The 2013-2014 NFL season officially goes in the books Sunday, and the Scouting Combine is less than a month away. Free agency opens on March 11. With coaching staffs largely settled, impending free agents identified, and salary cap situations beginning to clarify, here is a look at the four most glaring positional needs for every club entering the 2014 offseason.
Teams are ranked in order of roster quality.
1. Seattle Seahawks
OL: Right tackle Breno Giacomini has been an average to below-average starter the past two-plus seasons, and his contract is up. Seattle employed a left guard rotation throughout 2013 as disappointing former first-round pick James Carpenter failed to nail down the job. Only LT Russell Okung and C Max Unger should enter the offseason as locked-in starters on the Seahawks' line.
WR: The Seahawks will release injured Sidney Rice, while Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin's contracts are both expiring. Baldwin is easy to retain on a second-round restricted tender, but Tate may opt to test the open market. Injury-riddled Percy Harvin has missed all but three of his teams' previous 25 games. Jermaine Kearse is best suited as a sub-package jump-ball specialist.
DE: Versatile stud Michael Bennett is headed for free agency, and 32-year-old Chris Clemons won't return on his $7.5 million scheduled base salary. As DC Dan Quinn's defense relies on up-front rotations to keep its pass rushers fresh, Seattle needs young legs to pair with promising Benson Mayowa behind RE Cliff Avril and LE Red Bryant. Bruce Irvin is now a full-time linebacker.
K: The Seahawks could solve this "team need" quickly by extending free agent Steven Hauschka, but GM John Schneider does business differently than the rest of the league. He's got a ton of critical offensive and defensive players to re-sign over the next two offseasons, and could let Hauschka see what the market offers before committing to the 28-year-old kicker. Hauschka has a 91.9% field goal rate over the past two seasons, so keeping him probably won't be cheap.
2. San Francisco 49ers
CB: 32-year-old slot corner Carlos Rogers ($6.6 million) will be a salary casualty and RCB Tarell Brown is a free agent. The 49ers aren't expected to tender restricted free agent Perrish Cox. That leaves Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver as the only potential starters on the offseason roster, and Culliver is coming off an ACL tear. Cornerback is easily GM Trent Baalke's No. 1 priority.
WR: Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham's contracts are up, leaving Michael Crabtree and rising sophomore Quinton Patton as San Francisco's only worthwhile wideouts. Crabtree enters a contract year and Patton caught three passes as a rookie. Colin Kaepernick's weapons shortage led to some rough patches in 2013. Re-signing 33-year-old Boldin would only be a short-term fix.
S: Eric Reid flashed star potential as a rookie, but the 49ers may lose reliable bookend Donte Whitner to free agency. The Niners' top internal replacement would be Craig Dahl, who's best suited for special teams and third-safety work. Re-signing Whitner would be most sensible, but perhaps not affordable. Going on age 29, this is likely Whitner's last chance at a huge pay day.
LB: Navorro Bowman shredded his ACL and MCL in the NFC Championship, and it may be time to begin planning for the post-Patrick Willis era. (Willis is owed a non-guaranteed $7.065 million salary in 2015.) In all likelihood, the 49ers will paper over Bowman's early-2014 absence with a camp battle between a cheap free agent and in-house candidate Michael Wilhoite. They could still invest a middle-round draft pick at inside linebacker, a key position in DC Vic Fangio's defense.
3. Denver Broncos
CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie publicly discussed retirement during Super Bowl week and is entering free agency. Franchise stalwart Champ Bailey's future is also up in the air going on age 36 with a $9 million base salary. Stud slot corner Chris Harris, a restricted free agent, tore his left ACL on January 12. It's possible the Broncos will need two new starting cornerbacks for 2014.
LB: Impending free agent Wesley Woodyard flamed out at middle linebacker this past season, losing his starting job to Paris Lenon down the stretch. Lenon, 36, is also a free agent. The Broncos could explore moving WLB Danny Trevathan inside during the offseason. SLB Von Miller's return will obviously help, but there's bound to be a hole at one of the other linebackers.
OG: Louis Vasquez is entrenched as Denver's right guard, but LG Zane Beadles is a free agent and has no obvious in-house successor. It's possible the Broncos will consider kicking LT Chris Clark inside to guard with Ryan Clady (Lisfranc) returning, but otherwise this is a starting-lineup hole. Denver is set at the other tackle position (Orlando Franklin) and center (Manuel Ramirez).
WR: The Broncos likely won't be able to afford free agent Eric Decker, as Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas are both entering contract years as more valuable pieces in Denver's passing attack. Wes Welker turns 33 in May and suffered two concussions in 2013. Look for VP of Player Personnel John Elway to invest a mid-round pick on a wideout. Elway tried with Tavarres King in the fifth round last year, but King was waived and ended the season on the Panthers' inactives list.
