With the upcoming NFL draft rapidly, every team hopes to transform and upgrade the roster with young playmakers. However, there are a few teams who should be on high alert after being quiet in free agency. Signing players in free agency can help a team on the edge get over the top, but most successful franchises start by drafting quality talent. The NFL draft is the foundation, and free agency is a way to round out the core pieces of the roster.
As we get ready for the draft, let’s look at five teams that were relatively quiet in free agency and need to hit home runs during the NFL draft.
Free agents aren’t rushing to sign with a team that has a new head coach, lacks talent on both sides of the ball, and finished with the worst record in the NFL last year. This draft is critical for the future of the Cardinals franchise, and if they do not hit on their top picks, we could see a quick end to the Kliff Kingsbury era in the desert.
The Cardinals have reportedly been looking closely at quarterback Kyler Murray, but selecting Murray could be disastrous. Josh Rosen is a very talented quarterback who’s already on the roster, and the defensive players at the top of this draft have Pro-Bowl potential, which could immediately help one of the NFL’s worst defenses from 2018.
New England Patriots
The Patriots are never big players during free agency, as coach Bill Belichick likes to manage the cap as efficiently as possible. The big losses this offseason for New England were wide receiver Chris Hogan and the retirement of standout tight end Rob Gronkowski. The other big need for the Patriots is at defensive back, as Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty aren’t getting any younger.
Signing receiver Demaryius Thomas in free agency was a smart move, but everyone should assume Bill Belichick will trade down in the NFL draft to acquire more picks and possibly unearth another Tom Brady-like gem.
The Steelers’ offseason was one that is typical of a dysfunctional franchise, but it is out of character for Pittsburgh. The team has to move on from disgruntled former running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown. Bell did not sign his franchise tender last year and sat out the entire 2018 season. Brown made the Steelers front office miserable and was shipped out to Oakland for mid-round picks.
Although the Steelers have James Connor in the backfield, they would be wise to replenish their skill positions at some point during the draft. Pittsburgh signed a couple of receivers, but otherwise, it was quiet in free agency. Fans of the black and yellow should expect the team to focus on the defensive side of the football in the NFL draft in order to contend for the AFC North title in 2019.
Seattle signed Russell Wilson to a four-year, $140 million contract extension ahead of the NFL draft. Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and Seattle will always be in the hunt for the Super Bowl with him at quarterback, but that’s not a free agency move since he was still under contract. Other than that, their offseason moves don’t scream Super Bowl or bust.
However, the Seahawks have missed on some draft picks recently while also losing some playmakers along the way. They need youth at every level of the defense but expect Washington Huskies stand out cornerback Byron Murphy to be a possibility in the first round.
There weren’t many big-name free-agent quarterbacks on the market this off-season, and Washington was wise not to throw a boatload of money at Nick Foles. Although he has the Super Bowl MVP to his name, the long view of his career shows he is an average quarterback.
That will allow Washington to focus on the first round of the draft. Several quarterbacks could be available at the No. 14 pick to turn the franchise around. Daniel Jones out of Duke looks like the pick but if Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins fall, then expect them to get a long look from coach Jay Gruden and the Washington staff. After being relatively quiet in free agency, though, Washington needs to hit on every draft pick, not just the first one.