The 2022 NFL draft has come and gone, but free agency rolls on. Just this week, we saw former Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry find a new home with the New Orleans Saints, and big-name players such as edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. have yet to pick a team.
But for the most part, we have a good idea what the NFL's 32 teams will look like in 2022—and it's significantly different than a year ago.
The changes run the gamut from the top of the league to the bottom. The reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals fortified the offensive line in free agency and the defensive backfield in the draft. The Landry signing was just one piece of a roster renovation by the Saints, who are looking to get back into contention after a down 2021. Even bottom feeders such as the Jacksonville Jaguars spent big bucks and high draft picks on shaking off the funk of last year's misery.
Some teams have done a better job of filling needs, at least at first glance. But regardless of how well a team has done and how many holes have been patched, no roster is perfect. Every team in the NFL still has at least one need that stands out above all others.
Arizona Cardinals: Edge-Rusher
The Arizona Cardinals had two primary needs in the offseason. Both were addressed—but that comes with a caveat.
On offense, the loss of wide receiver Christian Kirk left the Cardinals with a sizable skill-position hole. The trade that brought Marquise Brown to the desert went a long way toward compensating for Kirk's departure, but the six-game suspension levied against DeAndre Hopkins for a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy put the team right back in a hole.
It's a similar situation at edge-rusher. Chandler Jones and his 71.5 sacks over six seasons in the desert are gone after the 32-year-old signed a three-year, $51 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. That left a massive hole opposite Markus Golden—a hole the team tried to fill on the second day of the draft by spending third-round picks on Cameron Thomas of San Diego State and Cincinnati's Myjai Sanders.
Both youngsters have potential. But Thomas doesn't possess exceptional athleticism, and the 255-pound Sanders needs to get both bigger and stronger. Neither is anywhere close to a sure thing.
The Cardinals have Super Bowl aspirations—aspirations that the team will be hard-pressed to fulfill if it can't get after opposing quarterbacks.
Atlanta Falcons: Edge-Rusher
It's hard to pinpoint just one need as the biggest on an Atlanta Falcons roster that has so many.
To their credit, the Falcons tried to address some of those many needs in this year's draft. But this is still a roster filled with a lot more questions than answers.
Atlanta had a fistful of picks over the first two days of the draft. Drake London was brought in to serve as Atlanta's new top wide receiver. Desmond Ridder was drafted on Day 2 as a potential heir to placeholder Marcus Mariota under center. Atlanta added a pair of edge-rushers in Arnold Ebiketie of Penn State and Western Kentucky's DeAngelo Malone.
But while there's some optimism in Atlanta, there's also plenty of cause for concern.
Ridder was Bleacher Report's top-ranked quarterback prospect in this class but wasn't viewed in the same light as Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow or even Baker Mayfield. London is a promising young pass-catcher, but there's a fat bag of nothing behind him on the depth chart, with Calvin Ridley suspended through at least the 2022 season for betting on games.
Still, the biggest worry has to be asking a pair of unproven rookies to anchor a pass-rush that had fewer sacks as a team in 2021 (18) than Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt had by himself (22.5).
Baltimore Ravens: Wide Receiver
A compelling argument can be made that as with the teams listed before them, the Baltimore Ravens' biggest need is on the edge. But listing "edge-rusher" 32 times would get rather boring, and once David Ojabo's Achilles is healthy, the second-rounder from Michigan may be one of the biggest bargains of the 2022 draft.
Of course, while the Ravens were filling one hole in the draft, the team created another by trading Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals.
That trade netted the Ravens a Round 1 pick and arguably the draft's best interior lineman in Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum. But it also leaves Baltimore's roster precariously short on talent at wide receiver. The leading wideout still on Baltimore's roster (second-year pro Rashod Bateman) had 46 catches for just 515 yards as a rookie. Sammy Watkins (who was fourth on the team in receiving yards last year) will be catching passes from Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
It's hardly a secret that the Ravens like to run the football.
In 2022, Baltimore might have to be run-heavy as much from necessity as from desire.
Buffalo Bills: Cornerback
The Buffalo Bills may well have the most talented, balanced roster in the NFL. And to his credit, Bills general manager Brandon Beane did another fine job plugging holes, whether it was at cornerback in Round 1 with Florida's Kaair Elam or at running back in Round 2 with Georgia's James Cook.
However, despite Elam's arrival, the defensive backfield (and specifically cornerback) is still a potential concern for a team that has its sights set squarely on Glendale, Arizona, and Super Bowl LVII.
That's no knock on Elam, who was a top-15 prospect in his draft class, according to Bleacher Report's scouting department. The 6'1", 191-pounder is likely headed toward a starting gig from Day 1 opposite Tre'Davious White.
But Buffalo was motivated to use its first pick on Elam in large part because the Bills lost one of their starters, Levi Wallace, to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Throw in that White tore his ACL in late November 2021, and you have a potential weakness that opponents will no doubt look to exploit.
