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Offseason Lowdown

2020 AFC Team Needs

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: March 11, 2020, 2:15 am ET

Free agency kicks off next week, with the legal tampering period starting March 16 and the official start of the league year coming March 18. Teams can officially start signing unrestricted free agents and making trades that afternoon. We’ve already had a few deals agreed upon, while the free-agent market has been flooded some with multiple releases.


Here is a link to the 2020 NFL Free Agent Tracker, sorted by position.


And below is my breakdown of each AFC team’s top three needs headed into free agency.




Buffalo Bills


Notable Free Agents: LG Quinton Spain, RB Frank Gore, DT Jordan Phillips, DE Shaq Lawson, CB Kevin Johnson, OT LaAdrian Waddle, LB Maurice Alexander, DT Corey Liuget, S Dean Marlowe, S Kurt Coleman, RB Senorise Perry, LB Julian Stanford


Offensive Line: Starting LG Quinton Spain is set to hit free agency and likely isn’t a priority for the Bills ahead of the opening of the market. The 28-year-old started every game last season, missing just four snaps. Only 10 guards across the league played more snaps than Spain. There’s talk of the Bills kicking second-year RT Cody Ford inside to guard in 2020. RG Jon Feliciano is coming off offseason shoulder surgery. The Bills need at least one starting lineman and could even add two if they want to turn Feliciano into a super-sub on the interior.


Defensive Line: Jordan Phillips had a breakout 2019, registering 9.5 sacks after managing all of 5.5 across his first 60 career games. He’s likely priced himself out of a return to Buffalo. Meanwhile, Shaq Lawson also set a career-best with his 6.5 sacks last season. The former No. 19 overall pick had his fifth-year option for 2020 declined last offseason. Still just 25, he’s likely to find a hot market as teams starve for EDGE help. The Bills remain well-equipped with Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy off the edges and 2019 first-rounder Ed Oliver and veteran Star Lotulelei on the inside. 2018 third-round DT Harrison Phillips will also be back after missing last year with a torn ACL. Still, this front lacks depth. Longtime Panthers DE Mario Addison has already been linked to Buffalo after playing for coach Sean McDermott in Carolina.


Wide Receiver: John Brown and Cole Beasley were solid free-agent additions for GM Brandon Beane last offseason, but the Bills have little else behind those two. Brown and Beasley commanded over 43% of the team targets in 2019 while both posted career years. But both are on the smaller side with Brown at 5’11/178 and Beasley the slot guy standing 5’8/174. Duke Williams (6’3/225) played heavy snaps in the playoff loss to the Texans, posting 4-49-0 on a team-high 10 targets. He’d played just 175 offensive snaps all regular season. The Bills could use an alpha-dog type No. 1 wideout -- or even a tight end -- who Josh Allen can trust to win in contested-catch situations and in the red zone. The free-agent market is not ripe with wideouts.


Miami Dolphins


Notable Free Agents: CB Aqib Talib, DT John Jenkins, C Evan Boehm, OT J’Marcus Webb, DB Walt Aikens, WR/KR Trevor Davis, TE Clive Walford


Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick had a serviceable season for the surprisingly competitive 5-11 Dolphins, but he’s going to be 38 this year, and Josh Rosen didn’t look like any sort of long-term answer across his six appearances for Miami. Fitzpatrick confirmed he’ll be back, and Rosen is also expected to return. Still, the Dolphins are fully expected to address the position with one of their three first-round picks. They currently sit at No. 5 overall with their earliest selection. Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert will be in the mix for Miami, though it may require a move-up.


Offensive Line: After trading LT Laremy Tunsil to the Texans just ahead of last season, the Dolphins have virtually no long-term money tied into their offensive line. Veteran retreads Evan Boehm and J’Marcus Webb started a combined 15 games along the front five and are headed to the open market. 2019 third-round LG Michael Deiter was horrendous as a rookie, but he’s likely the only one locked into a starting job as it stands right now. Miami needs help at every spot and has already been linked to top free agent LG Joe Thuney.


