Biggest remaining team needs in the NFC from the Cardinals to the Commanders

Every team in the NFC still has at least one remaining need. Where are the most obvious holes, and which free agents could fill them?

Biggest remaining team needs in the NFC

Minnesota Vikings: Defensive line

Solution: Sign Ndamukong Suh

The Vikings are among the teams who have spoken with Suh, so this signing could realistically happen. The veteran defensive tackle, who has said returning to the Buccaneers is no longer an option, would replace Armon Watts alongside Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Phillips when Minnesota is in their base 3-4 look.

Suh would represent an extremely low-risk addition for the Vikings. He’s never missed a game in 12 years, and though he played fewer snaps in 2021 than any other season of his career, 63% playtime for a 35-year-old interior defender is still incredible. Suh helped Tampa become one of the NFL’s premier run defenses, and he could have a similar effect for a Vikings team that should vie for a Wild Card slot.

New Orleans Saints: Running back depth

Solution: Sign Justin Jackson

The Saints seemed determined to fill each and every one of their holes this offseason. They targeted left tackle Trevor Penning and wide receiver Chris Olave in the draft and brought in a new starting safety tandem — Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye — via free agency. With those four spots taken care of, New Orleans doesn’t have a ton of obvious problems.

However, a new area of concern may soon emerge, as running back Alvin Kamara is reportedly facing a six-game suspension after being arrested for felony battery assault in March. While the Saints re-acquired Mark Ingram last year, he’s 32 years old and missed the last two games of the 2021 season with a knee injury. New Orleans has other options, such as Tony Jones Jr. and UDFA Abram Smith, behind Ingram. Jackson, who handled 90 touches as the Chargers’ No. 2 last year, would bring more experience.

New York Giants: Cornerback

Solution: Sign Kevin King

The Giants were in such a poor financial position this offseason that they were essentially forced to release James Bradberry — who was coming off a down season but was highly effective as recently as 2020 — to become cap compliant. New York still has Adoree’ Jackson, but their next-most experienced cornerback is career backup Maurice Canaday, who’s never played more than 320 defensive snaps in a single season.

Big Blue desperately needs some assistance in the secondary. Jimmy Smith will be linked to the New York given his Ravens connection with now-Giants DC Wink Martindale, but he’s almost 34 years old — not exactly a fit for a rebuilding team. King, meanwhile, has been a frustratingly inconsistent player, but he’s got size (6’3″, 200 pounds), and age (27) on his side. The Giants still have $6.2 million in cap space, and King shouldn’t cost more than the minimum.

Philadelphia Eagles: Tight end depth

Solution: Sign Chris Herndon

The secondary looked to be the Eagles’ biggest hole until they added Bradberry and ex-49ers safety Jacquiski Tartt after the draft. With the defensive backfield secured, Philadelphia has seemingly addressed all of its needs. There simply aren’t a lot of places for upgrades on this roster.

One area where the Eagles could use a bit more depth is at tight end. They kept using 12 personnel on roughly a quarter of their snaps even after trading Zach Ertz to the Cardinals last season, but No. 2 TE Jack Stoll received only five targets after Ertz was dealt. Herndon has never lived up to his 39-502-4 rookie line. That said, he’s the type of young, athletic pass catcher the Eagles should be willing to take a cost-effective chance on.

San Francisco 49ers: Center

Solution: Sign JC Tretter

The 49ers are trying to make us believe they’re comfortable replacing Alex Mack with Jake Brendel, a 29-year-old journeyman who’s played six offensive snaps over the past three seasons. We don’t believe you, Kyle Shanahan! Brendel might make more sense if there wasn’t such a perfect Mack replacement available in free agency.

Tretter, released by the Browns in March, has plenty of experience as a zone blocker after playing on a Cleveland OL that ranked first in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards in 2021. The NFLPA president has routinely played through injuries. He’s missed one game in the last five years, and that was because of a positive COVID test. Tretter’s leadership would go a long way next to de facto rookie left guard Aaron Banks, who appears poised to start for San Francisco this season.

Seattle Seahawks: Quarterback

Solution: Trade for Baker Mayfield or wait until Jimmy Garoppolo gets cut

The Seahawks continue to assert that they’re perfectly fine with a quarterback competition between Geno Smith and Drew Lock. But if they can find a cheaper, better answer under center, they should take it. Seattle’s only competition for QBs around the league is the Panthers. The Seahawks can wait until Cleveland is willing to pay nearly all of Mayfield’s salary before orchestrating a trade. The 49ers are unlikely to trade Garoppolo to a divisional rival, but they may have to cut him instead of paying his $24.2 million salary.

If Seattle truly wants to roll with Smith and Lock, they have plenty of other roster holes to be filled. We’d start at center, where Kyle Fuller struggled in nine starts a season ago. Former Bengal Trey Hopkins would fit in nicely with the Seahawks, given his ability to play any of the interior line positions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Blocking tight end

Solution: Trade for Trevon Wesco

Tight end is the easy answer here following Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, and the Buccaneers are probably looking for a specific TE archetype. With Gronk gone and Chris Godwin increasingly likely to be sidelined well into the upcoming season, Tampa Bay looks set to run the ball more in 2022. Tom Brady led the league with 719 pass attempts last year — don’t expect that to happen again.

Cameron Brate is better than any of the tight ends on the free agent market, but he’s more of an F tight end. If the Bucs are looking for a blocker, they could go after Wesco, who seems redundant in New York after the Jets added C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Kroft, and Jeremy Ruckert over the offseason. His presence would allow fourth-round rookie Cade Otton the time he needs to recover from a college ankle injury.

Washington Commanders: Edge-rushing depth

Solution: Sign Carlos Dunlap

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera recently said defensive end Chase Young will “more than likely” begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. If Young is forced to remain on the PUP list into the regular season, he’d be required to miss at least the first six games of the year. Losing Young for any amount of time would be devastating, and there’s a large dropoff in Washington’s EDGE talent after Young and fellow starter Montez Sweat.

Former seventh-round pick James Smith-Williams held down the fort last season, but adding a veteran like Dunlap would give the Commanders more security. Dunlap, 33, posted 35 pressures on just 482 snaps for the Seahawks in 2021. For context, Eagles DE Derek Barnett managed the same number of pressures on 776 snaps.

Dallas Robinson is a Writer and News Editor at Pro Football Network. You can read his other work here and follow him on Twitter: @dallasdrobinson.

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