With free agency only two weeks away, there will be (as there always are) a handful of teams poised to spend a ton of money on new players. While the approach may have more to do with winning offseason press conferences than winning regular-season games, it’s a quick way for teams to excite the fan base, to generate offseason attention, and to create real hope for the coming season.
This year, with almost all of the NFL’s teams expected to be on the right side of the salary cap, several franchises have become candidates for significant spending. The franchises to watch are the Falcons, Buccaneers, Raiders, Jaguars, and Bills.
In Atlanta, the focal point surely will be the defense and the offensive line. A pass rusher is needed, badly. Maybe two.
In Tampa Bay, pass rushers also are needed, especially with Michael Johnson being a bust of a free-agent addition and Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn on the way out. The offensive line could use a boost (a common dynamic for most bad teams), and coach Lovie Smith likely covets defensive backs who can run his Tampa Two defense.
For the Raiders, last year’s free-agency period included overspending on descending players. This year, if they’re going to overspend the Raiders should target ascending players, like receiver Randall Cobb.
The Jaguars have been building through the draft, but oner Shad Khan seems to be ready to augment the roster with significant veteran contributors at multiple positions. Some competent pass-catchers would be nice.
Finally, the Bills didn’t have a losing record in 2014, but they seem to be ready to pursue aggressively a playoff berth. While finding a quarterback without a first-round pick continues to be the biggest challenge, the Bills can upgrade enough of the positions around the signal-caller to take the next step from 9-7 to the postseason, a place they haven’t been since 1999.
As usual, big money will flow in the first several days of the process. Then, things will slow down — and other teams will jump in and pick over any remaining bargains.