Six NFL playoff games down, and seven to go. The offseason is nearly here — and for 24 teams, it already is — bringing the opportunity for every team to get better and make changes as they prepare for the 2022 season.
There are question marks surrounding current quarterbacks — like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson — and also the future of the quarterback position for multiple franchises. Couple that with the eight teams without a current head coach, and you have many teams with urgent questions yet to be answered.
Who will score in free agency? How will coaching hires alter the direction of more than a handful of franchises? Who will land playmakers in the 2022 draft? How will teams navigate cap-space issues?
It’s clear all 32 teams have numerous areas to address in the coming months, and some are in limbo until the urgent issues are taken care of. So we asked our NFL Nation reporters to identify the biggest area of need for each team as we enter the offseason.
Let’s start with the AFC East.
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH
Address the defensive line.
Buffalo needs to determine what the next steps are up front on defense. The Bills invested their first two picks of last year’s draft in defensive ends, but there are multiple veterans on the line who are in the backend of their careers. With the rush defense having issues at times and the inconsistencies of the pass rush this season, how they address that group will big for the defense going forward. Also, if Leslie Frazier gets a head coaching job elsewhere, they will need to find a replacement for the head of their defense. — Alaina Getzenberg
Hire a coach.
Whoever they hire will then have to work with GM Chris Grier in figuring out how best to support quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — starting with improving an offensive line that ranked dead last in pass block win rate in 2021. Next season is a critical year for Tagovailoa; it will ultimately decide his future with the franchise. After spending the fifth overall pick on him in 2020, Miami has to do whatever it can to prove it made the right decision — and choosing the right coach will make that easier. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Overhaul the defense.
The troubling way the Patriots didn’t compete defensively in their 47-17 playoff loss to the Bills was eye-opening. Maybe “overhaul” is too strong of a word, but the unit looked old and slow to close out the season. Bill Belichick said he’ll evaluate everything — from personnel, to coaching, to scheme — and then make decisions accordingly. — Mike Reiss
Add big bodies.
Let’s be honest, the Jets have a long list of needs, but they can solve some headaches with better play in the trenches. That aligns with the core beliefs of coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas. They need help on the offensive line (tackle and guard) and also need another edge rusher to complement DE Carl Lawson, who returns from an Achilles injury. Saleh’s 4-3 defense is predicated on pressure, and the Jets ranked 27th in sacks and 30th in pressure percentage, per NFL’s Next Gen Stats. That’s one of the big reasons why they allowed a franchise-record 504 points. — Rich Cimini
Rebuild the defense.
The Ravens fell to 25th in the league in points and yards allowed this season, after they led the league points (18.2) and yards allowed (307.8) in Don “Wink” Martindale’s first three seasons (2018-20). Baltimore needs to address the defensive line because Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams — who combined for 1,012 snaps this season — are free agents. The Ravens need to address middle linebacker after moving former first-round pick Patrick Queen out of that spot. They need to address their pass rush after ranking 22nd in sacks (34). And they also need to address the secondary, which needs a playmaking safety and a No. 3 cornerback. Baltimore might be looking to add four new starters to the defense. After years of building an offense around Lamar Jackson, it’s time to put more focus on the defense. — Jamison Hensley
Figure out the offensive line.
The Bengals are still looking for several long-term answers when it comes to Joe Burrow‘s protection detail. Right tackle Riley Reiff‘s deal effectively expires after this season. The right guard spot is among those that will need to be evaluated, as well. If Cincinnati doesn’t believe it has the future solutions on the roster, the Bengals must address this position group in the offseason. — Ben Baby
Improve the wide receiver group.
The Browns have to upgrade the wide receiver position, in the wake of losing Odell Beckham Jr. The good news is, they will have a top-15 pick in the first round to do just that in what appears to be a solid WR draft. — Jake Trotter
Retool the offense.
Quarterback is the obvious answer, but it goes beyond that. The Steelers not only need to find the successor to Ben Roethlisberger, they also need to find a line that can both protect him and open up the run game for 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris. There were flashes of success on the ground this season, but the Steelers still ranked 28th in the league in both total rushing yards and rushing yards per game. The future of the organization will largely be dictated by the next Steelers’ quarterback, but who they put in front of him matters just as much. — Brooke Pryor
Find young talent.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but the rebuilding Texans have a lot of holes on this team. And unlike the last two seasons, the general manager will have a lot of draft capital to work with. General manager Nick Caserio has been adding draft picks this season, along with the Texans having a high pick with their own selection. If Caserio trades quarterback Deshaun Watson, he could find several of the young impact players Houston needs with those picks. — Sarah Barshop
Fix Carson Wentz‘s flaws or get a new starter.
This, of course, is if the Colts don’t cut ties with the quarterback this offseason, which won’t be easy to do. The goal in 2021 was that coach Frank Reich would be able to get Wentz, who he was with in Philadelphia for two seasons, back on track by having him limit his risk-taking and improve his accuracy. Reich wasn’t able to do that, putting the Colts in another quarterback quandary because general manager Chris Ballard won’t commit to Wentz as his starter in 2022. “You have to get stability at the quarterback position,” Ballard said. — Mike Wells
Domonique Foxworth blames the hype Carson Wentz received his rookie year as a reason the quarterback is under constant scrutiny.
