PFR Originals

Poll: Is Jalen Ramsey Worth Two First-Round Picks?

Jalen Ramsey wants out. The Jaguars, meanwhile, don’t necessarily want to let him go. 

The Jags’ star cornerback has been frustrated for some time – he’s been openly campaigning for a top-of-the-market extension, but the Jaguars have been mostly unwilling to have serious talks with him. Then, this season, he had a major blowup with head coach Doug Marrone.

On the field, Ramsey is upset that he has been utilized in zone coverage, even though he ranks as one of the league’s best man-to-man defenders. Off the field, he wants to secure the bag, though he no longer wants that bag to come from the willing hands of owner Shad Khan.

With that in mind, the Jaguars seem to be following the old axiom of “Don’t tell them no. Tell ’em how much it’ll cost.” The asking price was initially set at two first-round picks for Ramsey. Now, it has advanced to two first-round picks, plus moreThe Jaguars did secure an offer of two first-round picks, but they declined, because the offer came from a contending club that is likely to pick near the backend of the draft.

Reportedly, it will take an “astronomical” offer for the Jags to part with him, but that could just be an attempt by the Jaguars to improve their leverage. Meanwhile, roughly every other team in the NFL has at least some interest, but they’re scared off by the draft capital required since acquiring Ramsey would also mean giving him a fat contract.

Of course, a first-round pick from, say, the Patriots, does not carry the same value as a first-round pick from, say, the Dolphins. But – we want to know: if you were an NFL GM, would you be willing to cough up two first-round picks for Ramsey, with the knowledge that you would also have to give him an extension north of $75MM?

Cast your vote below (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comments.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Waiver Priority For Week 4

Starting today, the NFL’s waiver claim order will be reflective of 2019 records, rather than 2018, as ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. As is the case with the NFL Draft, the order of priority is inverted based on win/loss record.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Waiver System, Explained]

In cases of ties – and there are many at this stage of the season – they are broken by the cumulative record of the team’s previous opponents. For example, the Redskins and Broncos’ (0-3) opponents have a combined record of 6-3, they have priority over the Jets, whose opponents are 7-2. If two teams with the same record, and same opponent record, happen to claim the same player, the dispute is settled with a coin toss (h/t to Field).

With that in mind, and with serious help from Sam Robinson, here’s the full rundown of every team’s current waiver priority as we get set for Week 4:

T-1. Broncos (0-3)
T-1. Redskins (0-3)
3. Jets (0-3)
T-4. Bengals (0-3)
T-4. Dolphins (0-3)
T-4. Steelers (0-3)
7. Cardinals (0-2-1)
8. Eagles (1-2)
T-9. Browns (1-2)
T-9. Titans (1-2)
11. Panthers (1-2)
T-12. Buccaneers (1-2)
T-12. Falcons (1-2)
T-12. Raiders (1-2)
15. Jaguars (1-2)
16. Chargers (1-2)
17. Giants (1-2)
T-18. Colts (2-1)
T-18. Bears (2-1)
20. Ravens (2-1)
21. Texans (2-1)
T-22. Seahawks (2-1)
T-22. Vikings (2-1)
24. Saints (2-1)
25. Lions (2-0-1)
26. Patriots (3-0)
T-27. 49ers (3-0)
T-27. Bills (3-0)
T-27. Cowboys (3-0)
30. Rams (3-0)
31. Chiefs (3-0)
32. Packers (3-0)

Biggest Roster Weakness: NFC South

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 NFC South:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Weakness: Defensive tackle depth. When healthy, the Falcons boast one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, so finding a true weak area was admittedly difficult. But defensive tackle is a roster spot where Atlanta could potentially use a few more bodies behind star Grady Jarrett. At present, former Saint Tyeler Davison is projected to start next to Jarrett, while Jack Crawford, Deadrin Senat, and reclamation project Ra’Shede Hageman will also see time.
  • Solution: Sign Mike Pennel. Surprisingly released by the Patriots earlier this week, Pennel is a 6’4″, 330-pound mammoth who would give the Falcons size on the interior. Now 28 years old, Pennel spent the past two seasons with the Jets as a rotational defensive tackle, and last year graded as the NFL’s No. 15 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus, which lauded Pennel’s strength in run defense. Pennel will almost surely land a new contract before the regular season begins, so Atlanta should act quickly.

