Every NFL franchise, even the 12 that qualified for the postseason, has warts. Some are minor, requiring mere tweaks. Others are major and require a full overhaul, be it philosophical, personnel focused, or both. Here’s what every team in the league can do to make sure 2020 goes better than 2019.
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Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham
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Solution: Draft Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr. with the 23rd pick. Shenault has size (6-foot-2), and while his production at Colorado wasn’t eye-popping, he projects as a first-round talent.
Problem: Miami has major issues on defense. The Dolphins traded unhappy safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers, and could use another playmaker in the back end to replace him.
Solution: Draft LSU safety Grant Delpit, considered by most analysts the best safety in the draft. He projects as the kind of instant-impact force that teams drool over. Miami has three first-round picks, and they’d be wise to spend one on Delpit.
Problem: Tom Brady and Julian Edelman are a two-man band. Otherwise, New England is devoid of playmakers.
Solution: Trade for Odell Beckham Jr., still one of the most electrifying receivers in football. It’s clear that things aren’t working out for him in Cleveland. New England is the perfect place for him to resurrect his career.
Problem: The Jets couldn’t get to the passer. New York generated pressure on just 21.2 percent of opponents’ pass plays, 25th in the league.
Solution: Sign LB Shaquil Barrett, who finished the season with 19.5 sacks, and while the Bucs could use the franchise tag on him, they might want that for Jameis Winston. If he hits free agency, the Jets, who have plenty of cap room, should pounce.
Solution: Draft LSU’s Joe Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy, has good size (6-foot-4), and is putting the finishing touches on perhaps the greatest passing season in college football history. Even Cincinnati can’t screw this one up.
Problem: The Browns don’t have a coach, a general manager, or a sense of direction, and they have egg on their faces after a humiliating 6-10 season.
Solution: Bring in a defensive-minded head coach, and make sure he’s on board with whoever is tabbed to be the next GM. Also, stop catering to QB Baker Mayfield until his play suggests that he deserves to catered to.
Problem: Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the architect of the Ravens’ devastating offense, will be a candidate for a head coaching job.
Solution: Offer Roman a sizable raise and beg him to stay at least one more season. Seriously. What the Ravens have going is special, and one more year with Roman calling plays will buy them more time to groom a successor and make the inevitable transition seamless.
Problem: Pittsburgh’s quarterback play completely broke down in the season’s final few weeks, costing the Steelers a playoff spot.
Solution: Welcome Ben Roethlisberger back with open arms, instantly become a serious playoff contender again. Simple, right?
Titans running back Derrick Henry
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Problem: All Colts receivers seemed to get banged up in 2019, and QB Jacoby Brissett’s play suffered as a result.
Solution: Draft the best receiver available with the 13th pick -– it won’t be Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy -– and figure out once and for all if Brissett has what it takes to be the franchise quarterback.
Problem: Jacksonville struggled against the run; its 5.1 yards-per-carry average allowed was 31st in the NFL.
Solution: Draft Auburn’s Derrick Brown, the best defensive tackle in the draft, with the ninth overall pick.
Problem: The Texans took a major hit in draft capital (two firsts and a second) when they acquired tackle Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills from the Dolphins.
Solution: Use whatever picks are left to shore up a weak defense. Houston needs help against the run (27th in the league in yards per carry allowed) and the pass (25th in net yards per attempt allowed).
Problem: Derrick Henry, outstanding since Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback in Week 7, is about to hit free agency.
Solution: Resist the temptation to overpay Henry, whose physical style doesn’t bode well for long-term durability, and build around Tannehill through the draft, preferably with another running back and some offensive line depth.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
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Solution: Draft Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III. Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman and Noah Fant are nice weapons, but if Lock is going to get a real shot at seizing (and keeping) the job, he needs at least one more weapon.
Problem: QB Philip Rivers cratered in the second half of the season, and his days with the Chargers might well be over. Los Angeles needs a new face of the franchise as it prepares to move into a new stadium.
Solution: Ever heard of Tom Brady? Los Angeles should do everything in its power to lure Brady to southern California, which might be attractive to him, particularly if New England’s time in the playoffs ends in ugly fashion.
Problem: The Chiefs, for all their defensive improvements, still can’t stop the run. Kansas City gave up 4.9 yards per carry, 29th in the NFL.
Solution: Trade out of the first round into the early second, and snag Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis, who is projected as a late first – or early second-round pick.
Problem: The Raiders ran out of gas, falling short of the playoffs, and the Antonio Brown debacle left them thin at wide receiver.
Solution: Draft Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, a game-breaker who’s electric after the catch. He’s the kind of player who could provide a jolt as the Raiders head to Las Vegas.
