The NFL Draft, which concluded Saturday, does not solve all roster issues -- making this the perfect time to look at each roster and identify what is the most important personnel work still to be done.
For instance, even with the high-profile offensive tackles at the top of this draft, that position remains a question mark for several teams. There is always the hope that a late-round draftee or rookie free agent can emerge during camp to plug a roster leak, but that's risky. For some teams it is time to re-examine the free-agent market and/or get in the trade business to upgrade a key position.
It's going to take between $4 million to $5 million of salary cap space for most teams to sign their draft class, which leads to more veterans being released or traded. There are eight to 10 teams, at least, looking to create salary cap space to sign their draft picks.
I found nine teams that didn't draft for a key position in the first four rounds and might have to reopen the free agent or trade avenues to acquire talent. They all might feel compelled to do so, but they all should be thinking about it.
Atlanta Falcons -- offensive tackle: If the Falcons had to play a game today, Lamar Holmes would be the starting right tackle, because Tyson Clabo was released. Holmes has zero NFL starts and has only been active for one. The Falcons did not draft a tackle, and they have less than $3 million of cap space. It would be good if they could re-sign Clabo, or they could to after Chiefs free agent Eric Winston if he lowered his asking price.
Baltimore Ravens -- offensive tackle: The Ravens were a much better offensive line last year with Michael Oher at right tackle and Bryant McKinnie on the left side. Right now, Oher is penciled in on the left side, where he struggled, and Jah Reid is the starting right tackle. Last season, in nine games, Reid gave up four penalties and two sacks. While that doesn't sound bad, it puts Oher in a tough spot at left tackle. Although the Ravens drafted tackle Ricky Wagner from Wisconsin in the fifth round, the champs need McKinnie back to defend their title.
Dallas Cowboys -- defensive tackle: The Cowboys are building a new 4-3 defense and they didn't draft a rookie "3 technique" defensive tackle to build around. Right now, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher are the starting tackles and there are nine DTs on the roster. Ratliff is 32 and the rest are journeymen. The could have drafted Kawann Short or Johnathan Hankins, or even moved up few spots in the first round for Sylvester Williams or Datone Jones. Right now, the free-agent market is not very appealing but maybe there's a team out there converting to a 3-4 defense with a tackle who doesn't fit the new scheme. But that's a long shot.
Detroit Lions -- offensive tackle: If the Lions played today, Reilly Reiff would be the left tackle and Corey Hilliard would be the right tackle for a team that throws more than anyone in league. Reiff would survive, but he's a better right tackle. Hilliard has been around for five years and has five starts, four penalties and five sacks surrendered. The Lions did not draft an offensive tackle and need to use some of their $6.7 million of cap space to get a veteran. Clabo, Winston and McKinnie deserve consideration. Trading for Brandon Albert or even Jason Peters would be an expensive option. In a perfect world, they could convince the Jaguars to trade Eugene Monroe, now that No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel is in Jacksonville. But I talked with the Jaguars, and it sounds like they have no intention of trading Monroe. But if I were the Lions, I might keep trying.
Jacksonville Jaguars -- quarterback: This is the third coaching staff to work with Blaine Gabbert, and the club did not draft a QB. Tim Tebow is a free agent but he's not an upgrade from Gabbert -- though think it would make things interesting. Since there isn't even a third QB on the roster, signing a veteran is important issue. An undrafted rookie free agent is nice for camp but not to win the starting job. Is this a spot for Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer?
New Orleans Saints -- outside linebacker: The Saints are going from a 4-3 to a 3-4. They made a nice move in drafting NT John Jenkins. Then they took a chance in the sixth round, picking Rufus Johnson in hopes that he can help them at OLB. But it would be nice to see a veteran on the roster besides Victor Butler. Right now there really isn't a solid player on the market, so they may have to wait it out a year or talk trade with a team like Pittsburgh. The Saints also lack salary cap space to make a deal. New Orleans will do a good job with what they have, but generating sacks without blitzing could be difficult.
New York Jets -- outside linebacker: The Jets are in the same situation as the Saints. They are trying to replace Calvin Pace and Antwan Barnes. They could have drafted Jarvis Jones but believed the value was in DL Sheldon Richardson. No argument on that decision but maybe taking a chance in the third round on Damontre Moore would have been worth it.
Oakland Raiders -- defensive tackle: The Raiders lost both defensive tackles to free agency and cap considerations. The penciled-in starters are Pat Sims and Vance Walker. They used a sixth-round pick on Stacy McGee. Sims has one start and one sack in the past two seasons, while Walker has 11 starts and five sacks over four seasons. Veterans like Corey Williams or Sed Ellis could add depth. Taking CB D.J. Hayden at No. 12 of the first round is open to debate when Richardson, Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd were on the board. In the second round, they took an offensive tackle when Kawann Short and Johnathan Hankins were on the board and in the third round took OLB Sio Moore when John Jenkins and Brandon Williams were available. I'm not questioning those calls, but they need more help inside on the defensive line.
