The season is over and the offseason is here. Every team will try to get better, but some teams have more pressure to get it right then others. Nobody here is expecting the Detroit Lions, New York Jets, or Houston Texans to be huge players in free agency; they’re not close to competing. Those franchises aren’t in the midst of a competitive window. They don’t need to sign big names or go out and address all their issues right now.
The following four teams face a different set of circumstances. This is the offseason they need to get right. A great offseason with set them up for Super Bowl contention, but a middling or terrible one will lead to lamentations and what-could-have-beens. These are the four franchises facing the most pressure this offseason.
Congratulations, you made it to the Super Bowl! Nobody cares anymore. It was a massive success making it to the final game, but Cincinnati is not in a position to sit tight and try to run it back. They have great pieces, but I’ll be damned if they just let them be.
The offensive line was exposed in the Super Bowl. Eli Apple made a mockery of himself trying to cover Cooper Kupp. They have plenty of cap space, but they also have big free agents that need to be brought back, starting with Pro Bowl safety Jessie Bates and tight end C.J Uzomah. Re-sign both and then cut Trae Waynes. Find a replacement for Apple because that was embarrassing. After that, it’s all about fixing the offensive line.
Left tackle Jonah Williams isn’t bad, but the rest of the OL needs to be addressed, Reily Reiff wasn’t a bad idea; he fell victim to injury. In terms of possible additions, Trent Brown from the Patriots is a solid option at right tackle and Terron Armstead can slide in at left tackle; the Bengals can move Williams to right tackle if need be. Center Ryan Jensen is also a premium piece they should look into acquiring. All good young quarterbacks need a reliable center. If not Jensen, the Bengals should look at drafting Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, who is an absolute beast who shouldn’t fall to 31. Guard Connor Williams is also a name you should watch for. He’s only 25 and has played well when healthy.
Every one of these players will be expensive options, but the Bengals can’t skimp at this position. If they do, I will personally see to it that Paul Brown is forced to sell the team.
Los Angles Chargers
The Chargers missed the NFL Playoffs last season because of questionable coaching by Brandon Staley, but if we’re being honest, they shouldn’t have even been in that position. The Chargers started the year hot and choked near the end because of their flaws. All it did was cost Justin Herbert a chance at a Super Bowl run.
This team has serious issues, starting with defense. They have a projected $58 million in cap space, and they need to use it. IF Herbert misses the playoffs next season, there will be a firing squad in LA.
To start off, re-sign Derwin James. I know he’s injury-prone, but he’s their second-best defensive player and a game changer. Cut Bryan Bulaga and find his replacement. The Chargers nailed the Rashawn Slater pick, so I wouldn’t be opposed to them drafting a guy at 17 instead of splurging on an offensive tackle in free agency.
The only other key free agent is Mike Williams. I like Mike Williams. I also think he’s replaceable. Depending on what he’s asking, I’d say bring him back, but there will be a needy team who will throw good money at him, kind of like the Jets did with Corey Davis last offseason. Prepare for him to play elsewhere.
The defense still has major holes at defensive tackle, linebacker, and cornerback. They need another pass rusher to pair with Joey Bosa. The Chris Harris experiment had mixed results. Asante Samul Jr. and Michael Davis show promise, but if you can get an elite shutdown guy like JC Jackson, the Chargers should invest in the position. Kenneth Murray, on the other hand, has blown coverages left and right, so looking to add more depth in the middle of the field wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s not necessary to splurge on someone here. Bring in an affordable veteran.
To the defensive line we go, and wow, it’s a rough sight outside of Bosa. Jerry Tillery has been solid, but they need more. Jason Pierre-Paul could be a great fit in LA. He played alongside Shaq Barret in Tampa Bay to great success, so he could slide right in next to Bosa and not have to be the main guy. On the inside, I’ll admit it’s slim pickings. Drafting someone at 17 would be the best bet for value, but they need someone to fill in that hole. While Staley has been labeled a defensive genius, his first defense sure didn’t look like it.
Unlike the Chargers and Bengals, Jacksonville is nowhere near competing. Why are they on this list? Trevor Lawrence. That’s why. People seem to forget about Lawrence after his terrible rookie year, but that doesn’t change a thing about how good he can become.
Lawrence was drafted first overall in 2021 for a reason. Hiring Doug Pederson was the right call. Een though Trent Baalke should’ve been fired, I’ll bite my tongue. Jacksonville has first overall pick again in 2022, and the current betting favorite to go number one overall is Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. The Jaguars need tackle help with Cam Robinson set to hit free agency, and Jawaan Taylor having problems of his own.
The Jags also have a projected $56 million in cap space, and they don’t have any huge cap hits that need to be purged from the roster. Beyond taking a tackle with the top pick, the Jags need offensive line help. Center Brandon Lindor is the only good lineman they have on the roster. Stealing guard Austin Corbet from the Los Angles Rams would be great for the Jags. Coming off a Super Bowl at 26 years old and looking to get paid, the Jags should be a fit for Corbet. They have the money and need a guard in his prime.
Weapons for Lawrence are also a huge need. Outside of Laviska Shenault, there’s not much else. There’s two possible routes the Jags can go here. The first is to throw massive money at the big names; the second is to find younger guys coming off good seasons to pay, and there’s a lot out there to chose from. Michael Gallup, Mike Williams, and even Chris Godwin are all good option for Jacksonville and are all under 28 years old. The 2022 NFL Draft is a very deep receiver class, so they could find a competent receiver in the mid to late rounds as well. The one thing that is certain is the Jags need more pass catchers.
The Bears nuked the whole front office by firing Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace and bringing in Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles. They have a defensive-minded head coach with an already stout defense, a project quarterback, and not much to work with on offense. They look similar to the 2018 Buffalo Bills.
Justin Fields has crazy potential, but not a lot of people have trust in the Bears to develop him. Chicago doesn’t have their first round pick this year because they traded up to select Fields last year, and they don’t have much cap space to work with because of how much Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn are set to make. The Bears have about $25 million to work with.
There are a few nice pieces already in place for the Bears. Darrell Mooney and Cole Kmet are great young players. David Montgomery can carry the run game on his own. They’ll need to replace Allen Robinson this offseason and need to acquire a true WR1 once again. Godwin would obviously be nice if the Bucs don’t tag him. Amari Cooper has recently made headlines for being a potential cut; the Bears should be all over him as well. Lesser known players like Zay Jones and Cedrick Brown could also help.
Offensive line is another cause for concern. They have Teven Jenkins, last year’s second round pick, and a solid center in Cody Whitehair. Bringing back guard James Daniels is a top priority. They still need another guard and a left tackle.
Everything comes down to Justin Fields no matter how you slice it. Chicago has to figure out if he’s the guy as soon as possible, because there’s nothing worse then being stuck in limbo and having to make a tough decision on a young quarterback. Fields has all the tools to succeed, but the Bears have to put an offense around him.