Carolina Panthers

  • Weakness: Backup quarterback. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera expects Cam Newton to be ready for Week 1 after the veteran quarterback suffered a foot injury during the preseason, but Newton has now already broken the injury seal. Newton, of course, struggled with a shoulder issue in 2018 and was deactivated for the season’s final two games, allowing backups Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen to start one contest each. Heinicke and Allen are both still on the Carolina roster, as is third-round pick Will Grier, but the Panthers could use a more proven commodity behind Newton.
  • Solution: Trade for C.J. Beathard. While 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has said he’s keeping three quarterbacks — Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, and Beathard — on San Francisco’s roster, that’s likely a ploy to get another club to sacrifice a draft pick in exchange for either Mullens or Beathard. Mullens could be expensive to acquire given his performance in 2018, but Beathard should come cheaper given his relatively lackluster results last season. He’d come with two years of club control at cheap rates, with base salaries totaling less than $2MM through 2020.

New Orleans Saints

  • Weakness: Offensive tackle depth. The Saints have one of the league’s best offensive lines, ranking top-three in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate in 2018, per Football Outsiders. But left tackle Terron Armstead had been riddled with injury questions throughout his career — he’s never played a full 16-game slate, and he’s missed 23 contests over the past three years. Journeyman Michael Ola is currently New Orleans’ top reserve at both left and right tackle.
  • Solution: Sign Jermey Parnell. New Orleans attempted to address their offensive tackle issue earlier this month by signing veteran Chris Clark, but the nine-year veteran is done for the season after suffering a leg injury. While he’s entering his age-33 campaign, Parnell is still a solid blocker, especially in the run game. He’s probably limited to right tackle, but given that Ryan Ramczyk can play both sides, Parnell could make sense for the Saints.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Weakness: Running back. The Buccaneers’ running game has been a disaster in each of the past two seasons, and while supplementing their offensive line is also an option, there are far more running backs available at this point in the NFL calendar than there are offensive linemen. Peyton Barber returns as Tampa Bay’s lead back after ranking bottom-seven in efficiency last year, while 2018 second-rounder Ronald Jones and Dare Ogunbowale also figure to have roles.
  • Solution: Trade for Rex Burkhead. Burkhead is an effective running back, but he’s behind Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, and maybe even fullback James Develin for carries in New England. A versatile player who can succeed on the ground and in the passing game, Burkhead would give the Buccaneers’ another option in their backfield. At the very least, he could be a third-down back and special teams maven for Tampa Bay.

Poll: Cowboys’ Contract Situation

We’ve nearly reached the daily-update stage of the Cowboys’ contract matrix. Even after the team extended Jaylon Smith, who would have been a 2020 RFA, its three stars remain on rookie contracts. With no news of Amari Cooper progress coming, and the fifth-year wide receiver indicating comfort in playing out a contract year, we will limit this to Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott hypotheses.

Both marquee Cowboys have been in the news constantly this month. Multiple reports pegged Prescott as turning down a $30MM-per-year deal, with another indicating he wants to surpass Russell Wilson‘s $35MM-AAV mark to become the NFL’s highest-paid player. Elliott, meanwhile, returned to Mexico after a Jerry Jones joke that did not go over well. Elliott’s holdout is nearing a month. Will the Cowboys resolve these situations by Week 1?

Dallas has done well to take care of its homegrown players in recent years. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin are all on long-term contracts. The Cowboys extended DeMarcus Lawrence and Dez Bryant as well and just gave Smith $19MM fully guaranteed. But the team has angled for its current batch of standouts to take less for the greater good. Judging by Prescott’s comments on that subject this summer, and Elliott remaining in Mexico despite receiving an offer reportedly north of the Le’Veon BellDavid Johnson tier, the players do not look to have this strategy in mind.

