AFC 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 AFC cities had to say about the top three personnel needs of the teams they cover.


Middle linebacker: LB London Fletcher has led the Bills in tackles five consecutive seasons but he's turning 32 and Buffalo desperately needs to upgrade the NFL's 28th-ranked run defense.

Defensive tackle: See above. The Bills liked what they got out of rookie Kyle Williams but they need a bigger body, bigger than Tim Anderson, to play on the center.

Running back: Willis McGahee didn't top 1,000 yards and is bucking for a contract extension. With agent Drew Rosenhaus in the picture, it's time to plan for the possibility of a holdout and ugly divorce.


Outside linebacker: This becomes less of a need if the Dolphins switch back to a pure 4-3 scheme after playing a 4-3/3-4 hybrid the past two seasons under Saban. But OLB Donnie Spragan is set to become a UFA and Miami could use a linebacker with pass-rush skills to pair opposite standout Jason Taylor.

Wide receiver: Chris Chambers failed to capitalize on his late-season success in 2005, Marty Booker is too erratic to be considered a true No. 1 receiver and 2006 third-round pick Derek Hagan dropped too many passes. But a weak free-agent class could force Miami to look to the draft once again to find a game-breaking receiver.

Tight end: Randy McMichael seemed poised to become one of the AFC's top tight ends after a breakthrough season in 2004. But whether through too many drops or a lack of emphasis in the systems of coordinators Scott Linehan (2005) and Mike Mularkey (2006), McMichael has failed to make the same kind of impact.


Running back: The committee system didn't cut it, so a featured back will be sought.

Cornerback: Right corner was a revolving door all season.

Defensive line: A true nose tackle would take pressure off LB Jonathan Vilma, and a pass-rushing end would minimize the need for so much blitzing.

MEDICAL WATCH: WR/PR Tim Dwight (broken foot) missed the last five games of the season but should be ready for spring mini-camp, as should NT Sione Pouha (knee) and OL Trey Teague (ankle), both of whom didn't play a down in 2006.


Cornerback: Tory James is done. Deltha O'Neal disappeared but will be given the opportunity to regain his Pro Bowl form from 2005. Rookie Johnathan Joseph has the look of a keeper, but more depth and another possible starter are needed.

Defensive line: The Bengals got a lot of starts and playing time out of players who might not have much left, primarily tackle Sam Adams and end Bryan Robinson.

Linebacker: The Bengals have drafted many players here, but with the exception of suspended Odell Thurman, who does not appear to be welcomed back, the team has not had an impact player at this position.


Guard: The Browns need two starting guards. Joe Andruzzi gave it his all in 2006 but it was not enough and Cosey Coleman won't be re-signed. Eric Steinbach would be a perfect fit.

Defensive end: Both ends need to be replaced. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley had 11 sacks with no help in front of him.

Cornerback: Gary Baxter is determined to be the first player to come back in one year from twin patellar tendon tears. The Browns need a starter in case he fails.


Outside linebacker: Joey Porter, who turns 30, had an off season and they have precious little depth at this key position in the 3-4. The only two others with reasonable experience are starter Clark Haggans and top backup James Harrison.

Offensive tackle: Max Starks does not appear to be long for the job on the right side.

Cornerback: Ike Taylor, supposedly their best corner, was benched for poor performance at mid-season.


Left tackle: The Texans must find a quality, young player that could come in and hold this position for a long time.

Running back: The Texans must seek out a starting running back that could complement Ron Dayne, if they bring him back to be a situational back.

Defensive end: The Texans want more playmakers with the ability to rush the passer.


Quarterback: Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Quinn Gray are the incumbents, but the first two were benched and Gray doesn't appear to be a long-term answer. They need to find an alternative.

Wide receiver: They didn't have a receiver in the top 50 in the league this year. The key question is whether they gamble on a player with baggage like Terrell Owens.

Safety: Donovin Darius suffered a torn ACL and a broken leg the last two years and it remains to be seen how effective he will be this year. And Deon Grant will be a free agent if he doesn't get a new deal.


Cornerback: Free safety is a big issue, but the Titans already have a couple alternatives to Lamont Thompson on the roster. The same can't be said at corner, where Reynaldo Hill has talent and works hard but may not be good enough to play opposite Pacman Jones. The Titans could chase a top-flight free agent like Buffalo's Nate Clements.

Defensive end: Teams were able to focus too much on Kyle Vanden Bosch because the Titans weren't very threatening on the other side. Antwan Odom has not been able to stay healthy, and Travis LaBoy is at his best with a narrow role and fewer snaps.

Receiver: A position of need for nearly Jeff Fisher's entire tenure. David Givens may not be ready to start the 2007 season after a serious knee injury cost him most of 2006. The team could use a guy in the mix with a bit more of a get-me-the-ball mentality.

MEDICAL WATCH: The Titans didn't offer a lot of injury news at their season wrap-up.

TE Erron Kinney, who's coming off serious microfracture knee surgery, knows he may have played his last game but is confident he'll be ready to give it one more try at the start of training camp. WR David Givens, who suffered a serious knee injury on Nov. 12 could be a long shot to be ready at the start of camp.


Defensive line: The Broncos would like to add a superior pass rusher on the line, although almost every team has that same desire. Denver's pass rush with the front four was good in some games but disappeared in others.

Offensive line: The Broncos had problems after left tackle Matt Lepsis went down with an injury. Erik Pears, his replacement, should be better off because of the experience, but the Broncos would still like to bolster the line. Center Tom Nalen is aging, although effective. The Broncos like smaller, athletic linemen, so they can usually wait until the middle rounds for that position.

Defensive back: Safety was a problem for the Broncos late in the year, after Nick Ferguson and Sam Brandon went down with injuries. John Lynch is still playing well, but he is 35. And although the Broncos are still dealing with enormous grief over the tragic death of cornerback Darrent Williams, football-wise his death will affect the team.


Defensive tackle: The Chiefs got no push up the middle, which was easily their weakness on defense.

Tackle: The Chiefs pass protection was inconsistent all year, especially against quick outside rushers.

Wide receiver: A play-maker to take focus off Larry Johnson is a priority.


Quarterback: Even in the unlikely event they keep Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter, the Raiders need a viable quarterback, because Walter may be no more than a No. 3, and Brooks was injured twice last season. If Oakland is looking for a steady presence to avoid turnovers and play to their defense, Chiefs QB Damon Huard could draw some interest.

Running back: LaMont Jordan has been a disappointment since being a big-ticket free-agent signee in 2005. He's gained 1,459 yards over two seasons and 23 games, missing nine to injury and averaging less than four yards per carry. Justin Fargas had a career-high 659 yards as a backup but looks to be no more than that.

Tackle: Robert Gallery struggled, but his contract says he stays. Langston Walker was durable, playing in every game, but had no chance against the league's better pass rushers from left end.

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