Carolina Panthers: Quarterback
Entering the 2022 draft, there was no question what the Carolina Panthers' biggest need was. The team's owner, David Tepper, has been clear time and again how much he values having a high-end quarterback. There have been an equal number of attempts to obtain one, but those attempts have produced little in the way of results.
Teddy Bridgewater played one uninspiring year as the starter in 2020 before giving way to Sam Darnold, who was similarly unimpressive. The team was a finalist for the services of Deshaun Watson and took a run at Russell Wilson.
Finally, the Panthers settled on going the rookie route, snaring Matt Corral of Ole Miss in the third round of April's draft. But it is in no way a sure thing that Corral will be the answer at quarterback any more than Bridgewater and Darnold were.
Yes, Corral is an athletic player with a live arm. But at 6'2", 205 pounds, he's also on the smaller side and played in an offensive system that didn't exactly prepare him for the NFL.
At best, Corral is a project and will take time to acclimate to the NFL. At worst, he'll be lucky to evolve into even a steady backup.
Chicago Bears: Wide Receiver
There's no shortage of pressure on Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields to make a leap in 2022. But the former Ohio State star hasn't exactly been put in a position to succeed.
Chicago's wide receivers are a mess. Darnell Mooney quietly caught 81 passes and topped 1,000 yards last season, but even if you believe in Mooney as a No. 1 wideout, there's precious little behind him outside uninspiring veterans such as Byron Pringle and unproven youngsters like rookie third-round pick Velus Jones Jr.
Per Josh Shrock of NBC Sports Chicago, new Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy dismissed concerns about the team's pass-catchers.
"Everybody wants Davante Adams," Getsy said. "Who wouldn't want Davante Adams, right? That's part of it. But Davante wasn't Davante until he became Davante. I think the system will enable some of these guys to play at their potential. And so, we'll see what we can do. We'll give them an opportunity to show them what they got."
That Getsy compared this menagerie of mediocrity to Adams is either delusional, the height of wishful thinking or a little bit of both.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cornerback
There was no question that the biggest issue facing the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2022 offseason was the offensive line. Joe Burrow was sacked 70 times last year if you count the postseason. Only two quarterbacks in NFL history have been sacked more times in a campaign.
The Bengals hit that need hard in the offseason, adding a trio of veteran starters in guard Alex Cappa, center Ted Karras and tackle La'el Collins. But Cincinnati didn't have as much success on the opposite side of the ball.
It's not that the Bengals didn't make additions in the secondary. The Bengals spent their first-rounder on Michigan's Daxton Hill, a talented young player with experience playing both safety and in the slot. The team's second pick was used on a similarly versatile defensive back in Nebraska's Cam Taylor-Britt.
But neither of those rookies has experience or (at first glance) the skill set to be a difference-maker on the boundary. The Bengals hit the jackpot last year in free agency with the addition of Chidobe Awuzie, but the other outside spot (presently held by journeyman Eli Apple) is a weakness the Rams exploited in their victory over Cincy in Super Bowl LVI.
Cleveland Browns: Defensive Line
It's still possible that the Cleveland Browns will address their biggest remaining need soon. They continue to be closely connected to Jadeveon Clowney, who logged nine sacks last year in his first season in Cleveland. Bleacher Report's Jake Rill mentioned another veteran edge-rusher as a possible target for the Browns (Tampa's Jason Pierre-Paul) if the pursuit of Clowney doesn't pan out.
But whoever the Browns sign, it's apparent that the defensive line is easily the team's weakest spot.
They did some work on the interior of the defensive line in the draft, bringing in Oklahoma's Perrion Winfrey in the fourth round. There was also an offseason trade with the New England Patriots that landed fourth-year edge-rusher Chase Winovich in Cleveland.
But there's a reason Winfrey fell to the third day of the draft, and Winovich (while a third-round pick in 2019) has just 11 sacks over his first three professional seasons.
Cleveland's D-line is Pro Bowl edge-rusher Myles Garrett and three other guys. And if the Browns don't upgrade the talent around him, Garrett will only see that much more attention from opposing offenses in 2022.
Dallas Cowboys: Wide Receiver
In the days leading up to the 2022 draft, a compelling argument could be made that the guard spot was the biggest weakness on the Dallas Cowboys after the team watched Connor Williams depart in free agency. But a team that has never been shy about addressing the O-line in the early rounds attacked that weak spot with the addition of Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith, who will kick inside in the pros, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told PFT PM (h/t NFL.com's Nick Shook).
The team also added a wide receiver relatively early in this year's draft, selecting South Alabama's Jalen Tolbert in Round 3. The 6'1", 195-pounder can play both on the boundary and in the slot and has a good mixture of size and speed.
Still, there's uncertainty at wide receiver with Amari Cooper gone. CeeDee Lamb is a dangerous weapon who topped 1,100 receiving yards last year, but behind him the questions start piling up. Can Michael Gallup return to form quickly after tearing his ACL at the end of last season? Can James Washington become a consistent contributor after showing flashes in Pittsburgh? Can Tolbert make a quick jump from small-school standout to the NFL?
Given the Texas-sized expectations the Cowboys enter every season with, the team needs answers for those questions.