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green
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Solution: Jones isn’t going anywhere, owing to the fact that he owns the team. Now that he reportedly is moving on from Jason Garrett, he must hire a head coach with a proven track record and get out of the way. We can dream, right?
Problem: Heading into the playoffs, Philadelphia has virtually no healthy wide receivers. It desperately needs playmakers to team with Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders.
Solution: Sign A.J. Green. Green’s season-long injury situation was butchered by the Bengals, and he is one of the lowest-maintenance superstar receivers in the league. He could do serious damage with Wentz.
Problem: The Giants need help everywhere, but even after selecting DeAndre Baker, who played poorly most of the season, they are still thin at cornerback.
Solution: Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah is the best cornerback in the draft. If the Lions don’t snap him up with the third overall pick, New York would be wise to take him.
Problem: Washington needs more talent everywhere. Dwayne Haskins is their quarterback of the future, so it must take the best available player with the second overall pick.
Solution: Ohio State defensive end Chase Young will be on the board at No. 2. Washington must pick him. Wasn’t that easy?
Redskins backup QB Case Keenum
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Problem: Chicago has no idea what it has in QB Mitchell Trubisky, now three full years into his NFL career.
Solution: Bring in a former starter, say, Case Keenum, as a backup as long as the price is right. Chicago must be prepared to move on quickly if Trubisky falters.
Problem: Detroit’s pass defense was atrocious, ranking 28th in the league in net yards per attempt allowed.
Solution: One-up the Giants and draft Ohio State corner Jeff Okudah with the third pick in the draft. Pray that head coach Matt Patricia, the former Patriots defensive coordinator, finally builds a legitimate defense.
Problem: Aaron Rodgers’ numbers were somewhat pedestrian by his standards this season, even as the Packers went 13-3. WR Davante Adams is fantastic, but Green Bay could use another playmaker.
Solution: Draft Penn State WR K.J. Hamler. Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray would fill another big need, but Hamler might be the most exciting open-field weapon in college football.
Problem: QB Kirk Cousins was very good, but he continues to struggle in prime-time games. (He’s 0-9 on Monday Night Football.)
Solution: Lobby the NFL to ban the Vikings from 2020 night games.
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
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Problem: Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions this season and set an NFL record with seven pick-sixes.
Solution: As incredible as it sounds, the solution might be to stay with Winston, and see if another year working with head coach Bruce Arians can cure him of his penchant for turnovers. If it can’t, make a clean break for 2021.
Problem: Atlanta is in dire need of pass rush help. The Falcons’ 28 sacks were tied for second fewest in the NFL.
Solution: Chase Young will be gone, but Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa might be around, and if he is, Atlanta should pounce. If Epenesa is gone, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos would be a good fallback option.
Problem: Cam Newton’s health is up in the air, and the Panthers’ next coach must help decide whether he’s a long-term option.
Solution: If Carolina parts ways with Newton, it should target Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, moving up to get him if need be. Tua will soon decide if he will enter the NFL Draft.
Problem: Michael Thomas just set the season receptions record (149), but New Orleans could use another playmaking wide receiver to pair with him.
Solution: TCU’s Jalen Reagor should still be around when the Saints are picking. He isn’t a household name like Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs III, but he can fly.
Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Problem: Emmanuel Sanders was nice pickup, but the 49ers still need to beef up their wide receiving corps, particularly with Sanders a free agent after this season.
Solution: Sign free-agent WR Breshad Perriman, who did virtually nothing in Tampa Bay until he got red-hot in the final three weeks of the season, catching 17 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns. He would be an intriguing complement to San Francisco’s collection of skill talent.
Problem: Arizona can’t defend the pass -– or give Kyler Murray time to throw.
Solution: The pass defense is truly abysmal in Arizona, but the Cardinals will live and die with Murray’s play, so they would do well to find better offensive linemen. A trade back in the first round to select Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs would be a shrewd, if un-sexy, move.
Problem: RB Todd Gurley’s knee isn’t going to get any better, and QB Jared Goff played like a rookie for much of the season.
Solution: Draft offensive line help, and figure a better “pitch count” for Gurley, who rushed for only 857 yards in 2019.
Problem: Seattle was abysmal against the run and pass in 2019, ranking in the bottom third of the league in both categories.
Solution: Draft Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, who has all the qualities teams look for in a three-down linebacker.
Chris Mueller is the co-host of The PM Team with Poni & Mueller on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan, Monday–Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET. Owner of a dog with a Napoleon complex, consumer of beer, cooker of chili, closet Cleveland Browns fan. On Twitter at @ChrisMuellerPGH – please laugh.