Prescott is entering his contract year, doing so in the same type of situation Wilson did four years ago. After he drove a hard bargain all summer, the Seahawks quarterback signed an August extension rather than play on a third-round salary for a fourth season. A 2016 fourth-round pick, Prescott faces the prospect of a $2MM 2019 salary.

Elliott is under contract for two more seasons, thanks to the fifth-year option, but he’s accumulated a historic workload and may not be in as strong of a negotiating position next year were he to go through 2019 on a similar pace. Elliott’s holdout makes sense from that perspective, and he does not intend to play another down on his rookie contract. Despite Jones talking up rookie Tony Pollard, Elliott is a two-time rushing champion and has been essential in the Cowboys’ recent success.

The Cowboys also have Byron Jones and La’el Collins entering contract years, though the team having drafted Connor Williams and Connor McGovern may be a sign Collins will be allowed to test free agency. The defending NFC East champions have amassed perhaps their best talent core since their 1990s group, but the steps toward retaining it long-term have been elusive (and frustrating?) for the franchise. Although Jones remains confident in deals being finalized, we are now within two weeks of opening night.

How will the Cowboys proceed with Elliott and Prescott? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Biggest Roster Weakness: AFC South

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 South:

Houston Texans

  • Weakness: Offensive line. The Texans made a number of notable additions to their offensive line during the offseason, but it’s unclear how much those reinforcements will actually help. New left tackle Matt Kalil is seemingly always injured or ineffective, while first- and second-round rookies Tytus Howard and Max Scharping both come from small schools and could take some time to develop. Houston’s offensive line was one of the NFL’s worst in 2018, ranking 27th in adjusted line yards and dead last in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders.
  • Solution: Sign Ryan Schraeder. Even if Kalil, Howard, and Scharping find success along the Texans’ front five, the club could still have a gaping hole at right tackle. Seantrel Henderson is going unchallenged on the right side, but he hasn’t played more than 47 offensive snaps since the 2015 season. The former seventh-round pick has never been all that productive even when he has been on the field, so Houston could look for a late upgrade. The Texans were reportedly interested in Schraeder in March, but it’s unclear if he ever actually met with the team’s staff. With 73 starts under his belt, Schraeder would bring experience to a Houston offensive line that desperately needs it.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Weakness: Defensive line depth. This almost feels too nit-picky: the Colts have one of the best rosters in the NFL, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a weak area. Indianapolis has a number of interesting pieces along its defensive line, but veteran defensive end Jabaal Sheard could potentially miss regular season action.
  • Solution: Trade for DeMarcus Walker. I don’t think the Colts should necessarily go out and sign a street free agent to take snaps away from their intriguing young defensive line prospects, but trading for Walker would represent a buy-low on an intriguing defender. Walker posted 16 sacks during his final season at Florida State and has flashed during his time with the Broncos, but he simply hasn’t been able to secure any real playing time (121 career defensive snaps). That’s probably not going to change any time soon in Denver, so the Colts could send a late-round pick in exchange for a player who could theoretically line up at outside linebacker, defensive end, or defensive tackle.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Weakness: Inside linebacker to play opposite Myles Jack. Telvin Smith‘s unexpected retirement put the Jaguars in a bind at inside linebacker, and no recent developments have added clarity at the position. Third-round rookie Quincy Williams was expected to fill the void left by Smith’s absence, but he’s dealing with a torn meniscus and will miss the start of the regular season. Free agent addition Jake Ryan, meanwhile, suffered a July setback in his recovery from a torn ACL and hasn’t practiced since.
  • Solution: Trade for Reggie Ragland. Ragland has already been traded once is career, going from Buffalo to Kansas City in 2017 in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Given that he has only one year remaining on his contract, the former second-round pick shouldn’t cost that much to acquire this time around. The Chiefs acquired fellow linebacker Darron Lee from the Jets this offseason to team with Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson, so Ragland could be expendable.