4. New England Patriots
TE: Think what you want about Bill Belichick; it's inarguable that he revolutionized the way NFL teams play offense in the Aaron Hernandez-Rob Gronkowski "era" by playing two dual-threat tight ends at the same time and forcing defenses into sub-package alignments they didn't want to play. The Patriots could run or pass at a highly efficient clip out of the "12 personnel" formation. They obviously didn't pose that threat in '13. With Hernandez's career likely over and Gronk rehabbing MCL and ACL tears, look for New England to invest at least one premium draft pick in a tight end.
DT: After ranking 30th in run defense, the Patriots' defensive tackle depth chart is littered with question marks. 32-year-old NT Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles' on September 29 and has an unwieldy $11.5 million cap number. 33-year-old Tommy Kelly tore his ACL in Week 5. The Pats got pushed around up front for most of last year. If New England takes a needs-based approach into May's draft, I would consider interior defensive line the favorite to be their first-round target.
CB: Aqib Talib's free agency makes this a need position, but New England would be good to go were he re-signed. Alfonzo Dennard has emerged as a solid No. 2 corner, and Kyle Arrington excels in the slot. Both are under contract for 2014. Third-round pick Logan Ryan also quietly had an excellent rookie season, earning seven starts and leading the Patriots in interceptions (5).
WR: The Pats could shore up this need by re-signing free agent Julian Edelman, getting Danny Amendola healthy, and developing in-house talents Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. So an addition isn't necessarily required. If Belichick does prioritize upgrading at wide receiver, free agent Eric Decker would make a lot of sense. OC Josh McDaniels drafted Decker in Denver.
5. New Orleans Saints
OL: Terron Armstead showed enough late-season promise to enter 2014 entrenched on Drew Brees' blind side, but C Brian De La Puente and RT Zach Strief are free agents, and RG Jahri Evans is reaching the especially expensive years of his deal. Drew Brees' "window" is closing at age 35. The Saints could make one or two more Super Bowl runs by upgrading his protection.
CB: Keenan Lewis emerged as a borderline-shutdown corner in his first season with the Saints, but 32-year-old bookend Jabari Greer is a likely cap casualty after tearing his left ACL in November, and 2010 first-round pick Patrick Robinson is a bust. Corey White was badly stretched as a starter late last season. Cornerback could easily be GM Mickey Loomis' first-round target.
LB: Junior Galette is a steal on his $1.4 million salary, but the Saints are fairly thin behind him. Returning from last June's ACL tear, Victor Butler can only be viewed as a wild card. Parys Haralson is a free agent. Another impact edge rusher could give DC Rob Ryan's unit a big spark.
S: Kenny Vaccaro was a first-round hit, but Malcolm Jenkins is likely to depart in free agency, and Roman Harper isn't worth his $3.15 million owed in salary and bonuses. Safety is a critical position in Ryan's defense, as he frequently played three at the same time this season en route to a No. 2 finish against the pass. Even oft-used No. 4 safety Rafael Bush is a restricted free agent.
6. Green Bay Packers
DL: RE B.J. Raji and NT Ryan Pickett both have expiring contracts, while 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones is returning from a disappointing rookie season. As this offseason's defensive line group is the deepest of 2014 free agency, it's probably time Green Bay became an active participant. The Packers under DC Dom Capers have been too soft up front for far too long.
S: Free safety M.D. Jennings is a replacement-level player at best, while SS Morgan Burnett was among the game's worst safeties this season after signing a new five-year, $26.1 million contract last July. Green Bay is strong at cornerback, but badly needs help back deep. Burnett ranked 63rd among 86 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' 2013 safety ratings. Jennings finished 67th.
C: Green Bay should be loaded at tackle and guard with Bryan Bulaga (ACL) returning and Derek Sherrod finally healthy, but C Evan Dietrich-Smith's contract is up after an outstanding season. GM Ted Thompson typically extends players he intends to keep long term before their contracts expire. Aaron Rodgers is publicly stumping for Dietrich-Smith's return, but it may not happen.
QB: For too many years Thompson has failed to take his No. 2 quarterback position seriously. Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman, Vince Young, and Seneca Wallace have all recently flopped in the role, while 2013 stopgap Matt Flynn is a free agent. With Rodgers now on the wrong side of 30, Green Bay would be smart to take a mid-round quarterback stab. Scott Tolzien is currently Rodgers' backup.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
CB: Top corner Leon Hall is recovering from his second Achilles' tendon tear in three seasons and costs $6.9 million in salary and bonuses. LCB Terence Newman turns 36 before next season and was unavailable for Cincinnati's final four games due to a knee injury. 30-year-old nickel back Pacman Jones is an average cover man. Dre Kirkpatrick has been a first-round disappointment.
