All 32 NFL teams attempted to fill as many roster holes as possible during the free-agency period, but every club will head into the 2014 draft with positional needs.
Here’s a look at the needs for each AFC team.
(The positions are listed in order, by importance.)
Buffalo Bills – WR, RT, TE
The Bills grabbed Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in last year’s draft, and they have the polarizing but productive Stevie Johnson under contract. However, second-year quarterback EJ Manuel needs more offensive weaponry, and a huge, red-zone target would be a major boon to his development. Right tackle Erik Pears is on the wrong side of 30 and a major liability as run-blocker. He wasn’t very good in pass-protect last year, either.
Miami Dolphins – RT, WR, FS, RG
The Dolphins diligently rebuilt the left side of their offensive line in free agency by signing Branden Albert to play tackle and Shelley Smith to potentially man the left guard spot. But they still need a capable right tackle and right guard to protect Ryan Tannehill. Although Mike Wallace is making big money, the team could add another wideout, especially a physically imposing one. With Chris Clemons gone, there’s a vacancy on the back end of the secondary, as well.
New York Jets – RG, Edge, CB, TE, S
During the heyday of the recently released Mark Sanchez, the Jets boasted a smash mouth offensive line, which was one of the best in the NFL. Now, it needs some patchwork, particularly at guard. Willie Colon is nearing the end of his solid career and 2013 third-round pick Brian Winters struggled mightily as a rookie.
Calvin Pace isn’t the edge-rushing specialist he once was, and Geno Smith could use a seam-stretching tight end to complement Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley.
New England Patriots – DT, C, TE, LG
With Vince Wilfork likely done in New England, the Patriots must fortify the interior of their defensive line, Wilfork’s home for the past decade.
There was an issue at center in 2013, so one of the premier pivots could be on Bill Belichick’s radar. With Rob Gronkowski’s future uncertain and not much depth behind him, the Patriots might be in the market to add another undervalued tight end.
Logan Mankins has been an absolute warrior at left guard for years, but he’s 32 and will represent a cap hit of $11 million in 2015 with only $4 million of that being dead.
Cincinnati Bengals – DE, SLB, CB, QB, S
After losing mammoth defensive end Michael Johnson in free agency, the Bengals are in need of a sound edge defender to line up opposite Carlos Dunlap. Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga are more than capable linebackers, and Vincent Rey proved to be a fine backup in 2013, but the strongside linebacker position needs an upgrade.
Also, with Leon Hall coming off another injury, Terence Newman in his mid 30′s and Dre Kirkpatrick still slowly acclimating to the NFL, Marvin Lewis’ team could use another defensive back.
Is this the year the Bengals draft a possible or eventual replacement for Andy Dalton at quarterback?
Baltimore Ravens – RT, RB, DE, Edge
Michael Oher is now a Tennessee Titan, although his reliability had fallen off drastically since his sparkling rookie year in 2009. Joe Flacco, who’s not the most nimble quarterback in the league, needs to be protected to operate the offense, and the running game must get better blocking than it did in 2013.
Defensive end Arthur Jones was snagged by the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, therefore his replacement must be found instantly. Also, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil aren’t as fresh-legged as they once were, which lends credence to the idea that a young pass-rusher would work wonders for John Harbaugh’s defense at this point.
Pittsburgh Steelers – CB, DE, TE, S, WR
Ike Taylor will be 34 in May and William Gay is already 29, so an injection of youth into the Steelers secondary wouldn’t be surprising. LaMarr Woodley departed in free agency, and even if Brett Keisel returns at defensive end, he’ll be 36 in September—Pittsburgh needs defensive line help.
Also, a safety to fill the void left by the departure of Ryan Clark—if he doesn’t re-sign—would be a major help to the Steeler defense.
Lastly, Ben Roethlisberger needs a big-bodied wide receiver and a future Heath Miller replacement at tight end.
Cleveland Browns – QB, RT, SILB
Brian Hoyer was competent during his time as the Browns starting quarterback in 2013, but he’s recovering from an ACL tear, and he’ll be 29 in October. Mitchell Schwartz was solid as a rookie in 2012, unfortunately he regressed this past season at right tackle.
