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8 NFL contenders that still have a big hole after free agency

Free agency doesn’t fix everything, but luckily the draft isn’t that far away.

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

As teams prepare for free agency, they scan their roster, look for glaring needs, and figure out what the appropriate amount of cash should be allotted to that position. When free agency opens, teams go hard for those targets if they feel it’s a priority. Sometimes your target signs somewhere else or gets out of the price range. That leaves holes on rosters for some contenders.

Now that the biggest free agency wave is over, the focus for most teams is on the NFL Draft. Here’s what positions eight teams need to address in this year’s draft.

The Patriots should move up in the draft to protect Tom Brady

Tom Brady has primarily played with two left tackles in his career. Brady has started 251 regular season games. Matt Light and Nate Solder have started at left tackle for 220 of those 251 games. Now that Solder signed with the New York Giants for the richest left tackle contract in history, the Patriots have a huge hole there.

They re-signed LaAdrian Waddle as maybe a patch over for that need, but the Patriots must turn to the draft to find a left tackle. The only left tackle in the draft that’s ready to play right now is Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and the Patriots would be wise to find a way to move up to grab him. I highly doubt he’s sitting there at 31 for them.

The Rams need to get someone to play alongside Aaron Donald

The Rams are going for it with Jared Goff still under his rookie contract. It’s a fantastic strategy and one the Seahawks used with Russell Wilson and the Eagles are currently doing with Carson Wentz. Instead of the Rams paying one cornerback, Trumaine Johnson, big bucks, they went out and traded for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Alongside Lamarcus Joyner and Nickell Robey-Coleman, the Rams have one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

The Rams also traded linebacker Alec Ogletree to the Giants and defensive end Robert Quinn to the Dolphins. The Rams need to fill these two spots, and most important, they need to fill Quinn’s spot. With Aaron Donald wrecking shop inside, the Rams need an edge rusher to take away the double teams Donald will be seeing. They must find someone in the draft.

The Cowboys should go all-in on defense

Unlike the Rams, Eagles, and the 2013-15 Seahawks, the Cowboys aren’t using Dak Prescott’s rookie contract to improve the defense. Their offense with Zeke Elliott will be back to firing on all cylinders next season. With the Giants maybe rebuilding and Washington being just OK, the Cowboys can make a push for a wild card spot, if they improve their defense.

They franchise-tagged DeMarcus Lawrence, which was a must. But they still need another defensive end (or hope that Taco Charlton is that guy), a linebacker, and some secondary help. Their entire draft should be defense.

The Eagles had a strong offseason, but still have one big hole

After winning the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles have attacked the offseason hard, continuing to improve their roster. They traded for Michael Bennett, signed Haloti Ngata, and traded for Daryl Worley. However, they still have one position of need: the punter! Longtime punter Donnie Jones just retired and the Eagles only have UDFA Cameron Johnston under contract.

While this might not seem like a sexy decision, having elite special teams is important to success. Just don’t use a second-round pick on a specialist.

The Saints and Lions need to address the tight end position

I think the Lions would like to take a defensive tackle in the first round, to plug up the hole left by Haloti Ngata leaving. I could see the Saints taking a defensive end if one fell to them they had rated higher. However, both these teams need a tight end.

The Saints re-signed Drew Brees to a “team-friendly” contract with the thought of bringing Jimmy Graham back to New Orleans. Graham ended up signing with the Packers, though. The Lions cut Eric Ebron right before free agency began. Both teams will need a tight end in the draft to complement their offense and help their franchise quarterbacks.

The Panthers and Chiefs have to attack the secondary

The Panthers had a few areas of interest in free agency and filled one with the signing of defensive tackle Dontari Poe. They tried to address their needs in the secondary by signing Bashaud Breeland, but he unfortunately failed his physical. The Panthers still need to target this area in the draft, or some lower level free agent signings after trading Worthy, cutting Teddy Williams and Kurt Coleman, and letting Jairus Byrd walk .

I think the Chiefs have a pullback season in 2018. It’s not a complete rebuild, but an 8-8 type season, then gear up for 2019. However, the Chiefs need to still attack two positions in the draft. They need to continue to address the secondary and the pass rush, with a defensive tackle or a defensive end. Either one would work. But I’d continue to focus on the secondary. Bob Sutton’s defenses have worked best with excellent secondaries (as do most defenses).