QB: Andy Dalton's final 2013 stats look impressive on paper, but his talent limitations consistently show up against the NFL's more competitive defenses, and he's now laid an egg in three straight playoffs. New OC Hue Jackson will attempt to mask Dalton's flaws more than outgoing playcaller Jay Gruden did with a run-first offense, and more defined reads and throws. Dalton is entering his contract year and isn't a franchise quarterback. An early- to middle-round QB pick is possible.
DL: Whether it's an end or tackle, the Bengals need a defensive lineman to bolster their up-front rotation with RE Michael Johnson likely leaving in free agency and DT Geno Atkins coming off a Week 9 right ACL tear. Cincy may also consider cutting DL Robert Geathers ($2.8 million) and/or NT Domata Peko ($3.965 million) in cap maneuvers. I tend to believe the Bengals will prioritize upgrading the interior line, with 2013 second-rounder Margus Hunt's role growing on the outside.
OT: LT Andrew Whitworth and RT Andre Smith are both signed through 2015, but free agent swing tackle Anthony Collins was a key 2013 contributor (seven starts) and figures to leave for a starting job. No. 4 tackle Dennis Roland's contract is also up. The Bengals need a depth injection.
8. Carolina Panthers
DB: Carolina masked its secondary flaws with a dominant front seven throughout 2013, but GM Dave Gettleman can't view that as a bankable long-term approach. He needs better players in the back end, and it doesn't help that CBs Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn, as well as FS Mike Mitchell and SS Quintin Mikell are all free agents. With limited salary cap room, look for Gettleman to invest multiple draft picks on defensive backs. Munnerlyn would be a strong re-sign.
OL: Left tackle Jordan Gross and left guard Travelle Wharton's contracts are both expiring, while RG Nate Chandler was a liability down the stretch. RT Byron Bell is a restricted free agent, leaving C Ryan Kalil as Carolina's only stable starting offensive lineman. Getting back Amini Silatolu (ACL surgery) will help, but the Panthers enter the offseason with at least three line jobs up in the air.
WR: The Panthers have a lot of needs for a team that finished 12-4, earning a first-round bye. If OC Mike Shula is going to expand the offense in his second year as coordinator, he'll need an alpha receiver. Cam Newton's accuracy is his biggest deficiency as a passer, so a wideout with a large catching radius could go a long way toward Cam taking a statistical leap. Someone like Anquan Boldin could paper over the hole for a year, but Carolina needs more speed outside. Steve Smith is slowing down going on age 35. Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn are free agents.
DE: This only becomes a need if free agent Greg Hardy departs, although I anticipate Gettleman slapping him with the franchise tag. The Panthers also have solid depth behind entrenched LE Charles Johnson, with Frank Alexander, Mario Addison, and Wes Horton all making 2013 contributions. Still, Gettleman comes from the Giants, and is a believer that you can never have too many pass rushers.
9. Indianapolis Colts
OL: It's no secret that Indy's offensive line has been a weakness during each of Andrew Luck's first two NFL seasons. GM Ryan Grigson tried to plug holes by signing RT Gosder Cherilus and LG Donald Thomas last spring, in addition to drafting OG Hugh Thornton. Cherilus was solid, but Thomas tore his quad in September and Thornton struggled badly as a third-round rookie, along with veteran C Samson Satele. Look for Grigson to make at least one splashy O-Line addition.
DB: Free safety Antoine Bethea and RCB Vontae Davis are the Colts' best defensive backs, and both are headed into free agency. Grigson will likely attempt to re-sign both, but talent is needed toward the back end of the depth chart. 2013 free agent pickup Greg Toler was an injury-riddled disappointment at left cornerback. Slot defender Darius Butler is a risk-taking coverage liability.
P/K: You may be sensing a theme here: Indianapolis has a lot of free agents. Included are K Adam Vinatieri and P Pat McAfee, both among the league's best at their positions. McAfee is a franchise tag candidate, while 41-year-old Vinatieri may be allowed to walk, price tag pending.
RB: Yet another Colts free agent is Donald Brown, who parlayed his contract year into a career-best season and bypassed Trent Richardson as Indianapolis' clear feature back during the playoffs. Brown isn't worth big money, but OC Pep Hamilton would likely prefer to have him back as a steadying presence. Richardson certainly won't be handed the job. Ahmad Bradshaw's deal is also up, and Vick Ballard is a below-average talent coming off a torn right ACL.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
OL: Left tackle Branden Albert, right guard Geoff Schwartz, and top interior reserve Jon Asamoah are all free agents. Left guard Jeff Allen struggled mightily for a second straight season, while C Rodney Hudson is entering a contract year. 2013 No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher was a letdown as a rookie, and swing tackle Donald Stephenson is best suited for a backup role. Beyond Fisher, the Chiefs have little settled long term on their offensive line. Expect multiple offseason moves here.
