Financially and otherwise, the Falcons have signaled their commitment to their skill position starters. Free-agent acquisition Todd Gurley and trade acquisition Hayden Hurst will take over as the team’s starting running back and tight end, respectively, joining Matt Ryan and receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, although there isn’t a quality slot receiver in place. The Falcons really overdrafted Kaleb McGary to play right tackle last year, but given that he was a first-round pick, they should be set at four out of five offensive line positions, the exception being left guard, where James Carpenter is coming off of an injury-shortened 2019 campaign and is more of a journeyman to begin with.
Defensively, the line looks to be in pretty good shape, with Dante Fowler and Takkarist McKinley on the edges, one of the top interior linemen in the league in Grady Jarrett, and free-agent signing Allen Bailey, who is coming off of a down season but got a two-year deal. They need to add more pieces to linebacker next to Deion Jones, but often only use two linebackers, so they might just add one guy and call it a day. The secondary is in need of improvement. None of the players on roster at cornerback played well in 2019, although they might want to give Isaiah Oliver another shot on one side; the other starting candidates are Jordan Miller, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and Kendall Sheffield. The safety position is concerning too – Keanu Neal was really struggling before landing on IR, and the team’s other two starters, Damontae Kazee and Ricardo Allen, both played poorly.
Top Needs: LG, DE, LB, CB, DB
Expiring Contracts: OC Alex Mack, DE Takkarist McKinley, DB Damontae Kazee, DB Keanu Neal
Having signed Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers should be pretty confident in having surrounded him with quality weapons. Christian McCaffrey is one of the best backs in the league, and Robby Anderson joins D.J. Moore to form a solid receiver corps, if one somewhat bizarrely suited to Bridgewater’s highly risk-averse approach at quarterback. They could really use a tight end for him to throw to, as Ian Thomas hasn’t really proven himself as a solid receiver or blocker so far. Russell Okung and Taylor Moton will start at the tackle spots, but they don’t have a single high-end starter on the interior of their offensive line, so beefing up the guard and center positions should be a priority.
The defense is really thin. With Kawann Short coming back from an injury-shortened season, they have at least one solid defensive lineman, but the team’s odd front lacks a proven nose tackle, and another five-technique opposite Short. Brian Burns will be one of the team’s starting edge rushers, but no one at the position is proven and they could use someone to complement him. Having lost Luke Kuechly, only Shaq Thompson is a real piece at linebacker, although they have signed Tahir Whitehead to a one-year deal to play next to him. Donte Jackson has been a disappointment so far at cornerback, but they don’t have anyone else so he might need to start in 2020. They have a great free safety in Tre Boston, and a low-end starter in Juston Burris next to him.
Top Needs: TE, OG, OC, DL, LB, CB
New Orleans Saints:
Having successfully brought Drew Brees and Taysom Hill back, the Saints may choose not to bring in a quarterback, if they think Hill is a potential successor. The skill positions look good, with Alvin Kamara at running back, Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver, and Jared Cook at tight end. The offense line is solid as well, with the exception of 2015 first-rounder Andrus Peat, who really struggled in both the pass and run game last year as the team’s starting left guard.
The team’s depth chart looks fairly deep on the interior of the defensive line, but no one player is a real star; they’ve invested most heavily in Sheldon Rankins (first round, 2016) and Malcom Brown. Fortunately, they have two very high-end starters on the ends in Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. Two of the linebackers look worth going into 2020 with, those being Demario Davis on the weakside and Kiko Alonso in the middle, although Alex Anzalone hasn’t been great at the Sam spot. The Saints are well-stocked in the defensive backfield, with Janoris Jenkins and Marshon Lattimore as the starting corners and Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson as the top three safeties.
Top Needs: QB, LG, DT, SLB
Expiring Contracts: RB Alvin Kamara, TE Jared Cook, OT Ryan Ramczyk, OG Larry Warford, DT Sheldon Rankins, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Kiko Alonso, LB Demario Davis, CB Marshon Lattimore, DB Marcus Williams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Clearly, Tom Brady is going to have some weapons at his disposal in 2020; with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at receiver and O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate at tight end, it’s easy to imagine him bouncing back after injuries, retirements, and off-field issues destroyed his supporting cast in New England last year. However, the Bucs could still use competition for Ronald Jones in the backfield, and a slot receiver to give Brady the Troy Brown/Wes Welker/Julian Edelman type guy he’s relied heavily on over the course of his career. The offensive line has three pieces as well; what it’s missing is a right guard (Alex Cappa is the projected starter) and right tackle, where it looks like Joe Haeg may try to replace Demar Dotson.
The Buccaneers will continue living la Vita Vea in the middle of their odd fronts, with Ndamukong Suh returning to play end opposite William Gholston, who was serviceable last year. Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul form an explosive duo on the edge, and although Devin White struggled as a rookie, they should be set at inside linebacker with him and Lavonte David in place. The Bucs have used three second-round picks and one third-round pick at cornerback over the past two years, so they’ll probably let those guys compete and see who can start, with Carlton Davis being one obvious choice. Justin Evans ended up on IR last year, and they could use a strong safety to play with him.
Top Needs: RB, RG, RT, DL, DB
Expiring Contracts: WR Chris Godwin, TE O.J. Howard, LB Lavonte David, DB Justin Evans