NFL free agency: NFC team needs and FA fits

It’s like Christmas time for NFL fans.

Unlike some of the other major sports, National Football League general managers and coaches can quickly turn around their fortunes with one strong off-season (see: Denver, Washington, or Indianapolis).

NFL teams can begin to negotiate with free agents as soon as this weekend but the free agency officially begins Tuesday.

Needless to say, it’s safe to expect a flurry of movement right when the new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET.

So to get you prepared, we broke down the team needs of every NFC team and what players on the free agent market they could look to address the weaknesses on their roster.

Arizona Cardinals

2012 record: 5-11 (4th in NFC West)

Team needs: QB, OT, CB

Free agency fit: Max Starks, OT

The skinny: There won’t be any quick fixes at quarterback in this free agency class but Arizona can surely look to upgrade their porous offensive line. Starks, who played under new head coach Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh, would be a cost-effective addition that could help groom some of the raw, young tackles on the roster.

Atlanta Falcons

2012 record: 13-3 (1st in NFC South)

Team needs: DE, RB, TE

Free agency fit: Dwight Freeney, DE

The skinny: The Falcons had to clear out some quality veterans to create cap space last week and aren’t expected to make any huge splashes in free agency. With John Abraham now on the market, the Falcons are in dire need for a veteran pass rusher like Freeney, who is looking to join a contender. He would need his snap count limited but could easily fill Abraham’s role at a cheaper price.

Carolina Panthers

2012 record: 7-9 (T-2nd in NFC South)

Team needs: CB, DT, S

Free agency fit: Kenny Phillips, S

The skinny: After cutting long-time starting cornerback Chris Gamble, the Panthers need to add a veteran to their defensive backfield. With new general manager David Gettleman coming over from the New York Giants, it makes former first-round safety Kenny Phillips an ideal fit. Phillips would be a starter right away and provide a major upgrade to incumbent Haruki Nakamara.

Chicago Bears

2012 record: 10-6 (3rd in NFC North)

Team needs: LT, OG, ILB

Free agency fit: Jake Long, OT

The skinny: Lovie Smith was never able to fix the offensive line and new coach Marc Trestman made it a priority at his opening press conference. The Bears have salary cap space with Brian Urlacher hitting the market, so making a run at former No.1 overall pick Jake Long would make sense for the Bears. Jay Cutler and Matt Forte would surely appreciate the addition of Long to a group that has struggled to protect anything the last few seasons.

Dallas Cowboys

2012 record: 8-8 (3rd in NFC East)

Team needs: OG, S, DT

Free agent fit: Brandon Moore, OG

The skinny: Tony Romo has gotten most of the blame for the Cowboys struggles but the offensive line was a major problem last season. The Cowboys have one of the worst cap situations in the league so they aren’t expected to make any major movie so a solid veteran guard like Brandon Moore would be a logical addition. Moore played under OC Bill Callahan with the Jets and would be the immediate starter at right guard.

Detroit Lions

2012 record: 4-12 (4th in NFC North)

Team needs: DE, CB, RB

Free agency fit: Reggie Bush, RB

The skinny: With Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Sammie Lee Hill scheduled to hit free agency, defensive line may be a bigger need for Detroit. But the team wasn’t the same on offence last season without Jahvid Best, whose career appears to be over because of lingering concussions. Reggie Bush would provide a needed speed element in the backfield that would perfectly compliment Mikel LeShoure.

Green Bay Packers

2012 record: 11-5 (1st in NFC North)

Team needs: RB, DE, C

Free agency fit: Cullen Jenkins, DL

The skinny: Green Bay is a draft-oriented roster and have rarely made any free agent additions under GM Ted Thompson. Their moves last season (Cedric Benson and Jeff Saturday) didn’t particularly work out so if they decide to go down the free agent route, bringing in someone familiar with their system would be ideal. So expect the Packers to take a look at Cullen Jenkins, who they haven’t been able to adequately replace since he left in 2011.

Minnesota Vikings

2012 record: 10-6 (2nd in NFC North)

Team needs: WR, ILB, OLB

Free agency fit: Greg Jennings

The skinny: The Vikings regime has invested a ton in Christian Ponder so surrounding him with talent should be their top priority. Some have speculated that the Vikings could make a run at Mike Wallace, as the team desperately needs speed on the outside but may be above their price range and could turn to a familiar face in Greg Jennings. The former Packers receiver would complement Ponder, who does not have great arm strength and is much more accurate with his intermediate routes.

