With the 2012 NFL season in the books and the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl Champions, 31 clubs are left unsatisfied and scurrying to improve in the New Year.
Free agency beings March 1 and the Entry Draft is in April, so front offices will be hard at work formulizing plans to correct their team’s problem areas.
Chat Sports examined all 32 franchises and identified their weaknesses, the best free agents on the market and college players in the draft pool, as we take a look at the 2013 NFL Off-Season.
Today, we breakdown the NFC:
2012 Recap: The Cardinals once again struggled, finishing dead last in the NFC West with a 5-11 record. The team had a carousel at QB, with Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer each getting nods behind center. Clearly, none of the quartet is the answer for the Cards, who ranked 28th in the league in passing, managing a meager 187.8 yards per game through the air.
Armed with the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft, the Cardinals will surely think long and hard about selecting a franchise signal caller. With slim pickings on the free agent market, it’s their best bet. Whoever ends up behind center, they will likely have a new blindside protector, another problem spot for the Cards for years.
Greatest Team Need: QB
Best Available Fits: Geno Smith (draft, West Virginia), Matt Barkley (draft, USC), Tyler Wilson (draft, Arkansas)
2012 Recap: The Falcons made another deep run in the postseason, falling to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. They finished with a 13-3 record in the regular season and boasted the league’s sixth-ranked passing attack, led by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
The future Hall of Fame tight end announced his retirement following the season, leaving a gaping hole at the key position. Atlanta attempted to strengthen their secondary with the addition of Asante Samuel last offseason, but the defense struggled mightily on both sides of the ball.
Greatest Team Need: TE
Best Available Fits: Fred Davis (UFA, Washington), Dennis Pitta (RFA, Baltimore, Dallas Clark (UFA, Tampa Bay), Martellus Bennett (UFA, New York Giants)
2012 Recap: After taking the league by storm in 2012, Cam Newton still flourished in 2012 but wasn’t the same dynamic player. The Panthers finished with a 7-9 record.
Greatest Team Need: DT
Best Available Fits: Henry Melton (UFA, Chicago), Randy Starks (UFA, Miami)
2012 Recap: The Bears came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and seemed headed for the playoffs amid an 8-3 start, but the team flamed out down the stretch amid a porous offensive line. They allowed 44 QB sacks and Cutler was on the run when he wasn’t on the ground.
They closed the season with a 10-6 record but it wasn’t good enough to qualify for the postseason. Fixing Cutler’s protectors will be a key to the offseason.
Greatest Team Need: OT
Best Available Fits: Ryan Clady (UFA, Denver), Jake Long (UFA, Miami)
2012 Recap: The Cowboys once again missed the postseason cut, compiling an 8-8 record en route to a third place finish in the NFC East. They had a chance to win the division, but lost to the rival Redskins in the regular season finale.
Greatest Team Need: OL
Best Available Fits: Eric Fisher (Draft, Central Michigan), Jonathan Cooper (Draft, North Carolina)
2012 Recap: The Lions offense was once again dynamic, as Calvin Johnson set a new season record for receiving yards at a whopping 1,964 yards. But the team still missed the postseason with a record.
Running back Mikel Leshoure struggled at times in his first season of duty, rushing for less than 800 yards in 14 games. Heading into 2013, the Lions will look to find him a complement in the backfield who can give a change of pace.
Greatest Team Need: RB
Best Available Fits: Reggie Bush (UFA, Miami), Javon Ringer (UFA, Tennessee)
While the passing game was hard to stop, the Packers struggled on the ground with a 20th ranked rushing attack. Starting running back Cedric Benson went down midseason and they were hard-pressed to find a suitable replacement.
Greatest Team Need: RB
Best Available Fits: Steven Jackson (UFA, St. Louis), Reggie Bush (UFA, Miami)
2012 Recap: The Vikings made the playoffs but were bounced in the first round, spearheaded by Offensive Player of the Year and MVP Adrian Peterson.
The Vikings could use some help on defense this offseason and a playmaking safety likely tops their wish list.