Cleveland isn’t in trouble at the linebacker position with Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson manning the inside spots of Mike Pettine’s multiple alignment scheme, but with age being a factor for Dansby, the team’s front office could be search of a youthful linebacker of the future.
Indianapolis Colts – Edge, RB, S, OL
The Colts need pass-rushing help—Robert Mathis shouldn’t have to do it by himself. Donald Brown was easily Indianapolis’ most efficient runner in 2013, but he’s a San Diego Charger now.
Defensively, LaRon Landry could use a rangy running mate at safety, and Andrew Luck could use more offensive line protection, especially at right guard. Then again, 2013 third-round pick Hugh Thornton still has time to develop after a disastrous rookie campaign.
Houston Texans – QB, LG, RT, RB, DL, ILB, TE
Case Keenum showed flashes last year, yet he wasn’t even close to being good enough to warrant legitimate starter consideration in 2014 and beyond. The right tackle spot is a question mark, although 2013 pick Brennan Williams can be penciled in as the starter for now. There’s more of a hole at left guard, actually.
With Arian Foster nearing the twilight of his career and Ben Tate a Cleveland Brown, a mid-round pick should be used on one of the top running backs in the class.
Also, Brian Cushing needs a linebacker to play alongside him, the defensive line needs depth next to J.J. Watt and the tight end spot is in need of an upgrade.
Jacksonville Jaguars – QB, OT, TE, WR, OG, SLB
The Jaguars snagged some former Seattle Seahawks in free agency, which, quite obviously, was pretty smart. But the team won’t progress without the right quarterback. Furthermore, that signal-caller will have to be protected, and Jacksonville’s offensive tackle play was atrocious last season.
With the future of Justin Blackmon somewhat unknown, another large wide receiver would be useful.
Don’t rule out an impactful linebacker, either.
Tennessee Titans -Edge, QB, RB, CB, OT, TE
Kamerion Wimbley is on his last legs, and the switch to a 3-4 alignment under defensive coordinator Ray Horton calls for more springy pass-rushers than the Titans currently have on their roster.
Can head coach Ken Whisenhunt save Jake Locker’s career? How much longer will Chris Johnson be in Nashville?
The loss of Alterraun Verner hurts, so cornerback is a pressing need.
Michael Roos is a stud left tackle, but he’ll be 32 in October. Now could be the time to find his understudy.
Denver Broncos – WR, LG, MLB
The Broncos have NO NEEDS, right?! Well, actually, they do. Kind of. Eric Decker’s departure will hurt, as will the loss of left guard Zane Beadles.
Wesley Woodyard regressed in 2013 after a great 2012, but now that he’s in Tennessee, John Elway and Co. should look for a big middle linebacker to play next to the rangy Danny Trevathan.
Oakland Raiders -LG, RG, QB, DT, RB
The addition of Matt Schaub somewhat mitigates the need for a quarterback, but the interior of the offensive line needs work next to stud center Stefen Wisniewski and between new tackles Donald Penn and Austin Howard.
Darren McFadden is back on a one-year deal, but Oakland lost the pleasantly surprising Rashad Jennings in free agency.
Kansas City Chiefs – FS, RG, WR, Edge
First and foremost, the Chiefs must add a ball-hawking free safety to help Eric Berry. The right guard spot is a little iffy right now, and Alex Smith could use another pass-catching target.
How much longer will Tamba Hali and Justin Houston be Kansas City’s starting outside linebackers? Don’t be surprised if Chiefs management looks for an edge-rusher of the future in the draft.
San Diego Chargers – NT, CB, OG, WR
To continue running the 3-4, the Chargers absolutely need a nose tackle to replace Cam Thomas. They also should draft a cornerback or two to add to the secondary group of Steve Williams, Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall.
Philip Rivers gets the ball out quickly, but the relatively shaky guard spot should be addressed, as well at the receiver position— Keenan Allen needs a partner out wide.