The window between minicamp and training camp provides a roster-reassessment period for NFL teams. Several teams will exit minicamp with glaring deficiencies. Here are the biggest holes across the league entering the summer.
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25. Seattle Seahawks, cornerback
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For the second straight offseason, the Seahawks lost a starting cornerback in free agency and did not do much to replace him. D.J. Reed followed Shaq Griffin out the door. While Seattle brought back slot defender Justin Coleman, the team did not make a notable free agency move or use a first- or second-day draft choice at outside corner. That is on-brand for Pete Carroll’s team, which does not prefer to invest heavily at corner. But even if Sidney Jones is viewed as a capable starter, the team has a pair of fourth-round picks (Tre Brown and rookie Coby Bryant) and ex-first-round bust Artie Burns here.
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24. Houston Texans, offensive line
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The Texans made Kenyon Green this year’s first interior offensive lineman chosen but are short on long-term answers everywhere else. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil checks off a 2022 box, and his March restructure likely prevents a trade. But he should be considered year to year at this point. Beyond these two, Houston needs help. Pro Football Focus rated the 2021 Texans O-line 29th, and stopgaps Justin Britt and A.J. Cann remain in place at center and right guard. Former first-rounder Tytus Howard, who has bounced back and forth from tackle to guard, does as well. Depth is lacking here, creating another uphill battle for Davis Mills.
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23. Tennessee Titans, guard
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While the Titans technically replaced A.J. Brown with first-rounder Treylon Burks, the Pro Bowler’s departure will hurt the run-oriented team. Before punting on a Brown extension, via the draft-night trade, they made left guard Rodger Saffold a cap casualty. Tennessee, the most run-oriented team outside of Baltimore or Philly, will have new starters at left guard and right tackle. Former undrafted free agent Aaron Brewer and ex-Seahawks backup Jamarco Jones are vying for the guard gig; Tennessee did not draft an interior lineman. As Derrick Henry’s prime winds down, his blocking setup looks worse.
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22. Los Angeles Rams, outside linebacker
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The Sean McVay-era Rams have made two in-season trades to address this spot. The second (Von Miller) moved the needle more than the first (Dante Fowler), but both deals helped the team to Super Bowls. Will the draft-apathetic team make another trade? Miller chose Buffalo, and Los Angeles is left with ex-Miller Denver teammate Justin Hollins (two career starts) or 2020 third-rounder Terrell Lewis (four). Those two would look better as rotational rushers, though Aaron Donald certainly helps — as Floyd’s career reminds — his fellow rushers. Trey Flowers and Jason Pierre-Paul headline the available sack artists, and the Rams have a thing for veteran splashes.
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21. Denver Broncos, inside linebacker
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Addressing most of their offseason needs, including one of the NFL’s longest-standing deficiencies, the Broncos are in much better shape than they normally are entering a summer. But they are somewhat understaffed at linebacker. The team has lacked a quality coverage linebacker since injuries shelved Brandon Marshall, and middling starter Josey Jewell (not known for coverage chops) leads this group. Highly graded thumper Alexander Johnson has not been re-signed, and 2021 starter Baron Browning has been moved to outside linebacker — where the Broncos are deep. Jewell and ex-Eagle UDFA Alex Singleton lead a vulnerable ILB corps.
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20. New York Giants, tight end
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The Giants signed ex-Texan Jordan Akins but are preparing to give fourth-round rookie Daniel Bellinger (zero 400-yard receiving seasons at Georgia) a legitimate chance to start. The team’s passing attack will funnel through its receivers and, health-permitting, Saquon Barkley. But Akins, Bellinger, and journeyman Ricky Seals-Jones do not inspire. It is notoriously difficult for rookie tight ends to make an impact; Evan Engram is one of the few modern exceptions. The first-rounder the Giants could never figure out is now in a Jaguar. In a season geared around Daniel Jones’ last chance, Big Blue’s tight end group is lacking.
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19. Carolina Panthers, defensive end
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Carolina will place a fair amount of pressure on 2020 second-round pick Yetur Gross-Matos, who was a two-game starter last season. A worthy investment by Ron Rivera and Co. on the way out, Brian Burns will anchor the Panthers’ edge defender group. The Panthers did not draft an edge player until the sixth round (Virginia Tech’s Amare Barno). Ahead of a make-or-break Matt Rhule season, it is a bit surprising the team with the second-most cap space has not added one of the accomplished free-agent defensive ends.
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18. Indianapolis Colts, wide receiver
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Hoarders of cap space and recyclers of quarterbacks, the Colts are too understaffed at receiver. They lost Zach Pascal to the Eagles and might not benefit too much from re-signing a soon-to-be 33-year-old T.Y. Hilton — should that come to pass. As such, Michael Pittman Jr.’s top wingmen are injury-prone Parris Campbell and second-round rookie Alec Pierce. The latter, a Cincinnati product, almost has no choice but to become Indianapolis’ WR2. If the Colts are serious about showing Matt Ryan still has juice left, they need to strongly consider a veteran presence for this group.