Build around Trevor Lawrence.
How? Find a new coach and figure out what to do along the offensive line, where three of the five starters are free agents, then find playmakers at receiver in free agency and the draft. The Jaguars need to do what the Bengals did for Joe Burrow. — Michael DiRocco
Add an explosive return man.
Field positioning is a key part of the complimentary football formula that Mike Vrabel focuses on. Getting a dangerous punt and kick returner would greatly improve field positioning for the Titans. Tennessee hasn’t returned a punt or kick for a touchdown since the 2018 season opener against the Dolphins. It’s time for that to change. — Turron Davenport
Get a quarterback.
Is it 2016? No, the Broncos are just still looking for some kind of solution at quarterback that lasts more than a few games or one season at most. The team’s offense — which hasn’t averaged more than 23 points per game since 2014 and hasn’t topped 21 points per game in any of the last six seasons — has cost two coaches and four offensive coordinators their jobs in that span. Choosing the right coach this time around with the right offensive coordinator is important, but the Broncos have to find some continuity at quarterback in a year when it might be difficult to snare the long-term solution once again, especially if nobody wants to trade them a franchise quarterback to fix their problem. — Jeff Legwold
Have another big draft.
Three of the Chiefs’ six picks from last year had big rookie seasons, and another couple have developmental possibilities. The Chiefs absolutely have to keep finding young and inexpensive players to fill in around their many high-priced players. Positions matter less than finding players who will contribute at a low cost for the next four years. — Adam Teicher
Name a permanent coach.
Both QB Derek Carr and Pro Bowl DE Maxx Crosby campaigned for interim coach Rich Bisaccia to get the gig on a full-time basis, but general manager Mike Mayock was fired Monday and there is also a question about Carr’s future. The faster owner Mark Davis makes a decision on the coach and quarterback, the sooner the other dominoes can fall for a team that has improved from four wins in 2018 to seven wins in 2019 to eight wins last season to 10 wins and the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2016. — Paul Gutierrez
Improve at right tackle.
The Chargers are set on the left side of their offensive line with 2021 first-rounder Rashawn Slater, but they need help on the right. Bryan Bulaga has played in just 11 games in two seasons — including only one in 2021 — since signing as a free agent, and his replacement, Storm Norton wasn’t good enough down the stretch. Justin Herbert needs to be able to trust his right tackle. Bulaga has one year left on his contract and could return, but L.A. needs to address this position in free agency or the draft. — Shelley Smith
Hit in the draft again.
The Cowboys will have difficult decisions to make when it comes to their salary cap, which could lead to a number of big-name, big-price players going elsewhere (DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins). They will do what they can to keep their own free agents but have shown they will not be big players in the market, which means they have to connect on the draft. They did in last year’s, led by Micah Parsons. Maybe the biggest need is making sure vice president of player personnel Will McClay does not go anywhere. Since he’s been in charge of the draft, the Cowboys have selected nine Pro Bowlers. — Todd Archer
Rebuild the offensive line … again.
The Giants need edge rush help, but nowhere near as desperately as they do for their offensive line, where left tackle Andrew Thomas is the only certainty for next season. The new GM and coach have to make this a priority. Enough is enough already. An offensive line rebuild should not take a decade. The Giants are entering Year 10. — Jordan Raanan
Dan Graziano goes into the details the New York Giants went through before ultimately making the decision to fire Joe Judge.
Find edge rushers.
Brandon Graham will be 34 next season and is coming off a ruptured Achilles. Fellow starter Derek Barnett hasn’t met expectations and is a pending free agent. Josh Sweat (7.5 sacks in 2021) is on the upswing, but the Eagles need to bolster the position. It would be no surprise if they used one of their first-round picks on a defensive end this April. — Tim McManus
Get a new quarterback.
Taylor Heinicke did enough to make Washington believe he’s a high-end backup/low-end starter. So the team won’t just settle for anyone. With better health it still could have — and should have — won nine games with Heinicke starting. But Washington has started 32 quarterbacks since it last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. The team knows it has a low ceiling until it can solve that hole. It will be aggressive looking for a quarterback and, if one is available, trying to acquire him. The Washington front office believes the roster is good enough that it can surrender more assets than it would have felt comfortable doing a year ago. — John Keim
Hire the right coach.
Though the Bears are in need of both a GM and a coach, it’s the latter who will be the new face of the franchise to the public — outside of QB Justin Fields, of course. There is so much negativity surrounding the organization after yet another regime change that a coach with leadership, a vision he can articulate and the ability to bring out the best in Fields is Chicago’s biggest need this offseason. — Jesse Rogers
Add playmakers on both sides of the ball.
After a 3-13-1 season, the laundry list of offseason needs are certainly a priority for Lions general manager Brad Holmes, as he’ll enter the player-acquisition phase with Detroit also holding the No. 2 overall pick. Detroit must address the quarterback situation, and although rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown finished strong, they need more talent at that position. They also need an edge rusher, a safety and a linebacker — but more importantly, gritty guys who fit the mold of what coach Dan Campbell is trying to build. They have to find talent capable of making game-changing plays, which were notably absent for most of the 2021 season. — Eric Woodyard
Find clarity at quarterback.
