1. LB: 33-year-old outside linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans are admittedly stopgap solutions, but the Cards’ most pressing need is inside. The team lost play-making Ted linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency, and lackluster veteran Paris Lenon is next in line for snaps adjacent to Mike ‘backer Gerald Hayes.
2. OT: The Cardinals are moving inconsistent former No. 5 overall pick Levi Brown to left tackle, leaving a hole on southpaw quarterback Matt Leinart’s blind side. Incumbent Mike Gandy has not been re-signed in free agency, leaving journeyman Jeremy Bridges and 2008 seventh-round pick Brandon Keith as Arizona’s top options to date.
3. CB: Ken Whisenhunt’s team avoided disaster when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s postseason knee injury proved minor, but Arizona still lacks a quality No. 2 corner. Bryant McFadden is better suited to play nickel back, and 2009 small-school project Greg Toler couldn’t even beat out special teamer Michael Adams last year.
4. TE: The Cardinals will be more balanced on offense with Leinart under center, so they could use an every-down tight end capable of contributing in both the passing and running games. The tight ends currently on Arizona’s roster are all one-dimensional and/or injury prone.
1. OT: The Niners got surprisingly potent play from Barry Sims when left tackle Joe Staley went down last year, but can’t count on the 35-year-old keeping it up. With Adam Snyder better cutout to play guard, a mauling right tackle is needed for Mike Singletary to execute his ball-control offense.
2. CB: The Niners were unsatisfied with Nate Clements’ play in coverage last year, and Tarell Brown didn’t prove an upgrade when given the chance to start down the stretch. A Kyle Wilson or Joe Haden type to book end Shawntae Spencer could go a long way toward solving the Niners’ pass defense woes.
3. LB: The team’s sack total was good, but San Francisco didn’t have a single player top 6.5 quarterback takedowns last season. High-motor rushers in the Singletary mold like Sergio Kindle of Texas and Brandon Graham of Michigan should be on the radar if available at No. 17.
4. S: Thumping strong safety Michael Lewis remains an efficient tackler, but recurring concussions may threaten his career, and he’s never excelled against the pass. Moving Clements to safety is a possibility, though he may just as easily be released with a $6 million salary pending.
1. OT: Old G.M. Tim Ruskell played with fire (and got burned) by picking a linebacker ahead of Walter Jones’ replacement in last year’s top five. Musical chairs ensued at left tackle, followed by inevitable injuries to Seattle’s quarterbacks. Pete Carroll mustn’t wait to solidify the position.
2. DB: The Seahawks’ lone bona fide starting defensive back is corner Marcus Trufant, who was lit up in his 2009 return from back surgery. With a gaping hole at strong safety, Eric Berry of Tennessee is sure to be appealing with the No. 6 overall pick.
3. DE: Patrick Kerney’s retirement leaves disappointing former first-rounder Lawrence Jackson as the Seahawks’ top end. After him, the depth chart is rounded out by Nick Reed, Chris Clemons, Robert Henderson, and perhaps former CFL linebacker/special teams prospect Ricky Foley.
4. RB: New Seahawks line coach Alex Gibbs has a history of turning garbage into gold at the tailback spot, but no one on the current roster resembles a long-term solution. Seattle has been heavily linked to Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, while Ryan Mathews is a sleeper to be Carroll’s pick at No. 14.
1. QB: A.J. Feeley, Keith Null, and Mike Reilly are the Rams’ only quarterbacks signed for 2010. Feeley knows the offense but has never been consistently effective, and Null was thoroughly overmatched in four 2009 spot starts. Sam Bradford will be St. Louis’ quarterback of the future.
2. OG: With Richie Incognito gone, Mark Setterstrom always injured, Jacob Bell no better than “just a guy,” and 2008 third-round pick John Greco not panning out, the Rams need reinforcements at both guard positions.
3. DE: Chris Long should come into his own any time now, but 33-year-old James Hall would be the starter opposite him if the Rams’ season began today. In order for coach Steve Spagnuolo’s blitz-heavy scheme to work, he needs more than just a few pass rushers.
4. RB: It’s about time the Rams got serious about finding a reliable backup and/or complement for Steven Jackson. The workhorse is hard to take off the field because he’s so productive in all facets, but Jackson has played just one 16-game season in his career while battling numerous nagging injuries over the past three years.