- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson takes a look at the top three needs for every team in the league as we get ready for the start of free agency (we hope).
Williamson surprised me a bit when he listed Atlanta’s needs. I don’t disagree with the needs he cites -- offensive line, defensive end and tight end. But I am surprised that he went in that order. I firmly believe defensive end is Atlanta’s No. 1 need and I’m convinced they’re going to address it by signing someone like Minnesota’s Ray Edwards or Carolina’s Charles Johnson. As far as the offensive line goes, yes, it is a need. Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock are all potential free agents, center Todd McClure is aging and the jury is still out on left tackle Sam Baker. I think the Falcons will keep one or two of their free agents and they’ve drafted offensive linemen the past few years to prepare for this situation. But I still wouldn’t be surprised if they go out and sign one strong offensive lineman.
When it came to Carolina, Williamson had defensive tackle at the top of the list. No argument here. Yes, Carolina used two third-round picks on defensive tackles, but we don’t know if they’ll have much impact right away. This position has been a glaring weakness for the Panthers the last few years and I think it would be a good idea to go out and sign someone like Seattle’s Brandon Mebane.
Williamson lists outside linebacker, strong safety and offensive tackle as New Orleans’ biggest needs. I’m totally with him on outside linebacker. The team just drafted Martez Wilson and has high hopes for Jonathan Casillas. But they’re both question marks. A veteran team with Super Bowl aspirations might be wise to pick up a proven linebacker.
For Tampa Bay, Williamson lists offensive line, cornerback and running back as the biggest needs. Offensive line could be a huge need if guard Davin Joseph leaves via free agency. Even if he stays, the Bucs could use some help in this area. Cornerback is a bit of an uncertainty because we don’t know if Aqib Talib will be disciplined or if the team will part ways with him. But I do like young corners Elbert Mack, Myron Lewis and E.J. Biggers and think they could combine with veteran Ronde Barber to give the Bucs decent play at cornerback, especially if Tampa Bay can generate any type of a pass rush. I also like the fact Williamson lists running back as a need. A lot of people tend to assume that the Bucs are fine with LeGarrette Blount. He’s very good, but there’s very little depth behind him, especially if Cadillac Williams leaves through free agency.