New Orleans Saints

2012 record: 7-9 (T-2nd NFC South)

Team needs: DE. OLB, LT

Free agency fit: Victor Butler, LB

The skinny: The Saints would love to make splashy additions on defence but don’t have the cap space to make those kinds of moves right now. The Saints will likely look for value free agents who have experience in a 3-4 defence and could turn to an edge rusher like Victor Butler who shined in flashes for Dallas last season. Butlers coach in Dallas? Rob Ryan, who happens to be running the Saints new-look defence.

New York Giants

2012 record: 9-7 (2nd in NFC East)

Team needs: CB, ILB, LG

Free agency fit: Brent Grimes, CB

The skinny: The Giants front office specializes in finding value, mostly in the draft, but may look to the free market to fix their troubled secondary. Their young cornerbacks (Prince Amukamara and Javon Hosley) have struggled at times thus far and could use the guidance of a tough veteran like Brent Grimes, who was a Pro Bowl player in Atlanta. Grimes is physical and could prove to be another solid value addition by the Giants front office.

Philadelphia Eagles

2012 record: 4-12 (4th in NFC East)

Team needs: DE, CB, S

Free agency fit: Dashan Goldson, S

The skinny: Chip Kelly inherited a messy situation on defence but the team has already begun to clear out the bad contracts and underperforming personnel. The biggest hole appears to be at safety, a position Andy Reid was unable to address at all (passed on Earl Thomas) after losing Brian Dawkins to free agency a few years back. Dashan Goldson is said to be looking for a big contract but would be a perfect addition to stabilize this unit while the Eagles can address their front seven in the draft.

San Francisco 49ers

2012 record: 11-4-1 (1st in NFC West)

Team needs: CB, WR, DE

Free agency fit: Julian Edleman, WR

The skinny: After the secondary was torched throughout the playoffs, the 49ers are expected to address that position in the draft where they will have up to 15 picks so a more plausible addition could come on offence. With Mario Manningham recovering from an ACL injury, and Kyle Williams and A.J. Jenkins still learning the position, the 49ers could turn to reliable receiver Julian Edleman. The scrappy slot receiver would be excellent short-term insurance for Manningham while Jim Harbaugh can develop the younger players.

Seattle Seahawks

2012 record: 11-5 (2nd in NFC West)

Team needs: DE, WR, OLB

Free agency fit: Richard Seymour, DT

The skinny: With Alan Branch and Jason Jones scheduled to hit free agency, Seattle is likely to address their defensive line in the draft and free agency. Richard Seymour is the kind of interior rusher that the Seahawks haven’t had consistently in the Pete Carroll era and has ties to assistant head coach Tom Cable. In what could be his final contract, Seymour could fit as a value signing.

St. Louis Rams

2012 record: 7-8-1 (3rd in NFC West)

Team needs: WR, LG, SS

Free agency fit: Dustin Keller, TE

The skinny: Tight end is not a glaring need but Jeff Fisher understands the Rams need to add playmakers for Sam Bradford on offence. Lance Kendricks showed improvement in his second season but a premier starter like Dustin Keller, who played for Brian Schottenheimer in New York, could give Bradford the consistent big target down the field that the Rams have been lacking. After the RG3 trade, they have multiple draft picks to address the other needs across their roster.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2012 record: 7-9 (T-2 in NFC South)

Team needs: CB, TE, RT

Free agency fit: Martellius Bennett, TE

The skinny: Josh Freeman is entering the final year of his contract and showed great improvement last year with the additions of Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin and Dallas Clark. Freeman needs to take the next step so the team could look to add another playmaker at the tight end position.

Martellius Bennett would be a great fit in Mike Sullivan’s offence and would prove to be a nice upgrade over Luke Stocker. He is still a young player and the Bucs are loaded with cap space so they could target the former Giants tight end and pair him with his brother Michael who played awfully well at defensive end for Tampa Bay last season.

Washington Redskins

Record: 10-6 (1st in NFC East)

Free agency fit: Ryan Harris, OT

The skinny: The Redskins have historically been very aggressive in free agency but are pretty tight up against the cap. They aren’t expected to do too much this year but could use some insurance on an offensive line that needs to improve. Ryan Harris comes from the Denver zone blocking scheme that Mike Shanaahan has successfully used his entire head coaching career and would be a solid signing to help protect Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins next season.


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