S: Incumbent FS Kendrick Lewis is a free agent and won't be back. The Chiefs have discussed moving Sanders Commings to safety, but the 2013 fifth-rounder played three snaps as a rookie and would be converting from cornerback. Ultimately, Kansas City's Week 1 bookend for SS Eric Berry likely isn't on the current roster. Jairus Byrd is the top safety in the 2014 free agent class.
QB: Alex Smith is locked into Kansas City's starting job after a career-best season, but remains closer to game manager than franchise quarterback, and his contract expires after 2014. Coach Andy Reid believes in taking at least one quarterback stab in every other draft, and a mid- to late-round flier makes sense. If Reid believes Tyler Bray is ready for primary backup duties, Kansas City could cut Chase Daniel and save $1.4 million versus the cap. The hypothetical rookie pick would be their No. 3.
WR: Dexter McCluster is scheduled for free agency, and Donnie Avery underwhelmed as a 2013 offseason signing. Dwayne Bowe is a passable No. 1, but Kansas City could use an explosive complementary No. 2 receiver. In Philly, Reid regularly drafted wideouts in the early rounds.
11. Philadelphia Eagles
S: Defense, defense, defense. The Eagles could use talent injections at all three levels, with safety as the most glaring deficiency. Strong safety Nate Allen's rookie deal is up, and free safety Pat Chung is fully expected to be released. Fifth-round pick Earl Wolff failed to distinguish himself in his first NFL season. Philadelphia may very well open next season with two new safety starters.
DT: Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are a formidable duo on the ends, but first-year DC Billy Davis was forced to rely too heavily on undersized rookie Bennie Logan at nose tackle in 2013. Logan can shoot gaps, but gets pushed around against the run. The Eagles turned to Logan because $11 million pickup Isaac Sopoaga flopped on the nose. Sopoaga was traded to New England in October.
WR: With Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin's contracts expiring, overpaid slot man Jason Avant is left as Philly's current No. 2 receiver behind DeSean Jackson. Maclin has hinted he'd be willing to accept less money to stay with the Eagles, which would smoothly shore up this hole. Cooper also seems unlikely to break the bank. It's not inconceivable that Philadelphia could bring back both.
CB: Offseason free agent addition Cary Williams predictably finished toward the latter end of Pro Football Focus' 2013 cornerback ratings, while bookend LCB Bradley Fletcher was better, but not great. Brandon Boykin is entrenched as Philly's long-term slot corner, but the outside positions are far from settled. Adding an early- to mid-round draft pick to compete for snaps would make sense.
12. Baltimore Ravens
OL: Baltimore's offensive line fell directly off a cliff, losing once-promising LG Kelechi Osemele to a year-ending back injury and trading for LT Eugene Monroe in an October move that cost the Ravens two 2014 middle-round picks but didn't solve the problems up front. Monroe and RT Michael Oher's contracts are now up, while overmatched C Gino Gradkowski will almost certainly not get back his starting job. Retaining Monroe, getting Osemele healthy, and upgrading center would be big offseason wins.
WR: Seemingly an annual need for GM Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore's wide receiver weakness was particularly exposed after Dennis Pitta's in-camp hip injury. New playcaller Gary Kubiak will want a possession threat in the Kevin Walter/DeAndre Hopkins mold to team with Torrey Smith. Jacoby Jones is a free agent, and versatile rising sophomore Marlon Brown would be a solid third option.
S: It's telling when your best safety is James Ihedigbo. First-round pick Matt Elam was stretched as a rookie starter, and Michael Huff was released six weeks into the season. As Ihedigbo's deal has now expired, Newsome will have to add at least one major contributor at safety this spring.
TE: I placed tight end low on this list because I fully expect Newsome to re-sign Pitta. At his introductory press conference, Kubiak spoke as if there's no question free agent Pitta will be on the 2014 roster. It's still a notable need, with only Matt Furstenburg and Nathan Overbay currently under contract at tight end. Free agents Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark shouldn’t be retained.
13. Detroit Lions
WR: Lions GM Martin Mayhew believed he had No. 2 receiver squared away for the long term when he invested back-to-back 2011 and 2012 second-round picks in Titus Young and Ryan Broyles. Young proceeded to go off the deep end, while Broyles has now torn both ACLs and his Achilles' tendon since his senior year at Oklahoma. Nate Burleson and Kris Durham haven't adequately filled the voids. It's back to square one for Mayhew, who may have to turn to free agency to address the position opposite Calvin Johnson. James Jones would be a quality add.
CB: Detroit has a lot of theoretical talent at corner, but little or nothing on which to hang its hat. LCB Chris Houston was benched down the stretch of 2013. Second-round pick Darius Slay lost his starting job to 33-year-old Rashean Mathis, who is now a free agent. Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, and Jonte Green all saw extensive playing time but failed to reliably nail down jobs.
TE: The Lions cut Tony Scheffler in October, and Brandon Pettigrew's rookie deal is up. Left behind are blocking-deficient Joseph Fauria and blocking-only Michael Williams at tight end. There is some belief that Detroit could use the franchise tag on Pettigrew, but he isn't worth it.