Edge Rusher: The Dolphins need help across all parts of the roster, but securing an edge presence should be of great priority. Miami was dead last in sacks (23) and adjusted sack rate a year ago. Taco Charlton, claimed off waivers in September after being a failed 2017 first-round pick of the Cowboys, ended up leading the team in QB take-downs with five. Fellow 2017 first-round DE Charles Harris has just 3.5 career sacks as a massive bust. There’s talk of the Dolphins making a run at trading for Yannick Ngakoue after the Jaguars franchise-tag him.


New England Patriots


Notable Free Agents: QB Tom Brady, LG Joe Thuney, C Ted Karras, EDGE Kyle Van Noy, S Devin McCourty, DT Danny Shelton, LB Jamie Collins, WR Phillip Dorsett, LB Elandon Roberts, OT Marshall Newhouse, OG James Ferentz, WR Matthew Slater, LB Shilique Calhoun, S Nate Ebner, K Nick Folk


Quarterback: The elephant in the room is obviously the future of Tom Brady. He’ll be 43 in August, and reports have been mixed on whether the GOAT will re-sign with the Patriots. New England has nobody in tow as his heir apparent, so figuring out the Brady thing will be of utmost importance. If Brady comes back, then eyes will move toward surrounding him with playmakers. But if Brady leaves, there will be options, as the Patriots have been loosely connected to Andy Dalton once the Bengals decide to dump him. Jameis Winston would also be pretty interesting.


Wide Receiver: The Patriots’ lack of playmakers on the outside is believed to be one of the driving forces behind Brady’s frustration in New England. Josh Gordon was supposed to be that guy on the outside, but he was again suspended partway through last season and eventually released. Antonio Brown was brought in but quickly wore out his welcome and was sent packing. There are rumors Brady wants to link back up with Brown at his next destination. After Brown and Gordon were gone, it left Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Jakobi Meyers as the top three wideouts. The Patriots eventually traded a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu at the deadline, but Sanu ended up getting hurt and playing at far less than 100% due to a high-ankle sprain. First-round rookie N’Keal Harry also failed to make a year-one impact after spending the first half of the season on injured reserve with an ankle issue of his own. A.J. Green is expected to get the franchise tag in Cincinnati. Amari Cooper could get it in Dallas, but he and Robby Anderson have to be on the radar for the Patriots. After them, it’s pretty bleak.


Defensive Line: This was a toss-up between the OL and DL, but the scales tipped in favor of the defense with sack leaders Jamie Collins (7) and Kyle Van Noy (6.5) headed for the open market. The Patriots were No. 7 in sacks and No. 8 in adjusted sack rate last season, but they don’t have that truly dominant edge presence to build around. 2019 third-rounder Chase Winovich showed flashes, but he’s unlikely to become that guy that keeps offensive linemen up at night. However, he can be a key piece as a hard worker with a relentless motor. As far as the OL goes for the Pats, LG Joe Thuney and C Ted Karras are free agents while previous starting C David Andrews missed all of 2019 with a pulmonary embolism.


New York Jets


Notable Free Agents: WR Robby Anderson, LT Kelvin Beachum, RT Brandon Shell, LG Alex Lewis, C Ryan Kalil, EDGE Jordan Jenkins, LB Neville Hewitt, CB Brian Poole, CB Maurice Canady, G/T Brent Qvale, QB Trevor Siemian, RB Ty Montgomery, RB Bilal Powell, WR Demaryius Thomas, OG Tom Compton, QB David Fales, OLB Brandon Copeland, LB Albert McClellan, LB Paul Worrilow, S Rontez Miles, P Lac Edwards


Offensive Line: Four of the Jets’ five starting linemen are scheduled to hit free agency. This is a massive need area for Gang Green, especially considering the investment in Sam Darnold as he heads into Year Three. After “seeing ghosts” in his first year under coach Adam Gase, GM Joe Douglas needs to prioritize the front five. There was a report that the Jets were the favorite to sign top free agent RT Jack Conklin, but it was quickly shot down. The Jets have also been linked to Trent Williams in trade talks. New York was 28th in sacks allowed last season.


