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One player each NFL team should target in free agency

All 32 NFL teams could find an upgrade somewhere in free agency.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is a dangerous game that seems to have more disaster stories than successes, but there's no doubt that it's a chance for some teams to improve and upgrade.

Even teams without much cap space to work with can still go through the discount bin and find a player that could contribute for cheap. In 2015, the San Diego Chargers found a starting cornerback in Patrick Robinson for just a one-year, $2 million deal, while the Miami Dolphins threw a six-year, $114 million contract at Ndamukong Suh in exchange for mixed results.

For all 32 teams there is a player that could make sense to pursue in free agency, and while the priority for some teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, will be to re-sign its own players, there are still going to be a player or two that escape other rosters and make sense.

Arizona Cardinals - Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts

Bruce Arians doesn't feature tight ends as huge parts of his offense, but that's what makes Allen such a great fit in Arizona. The former third-round pick for the Colts is a solid blocker first and foremost, who can also contribute in the passing game.

While Allen caught eight touchdowns in 2014, he was used most as a pass catcher in 2012 as a rookie, which was Arians' last season in Indianapolis. Allen could be a better fit for the role that the Cardinals thought they were filling when the team signed Jermaine Gresham and would likely come at an affordable price.

Atlanta Falcons - Mario Williams, DE, Bills

The Falcons added some promising young pass rushing talent last year with Vic Beasley, but still managed just 19 sacks. As Dan Quinn's defense is still being built, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Falcons to add a veteran to the fold and Williams would be perfect for the role.

In Atlanta, he wouldn't be asked to do as much as he was under Rex Ryan in Buffalo. He could do what he's best at: Getting after opposing quarterbacks.

Baltimore Ravens - Mike Neal, OLB, Packers

When Terrell Suggs went down with an Achilles tear, the Ravens couldn't quite find a top-level pass rush. While 37 sacks isn't a bad mark, Elvis Dumervil led the team with just six sacks and it's tough to count on Suggs returning to form in 2016.

The problem for the Ravens is that money is a little tight and the team can't afford to open up the wallet and throw money at a player who will finish with a double-digit sack season. Neal isn't the elite pass rusher that the Ravens need, but he's an experienced player who wouldn't have trouble fitting in with the Ravens and could provide a rotational threat for the team.

Buffalo Bills - Danny Trevathan, ILB, Broncos

For as loaded as the Bills defense is, there's a glaring hole at the inside linebacker spot. Buffalo has plenty of options for filling that need thanks to a free agent market stocked with stud inside linebackers. Might as well aim big and go for Trevathan.

Injuries kept him on the shelf for most of 2014, but he bounced back in a big way last season. It's not easy for an inside linebacker to stand out in that Broncos defense, but he racked up 110 total tackles and two interceptions. He's solid in coverage, stout against the run and at 26, he could be a focal point for the Bills defense for a long time.

If the Bills don't want to pay for the brand new Cadillac, they might consider a slightly used, low mileage Ford Taurus: Rolando McClain.

Carolina Panthers - Prince Amukamara, CB, Giants

Carolina is 100 percent set on one half of the field with Josh Norman, who will likely be on the receiving end of a long-term deal soon, but the team didn't have a solid option on the other side all year. Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere were good enough, but both suffered season-ending injuries.

By adding a starting-quality cornerback like Amukamara, the Panthers defense will have a strong group of defensive backs and can allow Benwikere to play in the slot where he's more naturally suited. The question is just whether or not Amukamara is in the team's price range, especially with a deal with Norman on the horizon.

Chicago Bears - Kelvin Beachum, OT, Steelers

Beachum likely comes at a much more affordable price after an ACL tear ended his 2015 season. A seventh-round pick in 2012, Beachum quickly developed into an excellent starting left tackle for the Steelers, but had the injury that set him back.

The Bears could use help on the offensive line and need a new starter protecting the blindside after parting ways with Jermon Bushrod. While Charles Leno played well in the latter half of the year for the Bears, Beachum has the potential to be a stellar signing a decent price tag for a franchise left tackle.

Cincinnati Bengals - Patrick Robinson, CB, Chargers

The top priority for the Bengals is keeping so many impending free agents in Cincinnati and the team has a solid amount of cap space to make that happen. Still, it's tough to justify a splurge in free agency on other teams' players when guys like Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Vincent Rey and Adam Jones were all such big parts of a great year for the Bengals in 2016.

