After examining the biggest roster holes in the AFC on Monday, we’ll now take a look at the top remaining needs in the NFC. Given that the NFC is the weaker conference, more teams should view themselves as contenders. Therefore, amassing depth and filling voids is all the more critical. Here are the key areas of concern for every club in the NFC, plus an idea of how to solve each problem.
Biggest remaining team needs in the NFC
We’ll try to make these possible additions realistic. Teams may have readily apparent need areas, but if they seem intent on allowing young players to fill those spots, for example, we won’t force a veteran signing.
At this point in the offseason, many clubs have filled the majority of their roster holes. That not’s to say they don’t have weaknesses. But if a team has locked-in starters — or enough candidates for a competition — at most positions, we’ll turn our focus to depth.
Arizona Cardinals: Cornerback
Solution: Sign Janoris Jenkins
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph somehow got a secondary headlined by cornerbacks Robert Alford, Byron Murphy, and Marco Wilson to finish fifth in pass defense DVOA in 2021. Defensive performance is rarely stable year over year, and Arizona should expect some regression next season. Alford is gone, and free agent addition Jeff Gladney tragically passed away in a car accident in May.
Even if the Cardinals think they can get by with Murphy and Wilson being supported by outstanding safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson, they still need a third CB unless they plan to start journeyman Antonio Hamilton. Even at age 33, Jenkins was effective for the Titans last year while playing nearly 1,000 snaps. Arizona didn’t blink before adding veterans like J.J. Watt, Rodney Hudson, and A.J. Green, and they shouldn’t hesitate to sign another aged player like Jenkins if they think he still has some gas left in the tank.
Atlanta Falcons: Defensive line
Solution: Sign Danny Shelton
The Falcons arguably have the worst roster in the NFL, so they could theoretically upgrade nearly every spot on their depth chart. However, Atlanta’s front office doesn’t have any intention of contending in the near term. They’ll bank cap space, roll it over to 2023, and see how things look next offseason.
Having said that, Grady Jarrett could use some help in the front seven. The Falcons lost more than 850 defensive snaps from the departed Mike Pennel, Tyeler Davison, and Jonathan Bullard. Shelton isn’t a game-changer by any means, but he’s usually an effective run defender, and he’s only 28 years old. The former first-round pick would see significant playing time on a depleted Atlanta defensive line.
Carolina Panthers: Left guard
Solution: Sign Quinton Spain
Quarterback is still an obvious problem for the Panthers. But after spending three selections (including a second-rounder) to acquire Sam Darnold last year, and then trading more future draft capital to move up for Matt Corral in 2022, can Carolina really afford to give up more picks for Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo?
Instead, Matt Rhule and Co. can make a more modest transaction to further improve their offensive line. Having already added Ikem Ekwonu, Austin Corbett, and Bradley Bozeman to their front five, the Panthers’ only hole up front is at left guard. Spain isn’t a world-beater by any means, but he’s been consistent throughout his seven years in the NFL. He’d be an upgrade over Pat Elflein after playing the most snaps of his career for the Bengals in 2021.
Chicago Bears: Offensive line
Solution: Sign Ereck Flowers
There’s no doubt Justin Fields will have one of the worst pass-catching corps in the league next season. However, Darnell Mooney is an ascending player, and the Bears at least tried to add some external talent in the forms of Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, and rookie Velus Jones Jr.
Even if we assume Cody Whitehair and former Packer Lucas Patrick can hold down two of Chicago’s OL spots, that still leaves three voids. Fields will be under constant duress, and given that he’s already prone to holding the ball too long, that could be a recipe for disaster. Flowers would offer some semblance of hope. With his ability to play both guard and tackle, the 28-year-old would give the Bears options along the line.
Dallas Cowboys: Depth anywhere on defense
Solution: Sign Landon Collins
Even after finishing third in expected points added per play in 2021, the Cowboys’ defense could use reinforcements in multiple areas. Dallas added veteran Dante Fowler Jr. and second-round pick Sam Williams to help on the edge. Of course, they could use another rusher to pair with DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys don’t have a lot of depth at defensive tackle or cornerback, either.
Collins, though, would fill a specific role as a hybrid safety/linebacker, taking the place of Keanu Neal, who signed with the Buccaneers. After spending the majority of his time in the box for Washington last year, Collins would have a similar job in Dallas. He’d be injury insurance for LB Leighton Vander Esch and the Cowboys’ safeties, and his presence should allow Micah Parsons to rush the passer more often.
Detroit Lions: Offensive line depth
Solution: Sign Daryl Williams
The Lions were among the most injured teams in the NFL last season, and that bad luck involved the offensive line, where center Frank Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker combined to miss 21 games. Evan Brown proved himself a capable replacement for Ragnow at the pivot, but Detroit needs more reserve options elsewhere along the line.
Enter Williams, who can play any position up front except for center. He started 33 consecutive games for the Bills over the past two years, splitting his time between right tackle and right guard as needed. That versatility would make Williams the ideal sixth lineman for the Lions.
Green Bay Packers: Wide receiver
Solution: Sign Emmanuel Sanders
“I like production over potential,” Aaron Rodgers said in June when asked about the Packers’ wide receiving corps. “We have some production. We have a lot of potential.”
Green Bay finally added multiple WRs in the 2022 draft, but how much should rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs be counted on to provide in their first NFL seasons? Sammy Watkins is the only free agent receiver the Packers signed this offseason…which means they need to sign another receiver. Sanders has the experience, football intelligence, and route-running savvy that Rodgers wants in his pass catchers. He should be on the next flight to Green Bay.
Los Angeles Rams: Edge rusher
Solution: Trade for Robert Quinn
Sure, the Rams only have $7.6 million in cap space, and Quinn’s 2022 salary is $12.8 million. But when have financial realities stopped them before? Having already traded their 2023 first, fourth, and fifth-round picks for Matthew Stafford, Sony Michel, and Troy Hill, respectively, Los Angeles could conceivably offer their second or third-round selection to the Bears in exchange for Quinn.
LA would need Chicago to eat some of Quinn’s salary, just as Denver did when they traded Von Miller to the Rams last year. With Miller and fellow pass rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo gone, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is down to just Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis opposite Leonard Floyd. Quinn, of course, was drafted by the Rams in 2011 and posted 62 1/2 sacks over seven seasons with the team.