TEAM BY TEAM NEEDS IN APRIL'S DRAFT (New Orleans & Tampa)
I will analyze each team's free agency gains & losses, their 2008 draft recap & overall team needs.
New Orleans Saints:
The Saints resigned some key members of their '08 squad. Heath Evans, a fullback, LB Jonathan Vilma & OT Jon Stinchcomb all were starters last year & they'll be back. The only free agents they let go who have a chance to be resigned are starting right guard, Jahri Evans & backup O-linemen, Matt Lehr & Zach Strief. Released RB Deuce McAllister might be finished after double knee surgery.
Their 2008 draft class had but 2 players who managed to stay off I.R. Number 1 pick, Sedrick Ellis started early on & played effectively at defensive tackle. Guard Carl Nicks got thrust into the starting lineup after Jamar Nesbitt was suspended & he kept the spot the rest of the season. Corner Tracey Porter started opening day but was sidelined by week 5 with a serious wrist injury. D-tackle DeMario Pressley broke his foot twice & WR Adrian Arrington had never ending turf toe, both spent the season on I.R.
The New Orleans' need list can be summed up with one word, defense. They need more line help, one, maybe two outside linebackers & secondary depth. The Saints need a tackle to pair with Sedrick Ellis. Both starting outside linebackers are free agent journeymen, Scott Fujita & Scott Shanle. The secondary problems started with injuries to 3 starters, followed by backups that either couldn't play or were too old to be very effective. The Saints gave up more plays of 20 yards or more than anyone in the league. There isn't much behind RB Reggie Bush, so a RB later on would be a reasonable choice.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Bucs released several vets with large salaries. Starters QB Jeff Garcia, WR Joey Galloway, LB's Derrick Brooks & Cato June, RB Warrick Dunn & WR Ike Hilliard all are gone. They put the franchise tag on WR Antonio Bryant, their most effective playmaker last year. Donald Penn, their starting left offensive tackle, is a restricted free agent & I expect him to be retained. They signed ex-Giant 1,000 yard rusher, Derrick Ward who will be asked to carry the load for this offense. Everyone on the backfield depth chart, except Dunn, was injured for part or all of the season. Place kicker, Mike Nugent, an ex-jet, was signed even tho the Bucs have Pro Bowl kicker Matt Bryant.
Tampa Bay's 2008 draft amounted to three players. That's it, pretty sad. First round corner, Aquib Talib played mostly in the nickel. Dexter Jackson, the fleet 2nd round WR didn't make much of an impression, couldn't stay on the field on 3rd down & was a total dud as a kick returner. Third round OG, Jeremy Zuttah was actually the one rookie who could stay on the field. Played both guard slots & even started 5 games.
This team's needs start with quarterback. Brian Griese, Luke McCown (a free agent right now) & rookie Josh Johnson make up the depth chart. It's not hard to see why they went after Matt Cassel & if Denver QB, Jay Cutler becomes available, the Bucs should be in the conversation. Other than Gaines Adams, who had a whopping 5.5 sacks, they have nothing on the D-line but has-beens. With Hilliard & Galloway's departure, plus Dexter Jackson's disappointing rookie season, the Bucs could use some WR depth behind starters Bryant & Michael Clayton. Rookie head coach Raheem Morris inherited a team that had gotten old quickly, he has a lot of holes to fill.
Next up we have the Chicago Bears & Detroit Lions.