K: Detroit's two kickers under contract for 2014 are Giorgio Tavecchio and John Potter. The former has never attempted an NFL kick, while the latter has bounced around the league the past two seasons. 39-year-old free agent David Akers shouldn't be retained after a sub-par season.
14. Chicago Bears
DL: This was a nightmare position for the Bears' league-worst run defense, and is about to get even thinner with RE Julius Peppers' inevitable release. Beyond Peppers, the only worthwhile Chicago defensive linemen signed for 2014 are injury-riddled NT Stephen Paea, 2012 first-round disappointment Shea McClellin, and long-shot prospects Cornelius Washington and David Bass. LE Corey Wootton, and DTs Henry Melton, Nate Collins, and Jay Ratliff are all free agents.
LB: 2013 second-round pick Jon Bostic struggled so badly at middle linebacker in 2013 that the Bears are considering moving him outside or to the bench. Chicago has penciled in converted DE McClellin as its new strong-side starter. 33-year-old Lance Briggs probably has one season left at weak-side linebacker. Bears GM Phil Emery inarguably made the right decision to not pay Brian Urlacher last offseason, but is still searching for a replacement.
DB: Every level of this defense needs upgrades. Emery did well to retain LCB Tim Jennings, but isn't expected to pursue re-signing free agent RCB Charles Tillman or SS Major Wright. FS Chris Conte was awful in 2013 and must be replaced. There isn't a defense in football in more need of a full-on makeover than the Bears'. Even after Jay Cutler's $127 million megadeal, Emery will have over $20 million in salary cap room once Peppers, Michael Bush, and Earl Bennett are released.
C: The Bears likely feel comfortable entering 2014 with LT Jermon Bushrod, RT Jordan Mills, LG Matt Slauson, and RG Kyle Long locked into the starting lineup. C Roberto Garza is a free agent, however, and turns 35 in March. Garza has spent the last decade in Chicago and may be willing to settle for a hometown discount. He played well enough in 2013 to retain at the right price.
15. San Diego Chargers
CB: There wasn't a team in football with less effective corners this season. Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall, and Derek Cox finished 1-2-3 on the Chargers in cornerback snaps, and all three finished among Pro Football Focus' bottom-ten CBs, out of 110 qualifiers. Revamping the position is all but required. Marshall is a free agent, and $20 million megabust Cox may be cut.
NT: San Diego's defense coughed up 4.59 yards per carry in 2013, the sixth highest clip in the league. Cam Thomas didn't pan out at nose tackle and is now a free agent, while journeyman-type Sean Lissemore is left atop the depth chart. The Chargers are internally high on 2013 UDFA nose Byron Jerideau, but he didn't earn any rookie-year snaps. Nose tackle is a gaping hole.
OG: The Chargers have question marks at both guard positions, as LG Chad Rinehart's contract is up and RG Jeromey Clary isn't remotely worth his $4.55 million base salary. No. 3 guard Johnnie Troutman didn't show well enough in 2013 to be trusted as a starter. Re-signing Rinehart would win half the battle. San Diego will likely find its other 2014 guard via the draft or free agency.
WR: Rookie GM Tom Telesco stole Keenan Allen in the third round of last year's draft, but the rest of San Diego's wideout corps is subpar at best. Eddie Royal is an overpaid, middling slot receiver. Vincent Brown played so poorly in '13 that his roster spot may be in danger. Reports indicate 32-year-old Malcom Floyd's neck injury is career threatening, and Danario Alexander is a free agent. Complementing route-running maven Allen with a big-play burner would make sense.
16. Miami Dolphins
OL: Outgoing GM Jeff Ireland dove head first into 2013 free agency, ostensibly forgetting while submerged that good offensive linemen are important for young quarterbacks. The result was a league-high 58 sacks absorbed by Ryan Tannehill, who began to look shell shocked late in the season. Hopefully Ireland didn't ruin him for good. The Fins need new starters at every position except center. LG Richie Incognito, RG John Jerry, LT Bryant McKinnie, and RT Tyson Clabo are all free agents. Jonathan Martin isn't coming back, and he wasn't very good in the first place.
CB: Brent Grimes was Miami's best 2013 defensive player, but played on a one-year deal. He's a franchise tag candidate. RCB Nolan Carroll's contract is also up, and the Fins are likely to cut slot corner Dimitri Patterson due to an unwieldy $5.3 million salary. So it's conceivable that new GM Dennis Hickey will have to replace at least two-thirds of Miami's nickel package, if not all three.
DT: Once a strength of the Dolphins' defense, defensive tackle could quickly become a weakness should free agents Randy Starks and Paul Soliai both depart. As Jared Odrick is entering a walk year, Miami is clearly thinning at the position. Soliai and Starks are on the wrong side of 30, so they're going to look to max out in free agency. Expect multiple moves on the Dolphins' interior.