One bargain buy for the Bengals could be Robinson, who played very well for the Chargers in 2016. He signed a one-year, $2 million deal in 2015 and far outplayed those terms in 16 games in San Diego. He'll cost a little more than that in 2016, but not too much that it wouldn't be an economical move for the Bengals to add a versatile cornerback to the mix.

Cleveland Browns - Brock Osweiler, QB, Broncos

The bigger question for now is whether or not Osweiler will strike a deal to stay in Denver, but that might be difficult for the two sides to agree on. The 25-year-old passer didn't show he was worth enough to warrant the franchise tag, but he did show enough that a team like the Browns would be willing to pay up and that gives him some leverage to use against the Broncos.

If he does hit the free agency market, Osweiler can be added as competition for the Browns and join Josh McCown and possibly a rookie, giving Hue Jackson multiple options to work with.

Dallas Cowboys - Colt McCoy, QB, Washington

It's far from a splash, but the Cowboys need to find someone to help out if Tony Romo goes down and relying on a rookie to lead the way if the starter goes down isn't ideal. Adding a veteran like McCoy would give the Cowboys life if Romo goes down and gives the team the freedom to look away from the quarterback position with No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Even if the Cowboys do elect to pick a quarterback, adding another veteran to help that young player along couldn't hurt. With Washington worried about tying up money in Kirk Cousins, the Cowboys could snag away McCoy at an affordable price.

Denver Broncos - Alfred Morris, RB, Washington

The post-Peyton Manning era is almost definitely about to begin for the Broncos, and even if it doesn't, it's time for the team to prepare for life after its record-breaking passing seasons of 2012-2014.

In 2015, the Broncos offense just wasn't very efficient and finished No. 17 in the NFL in rushing. The combination of C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman was strong enough, but both players are set to hit free agency. If the team signs just one, Morris is exactly the type of bell-cow back who could provide the Broncos with a plodding power rusher to bulldoze ahead and keep another shiftier back fresh.

Detroit Lions - Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers

Boldin is still kicking after 13 seasons in the NFL, but the same can't be said for Calvin Johnson who is said to be on the verge of announcing his retirement soon. If Johnson is really gone, the Lions wide receiving corps is very thin after Golden Tate.

Even if the team addresses the position in the 2016 NFL Draft, adding a veteran like Boldin should help the team from taking a significant step backwards in the passing game. Boldin's numbers have waned, but 69 receptions for 789 receiving yards in 2015 would still be a welcomed addition in Detroit.

Green Bay Packers - Joique Bell, RB, Lions

The Packers are a team that has shown again and again that it's unwilling to dish out the huge deals in free agency, but is willing to go discount shopping. After an unimpressive year from Eddie Lacy, Green Bay could use an upgrade at running back, but don't expect the team to go after a player like Doug Martin.

Even signing a player like Matt Forte isn't the type of move that the Packers have thrived on, and a more likely target is Joique Bell. He would be a solid complement to the players already in the Green Bay backfield and has excelled at making plays as a receiver as well, which would blend well with the Packers offense.

Houston Texans - Rodney McLeod, S, Rams

If it seems like the Texans bring in a safety every spring, it's because they do. The players they bring in just never end up working out like they envision. In 2013, it was Ed Reed, who they cut in November of that year. Last March, they signed Rahim Moore; he was riding the bench by November. They should just avoid free agent safeties completely, but it's hard to do when there's a glaring hole in the back of your defense.

McLeod is only 25, but in four years of experience he's really grown as a player. Pro Football Focus graded him as their 10th best safety last season. He's strong in coverage and genuinely likes to punish opposing receivers. The UVA product isn't a guy who'll put up big interception numbers, but he's the kind of mid-level bargain that can make a defense complete. Another option might be Browns safety Tashaun Gipson could be a bargain after a down season too.

Indianapolis Colts - Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Ravens

Overspending in free agency has been a criticism of Ryan Grigson's tenure as the general manager in Indianapolis, but there aren't many pass rushing options for him to throw money at in 2016. Luckily for the Colts, a player like Upshaw will likely be very cheap after just five sacks in four season with the Ravens.

A second-round pick in 2012, Upshaw's rookie season came just after Chuck Pagano left to become the head coach of the Colts, but the two might actually be a solid pairing in Indianapolis. Upshaw is a good player against the run who could provide a starting quality player for cheap who still may have untapped pass rushing potential.

Jacksonville Jaguars - Malik Jackson, DE, Broncos

Don't be surprised when the Jaguars are a trendy pick to make waves in 2016, especially after the offense showed promise with young talents like Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns connecting in the passing game. What held the team back was a defense allowed the second-most points in the NFL.