Greatest Team Need: S
Best Available Fits: LaRon Landry (UFA, New York Jets), Louis Delmas (UFA, Detroit)
2012 Recap: The Saints had a disastrous 2012 season amid the ouster of their head coach Sean Payton and several key players from Bountygate. With Jonathan Vilma and Peyton set for full seasons in 2013, the Saints should be back in the thick of the playoff run.
NOLA accumulated just 30 sacks last season, 25th in the league, and will need to improve on that number. Look for New Orleans to target an elite pass rusher come March 1.
Greatest Team Need: DE
Best Available Fits: Michael Johnson (UFA, Cincinnati), Dwight Freeney (UFA, Indianapolis)
New York Giants
2012 Recap: Big Blue suffered the dreaded Super Bowl hangover, failing to qualify for the second season a year after winning the big game.
Greatest Team Needs: TE, CB
Best Available Fits: TE – Dustin Keller (UFA, New York Jets), Fred Davis (UFA, Washington)
CB – Quentin Jammer (UFA, San Diego), Aqib Talib (UFA, New England)
2012 Recap: Philadelphia had one of its worst seasons in recent memory. They finished 4-12, saw the firing of long-time head coach Andy Reid and the likely last snap of Michael Vick behind center.
The offensive line did no favors for Vick and with second-year man Nick Foles taking over the reins, he’ll need to be protected to flourish and gain confidence.
Greatest Team Need: OL
Best Available Fits: OT – Jermon Bushrod (UFA, New Orleans). Gosder Cherilus (UFA, Detroit
OG – Chance Warmack (Draft, Alabama), Andy Levitre (UFA, Buffalo)
2012 Recap: The Niners came within yards of winning the Super Bowl, buoyed by a midseason change behind center from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.
Greatest Team Need: K
Best Available Fits: Rob Bironas (UFA, Tennessee), Lawrence Tynes (UFA, New York Giants)
2012 Recap: Seattle found a gem in Russell Wilson, who was the leader and franchise QB the team has been searching for. The Seahawks steamrolled the competition en route to the playoffs and a first round win over the Redskins.
They played the Falcons tough and were seconds away from winning but ultimately came up short. In 2013, the Seahawks will likely look for playmaking receivers to take their offense to the next level.
Greatest Team Need: WR
Best Available Fits: Mike Wallace (UFA, Pittsburgh), Wes Welker (UFA, New England), Greg Jennings (UFA, Green Bay)
2012 Recap: Jeff Fisher turned in a strong first-year campaign under the headset for the Rams and the team seems headed in the right direction. Armed with extra first rounds picks from the RG3 deal, the Rams will have plenty of ammunition to fill holes on their roster.
Greatest Team Needs: WR, S
WR – Dwayne Bowe (UFA, Kansas City), Greg Jennings (UFA, Green Bay), Justin Hunter (Draft, University of Tennessee)
S – Kenny Vacaro (Draft, Texas), Jairus Byrd (UFA, Buffalo)
The Buccaneers showed promise in 2012, but couldn’t get over the hump. Some weeks, they looked like one of the best teams in the league. Other weeks, also rans.
The Bucs need solid outside linebackers and cornerbacks to complement them and improve on their 7-9 record in 2012.
Greatest Team Needs: OLB, CB
Best Available Fits: OLB – Paul Kruger (UFA, Baltimore), Shaun Phillips (UFA, San Diego)
CB – Dee Milliner (Draft, Alabama), Cary Williams (UFA, Baltimore)
Led by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III, the Redskins finally escaped the NFC East doldrums, grabbing the division crown for the first time since 1999 with a 10-6 finish. Though RG3 tore his knee in the Wild Card contest loss to the Seahawks, he’s expected to be ready for the start of the 2013 season.
Where the Skins really faltered was defending the pass. The team finished No. 30 against the pass, allowing an average of 281.9 yards per game. They were expected to feature Tanard Jackson and Brandon Merriweather at the safety spots, but a year-long suspension for drugs and a knee injury derailed their respective seasons.
More so, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson struggled at the corner and the team is in dire need of a major overhaul of the defensive backfield.
Greatest Team Needs: CB, S
Best Available Fits: CB: Captain Munnerlyn (UFA, Carolina), Brent Grimes, (UFA, Atlanta)
S: Patrick Chung (UFA, New England), Williams Moore (UFA, Atlanta)
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