The Packers can’t do much until they know if Aaron Rodgers will be back for another season. If Rodgers returns, they will have to work out a contract extension even if he only plans to play one more year because they can’t do business with his $44,144,156 million salary-cap charge for 2022. If Rodgers doesn’t return, they will pick up cap space — between $17 million and $25 million depending on the timing — and then will have to figure out how they want to build around Jordan Love, assuming they still believe he’s a worthy successor. — Rob Demovsky
Hire a new GM and coach.
The Vikings can’t make any decisions on quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ future or how they’re going to build on defense until those positions are filled. Minnesota has eight GM interviews on tap and requested to speak with seven candidates for the head-coach opening. This isn’t a franchise that rebuilds its highest forms of leadership all that often (Mike Zimmer was in Minnesota for eight years, Rick Spielman for 16). It’s critical that Minnesota finds two leaders whose philosophy, communication styles and ability bridge the gap for a team that feels close to being competitive after losing eight games by one score. — Courtney Cronin
Improve the pass rush.
Atlanta has many needs — literally almost any position could have an argument for inclusion — but the Falcons’ pass rush was abysmal last season. It produced 18 sacks — only 15.5 of which came from front-seven players — and only one player, Grady Jarrett, had double-digit quarterback hits (12). For context, 105 NFL players this year had at least 10 quarterback hits. The lack of pressure limited what defensive coordinator Dean Pees could do. Don’t be surprised if so much of Atlanta’s pass rush looks different in 2022, from the interior to the edge. The Falcons need an overhaul here. — Michael Rothstein
Build a dependable offense.
The Panthers need an offensive line and a quarterback to play behind it. You can’t say one without the other here because both the line and quarterback Sam Darnold have been a failure this season. Coach Matt Rhule said he has to make a “true investment” in the line this offseason. Outside of right tackle Taylor Moton and center Pat Elflein, this group needs a complete overhaul. Finding a replacement for Darnold, who has one year left on his deal, is just as vital for future success. — David Newton
Israel Gutierrez, Clinton Yates and Joon Lee evaluate whether Sam Darnold can be the starting quarterback for the Panthers next season.
Choose the right quarterback.
There is a good chance the Saints will bring back Jameis Winston after he started 5-2 before tearing an ACL in 2021. But in addition to the injury rehab, Winston is an unrestricted free agent. All options should be on the table, including a possible blockbuster trade, a reunion with Teddy Bridgewater and finding a player in the draft. — Mike Triplett
Re-sign core players.
Much like last offseason, the Bucs will need to make every effort to re-sign their own, with Chris Godwin — who played under the franchise tag in 2021 — Leonard Fournette, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Jensen, Ronald Jones II, O.J. Howard, Carlton Davis, Jordan Whitehead and Alex Cappa, among others, with expiring contracts. Pierre-Paul’s age and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka‘s production mean they can likely move forward without him, but they’ll need to do quite a bit of number-crunching. — Jenna Laine
Get a true No. 1 cornerback.
Arizona thought it had a true No. 1 cornerback in Malcolm Butler, but he unexpectedly retired before the season, leaving the Cardinals without a go-to CB1. Arizona made do with Robert Alford and Byron Murphy Jr., but the Cardinals need to solidify the No. 1 CB position this offseason for its defense to take the next step and become an elite unit throughout an entire season. — Josh Weinfuss
Address the offensive line.
It’s likely that the Rams’ staff will lose some key coaches after the season, given that’s been the case ever since Sean McVay became coach in 2017. But with those changes still unknown, among their most pressing needs this offseason will be the offensive line. Starting center Brian Allen, a Pro Bowl alternate, and right guard Austin Corbett are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, along with backup Joe Noteboom, who has been a key fill-in at left and right tackle. If all three manage to get away this offseason, the Rams will be in a hurry to find some established talent or develop some late-round players already on the roster. — Lindsey Thiry
Acquire a cornerback.
The Niners do have some intriguing young talent at the position, namely Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas, but they need to make a significant investment, preferably in the form of an established veteran. San Francisco’s pass defense was fine in terms of regular counting stats, but racked up a league-leading amount of pass interference penalties. Given the talent the Niners have in their front seven, another strong starting corner could take their defense back to an elite level, similar to 2019. — Nick Wagoner
Figure out Russell Wilson‘s immediate future.
He wants to stay in Seattle, but only under the right circumstances, whatever those may be. Recent comments from Pete Carroll to Fox 13 strongly suggested the Seahawks will listen to trade offers for Wilson, who has two years left on his contract. So while a few factors will work against a trade, it’s by no means a guarantee that Wilson will be back in 2022. Before the Seahawks can think about improving certain spots (pass rush, O-line) and re-signing some of their key free agents (Quandre Diggs, Duane Brown), they need to figure out whether they’re keeping their star quarterback and how big of a rebuilding effort they’re in for if they don’t. — Brady Henderson