NFC Team Needs

Free agency and the draft are all about finding the right player to match the right system before another team grabs him. See what beat writers in NFC cities had to say about the top three personnel needs of the teams they cover.


Defensive end: The Cowboys did not do a good job rushing the passer in 2006. Finding an end that can play the run as well as apply pressure is a must.

Guard: With Marco Rivera facing his second back surgery in the last three years, the Cowboys will likely need a replacement at right guard.

Wide receiver: Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn are aging. And its likely one (Owens) will not be back next season. The Cowboys need a lead receiver for the future.


Cornerback: Sam Madison is old, Corey Webster had a horrible year, and R.W. McQuarters is best used at the nickel. So they would do well to spend a first-round pick on a sure-tackling cover corner who can at least push Webster the first year, and maybe take over at one side or the other the following season.

Wide receiver: If Amani Toomer isn't the same following knee reconstruction, they'll need somebody else to complement Plaxico Burress downfield since they have no faith in Tim Carter or, at this point, Sinorice Moss.

Running back: The Giants have their new featured back in Brandon Jacobs, but now need a set of young, healthy and fast legs to present a counter to his power running style.


Defensive end: When you set a team record for fewest sacks (19), you need a serious pass rusher.

Cornerback: Springs will be 32 in March and missed half of last season with a sports hernia, a tender hamstring and a fractured shoulder while the younger corners all struggled.

Middle linebacker: Marshall, Washington and McIntosh are all best on the outside. The Redskins need a true run-stopper.


Defensive end: It's been years since the Lions had a stud pass rusher, and the lack of outside pressure hurt them in 2006.

Offensive tackle: Jon Kitna was sacked 63 times and could face more of the same if the Lions don't get help on the offensive line.

Running back: Kevin Jones is coming off Lisfranc foot surgery, and if he's not ready for the regular season, the Lions have big trouble.


Tight end: Bubba Franks disappeared in Mike McCarthy's version of the West Coast offense and didn't have a touchdown catch for the first time in his seven-year career, while free agent-to-be David Martin can't stay out of the training room. Tony Gonzalez would have been an attractive alternative for a team that could afford him in free agency, but he agreed to terms of a lucrative extension last week with Kansas City.

Safety: Marquand Manuel was a bust in the first season of the five-year, $10 million deal he landed in free agency. He often had no clue in coverage and was inadequate against the run, all of which rubbed off at times on FS Nick Collins.

Wide receiver: Aside from Donald Driver, the offense lacked a playmaker and suffered greatly in the red zone. Greg Jennings has a bright future as a starter in the league but faded in the second half of his rookie season because of an ankle injury. There's no guarantee Koren Robinson will come back clean and sober early next season after serving a one-year suspension.


Defensive end: The pass rush is a key to the success of any team that uses the Tampa-2 scheme, and with Erasmus James lost early in the season because of a knee injury, the Vikings lacked pressure from the edge. That can't happen again.

Wide receiver: One or two players are needed to upgrade the play-making ability at this position.

Tight end: Jermaine Wiggins and Jim Kleinsasser weren't good fits for Childress' West Coast scheme.


Safety: Lawyer Milloy will be 34 next season and Chris Crocker had many problems in pass coverage.

Running back: Warrick Dunn showed signs of slowing down and it's still uncertain if Jerious Norwood is an every down back.

Left tackle: Wayne Gandy will be 36 next season and had problems in pass protection in the second half of 2006.


Middle linebacker: The Panthers can't trust that Dan Morgan will make it through the season after suffering through his fifth concussion. In fact, there's a chance the team will release Morgan.

Safety: The Panthers got little to nothing out of last year's free agent pickup Shaun Williams, and Mike Minter, who turns 33 this month, isn't making a lot of plays. Look for two safeties to sign this offseason, perhaps one in free agency and another in the draft.

Offensive line: Pick a position, any position. The Panthers simply need more talent on the offensive line to be the type of running team they want to be. A left tackle would allow the team to move Jordan Gross back to right tackle and move Travelle Wharton over to right guard.


Defensive line: The Bucs' Tampa 2 defense begins with pressure on the quarterback. The hardest spot to fill is the under tackle. Tampa Bay traded Anthony McFarland but hasn't found a suitable replacement for Warren Sapp. With Rice's future unknown, the Bucs also could need a speed rusher.

Quarterback: The Bucs need to put a layer between the starter and rookie Bruce Gradkowski. Much like the Bears' signing of Brian Griese, Tampa Bay needs two experienced signal callers.

Offensive line: The weakest unit of the team. The Bucs got younger and better with the additions of Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood, but they can't stop there. C John Wade is a liability, and LT Anthony Davis cannot block a speed rusher.


Cornerback: Antrel Rolle, a 2005 first-round pick, has been disappointing thus far, and it has been an embarrassingly bad tag-team opposite him. The Cardinals did not get an interception from a starting corner until Game 12.

Left tackle: Although QB Matt Leinart is a lefty, making the right tackle his blind-side protector, left tackle remains a critical position, and starter Leonard Davis, a career underachiever, becomes an unrestricted free agent. Six years into his career, Davis, the second pick overall in 2001, has yet to make the Pro Bowl.

Defensive end: With former Pro Bowler Bertrand Berry working from the right side and team sacks leader Chike Okeafor from the left, this wouldn't on the surface appear to be a key need. But Berry, 30, has played only 18 games the past two seasons after his 14.5-sack Pro Bowl season in 2004. He had 12 sacks in those 18 games in 2005 and 2006, but his ability to get through a season now becomes a concern. Okeafor also is 30, although he tied his career high with 8.5 sacks. Depth is an issue.


Defensive end: Except for Leonard Little, the pass rush was non-existent in 2005, and speed off the other edge is needed.

Nose tackle: Jimmy Kennedy doesn't appear to be the answer there, so a large body is needed at the position.

Wide receiver: Some youth would improve the depth if the team can't find a way to keep unrestricted free agent Kevin Curtis.


Nose tackle: The 49ers need a big body in the middle who will enable them to shift to a 3-4 defense. They need a player to occupy blockers in the middle of the line, opening things up for the rest of the front seven to make plays.

Defensive end/outside linebacker: The 49ers need a player who is stout against the run but can also put constant pressure on the quarterback. Whether he's a lineman or linebacker will determine whether the 49ers shift full time to a 3-4 scheme.

Wide receiver: The 49ers can't place too much trust in Antonio Bryant, who has served half of his four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The 49ers need more speed at this spot.

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