Cornerback: Trumaine Johnson was signed to the highest-money deal at the time for a cornerback when the Jets inked him ahead of the 2018 season. It’s safe to say he’s been a colossal bust, and the Jets are fully expected to release him in the very near future. With Johnson out and Brian Poole and Maurice Canady slated for free agency, this is a huge need area for Douglas. Poole led all Jets corners in snaps and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 corner out of 128 qualifiers. DC Gregg Williams worked wonders with the group he was handed, getting quality snaps out of Poole, Bless Austin, Canady, and Art Maulet.


Wide Receiver: Robby Anderson is expected to command $15 million-ish per year on the open market, a price the Jets are reportedly not willing to reach to, but those talks have shifted a bit in recent weeks with Gang Green supposedly being more open to paying their No. 1 wideout. If Anderson leaves, the Jets would be left with slot man Jamison Crowder and that’s basically it. Quincy Enunwa has a neck issue that could prevent him from playing again, and Demaryius Thomas’ corpse is a free agent. His tank is empty. The Jets took a flier on Josh Doctson this offseason. Luckily for the Jets, this draft class is said to be loaded at wide receiver.




Baltimore Ravens


Notable Free Agents: EDGE Matt Judon, CB Jimmy Smith, NT Michael Pierce, LB Patrick Onwuasor, WR Seth Roberts, WR Chris Moore, EDGE Pernell McPhee, LB Josh Bynes, DT Justin Ellis, S Anthony Levine, S Brynden Trawick, DT Jihad Ward, DT Domata Peko, C Hronis Grassu, WR De’Anthony Thomas


Edge Rusher: 27-year-old Matt Judon is likely to be slapped with the franchise tag after leading the team with a career-high 9.5 sacks last season. He’s not exactly a dominant pass-rusher off the edge, and there’s even talk the Ravens could trade Judon after tagging him. No team blitzed more than the Ravens a year ago, essentially relying on that method to generate pressure. Judon was often left free when the Ravens brought more than the offense could block. This defense needs its replacement for Terrell Suggs after he was the Ravens’ feared rusher for years, but Baltimore obviously doesn’t have a ton of needs as one of the more complete clubs.


Wide Receiver: Rookie Marquise Brown led all Ravens wideouts in receiving last year, compiling a 46-584-7 line. Willie Snead was next in line with his meager 31-339-5 effort. Miles Boykin showed flashes last preseason and could be a candidate for a Year 2 leap. Still, this offense could use more dynamic weapons for Lamar Jackson with Seth Roberts and Chris Moore headed to the open market. Snead would ideally be a No. 4 wideout on a good team.


Interior Offensive Line: The Ravens are set at the tackle spots with LT Ronnie Stanley and RT Orlando Brown, but with RG Marshal Yanda still uncertain for 2020, the interior line is a need. Yanda was Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 guard last season, and teammates said after the playoff loss to the Titans that they believed Yanda would retire. LG Bradley Bozeman played the fifth-most snaps among guards last year and should return as a starter next to C Matt Skura. Baltimore did use a fourth-round pick on OG Ben Powers last year, and he played 30 snaps in Week 17. If Yanda hangs up the cleats, Powers would appear to be the top in-house option.


Cincinnati Bengals


Notable Free Agents: WR A.J. Green, TE Tyler Eifert, CB Darqueze Dennard, DT Andrew Billings, LB Nick Vigil, OG John Jerry, S Clayton Fejedelem, DE Kerry Wynn, LB LaRoy Reynolds


Quarterback: The rebuilding Bengals are going to take Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft, which they hope will solve the quarterback spot for many years to come. Andy Dalton will be traded or released, and Ryan Finley and Jake Dolegala are lined up as the backups. Finley was dreadful in his midseason starts last year. Cincy could use a veteran No 2.


Offensive Line: The Bengals have needs all over the field. Their offensive line was 29th in adjusted line yards created in the ground game and 21st in adjusted sack rate as pass blockers. 2019 first-round LT Jonah Williams will be back after missing his entire rookie season to shoulder surgery, and C Trey Hopkins inked a fresh three-year extension in December. Cincinnati has questions at both guard spots and could seriously use an upgrade on RT Bobby Hart. 2018 first-rounder Billy Price was drafted as a center but played guard under first-year coach Zac Taylor and is no lock to be return in 2020 after grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 80 guard out of 82 qualifiers. He wasn’t drafted by this coaching staff. Michael Jordan wasn’t much better as PFF’s No. 78 guard last year as a fourth-round rookie. Hart was the No. 70 tackle out of 81 qualifiers. John Jerry turns 34 this summer, and Cordy Glenn is likely to be cut.


