed as a free agent last August. He suffered a concussion in mid-November and missed the final six games. He’s an unrestricted free agent. Jeremy Mincey was resigned with the expectation of a repeat of his 2011 season that saw him become the surprise of the defense a year ago, coming out of nowhere to lead the team in sacks 5.5 and quarterback pressures 43.Adding through free agency my be the desired route with a scheduled visit from Mario Williams
Defensive tackle: Starters Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas are unrestricted free agents, and if one or both does not return, the Broncos would be left with rotational-type players and a large question mark in Ty Warren, who is recovering from a torn triceps muscle. The depth of this year’s defensive tackle rookie class means the Broncos may wait until the draft to discuss the need especially if they can re-sign Bunkley, who was the team’s strongest run defender up front.Look for them to draft possible Devin Still, Fletcher Cox, or Jerel Worthy.
Safety: The uncertain future of Brian Dawkins and the stalled development of 2011 second-round pick Rahim Moore leave this position in flux. Brian Dawkins missed the last three games with a neck injury; the 16-year veteran is pondering retirement as his contract expires. Denver was able to find a keeper in 2011 fourth-round selection Quinton Carter; he was promoted to the starting lineup in Week 7 and finished the year with interceptions in both of Denver’s playoff games. But if Dawkins retires, the Broncos don’t have any safeties with more than 11 career regular-season starts, and could use a seasoned veteran to stabilize the position in case Moore doesn’t develop as the Broncos hope. unfortunately the safety position is thin in both free agency and the draft.
Running back: Willis McGahee turned back the clock in his first Broncos season, posting a league-leading seven 100-yard games while breaking 1,000 yards for the first time since 2007. But his production dipped in December as nagging hamstring and knee injuries exacted a toll. Knowshon Moreno hasn’t produced up to his position he was drafted. Lance Ball is hanging on. Fox and coordinator Mike McCoy want to produce the success of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina.The Broncos should draft a running back early to challenge McGahee and Moreno. Cyrus Gray, Robert Turbin, maybe a LaMichael James.
Kansas City Chiefs
Right tackle: The Chiefs have concentrated on defense over the last few seasons and one victim of that attention has been the offense. They’ve used second and third-round selections in the last two drafts on interior blockers with Jon Asamoah and Rodney Hudson.The Chiefs need immediate help at right tackle to bookend starting left tackle Branden Albert. There is no real option for a right tackle on the roster. The Chiefs may spend their 11th overall pick on either Riley Reiff, or Jonathan Martin.
Nose tackle: In three seasons playing the 3-4 defense, the Chiefs have done it without solid play on the nose. Last year’s cadre of big bodies in the middle has been depleted by the apparent retirement of starter Kelly Gregg after 11 seasons. That leaves last year’s sixth-round draft choice Jerrell Powe and second-year journeyman Anthony Toribio. 2nd round grade NT. Brandon Thompson, Mike Martin, and Kendall Reyes may be on the radar.
Running back: After a dozen seasons, the 33-year old Thomas Jones has reached the end of the line as a productive back. Jamaal Charles and Jackie Battle finished the 2011 season on the injured reserve list, with Battle missing all but two games due to a torn ACL in his left knee.The Chiefs want not only production from the position in the running game, but the passing game as well. Hybrid running back/wide receiver Dexter McCluster and the addition of a short yardage back in free agency, ie. Peyton Hillis, could save Pioli from having to use a draft pick.
Cornerback: With Stanford Routt having been released and joining the Chiefs, Chris Johnson also released and second-year players Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke the only players on the roster, the Raiders are nearly running on empty, and they don’t have a pick until the 5th round.
Safety: Strong safety Tyvon Branch was given the franchise tag and free safety Michael Huff has a bloated contract. Matt Giordano is an unrestricted free agent as well. It’s not a huge need, but depth can help.
Linebacker: Only middle linebacker Rolando McClain seems assured a spot at this point, with outside linebackers Kamerion Wimbley and Aaron Curry both candidates for release because of contract issues. If the Raiders go to more 3-4 alignments, they’ll need more help even if one returns.
San Diego Chargers
Left tackle: The Chargers decide to pass on paying McNeill his $10 million roster bonus and turn their thoughts to back up Jared Gaither. But Gaither is a free agent, and could have played his way into a big payday with his showing last year when McNeill was down. possibly entering the draft with hopes of landing, Cordy Glenn, Mike Adams, or with some luck Jonathan Martin.
Outside linebacker: The Chargers are in desperate need of a pass rusher and they are hopeful to find someone to start opposite Shaun Phillips in their 3-4 alignment. Larry English hasn’t been able to produce to the teams satisfaction.With few 3-4 OLB available, the Chargers could use their 2nd round pick for Vinny Curry,Ronnell Lewis, or maybe Bobby Wagner.
Strong safety: Bob Sanders didn’t work out last season and is looking for an upgrade over his replacement, Steve Gregory. They need a thumper and would prefer it comes from the strong-safety position. Free Agency will be difficult to produce a starter for them, the draft could have available in the 2nd to 3rd round: Markelle Martin, Brandon Taylor, or Harrison Smith.