Number 17: San Diego Chargers
Led by Philip Rivers, the San Diego Chargers were able to sneak their way into the playoffs. They took it a next step forward when they went to Cincinnati and bear the Bengals in the first round. Despite that they made the playoffs last season, the Chargers need to drastically improve their defense. In a division that features two of the top offenses in the league, having a sturdy defense is a necessity. They finished twenty-ninth in passing defense last season. It is without a question that heading into free agency and the draft, the Chargers will be looking to improve their secondary.
Number 18: Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins head into this year’s free agency with all eyes on them. After what has transpired over the past few months with the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito situation, the Dolphins are under a national microscope. The team must fix their offensive line if they plan on having any success next season. Reportedly, offensive tackle Branden Albert is going to sign with Miami. This will help Ryan Tannehill tremendously next season, as he was on his back for a large part of last season. The Dolphins are also making moves on the defensive side of the ball, signing Detroit Lions safety, Louis Delmas. The signing of Delmas means that Chirs Clemmons will officially receive his walking papers. Will Miami be the big spenders they were last year? By the look of things, my guess is yes.
Number 19: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were a field goal away from making the playoffs last season. It was actually quite impressive how close the Steelers were, due to the fact that they started off so poorly. They have already been quite busy this offseason. The Steelers front office gave contract extensions to Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller, Jason Worilds and Ike Taylor. The team also announced the releasing’s of linebackers Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley. Despite the resigning’s, the Steelers still have a lot of work left to transform back into an elite defense. They are also facing a heavy need at the receiving position, as they can lose two out of their top three receivers from last season; Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders.
Number 20: New York Jets
Despite finishing in second place in the AFC East last season, Jets fans shouldn’t get their expectations up for the 2014′ season. Yes, they have a very good defense that has and will continue to win them a few games. Unfortunately, they need an upgrade at almost every offensive position heading into this season. By releasing Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes, the Jets have cleared some cap space. Until the Jets can find some offensive help, they will continue to be what they are, a middle of the pack team.
Number 21: Houston Texans
I am not as low on the Houston Texans as other people. They still have Arian Foster and they still have Andre Johnson. DeAndre Hopkins is also looking like he can develop into a stud for Houston. They have arguably the best defensive players in the league and with a few more tweaks, they can have a dominate defense. This team really needs to draft a quarterback with the first pick. If they pick the right guy, this team can sneak into the playoffs. I still don’t think they would have what it takes to overtake the Colts, but they can definitely find themselves in the Wild Card hunt. With the right move in the draft, this team will be on their way back into the right direction.
Number 22: Atlanta Falcons
If you were to compare the Atlanta Falcons to any other team in the National Football League, it would be to the team that I just mentioned; the Houston Texans. The Falcons were not only decimated by injuries last season, but their defense was atrocious. Losing Tony Gonzalez will definitely hurt Matt Ryan, however, with a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White, the offense should be back on track. They might want to consider trying to sign Jared Allen. He would tremendously improve their defense and could help fill some holes in the secondary with his elite ability to quickly cause havoc in the backfield.
Number 23: Detroit Lions
I do not see the Detroit Lions having any success next season. After totally collapsing last season, the team decided to fire head coach Jim Schwartz in favor of Jim Caldwell. This isn’t exactly an upgrade as Caldwell went 2-14 in his last season as a head coach. They are in a very tough division and conference. Unless they make a big time move, expect this team to continue to struggle next season.
Number 24: Buffalo Bills
E.J. Manuel played pretty well at times for the Buffalo Bills last season, however, this team does not look to be in very good shape heading forward. Sure, there are some nice pieces there, but nothing to get too excited about. It doesn’t help that they are going to lose their best player in Jairus Byrd. The Bills could look to improve their team by adding some more depth at the defensive end position. They could also get E.J. Manuel some help by adding either a veteran tight end or wide receiver
Number 25: New York Giants
Despite finishing with just a 7-9 record last season, there is room to be excited if you’re a fan of the New York Giants. Eli Manning played horrible last season, however, he is a very cerebral and experienced quarterback. I expect him to bounce back nicely next season. However, this mostly depends on whether the front office can find a way to protect Eli. Last season, Manning was sacked a career high thirty-nine times. With the twelfth pick in this year’s draft, the Giants will certainly have the opportunity to strengthen their line.
Number 26: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I can not wait to see wait new Head Coach Lovie Smith is going to be able to do with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have been able to put together a very good coaching staff prior to the start of free agency. With the aggressiveness shown in putting together a staff, it should come to no surprise that Tampa Bay wants to be active in this years free agency. One aspect that Tampa has their eye on improving is their pass rush. While I don’t believe they will make the playoffs this season, Lovie Smith definitely has the ability to get them there in a year or two.
Number 27: Tennessee Titans
I really like the potential that the Tennessee Titans defense has. Although they will be losing Alterraun Verner, they could still be a top-tier defense. The signing of Ray Horton as their defensive coordinator will end up being a great signing. The only problem with this team is the offense. They are too inconsistent and until they upgrade the quarterback position, I don’t see this team doing anything.
Number 28: Minnesota Vikings
Prior to this free agency period, the Minnesota Vikings have made some pretty good coaching moves. They brought in Mike Zimmer, who could will do wonders for the progress of this very average defense. They brought in offensive guru Norv Turner to help progress some of the young guys. Oh, and they still have Adrian Peterson. The Vikings just desperately need a quarterback. Even if they get their guy this offseason, I still think they are at least another year or two away from making the playoffs. The defense needs a few more pieces in order for this team to have consistent success in the NFC North.
Number 29: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are such a confusing franchise. There are talented players throughout this roster. They have two great pieces in the secondary with T.J. Ward and Joe Haden, Alex Mack and Joe Thomas are some of the best offensive lineman in the league, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron both have the potential to become superstars in this league, and yet, the Browns constantly find themselves at the bottom of their division. Firing the head coach and general manager for the second straight season shows the instability that this franchise has. They have the talent, they just cant put it together.
Number 30: Washington Redskins
Clearly the hype train revolving around Robert Griffin has come to a halt. Griffin continues to battle health issues, while the defense can’t stop anything. It doesn’t matter how healthy or how good Griffin in this year. As long as the defense is still this bad, this team isn’t doing anything.
Number 31: Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders are a team that has their work cut out for them this offseason. They have a ton of cap space to work with and must use a minimum of it under the new CBA rules. One guy that they must resign is offensive tackle Jared Veldheer. Veldheer is an absolute beast and there are no excuses for him not to be in a Raiders uniform next season. Another player that Oakland should look to resign is Lamarr Houston. Houston has expressed his interest in staying in Oakland. The Raiders have the cap space to go out and sign players to improve their team heading into next season.
Number 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars really have a lot of problems heading into this offseason. I don’t even know where to begin with this team. They re-signed Chad Henne to a two-year contract, but the quarterback position is still a huge question mark. Will they draft a quarterback this draft? I think they should. Bringing in a young quarterback with the third pick in this year’s draft can do a lot for this franchise. Unfortunately, Jacksonville doesn’t exactly have a good track record with quarterbacks.
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