RB: New OC Bill Lazor will study the tape and determine whether Lamar Miller is capable of feature back duties. I tend to lean toward saying he is, but Miller obviously has improvements to make in his game. Career plodder Daniel Thomas definitely isn't the answer, and the organization was reportedly down on fifth-round pick Mike Gillislee after a nondescript first NFL season.
17. Washington Redskins
DB: Washington was shredded in the secondary throughout 2013, struggling at safety and corner. Rising sophomore CB David Amerson will probably enter the starting lineup, but incumbents Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall both have expiring deals. Hall has said he wants to re-sign with the Redskins, and is open to playing safety. Either way, multiple starters are needed in the back end.
LB: Perry Riley and Brian Orakpo are free agents, while London Fletcher is retiring at age 39. The Skins will prioritize re-signing top pass rusher Orakpo, but need two starters on the inside. Depth is also lacking at both linebacker spots. This position group may be headed for quite an overhaul.
OL: Outgoing coach Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme stockpiled undersized linemen with movement skills. New coach Jay Gruden ran a power-oriented run game in Cincinnati. LG Kory Lichtensteiger (6'2/284) and RT Tyler Polumbus (6'8/305) are questionable fits for the new offense, and Chris Chester (6'3/309) is on the small side for a right guard. Unless Gruden opts to keep the scheme in place -- a possibility -- the Redskins will have to start drafting differently.
WR: Shanahan and Gruden treat their No. 2 receivers similarly, utilizing rotations where blocking ability can be the greatest determinant of playing time. So Gruden won't necessarily seek a big-time playmaker to pair with Pierre Garcon. He still needs an upgrade on Leonard Hankerson, who's coming off LCL and ACL tears. Josh Morgan and Santana Moss are both free agents.
18. Dallas Cowboys
DT: This is pretty telling: Dallas' top returning defensive tackle is Tyrone Crawford, a onetime defensive end with zero career starts who missed the entire season with a torn Achilles' tendon. The Cowboys were lit up in 2013 run defense and couldn't keep opposing offensive guards from getting to the second level and removing their linebackers from plays. Dallas needs two new starting defensive tackles. New DC Rod Marinelli favors one gap shooter next to a space eater.
S: Barry Church and Jeff Heath would be the Cowboys' starting safeties if the season began today. 2013 third-round pick J.J. Wilcox flashed promise as a rookie run defender, but was out of his depth in pass coverage. Church is a replacement-level player, while Heath is best suited for special teams. Adding at least one starter this offseason is an absolute must. Two wouldn't hurt.
DE: DeMarcus Ware's body looks to be breaking down going on age 32, while microfracture surgery threatens to shorten or severely restrict what's left of free agent LE Anthony Spencer's career. The Cowboys got positive 2013 contributions from George Selvie and Martez Wilson, but they are role players. Dallas needs a new starting left end, and must begin thinking about the post-Ware era.
LB: The Cowboys expect MLB Sean Lee (neck) to be healthy for 2014, but weak-side linebacker is just as critical a position in Marinelli's defense, and incumbent Bruce Carter was a complete flop there last season. Carter is 26 and talented enough for Marinelli to try "coaching up," but will have to face competition. Ernie Sims is a free agent, and Justin Durant ($1.25 million) may be released.
19. Arizona Cardinals
OT: Multiple rumors have already linked the Cardinals to free agent LT Branden Albert, who will be looking to break the bank. Arizona has suffered through Levi Brown, D'Anthony Batiste, and Bradley Sowell long enough. Immobile 34-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer functions at a far more efficient clip when well protected. Palmer was not well protected for most of last season.
LB: John Abraham's tank is nearing E going on age 36, while a pedestrian foursome of Lorenzo Alexander, Sam Acho, Alex Okafor, and Dontay Moch round out Arizona's outside linebackers. This club needs fresh legs at edge rusher. Inside 'backer is another concern with Karlos Dansby entering free agency. The Cardinals did use a 2013 second-round pick on Kevin Minter and may stay in-house with Dansby's replacement, though Minter earned zero playing time as a rookie.
CB: Cardinals GM Steve Keim will soon commit a mammoth contract to No. 1 corner Patrick Peterson, but Arizona's depth chart is thin thereafter as sub-package contributor Antoine Cason enters free agency. Arizona's 2013 slot corner was FS Tyrann Mathieu, who suffered left ACL and LCL tears in early December. No. 2 cornerback Jerraud Powers is a below-average NFL starter.