Getting pass rusher Dante Fowler into the lineup after he basically redshirted his rookie season following an ACL tear in his first practice will be a big help, but the Jaguars also have $80 million in cap space that it can use to lure away top talents. The team snagged away Julius Thomas from the Broncos last year and can add Jackson to a defensive line that needs the boost.

Kansas City Chiefs - Brandon Bokyin, CB, Steelers

Andy Reid was still the coach of the Eagles when the team decided to draft Brandon Boykin in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. It looked like a good decision early in the cornerback's career, but was eventually traded to the Steelers for a late-round pick.

Priority No. 1 for the Chiefs will be retaining the team's own free agents, but Boykin is a cheap option who could help out in the slot. Neither Phillip Gaines nor Jamell Fleming were particularly effective in the role and Boykin could also potentially help out on kick returns, as well.

Los Angeles Rams - Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals

The passing game needs upgrading for the Rams and it's going to take more than one receiver to get it done. But the team has the available cash to sign an impact player as the team rebuilds its offensive weapons, and Jones is a guy that makes plenty of sense.

There's a good chance that Jones will be the best receiver on the open market, and that would boost his price, but the Rams can afford it and he won't receive a blockbuster deal like Alshon Jeffery would.

Miami Dolphins - Jahri Evans, OG, Saints

The Dolphins had an offensive line full of holes and tried to fill those as best they could through the NFL Draft by adding Jamil Douglas, Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner. None were particularly effective and while another year of growth and learning should help, the Dolphins could use a veteran to fill a starting space and help give the offense a boost.

Evans had a streak of six-straight trips to the Pro Bowl, but it was snapped with a 2015 season that was hampered by an ankle injury. His salary cap number led to his release and he turns 33 this summer, but all of that means that a solid starter will hit the open market at an affordable price. The Dolphins haven't been shy about paying players in the past, but Evans is someone they won't have to splurge on to bring in.

Minnesota Vikings - George Iloka, S, Bengals

The Vikings have an excellent young player in Harrison Smith, but could make the secondary even better by replacing Andrew Sendejo who was benched at one point for Robert Blanton. Sendejo is now a free agent and the Vikings could vastly improve the team by adding Iloka, a 25-year-old safety who has steadily improved and has familiarity with Mike Zimmer's defense.

He might be a costly free agent to pursue, but the Vikings have some cap space to work with and have some options to clear even more to go after an impact player like Iloka, who could set the team over the top.


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New England Patriots - Matt Forte, RB, Bears

Forte had a career-low in rushing yardage in 2015, but it was also a career low in rushing attempts. His 4.1 yards per carry is still a solid mark and even if he's 30 now, the Patriots have been a team that hasn't shied away from aging running backs like Corey Dillon, Fred Taylor and Steven Jackson.

Dion Lewis is a solid young back for the Patriots, but he's recovering from a serious knee injury and would be even more effective if he had a complementary back like Forte, anyway.

New Orleans Saints - James Laurinaitis, LB, Rams

There isn't much salary cap room for the Saints to work with, but a player like Laurinaitis likely won't cost much after a rough season with the Rams. Still only 29, Laurinaitis has declined in recent years and is more a player who racks up tackles than one who makes much of an impact on the line of scrimmage.

That might not be a terrible thing for the Saints, though. He can provide depth for the team and help bring along 2015 first-round pick Stephone Anthony. The Saints used Dannell Ellerbe sparingly last season, but Laurinaitis might be able to be a better version of that in the New Orleans defense.

New York Giants - Sean Smith, CB, Chiefs

Smith may price him himself out of the affordable range the Chiefs are willing to pay, but the Giants have the cap space to make the acquisition. If the team elects not to bring back Prince Amukamara, pairing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with another tall and rangy cornerback like Smith would be a big boost the New York secondary.

The Giants finished with the worst defense in the NFL in 2015 and allowed the most passing yards, but adding Smith is a good way to start the fix.

New York Jets - Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers

The Jets were so close to being a Super Bowl contender in 2015, but stumbled in the last week of the regular season and were left on the outside looking in. That makes patiently discount shopping difficult, especially when offensive players like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall aren't getting any younger.

By going after Martin, the Jets would be signing the best running back in the free agency class and a 27-year-old offensive threat who can be the team's bell-cow running back for years to come.

Oakland Raiders - Kelechi Osemele, OL, Ravens

If Osemele hits the open market, he'll be about as expensive as any free agent, but the Raiders have a ton of spending room to work with and are one of the few teams that could front the bill.