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17. Philadelphia Eagles, safety
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Although the Eagles made the playoffs, they finished a troubling number of games having allowed obscene completion percentage figures. They allowed five 80% completion rates just through Week 9 last year. Philly let six-year safety starter Rodney McLeod join the Colts and re-signed veteran Anthony Harris, albeit at a reduced rate. Philly is counting on ex-Vikings sixth-rounder (and two-time Harris backup) Marcus Epps, who made three starts last season and allowed a 117.3 passer rating as the closest defender last season. The arrivals of James Bradberry, Jordan Davis, and Haason Reddick will help, but the Eagles’ defense may need back-line aid.
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16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, tight end
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This might be a formality. Rob Gronkowski rightfully can stay away from the Buccaneers and evade minicamp, which does not matter much at this stage of his career. Gronk had committed to play earlier in each of the past two offseasons, however, being traded to the Bucs in April 2020 and re-signing in March 2021. If the future first-ballot Hall of Famer is serious about his uncertainty to play again, the Bucs are down to Cam Brate and two Day 3 rookies. O.J. Howard’s free agency defection could actually matter after the Bruce Arians-era Bucs kept him in the garage. It would be borderline shocking if Gronk wasn’t back for perhaps Tom Brady’s last run.
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15. Green Bay Packers, wide receiver
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Options for the Packers’ much-discussed void include Will Fuller, Emmanuel Sanders, future Hall of Famer Julio Jones, and the still-intriguing Odell Beckham Jr. Green Bay already signed Sammy Watkins and has Randall Cobb signed through 2022. But this duo along with Allen Lazard and Division I-FCS-produced second-rounder Christian Watson looks like a steep downgrade from the Davante Adams-fronted groups. The Packers have long been accused of not doing enough to build a team around Aaron Rodgers. It looked like they got the message last year, but this setup — along with an iffy tight end corps — will test their 38-year-old quarterback.
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14. Chicago Bears, defensive line
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New GM Ryan Poles did not waste time gutting the Bears’ front seven. In addition to Danny Trevathan’s ouster, Khalil Mack is a Charger, Akiem Hicks is a Buccaneer, and Eddie Goldman remains a free agent. Suddenly, Robert Quinn — ahead of his age-32 season — looks out of place on a rebuilding team. Even if the new Bears single-season sack leader stays, he has a host of lesser contributors in his position group. Chicago did not draft a defensive end until Round 5 and did not select a D-tackle. A veteran might not make sense on this squad, but the group certainly looks lean as is.
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13. Chicago Bears, wide receiver
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Justin Fields’ rookie year skidded off the rails, from The Ohio State prospect taking nine sacks in a brutal debut to his last-place QBR finish. His situation has worsened ahead of Year 2. At receiver, the Bears lost Allen Robinson and added a host of backups to vie for a job alongside Darnell Mooney. Chicago’s Byron Pringle-Equanimeous St. Brown-Tajae Sharpe-David Moore mix looks scary for Fields’ development, as he navigates a new system. The Bears need 25-year-old rookie Velus Jones to hit. If Jones is not ready, the team’s refusal to give its young QB better weaponry alongside Mooney will be costly.
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12. Cleveland Browns, defensive tackle
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Myles Garrett voiced support for a Jadeveon Clowney return and got his wish. Perhaps he has names in mind to play defensive tackle because the ones there seem unqualified to anchor a contending team’s interior. The Browns non-tendered Malik McDowell after a winter arrest and have not re-signed Malik Jackson. Cleveland signed Jacksonville first-round bust Taven Bryan and used a fourth-round pick on Perrion Winfrey. This seems like a logical Ndamukong Suh fit, given the win-now (unless Deshaun Watson receives a season-long ban) mentality of this Browns offseason.
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11. Baltimore Ravens, wide receiver
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Lamar Jackson’s absence from Ravens OTAs is a temporary problem; the lack of targets the former MVP will have when he returns represents a big-picture concern. Rashod Bateman could turn into a strong option, but it is too early to know. Baltimore’s Marquise Brown trade and Sammy Watkins’ free agency exit depletes a group already perennially limited by Jackson and the Raven offense’s setup. At the least, there needs to be a veteran possession target here to work over the middle. The free-agent market, post-Jarvis Landry, is drying up. The Ravens must consider trade avenues.
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10. Arizona Cardinals, cornerback
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Jeff Gladney’s tragic death in a car accident created a major void for the team that was giving him a second chance. After the events of May 30, the Cardinals have a glaring cornerback need. Kliff Kingsbury’s comments point to veterans being added to a group that rosters one starter-caliber corner (Byron Murphy). Marco Wilson struggled in his first season, and Arizona, which signed Gladney in March, waited until Round 7 to draft a corner. Joe Haden, Jackrabbit Jenkins, Kevin King, and Xavier Rhodes are available. If the Cards are to return to the playoffs, this Murphy-fronted group needs help.
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9. Atlanta Falcons, quarterback
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This is technically a roster deficiency. Marcus Mariota has not been a starter since being benched for Ryan Tannehill in October 2019. He has not been an effective starter since before his broken leg in December 2016. While the Baker Mayfield sweepstakes/quasi-sweepstakes appears to run through the Panthers and Seahawks, Atlanta could have the NFL’s worst QB situation. Two caveats: the Falcons are not trying to contend in 2022. And the team did draft Desmond Ridder, hinting at a trial run at some point this season. Still, fantasy GMs eyeing rookie wideouts should focus on non-Drake London options.
