The 2019 regular season is right around the corner, but every NFL team still has at least one position on its roster that could use improvement. And there’s still plenty of time to address those areas of need! Free agents are readily available on the open market, while preseason trades provide another avenue of player procurement. 19 NFL trades were executed between August 1st and September 1st of 2018, and that number could increase this year.
Let’s take a look at the weakest positional group — and a potential solution — for each NFL club, starting with the AFC East:
- Weakness: No. 2 cornerback. 2018 undrafted free agent Levi Wallace was a success story during his rookie campaign, grading out as Pro Football Focus‘ fourth overall cornerback. That ranking comes with a small sample size caveat, however, as Wallace played only 218 coverage snaps, 112th among all NFL corners. Buffalo’s No. 2 cornerback job behind Tre’Davious White is reportedly Wallace’s to lose, according to Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic, but the Bills could be well-served to add depth.
- Solution: Hope Wallace continues to produce, or sign Coty Sensabaugh. If the Bills want to bring in a veteran corner, Sensabaugh is probably the best available option on the market. In 10 starts for the Steelers in 2018, the 30-year-old defensive back ranked ninth among qualified corners in yards allowed per pass and 26th with a 56% success rate (meaning he was effective at stopping opposing wide receivers short of the sticks), per Football Outsiders’ charting data. Sensabaugh met with the Saints earlier this year but should come cheap.
- Weakness: Right side of the offensive line. Essentially any position along the Dolphins’ offensive line could stand to be improved, save for left tackle where former first-rounder Laremy Tunsil is entrenched. But right guard and right tackle are the true problem areas, with some combination of Jesse Davis, Jordan Mills, and Will Holden projected to take starting roles. Miami will have a tough time evaluating the long-term future of quarterback Josh Rosen if he’s getting destroyed on every play (see Cardinals, Arizona – 2018).
- Solution: Sign Brandon Fusco or Jermey Parnell. Now 30 years old, Fusco missed the final nine games of the 2018 campaign with an ankle injury, but he’d been relatively healthy in the three seasons prior and appeared in 46 of a possible 48 contests. Parnell, meanwhile, is a prototypical road-grading right tackle who would give the Dolphins a veteran presence. While the Jaguars and Parnell ran behind right tackle at a league-low 4.6% clip last season, they generated 5.22 adjusted line yards when doing so, the third-highest figure in the NFL, per Football Outsiders.
New England Patriots
- Weakness: Tight end. Losing arguably the greatest tight end of all time will hurt, won’t it? After Rob Gronkowski decided to hang up his cleats, the Patriots have used half-measures to attempt to mitigate his loss. New England signed veterans Ben Watson and Lance Kendricks to one-year deals, but Watson is suspended for the first four games of the 2019 campaign and Kendricks has only topped 40 receptions twice in his eight-year career. Fellow free agent addition Matt LaCosse doesn’t have much of a track record and is currently hindered by a high-ankle sprain, and trade acquisition Eric Saubert is primarily a blocker and special-teamer.
- Solution: Trade a conditional fourth-round pick for Cameron Brate. New Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians will likely use a good deal of “11” personnel — one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers — during his first season in Tampa Bay, lessening the need for Brate behind starting tight end O.J. Howard. Brate, who would instantly become the top tight end on the Patriots’ roster, is due a fully guaranteed salary of $7MM in 2019. After this season, however, New England would hold options on Brate in each of the next four years. From 2016-17, Brate averaged 53 receptions, 625 yards, and seven touchdowns per season with the Bucs.
New York Jets
- Weakness: Edge rusher. After ranking in the bottom-half of the league in both sacks and pressure rate in 2019, the Jets attempted to bolster their pass-rushing unit by signing Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. New York originally agreed to a deal that would have paid Barr more than $14MM annually, but the former first-round pick backed out of the deal in order to remain in Minnesota. Aside from spending a third-round pick on lottery ticket Jachai Polite, the Jets haven’t done anything to address their pass rush, leaving Brandon Copeland and Jordan Jenkins as the club’s top options on the edge.
- Solution: Trade a late-round pick for Shane Ray (Ravens) or Haason Reddick (Cardinals). Ray is in danger of not making Baltimore’s 53-man roster, so the Jets could potentially get him for next to nothing. The 23rd overall selection in the 2015 draft, Ray posted his best campaign during his sophomore season, registering eight sacks and finishing as a top-40 edge defender with 45 pressures, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy recently. Reddick is playing under his third coordinator in three years and doesn’t have any ties to Arizona’s current coaching staff.