Washington Redskins -- offensive tackle: Washington had their hands tied with the picks they gave up to draft Robert Griffin III last year. They also have been dealing with salary cap penalties. Nonetheless, if they had to play a game today, Tyler Polumbus is the starting right tackle. He's not bad (started 15 games last season, yielding five sacks), but Bruce Allen is a master of acquiring veterans -- especially after the draft. The Skins have virtually no salary cap space, but I could see them making post-draft inquiries about Clabo and Winston. It's possible the club feels Jeremy Trueblood is the answer, and he's already on the roster.
More free agents: Without considering specific team needs, several quality free agents remain on the market. Karlos Dansby, Nick Barnett, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Lloyd, Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney, John Abraham, Brandon Moore, Darryl Smith and Charles Woodson all can still help a team.
We have entered the dog days of the NFL offseason from a personnel standpoint.
The initial waves of free agency are long over, the draft has concluded and even the mad dash to sign undrafted college free agents is behind us. But that's not to say there isn't still some veteran talent on the street, waiting for a phone call (or, more to the point, the right phone call at the right price).
No one can predict how a draft will unfold and not every team could meet every need within the confines of those seven rounds. Plenty of teams still need help, and while most vets looking at their last contract would prefer to do it with a contending team, that won't always be the case.
With that in mind, here are nine free agents who are plenty worthy of a shot at a roster spot right now, and where they would make sense.
DE John Abraham: He made his tour of visits, and he's been pretty firm with his asking price, but this still leaps out as a Bill Belichick move to me. He is always collecting veteran edge players who can add situational help, and the Pats are always in the hunt. Abraham used to play in this division and could be spelled some. Belichick will find a way to get him on the field at the key time.
G Brandon Moore: He has been a longtime starter and consistent performer, and even though the Bears reached for interior lineman Kyle Long in the first round, it doesn't mean they don't need cover. Their line has long been a mess, and Long is a project who will need some mentoring. With Jay Cutler in his walk year, more investment in protecting him is necessary.
RT Tyson Clabo: A stalwart for the Falcons, he got caught in a cap crunch. The Cowboys really like him and remain in contact with him and need to make this move. Get rid of Doug Free and his $7 million salary and give Clabo his $3.5 million-$4 million and call it an upgrade. I know Dallas is in a cap crunch, but after a questionable draft, upgrading some offensive line personnel now would be wise. And the Dolphins are now in on Clabo, too, hosting him for a visit starting Tuesday night.
LT Bryant McKinnie: McKinnie never has managed to ingratiate himself with the Ravens -- and has been overweight, and erratic at times -- but he has played particularly well in the postseason. In fact, the Ravens don't win the Super Bowl, or maybe even make the playoffs, without him being reinserted at left tackle late in the season. The Ravens continue to talk to him, and frankly, they should give him a few million with some weight clauses and get this done. Baltimore is dabbling with moving guard Kelechi Osemele to left tackle, but that's not his natural fit. Miami and San Diego are also interested, and either could use him.
RT Eric Winston: Has performed at a high level for awhile, but there are medical concerns and no one has been willing to pay him in that $3 million to $4 million range, either. But the Dolphins continue to monitor him. After all of their splashy moves and overpaying people in free agency, they might as well go get a tackle, since Jake Long departed. The thought here is Jonathan Martin moves to left tackle -- the Dolphins think he can pull it off -- and Winston stabilizes things on the right side. Of course, if Miami can get its main target -- Kansas City right tackle Branden Albert via trade -- then these signings would be moot.
LB Karlos Dansby: He has been a tackling machine throughout his career, he brings strong leadership qualities with him and he undoubtedly will be motivated after the Dolphins let him go. He recently visited the Bills. While I understand Buffalo drafted linebacker Kiko Alonso, they could use reinforcements, and you can't tell me that their defensive roster is so robust and overflowing with talent that Dansby couldn't help.
DL Richard Seymour: He still has something to offer, can help anchor the inside and rush off the edge. And he knows what it's like to be in a winning locker room ... as well as an inept one. He won't come cheaply, which is why he hasn't signed yet, but teams continue to monitor him. While I think he could offer a boost to a Pittsburgh front seven in transition, the Steelers don't have the cap space to pull it off. But what about the Colts? They still could use some depth there, are trying to add more bite on defense and haven't been shy at all about spending this offseason.
OLB Dwight Freeney: I'm not sure he's more than a situational pass rusher at this stage, but in small doses still might be able to approach double-digit sack totals, and that's always in demand. Another player whose price tag has been seen as too steep. But I still don't know that he doesn't make sense in Denver, a team that is obviously in Super Bowl or bust mode.
DB Charles Woodson: He may not have much to offer, but he's a total pro, has seen both sides of the NFL evolution process (going from looking like a disinterested potential bust to one of the most respected veterans in the game) and long ago realized that there won't be big money for him. He could make sense for the Ravens. Baltimore just lost Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Having drafted safety Matt Elam, who is talented but could have attitude issues, and with young starting corner Jimmy Smith a character concern in the past as well, a steady, reliable old head like Woodson in a locker room lacking leaders might not be the worst investment the Ravens could make.
"what if there were no hypothetical situations?"