Tennessee Titans

  • Weakness: Offensive line depth. The Titans have some question marks along their offensive line, and those questions begin at left tackle, where Dennis Kelly will start the first four games in place of the suspended Taylor Lewan. Jack Conklin is back at right tackle after suffering a torn ACL in 2018, but right guard is a battle between Kevin Pamphile and rookie Nate Davis. Pamphile is currently listed as the starter on Tennessee’s depth chart, but the veteran was well below-average in two seasons as a Buccaneers starter.
  • Solution: See if Austin Corbett is (already) available. Browns general manager John Dorsey has been more than willing to get rid of players brought in by ex-GM Sashi Brown, but would he trade his own disappointing draft picks? It’s far too early to call Corbett, a 2018 second-rounder, a bust, but his career isn’t progressing as Cleveland had hoped. Expected to take over at right guard after Kevin Zeitler was dealt to the Giants, Corbett has struggled in training camp and the preseason, and journeyman Eric Kush now looks like the favorite to start. Corbett played tackle at Nevada before being shifted to guard in the pros, so he could potentially offer depth at both positions for the Titans.

More posts in this series:

Biggest Roster Weakness: NFC North

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 NFC North:

Chicago Bears

  • Weakness: Kicker. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Cody Parkey finished third-to-last in the NFL with a 76.7% conversion rate in 2018 and had a game-winning kick blocked in the final seconds of the Bears’ Wild Card round loss to the Eagles. Chicago took on more than $5MM in dead money to part ways with Parkey earlier this year, and after the Bears waived Elliot Fry on Sunday, Eddy Pineiro is the only kicker remaining on the club’s roster.
  • Solution: Wait for a kicker to get cut or sign Matt Bryant. The Bears were reportedly in on ex-Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik before the Vikings acquired him for a fifth-round pick, so Chicago is definitely attempting to upgrade its special teams unit. Carolina, for one, has a kicking situation to monitor: veteran Graham Gano can’t get healthy, leaving the door open for Joey Slye to go five-for-five in the preseason. The Bears could target either one of the Panthers’ kickers via trade, or hope that another veteran like Dan Bailey — who could be pushed out of Minnesota by Vedvik — is released. Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Bryant, who converted 95% of his kicks in 2018 (including four-of-five from 50+ yards), is still available on the open market.

Detroit Lions

  • Weakness: Offensive guard. Despite having something of a middling overall roster, the Lions don’t have a ton of true weak areas. Cornerback help could potentially be a focal point, but Detroit might need reinforcements at guard, where none of Graham Glasgow, Kenny Wiggins, or Joe Dahl are all that inspiring. The Lions are expected to use a run-heavy game plan in 2018, and supplementing the middle of their offensive line could help them improve from a No. 20 ranking in Football Outsiders‘ adjusted line yards.
  • Solution: Trade for Joshua Garnett. Like Burns, Garnett is a 2016 first-rounder who hasn’t exactly worked out thus far. The 49ers have already declined Garnett’s fifth-year option for 2020, and he’s not expected to start at guard ahead of Mike Person or Laken Tomlinson. Now 25 years old, Garnett missed the entire 2017 campaign with a knee injury and saw action in only seven games last year as a reserve, but he’s now thought to be fully healthy. The former Stanford Cardinal shouldn’t cost much more than a late-round pick to acquire.

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

  • Weakness: Defensive tackle. Minnesota suffered a substantial loss to its defensive line when it failed to re-sign Sheldon Richardson, whom Pro Football Focus graded as the NFL’s No. 47 interior defender in 2018. To fill the void left by Richardson, the Vikings have reunited with Shamar Stephen, who finished as a bottom-20 defensive tackle in PFF’s rankings. While they have a few recent mid-round picks in reserve (Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes), the Vikings could look to bring in a veteran to pair with starter Linval Joseph.
  • Solution: Sign Corey Liuget. The 2018 season couldn’t have gone much worse for Liuget, as a suspension, pay cut, and season-ending knee injury littered what became a lost campaign. Cut by the Chargers in February, Liguet has since met with the Giants, Seahawks, Jaguars, and Cardinals but has failed to land a new deal. Always a solid run defender, Liuget could also give the Vikings an interior pass-rush boost.

