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. Today we’ll examine the AFC North:
- Weakness: Offensive guard. Baltimore doesn’t have a problem at right guard, where future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda is still playing like one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen. But the Ravens do have a vacancy on the left side after somewhat surprisingly trading Alex Lewis to the Jets earlier this month. At present, 2017 fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor and rookie fourth-rounder Ben Powers are competing to start between left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Matt Skura.
- Solution: See if Graham Glasgow is available. Glasgow was moved off center this offseason to make room for 2018 first-round pick Frank Ragnow, and he’s since been taking some practice reps with Detroit’s second-team offense, as Kyle Meinke of MLive.com recently detailed. While Glasgow may still be in the Lions’ plans, he is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Detroit could opt to go with Kenny Wiggins and the recently-extended Joe Dahl at guard. Glasgow, 26, is due a $2.025MM base salary next season.
- Weakness: Offensive tackle depth. After losing first-round pick and projected starting left tackle Jonah Williams to a shoulder injury, the Bengals got desperate, adding longtime Cincinnati security blanket Andre Smith on a one-year deal. He’s essentially the Bengals’ only option behind starters Cordy Glenn and Bobby Hart. When Glenn went down in practice earlier this week, John Jerry — yes, the John Jerry who plays guard and didn’t appear in the NFL in 2018 — slid to left tackle. Send help, please.
- Solution: Send a third-round pick to the Eagles for Halapoulivaati Vaitai. “Big V” doesn’t have a starting role in Philadelphia, and after the Eagles used this year’s first-round pick on fellow offensive tackle Andre Dillard, it’s unclear if Vaitai — whose contract expires after 2019 — has a long-term future with the Birds. Vaitai, a 10-game starter during the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl run, could line up at any number of positions for the Bengals, and if re-signed, would become the club’s right tackle for the long haul. Cincinnati missed out on veteran tackle assistance when Chris Clark (Saints) and Ben Ijalana (Jaguars) landed deals earlier this week.
- Weakness: Left tackle. The Browns are all-in on the 2019 season, and while they’ve accumulated talent at an impressive pace, left tackle is still the one area that could present a concern. Former failed No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson wasn’t a disaster in his eight starts for Cleveland, but among the 106 offensive tackles who saw at least 33% playtime in 2018, Robinson ranked only 60th in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking efficiency metric, which measures pressure allowed on a per-snap basis.
- Solution: Trade for Trent Williams. As of earlier this week, the Redskins were still reportedly telling teams they have no intention of moving Williams, who had demanded a trade after expressing displeasure with Washington’s handling of both his contract and a health scare. Color me skeptical. The Redskins don’t have much hope of contending this season and have already signed a replacement left tackle in Donald Penn, so I’m guessing Williams could be had for the right price. Cleveland should offer a second-round pick to begin negotiations.
- Weakness: Safety depth. In Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers are returning two safeties who each played on more than 90% of the club’s defensive snaps. But Pittsburgh also released veteran defensive back Morgan Burnett, who saw action on 389 snaps a year ago. The Steelers could use a third safety capable of contributing, and they also need depth, as backups Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen have only played a combined 219 snaps during their respective careers.
- Solution: Acquire Josh Jones from the Packers. The 61st overall selection in the 2017 draft, Jones’ career in Green Bay has never really gotten off the ground. He hasn’t played on more than 70% of the Packers’ snaps in either of his pro campaigns, and Green Bay decisively replaced him this offseason by signing free agent Adrian Amos and drafting Darnell Savage in the first round. Jones read the writing on the wall and requested a trade in May. He’d be able to fit in Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler‘s scheme as a “big nickel.”