Edge Rusher: Carlos Dunlap recently turned 31. He led the Bengals with 9.5 sacks last season, and Sam Hubbard registered eight to be the only members of the team with more than five sacks. As a whole, Cincinnati was 24th in adjusted sack rate. Hubbard and Carl Lawson are fine pieces of a rotation, but Dunlap can’t do this forever. Edge rusher and cornerback are the two most important positions on defense. Cincinnati is unlikely to be overly active in free agency.


Cleveland Browns


Notable Free Agents: LB Joe Schobert, S Damarious Randall, WR Rashard Higgins, LT Greg Robinson, QB Drew Stanton, S Eric Murray, S Juston Burris


Offensive Tackle: The Browns laughably went into last season with Greg Robinson as their left tackle. That was the beginning of the end for GM John Dorsey and coach Freddie Kitchens, who lost their jobs at the end of the year. Robinson has since been arrested for marijuana possession at the Mexican border this offseason, and it’s already been announced he won’t be re-signed. Cleveland has no in-house option to replace him, so the focus of the offseason for new GM Andrew Berry is to find Baker Mayfield’s blindside protector. The Browns are believed to be among the front-runners for embattled Redskins LT Trent Williams via trade. Even RT Chris Hubbard has been a bust as a 2018 free-agent pickup and isn’t a locked-in starter.


Linebacker: Joe Schobert is expected to command over $10 million per year on the open market, all but pricing his way out of Cleveland. Schobert is a true every-down linebacker and one of the defensive mainstays for the Browns. Replacing him won’t be easy, though linebacker is one of the easier positions to find contributors. The Browns used 2019 mid-round picks on LBs Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson, but it’s unclear how the new regime views the two.


Safety: The Browns used five safeties last season pretty heavily, and Damarious Randall led the five in snaps and is headed to free agency. Juston Burris received strong marks from Pro Football Focus and is also scheduled to hit the open market. Meanwhile, Morgan Burnett was on his third team in three years and turned 31 in January. New DC Joe Woods and coach Kevin Stefanski came from the 49ers and Vikings, respectively. There’s been word the Browns could be eyeing Vikings breakout S Anthony Harris in free agency next week.


Pittsburgh Steelers


Notable Free Agents: EDGE Bud Dupree, DT Javon Hargrave, S Sean Davis, C B.J. Finney, TE Nick Vannett, CB Artie Burns, LB Tyler Matakevich


Interior Offensive Line: The Steelers could opt to move on from longtime LG Ramon Foster, which would clear $4 million in cap space as Foster heads into his age-34 campaign. C Maurkice Pouncey turns 31 over the summer, and RG David DeCastro is 30. Top backup Finney is a free agent. Finney could be Foster’s replacement if the sides come to an agreement, but the Steelers have nothing in the cupboard behind this group of veterans.


Tight End: Hyped last summer as a fantasy breakout candidate, Vance McDonald ended up having a season to forget with a 38-273-3 line while averaging a pitiful 7.3 yards per catch. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges surely didn’t help matters, but this offense could really use a playmaking tight end. Vannett was acquired from the Seahawks in the middle of the season, but he’s scheduled for free agency. Perhaps the Steelers could eye Austin Hooper or Tyler Eifert.


Running Back: Steelers fans have seemed to sour on James Conner a bit after he just couldn’t stay healthy last season. There’s even been internet rumors of the team looking back into a Le’Veon Bell reunion. That’s highly unlikely to happen, but the Steelers could use a backfield mate for Conner as he heads into his contract year. Jaylen Samuels disappointed in his action as the No. 1 back last year, and 2019 draft pick Benny Snell is not a long-term starter.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for NBC Sports Edge since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.