The Raiders may have Donald Penn back in Oakland in 2016, but whether the veteran is back or not, Osemele has the versatility to be a significant boost just about anywhere on the offensive line. The 27-year-old lineman would be an investment for the future, which is something Reggie McKenzie has done well. He wasn't impatient while building up the team and now has the resources to go after long-term pieces like Osemele.

Philadelphia Eagles - Chase Daniel, QB, Chiefs

Regardless of the two-year deal with Bradford, adding better options than Mark Sanchez should be a priority for the team is the post-Chip Kelly era.

Daniel is just a player that makes a ton of sense, especially after spending the last three seasons under the tutelage of Doug Pederson. The 29-year-old quarterback has all of 77 pass attempts in six NFL seasons, so it's really tough to know how much he offers, but nobody would know better than Pederson and the Eagles could get a decent player at a very affordable price.

Pittsburgh Steelers - Nick Perry, OLB, Packers

No, I'm not unaware of the fact that the Steelers need help at cornerback, but the team is notorious for staying out of bidding wars and that's likely what it will take to snag a starting-quality defensive back. With Perry, the Steelers can get a solid player to add to the mix defensively, and that's important given the uncertainty of James Harrison's future.

Bud Dupree has plenty of potential, and that's what made him a first-round pick in 2015, but once upon a time, the Steelers showed interest in Nick Perry before the Packers drafted him in the first round in 2012. His lack of gaudy stats will keep the price tag low enough for a team as shrewd as the Steelers to potentially be in the market.

San Diego Chargers - Mohamed Sanu, WR, Bengals

The Chargers have a great, young receiver in Keenan Allen, but didn't have too many receiving options for Philip Rivers after Allen was injured and lost for the season. Antonio Gates' best days are behind him and Stevie Johnson is more of a role player, so finding another player to add to the fold would be helpful.

Sanu shouldn't carry a big price tag on the open market after just 33 receptions and no touchdowns during the 2015 season. But he may have been buried on a team with options like A.J. Green and Marvin Jones in the starting lineup.

San Francisco 49ers - Bruce Irvin, OLB, Seahawks

Divisional rivals love to snag players away from each other and the 49ers could dish a little hurt to the Seahawks by grabbing Irvin. Following the loss of Aldon Smith, the 49ers don't have many pass rushing options on the roster and could let Irvin loose in a way that the Seahawks never really did.

Seattle asked a lot of Irvin and used him as a jack of all trades, and the 49ers could use him similarly, but his pass rushing skills are what would make him a valuable addition in San Francisco.

Seattle Seahawks - Alex Boone, OG, 49ers

One of the major things that kept the Seahawks from returning to the Super Bowl in 2015 was shoddy offensive line play. While Seattle is a team that has mostly built one of the NFL's best rosters through the NFL Draft, picks late in each of the first four rounds and no picks in the next two rounds, leaves the Seahawks' with thin chances at finding instant starters to immediately fix the problem.

The Seahawks aren't one of the teams overflowing with cap space, but it has more than enough to make an aggressive move and going after a high-quality starting offensive lineman like Boone is an uncharacteristic one that would make sense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Travis Benjamin, WR, Browns

Jameis Winston landed in a pretty good situation in Tampa Bay with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to throw to, but the perfect complement for the big bodied receivers outside the hashmarks would be a quick slot receiver like Benjamin.

The team also could improve its punt returning capabilities and replace Bobby Rainey with a more dynamic returner like Benjamin.

And hey, Lavonte David thinks it's a good idea.

Tennessee Titans - Russell Okung, OT, Seahawks

Most expect the Titans to invest in the protection of Marcus Mariota with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but relying on a rookie to fill the job might be a tall ask. By adding Okung, a former top 10 pick, the Titans would have a veteran who could immediately fill a starting role and greatly improve the team's offensive line.

Even by adding a player like Okung, it would still make plenty of sense for the Titans to draft Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Either way, the team could upgrade its offensive line in a big way and give its self more options with the No. 1 pick.

Washington - Ben Jones, C, Texans

Kirk Cousins benefited from solid offensive line play in 2015, but the center position wasn't nearly as solid as the other four positions. Neither Josh LeRibeus or Kory Lichtensteiger did well enough to give the team much confidence in the position heading into 2016, but adding a young player like Jones would be a quick fix.

A fourth-round pick in 2012, Jones developed into a solid starter for the Texans after three seasons as a guard and played well in his first season at center in 2015. Still only 26, his best days are likely ahead of him and Washington could improve an already promising young offense by upgrading the middle of the offensive line with Jones.

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