More from this series:

Biggest Roster Weakness: AFC North

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:

Baltimore Ravens

  • 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.

Cincinnati Bengals

  • 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 briefly 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.

Cleveland Browns

  • 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.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • 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.”

Biggest Roster Weakness: NFC East

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 NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys

  • Weakness: Defensive tackle. Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins each played more than 45% of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps in 2018, but neither proved particularly effective, as both ranked in the bottom-half of Pro Football Focus‘ interior defender grades. Christian Covington has played well during training camp, and Dallas used a second-round pick on defensive tackle Trysten Hill, but the Cowboys could look to the free agent market for another veteran to play inside. Safety was another consideration here, but the Cowboys seem to be all-in on starting Jeff Heath despite his lack of 2018 production.
  • Solution: Sign Muhammad Wilkerson to a cheap one-year deal. Given the need to extend Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones, the Cowboys probably aren’t willing to spend much on a late free agent addition. And that’s just fine, because Wilkerson shouldn’t cost much after a fractured ankle limited him to three games last season. Wilkerson’s deal with the Packers was worth $5MM and carried $3MM in available incentives, but he could be hard-pressed to earn anything more than a minimum salary this time around.

New York Giants

  • Weakness: Wide receiver depth. Nearly any position on the Giants’ defensive depth chart could use help, but have you taken a look at New York’s possible Week 1 receivers? Golden Tate is suspended through Week 4, so if Sterling Shepard can’t return from a fractured thumb in time for the season opener, Big Blue would likely roll out Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, and Bennie Fowler as its top three wideouts. Even if Shepard is able to make it back for Week 1, the Giants could still use more help at receiver.
  • Solution: Trade for Keelan Cole. The now 26-year-old Cole played well to start the 2018 campaign, but ultimately couldn’t live up to the expectations set by his 2017 season. The former undrafted free agent’s yards per reception fell from 17.8 in 2017 to just 12.9 in 2018, and he’s now listed as a third-team receiver on Jacksonville’s latest depth chart. Capable of lining up in the slot or outside, Cole could help tide the Giants over until Tate and Shepard are back.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Weakness: Cornerback. Thanks to a smart front office headed by general manager Howie Roseman, the Eagles don’t have many weaknesses on their roster. One area of potential concern is at cornerback, where Ronald Darby may not be ready for Week 1 and Cre’Von LeBlanc could be a candidate for injured reserve after suffering a foot injury.
  • Solution: Trade for a Patriots or Saints corner. Rumblings in the past week have indicated the Patriots and/or Saints could have a spare corner to deal, and the Eagles could make for a potential trade partner. New England defensive back Jonathan Jones could make sense for Philadelphia — he’s on a one-year, restricted free agent deal, so the Eagles could evaluate him in 2019 before deciding whether to extend him through 2020 and beyond. The Patriots and Eagles already lined up for one veteran trade this offseason when New England acquired defensive lineman Michael Bennett in March.

Washington Redskins

  • Weakness: Linebacker. Zach Brown and Mason Foster were the Redskins’ primary inside linebackers last season, but both have since been released. Foster isn’t a tremendous loss, but PFF graded Brown as the third-best ‘backer in all of football in 2018. Reuben Foster, claimed off waivers last November, isn’t going to play this year after tearing his ACL, so Washington is relying on journeyman Jon Bostic and 2018 sixth-rounder Shaun Dion Hamilton to hold down the middle of its defense.
  • Solution: Wait for Wesley Woodyard to get cut by the Titans. Even at age-33, Woodyard is still a solid linebacker, but with the Titans turning to Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown, he’s not expected to be a starter in 2019. Most Tennessee roster projections still have Woodyard making the team, but the Titans might be loathe to keep a backup who accounts for more than $4MM on their salary cap. If and when he’s released, Woodyard should become a target for Washington.

