The self-evaluation process for NFL teams is never as easy as many fans imagine. The vision most outsiders have of the process is something like this: Teams watch their defensive backs get beat over the top for 17 consecutive weeks and conclude that the secondary needs to be improved. If only it was that easy.
Identifying the problem is only the first step. By the time the offseason begins, every team has undergone a collaborative internal evaluation process that touches everyone from the capologists to the pro scouts to the coaching staff, the general manager and the ownership. Supply and demand, character concerns, internal evaluations of prospects already on the roster -- all of those factors must be considered to properly evaluate the benefit of any offseason move.
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During this process there is a vast amount of data and a plethora of differing opinions, weighing considerations ranging from the objective (on-field, statistical production) to the highly subjective (the off-field relationships that form when you view players as "people" and not just "assets"). In all, it is a daunting -- and even an emotional -- exercise.
When I was a GM, our first step was to tap into our pro scouting department to construct a big board of talent likely to be available in the free-agent market. Then, the hard part comes after the conclusion of the regular season: slotting your own players onto that board. Who is pulling his weight? Where might there be an upgrade? Whose talent isn't matching his cap hit? Who is ready to carry a heavier load? Who is starting to decline or who might have just had a bad year?
Those questions are answered through the analysis of your scouting and coaching staff, and occasionally an independent scouting service. After spending a season staring at every aspect of your roster -- and often working with players for multiple seasons -- I found it very helpful to weigh an outside opinion against our internal evaluations.
In a very small, much less detailed way, that's what I'm doing here by listing the top needs for the NFL's 32 teams based on my analysis of their current depth chart. Based on my outsider's evaluation, these are the areas I think teams may target as needing key fixes this offseason.
Key need: CB/S
Despite general manager Bruce Allen's creativity, the cap penalties will restrict the Redskins' ability to spend this offseason. With whatever they can free up, they should look to upgrade at both corner and safety, as Washington allowed 7.4 yards per pass attempt last season (22nd in the league). The return of LB Brian Orakpo from injury should help cut down on the time opposing passers have in the pocket, though.