The 2019 regular season is right around the corner, but every NFL team still has at least one position on its roster that could use improvement. And there’s still plenty of time to address those areas of need! Free agents are readily available on the open market, while preseason trades provide another avenue of player procurement. 19 NFL trades were executed between August 1st and September 1st of 2018, and that number could increase this year.
Let’s take a look at the weakest positional group — and a potential solution — for each NFL club. Today we’ll examine the NFC East:
- Weakness: Defensive tackle. Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins each played more than 45% of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps in 2018, but neither proved particularly effective, as both ranked in the bottom-half of Pro Football Focus‘ interior defender grades. Christian Covington has played well during training camp, and Dallas used a second-round pick on defensive tackle Trysten Hill, but the Cowboys could look to the free agent market for another veteran to play inside. Safety was another consideration here, but the Cowboys seem to be all-in on starting Jeff Heath despite his lack of 2018 production.
- Solution: Sign Muhammad Wilkerson to a cheap one-year deal. Given the need to extend Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones, the Cowboys probably aren’t willing to spend much on a late free agent addition. And that’s just fine, because Wilkerson shouldn’t cost much after a fractured ankle limited him to three games last season. Wilkerson’s deal with the Packers was worth $5M and carried $3M in available incentives, but he could be hard-pressed to earn anything more than a minimum salary this time around.
- Weakness: Wide receiver depth. Nearly any position on the Giants’ defensive depth chart could use help, but have you taken a look at New York’s possible Week 1 receivers? Golden Tate is suspended through Week 4, so if Sterling Shepard can’t return from a fractured thumb in time for the season opener, Big Blue would likely roll out Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, and Bennie Fowler as its top three wideouts. Even if Shepard is able to make it back for Week 1, the Giants could still use more help at receiver.
- Solution: Trade for Keelan Cole. The now 26-year-old Cole played well to start the 2018 campaign, but ultimately couldn’t live up to the expectations set by his 2017 season. The former undrafted free agent’s yards per reception fell from 17.8 in 2017 to just 12.9 in 2018, and he’s now listed as a third-team receiver on Jacksonville’s latest depth chart. Capable of lining up in the slot or outside, Cole could help tide the Giants over until Tate and Shepard are back.
- Weakness: Cornerback. Thanks to a smart front office headed by general manager Howie Roseman, the Eagles don’t have many weaknesses on their roster. One area of potential concern is at cornerback, where Ronald Darby may not be ready for Week 1 and Cre’Von LeBlanc could be a candidate for injured reserve after suffering a foot injury.
- Solution: Trade for a Patriots or Saints corner. Rumblings in the past week have indicated the Patriots and/or Saints could have a spare corner to deal, and the Eagles could make for a potential trade partner. New England defensive back Jonathan Jones could make sense for Philadelphia — he’s on a one-year, restricted free agent deal, so the Eagles could evaluate him in 2019 before deciding whether to extend him through 2020 and beyond. The Patriots and Eagles already lined up for one veteran trade this offseason when New England acquired defensive lineman
Michael Bennett in March.
- Weakness: Linebacker. Zach Brown and Mason Foster were the Redskins’ primary inside linebackers last season, but both have since been released. Foster isn’t a tremendous loss, but PFF graded Brown as the third-best ‘backer in all of football in 2018. Reuben Foster, claimed off waivers last November, isn’t going to play this year after tearing his ACL, so Washington is relying on journeyman Jon Bostic and 2018 sixth-rounder Shaun Dion Hamilton to hold down the middle of its defense.
- Solution: Wait for Wesley Woodyard to get cut by the Titans. Even at age-33, Woodyard is still a solid linebacker, but with the Titans turning to Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown, he’s not expected to be a starter in 2019. Most Tennessee roster projections still have Woodyard making the team, but the Titans might be loath to keep a backup who accounts for more than $4M on their salary cap. If and when he’s released, Woodyard should become a target for Washington.