Biggest Roster Weakness: AFC East

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:

Buffalo Bills

  • 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.

Miami Dolphins

  • 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 ParnellNow 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 BrateNew 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.

4 Potential Landing Spots For Trent Williams

Trent Williams wants out of Washington. Fed up with both his contract and the Redskins’ handling of a tumor on his head, Williams demanded a trade or release in early June. He didn’t report to training camp last week, and there’s reportedly “no end in sight” to his holdout. On Wednesday, a report indicated the Redskins have begun having trade discussions regarding Williams.

The 31-year-old Williams is due $23.5MM in base salary over the next two seasons, but given that he wants a new deal from Washington, any club that acquires Williams will likely need to increase that figure. Williams’ $13.2MM average annual value currently ranks seventh among left tackles behind Taylor Lewan, Nate Solder, Jake Matthews, Joe Staley, Donovan Smith, and Russell Okung.

Which NFL teams are in a position to land Williams and fortify the left side of their offensive line? Here are four ideas:

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland’s offensive line had some bright spots in 2018, especially at right guard and center, where Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter each ranked among the top-four at their position in ESPN’s pass block win rate. But the Browns are now counting on former failed No. 2 overall selection Greg Robinson for a full season’s worth of play, and they’re replacing Kevin Zeitler (who was traded to the Giants) with last year’s second-round pick in Austin Corbett, who played only 14 offensive snaps in his rookie campaign.

Robinson wasn’t a total disaster in his eight starts for the Browns, 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. Cleveland has already gone all-in on the upcoming season by acquiring Odell Beckham Jr., Sheldon Richardson, and Olivier Vernon, so why not send a draft choice to Washington in exchange for Williams and upgrade one of the few remaining weak areas on the Browns roster?

Houston Texans

Despite using two of their first three 2019 draft picks on offensive tackles, the Texans still have arguably the second-worst offensive line in the NFL (hello, Dolphins). Rookies Tytus Howard and Max Scharping can both play tackle, while free agent addition Matt Kalil and holdover Julien Davenport can also hold down the blindside with varying results.

As Aaron Reiss of The Athletic indicates, it’s unclear how Houston plans to deploy its offensive linemen. Howard and Scharping could both see time at guard, leaving left tackle to Kalil if he’s healthy. No matter the combination used by the Texans, Williams would be an upgrade at left tackle. Houston picked up second- and third-round picks from Seattle in 2017 in exchange for tackle Duane Brown, and the team could send a similar package to Washington for Williams.

New England Patriots

In his Wednesday report indicating the Redskins are discussing possible Williams trades, Jeff Howe of The Athletic relayed there’s “a feeling around the league the Patriots would be involved due to depth issues at the position.” Having allowed 2018 starter Trent Brown to walk in free agency, New England is now counting on Isaiah Wynn, one of the club’s two first-round picks from a season ago, to fill on at left tackle.

Wynn comes with an excellent pedigree, and Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia always brings out the best in his available talent. But Wynn can also play guard, so if New England acquires Williams, it would be able to slide Wynn inside and allow Williams to play left tackle. Perhaps an offer of pending free agent left guard Joe Thuney and a second-round pick would entice the Redskins.

New York Jets

If not the Patriots, how about another AFC East club? Like the Browns and Texans, the Jets are building around a quarterback still on his rookie contract. Sam Darnold won’t count for more than $10MM on New York’s salary cap in any of the next three seasons, so the team should add talent while it can. Having already surrounded Darnold with playmakers like Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder, the Jets could now work to fortify their offensive line, something they started to do earlier today by bringing former Panthers center Ryan Kalil out of retirement.

In New York, Williams would supplant Kelvin Beachum, who has consistently been solid but not spectacular throughout his career. Beachum, in turn, could either compete with Brandon Shell for playing time at right tackle or be released. It’s also possible that another team on this list would have interest in Beachum, who is owed $8MM in 2019, the final year of his contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.