QB: Coach Bruce Arians likes Drew Stanton as a backup, but he isn't seen as Palmer's heir apparent. Arians did keep Ken Whisenhunt holdover Ryan Lindley on the 2013 roster and may have seen some potential. The structure of Palmer's contract indicates he's entering his final year in Arizona. The Cardinals are a sleeper team to draft a quarterback in May's first round.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
DL: The Steelers are expected to part with free agents Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood, leaving LE Cameron Heyward as their lone locked-in starter. As Pittsburgh's front was pushed around in 2013 run defense, DC Dick LeBeau reined in NT Steve McLendon's snaps down the stretch. Pittsburgh needs both front-end linemen and depth. They might use their first-round pick here.
OL: Hiring Mike Munchak as position coach should go a long way toward maximizing Pittsburgh's in-house linemen, but adding talent would help a lot more. OT Mike Adams has been a 2012 second-round bust, while 2011 second-rounder Marcus Gilbert is a below-average starter at best. The Steelers do return a solid interior of LG Ramon Foster, C Maurkice Pouncey, and RG David DeCastro. Undersized T/G Kelvin Beachum (6'3/303) gets handled as a run blocker and would be best employed as a versatile reserve. Expect GM Kevin Colbert to draft yet another early- to mid-round tackle.
WR: The Steelers' philosophy is to replace free agent departures from within. Nos. 2 and 3 receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery's contracts are both expiring, pushing 2013 third-round pick Markus Wheaton to the forefront opposite Antonio Brown. Wheaton earned under 200 offensive snaps as a rookie, however, so Pittsburgh likely won't be handing him a starting job. Even if Wheaton wins, the Steelers need a third receiver. Cotchery should be cheap to keep.
CB: Overpaid Ike Taylor ($7 million) turns 34 in May and is a potential salary cap casualty, while LCB Cortez Allen fell short of expectations in his first season as a near-full-time player. Nickel back William Gay is coming off a solid year, which historically means he's due for a dreadful one. The Steelers need to get younger at cornerback. They need a No. 1 corner replacement for Taylor.
21. New York Giants
OL: The Giants' line fell straight off a cliff in 2013, and none of GM Jerry Reese's recent draft stabs filled the voids. New York is now expected to cut RG Chris Snee and C David Baas, while C/LG Kevin Boothe's contract is up and G/RT David Diehl retired. C Eric Herman (2013, seventh round), T/G Brandon Mosley (2012, fourth round), OT Matt McCants (2012, sixth round), G/T James Brewer (2011, fourth round), and G Mitch Petrus (2010, fifth round) have all been failures.
CB: There's RCB Prince Amukamara and then not a whole lot else. LCB Corey Webster passed his prime several years back, and 2012 third-round pick Jayron Hosley is shaping up as a bust. Terrell Thomas and Trumaine McBride were both thrust into major 2013 roles. They're now free agents. This is another area in which Reese's recent drafts have come up painfully short.
LB: Re-signing MLB Jon Beason should be among Reese's first orders of business, but the Giants' second-level woes extend beyond that. WLB Spencer Paysinger and SLB Jacquian Williams are both poor run defenders without in-house talent to push for their starting jobs. New York could use movement at all three linebacker positions, but may wind up settling for one.
RB: The Giants have a laundry list of needs; tight end and defensive line also could've been included here. Running back is slightly more pertinent. Andre Brown's contract has expired, and the G-Men can't count on 2012 first-round enigma David Wilson after January 16 neck surgery. Reese probably won't invest a high pick on a running back, but needs to address the position somehow. Re-signing Brown would be an affordable solution, even if he's not a long-term answer.
22. Atlanta Falcons
DL: The Falcons have assembled a studly young cornerback group, and desperately need to get them up-front help. RE Osi Umenyiora is washed up at age 32. DTs Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, and Peria Jerry are all free agents. The left end position is wide open. GM Thomas Dimitroff would jump at the chance to draft Jadeveon Clowney, but he's not making it to No. 6.
OL: This is the likeliest position at which Dimitroff will use his first-round pick, ideally on a tackle like Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) or Greg Robinson (Auburn). The Falcons have a gaping hole at right tackle, and Lamar Holmes was a predictable bust on Matt Ryan's blind side last season. Center is also a major concern after 2012 second-round pick Peter Konz flopped at the position.
TE: Tony Gonzalez's retirement leaves block-first sophomore Levine Toilolo and practice squad-type players on Atlanta's tight end depth chart. The Falcons figure to lean on three-receiver sets in 2014 following Harry Douglas' career-best year, but could still use a tight end who poses at least some semblance of a passing-game threat. Heavy-footed Toilolo had 11 receptions as a rookie.