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8. New York Giants, cornerback
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After crashing back to earth from their ninth-place defensive finish in 2020, to 23rd last season, the Giants cut James Bradberry and Logan Ryan. The former had been Big Blue’s No. 1 cornerback for two seasons; Ryan is the rare DB with extensive corner and safety seasoning. This has left Adoree’ Jackson as New York’s top corner. The ex-Titans first-rounder returned to relative health, playing 13 games, after a lost 2020. But the Giants have nothing but unproven corners, being chock full of recent third- or fourth-round picks here. New DC Don Martindale’s blitz tendencies also threaten to expose this group.
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7. Los Angeles Chargers, right tackle
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On a needs-filling offseason mission, the Chargers traded for an elite Joey Bosa sidekick, signed free agency’s top cornerback and used a first-round pick on a right guard. Storm Norton, forced into duty by Bryan Bulaga’s latest injury issue, remains in place at right tackle. For a Bolts team trying to make up for lost time during Justin Herbert’s rookie contract, a better answer is necessary. Superior options reside in free agency (Daryl Williams, Bobby Massie, Marcus Cannon). This spot has not truly been filled since Joe Barksdale’s mid-2010s stay. Herbert has thrived without good right tackle play, but expect the Bolts to make a late effort here.
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6. Atlanta Falcons, safety
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Like Atlanta’s quarterback spot, this is a need in a vacuum. The Falcons’ 2022 apathy aside, they must find future contributors. The team has recent second- and fourth-round picks at safety — Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins (four combined starts last season) — but journeymen Erik Harris and Dean Marlowe are penciled in as starters. Like a rebuilding baseball team with notable prospects stashed in Triple-A, the Falcons will need to clear the way for their young talent here. Otherwise, what exactly is being gained in this time-filling season?
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5. San Francisco 49ers, center
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Kyle Shanahan’s recent comments on his post-Alex Mack situation reveal confidence in a player (Jake Brendel) who has logged six offensive snaps over the past three years. The soon-to-be 30-year-old former UDFA has made three starts in six seasons — quite a step down from Mack. J.C. Tretter and ex-Super Bowl starters Matt Paradis and Trey Hopkins are available; they would seem upgrades. The 49ers will nevertheless go into a fourth straight season with a different primary center. Having also lost five-year guard starter Laken Tomlinson, the team is taking a risk entrusting Brendel to begin the Trey Lance era.
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4. Carolina Panthers, quarterback
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No coach’s seat is hotter than Matt Rhule’s. Is the former successful college coach really prepared to roast his NFL seat because of a few million dollars? The Browns are basically daring the Panthers to pick up a third of Baker Mayfield’s fifth-year option salary ($18.9 million). But we are in June now. Mayfield is missing valuable offseason acclimation time sitting purposeless in Cleveland. The Panthers have given Sam Darnold a much better offensive line, but Darnold and/or third-rounder Matt Corral represent a basement-level QB situation. The Panthers have cap space for Mayfield. Given Rhule’s status, this is elite stubbornness.
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3. Las Vegas Raiders, offensive line
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This could undermine the rare offseason hype the Raiders are receiving. The new Raiders regime did not sign a notable free agent to upgrade an O-line Pro Football Focus ranked 28th last season, and because of the Davante Adams trade, the best the Raiders could do for their O-line in the draft was a third-round pick (guard Dylan Parham). In one of the best-looking divisions in recent NFL history, Las Vegas will run back a line featuring left tackle Kolton Miller and little else. The Bengals operated with a purpose to fix their front. Barring last-ditch fix efforts, the Raiders may regret not doing the same.
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2. Houston Texans, tight end
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Another need-in-a-vacuum-type situation, but the Texans do have a quarterback they are attempting to develop. No tight end on Houston’s roster amassed 215 receiving yards last year, and the top tight end from 2021 (Jordan Akins) is now a Giant. Despite Nick Caserio handing out numerous one- and two-year contracts to midlevel veterans since taking the GM reins last year, Houston has Pharoah Brown (career-high 171 yards in 2021) and fifth-rounders Brevin Jordan and Teagan Quitoriano. Hopefully, for Davis Mills, second-round wideout John Metchie recovers from his ACL tear quickly. Brandin Cooks needs more aerial support.
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1. Seattle Seahawks, quarterback
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Seeing the Panthers’ QB brazenness, the Seahawks have refused to back off their own wilder bet. Sam Darnold, at least, was a top-three draftee who has admittedly drawn bad cards as a pro. The Seahawks are still pitting 2021 backups Drew Lock and Geno Smith against each other. Lock also has not had much to work with, but the erratic passer was a mid-second-round pick for a reason. His last starter year featured an NFL-most 15 INTs despite missing three games. Pete Carroll’s steadfast commitment to old-school football aside, a Russell Wilson-to-Lock transition/Week 1 faceoff — when Baker Mayfield can be had on the cheap — would represent a difficult Seattle morale development.
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