Offseason Blueprint: Oakland Raiders

Notable Free Agents: Nnamdi Asomugha (re-signed), CB; Shane Lechler (re-signed), P; Chris Johnson (re-signed), CB; Jake Grove, C; Cooper Carlisle, G.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $4,000,000

Draft Order: 7

Top Needs: Not unlike other teams selecting at the top of the draft, the Raiders are mostly in need of offensive line help. Defensive line, wide receiver and linebacker could also be addressed.

Offseason Outlook: The Raiders’ top priority was to ensure that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t hit the open market, and they accomplished that by inking him to a new three-year, $45 million contract. Asomugha’s deal is complex and you can read more details here, but the bottom line is that he’ll once again anchor the Raiders’ secondary in 2009.

Al Davis also re-signed punter Shane Lechler to a four-year, $16 million contract. That might not be big news to some, but considering how much the Raiders punt during the regular season, re-signing Lechler was a wise move.

The biggest challenge Davis now faces is how will he free up enough cap space to address other needs. The Raiders were sitting at $4 million under the cap before the re-signings of Asomugha and Lechler. Are cuts coming? If so, who will be shown the door?

One name that has recently come up in trade speculation is defensive end Derrick Burgess, who the Raiders are rumored to be shopping. Burgess becomes a free agent after the 2009 season so it would make sense that Oakland would trade him now in order to gain compensation. If they were able to trade him, they would free up $3.5 million in cap space, which isn’t a huge amount but it would help.


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Offseason Blueprint: Cleveland Browns

Notable Free Agents: Sean Jones, S; Andra Davis, LB; Willie McGinest, LB.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $17,000,000

Draft Order: 5

Top Needs: Two years after signing LeCharles Bentley to a huge contract only to watch him suffer a career-ending knee injury on the first day of training camp, the Browns are once again in need of a center to bolster the interior of their offensive line. The team is also expected to beef up the linebacker corps and possibly add another defensive end for depth. Wide receiver and running back will also likely be addressed.

Offseason Outlook: Word has it that the Browns are already shopping quarterback Derek Anderson (the Jets have emerged as a possible suitor), which means Brady Quinn will likely become the unquestioned starter next season under center. But perhaps the majority of changes for the Browns this offseason will once again be made on the defensive side of the ball – especially in the front seven.

Adding defensive tackle Shaun Rogers via a trade with Detroit last offseason proved to be an outstanding move. Rogers was worth the risk (he was labeled as being lazy in Motown) and had a major impact along Cleveland’s defensive line last year. Corey Williams, another player the Browns added via offseason trade last offseason, was hamstrung with various injuries last season but showed his grit by playing hurt and is a steady player when healthy.

With the Browns set at those two positions on the D-line, they’ll turn their attention to the defensive end spot opposite Williams. Robaire Smith emerged as a quality playmaker in 2007, but a ruptured Achilles tendon cut his season short after only two games last year and the team was stuck with Shaun Smith, who proved to hit players more off the field (ask Brady Quinn), then he did on it. Don’t count on Cleveland upgrading this position in the first round of the draft because there simply isn’t a 3-4 end worth taking at No. 5, but the spot will be addressed at some point. Plus before his season-ending injury last year, Robaire Smith had only missed one game in the previous six seasons so if he can come back healthy, the starting job should remain his.


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Offseason Blueprint: Seattle Seahawks

Notable Free Agents: Leroy Hill, LB; Leonard Weaver, FB; Maurice Morris, RB; Rocky Bernard, DT; Bobby Engram, WR.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $900,000

Draft Order: 4

Top Needs: The Hawks need to add depth to an offensive line that has injury and age concerns. The defensive line could stand to add depth as well and this team really needs a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. Safety and even quarterback could be addressed as well.

Offseason Outlook: Jim Mora is set to take over the reins in Seattle as Mike Holmgren puts his coaching career on hold. Perhaps the biggest thing that needs to be addressed this offseason is something the Seahawks have no control over – health. The injury bug hit this team like a runaway train last year and it never recovered.

Many early mocks have the Hawks selecting Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree with the fourth overall pick. Not a bad choice considering this team needs a major playmaker on the offensive side of the ball and Crabtree is easily the best wideout of the ’09 draft class. It’s hard to argue against taking a 6’3”, 214-pound receiver who has outstanding leaping ability and soft hands. If he winds up in Seattle, he would dramatically upgrade the wideout position.


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Offseason Blueprint: Kansas City Chiefs

Notable Free Agents: Jason Babin, DE; Rocky Boiman, LB; Oliver Celestin, FS.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $33,000,000

Draft Order: 3

Top Needs: The Chiefs have a variety of holes to fill this offseason, from the interior of their offensive line, to linebacker to safety and No. 2 wide receiver.

Offseason Outlook: Despite the lack of overall roster talent, the Chiefs aren’t a bad situation to walk into for new GM Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley. The team has plenty of cap space, a high draft pick and not one marquee free agent to re-sign. Pioli is essentially working with a clean slate to begin his era in Kansas City.

That said, there are some underlining issues on the horizon. Tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Larry Johnson, two players who will be counted on to spark the revival in Kansas City, have both expressed a desire to be traded this offseason. Gonzalez has wavered a bit in his demands, but it’s clear that LJ wants out of KC and maybe Pioli will grant his wish as long as the Chiefs can land proper compensation for the star back.

Another area Pioli might address is at quarterback, where incumbent Tyler Thigpen played well enough in the second half of the season to merit a crack at the starting spot, but probably isn’t the long-term answer. Considering Pioli is coming over from New England, he could look into what it would take to acquire Matt Cassel. Don’t count on it though. KC has the No. 3 overall pick and certainly won’t part with that high of a pick for Cassel, especially when you consider he might have been a product of the Patriots’ outstanding offensive system. Don’t be surprised if Thigpen is the Chiefs’ starter under center again next year.


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Offseason Blueprint: St. Louis Rams

Notable Free Agents: Ron Bartell, CB; Richie Incognito, C; Dane Looker, WR; Dante Hall, WR;

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $8000,000

Draft Order: 2

Top Needs: The Rams have major holes along their offensive line and will likely look to upgrade their linebacker corps and secondary.

Offseason Outlook: Rumors are already circulating that the Rams will part with long-time veterans Orlando Pace and Torry Holt, although don’t rule out either player restructuring their current contracts in order to stay in St. Louis. Holt’s cap charge in 2009 is $10.25 million and Pace carries a charge of $9 mil next year. Neither player will be in a St. Louis uniform next year at their current prices. The team will either deal the players or flat out release them if they don’t agree to restructure their contracts.

The Rams might also consider releasing safety Corey Chavous ($1.2 million), linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa ($2.25 million), backup quarterback Trent Green ($1.3 million) and defensive tackle Claude Wroten ($726,000) this offseason. Considering they’re handcuffed at only $8 million, expect new head coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff to make moves in order to free up some cap space this offseason.

If the Rams part with Holt, some believe they may target a wide receiver in the draft, possibly even Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree. But don’t count on it. Even if the team releases/trades Holt, word is that the Rams love the potential of Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton, and therefore could address other needs with the second overall pick in the draft.


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