RB: Safety and linebacker are also arguable need areas for Atlanta, but running back comes in higher on the list. Free agent addition Steven Jackson flopped in 2013, missing four games with a hamstring tear and posting a career-worst 3.46 YPC in his dozen appearances. Jacquizz Rodgers is just a change-of-pace back. Atlanta is a pass-first team and may not invest heavily on this position -- especially after getting burned by S-Jax -- but it's clearly both a short- and long-term weakness.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DE: As 2011 second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers continues to shape up as a draft bust, the Bucs' only bankable 2014 defensive end is Adrian Clayborn, who is an average NFL starter. Following the Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier hires, expect ex-Bears and Vikings to be regularly connected to Tampa Bay as free agent possibilities. Jared Allen and Julius Peppers are both expected to reach the open market. Smith and Frazier's defensive scheme emphasizes pressure from the front four. This position will be addressed, likely as Lovie's utmost offseason priority.
OL: The Bucs' high-priced offensive line isn't paying dividends, as RG Davin Joseph, C Jeremy Zuttah, and LG Jamon Meredith all received negative 2013 grades from Pro Football Focus. $47.5 million LG Carl Nicks has missed 23-of-32 possible games as a Buc and is nursing a potentially career-threatening foot injury. Tampa Bay needs a talent injection on the interior offensive line.
CB: Darrelle Revis is locked in as Lovie's new Charles Tillman, but No. 2 cornerback Johnthan Banks and slot defender Leonard Johnson are both coming off miserable seasons. It just so happens that Tillman's contract is up in Chicago. Reuniting with Smith makes too much sense.
TE: It remains to be seen how Tampa Bay's new front office and coaching staff feel about ex-wide receiver Tim Wright at tight end, as Rutgers alum Wright lost perhaps his biggest in-house supporter when college coach Greg Schiano was canned. Fellow holdover Luke Stocker is entering his fourth NFL season and has yet to contribute positively. For a 4-12 team, the Bucs don't have a ton of glaring needs. But the futures of tight end and quarterback Mike Glennon remain to be seen, depending on how Smith and new GM Jason Licht evaluate their 2013 film.
24. St. Louis Rams
OL: The Rams don't have a single offensive line spot settled for 2014. LT Jake Long tore his right ACL and MCL in Week 16. Left guard was a revolving door throughout 2013. 33-year-old C Scott Wells ($5.5 million) and 32-year-old RG Harvey Dahl ($4 million) are potential cap casualties. RT Rodger Saffold's contract is up. St. Louis holds the Nos. 2 and 13 overall picks in May's draft, and it wouldn't be insane for GM Les Snead to invest both picks on offensive line upgrades.
DB: Safety has been a weakness in the Gateway City for years. The Rams appear to be high on rising sophomore SS T.J. McDonald, but FS Rodney McLeod is stretched and then some as a starter. The Rams could also use a nickel package replacement for slot man Cortland Finnegan, who will be released. Outside CBs Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are passable starters.
WR: Yet another position that has lacked any hint of stability for far too long in St. Louis, wideout remains a need as Chris Givens and Tavon Austin return from disappointing years, while 2012 second-round pick Brian Quick's development has been painfully slow. Earlier this month, Snead told reporters he didn't see receiver as a glaring need, but the Rams amazingly haven't produced a 700-yard wideout since Torry Holt in 2008. That is a truly pathetic receiving drought.
QB: The Rams seem intent on retaining Sam Bradford despite a $14-plus million non-guaranteed salary, but their tune will change if Bradford's mediocrity continues for a fifth straight season. On his current deal, St. Louis would save $10.42 million in cap room by cutting or trading Bradford this offseason, or $11.5 million next offseason. At very least, the Rams need a better backup than Kellen Clemens. They're likely to use a middle-round pick on a quarterback in this May's draft.
25. New York Jets
WR: Santonio Holmes is a surefire cap casualty, leaving Stephen Hill, David Nelson, Jeremy Kerley, and Greg Salas as the Jets' top four receivers. Hill has been the NFL's least efficient receiver over the past two seasons, Nelson would be a No. 3 or 4 on a team with good wideouts, and Salas has bounced around the league. Kerley is a solid slot guy. The Jets don't have a No. 1- or 2-caliber receiver. Giving Geno Smith help figures to be New York's top offseason priority.
TE: Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow are free agents. Zach Sudfeld, Konrad Reuland, Chris Pantale, and Colin Anderson round out the Jets' current tight ends; not good enough for a team so shorthanded at receiver. In case you were wondering, ex-rugby player and Mike Tannenbaum favorite Hayden Smith was among the Jets' first cuts last fall, and never resurfaced in the NFL.
OL: If it seems like almost every team needs offensive line help this offseason, it's because they do. More than one smart NFL talent evaluator opined during 2013 that line play was at an all-time worst around the league. For the Jets, RT Austin Howard and RG Willie Colon are free agents, while LG Brian Winters got noticeably pushed around as a third-round rookie. C Nick Mangold and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson are the Jets' only bankable O-Line assets at this point in time.
QB: Outside linebacker, corner, safety, and kicker could also be considered needs for Rex Ryan's club, but quarterback takes precedence as the most important position in pro sports. Smith was mostly brutal as a rookie starter, while Mark Sanchez will be released and Matt Simms isn't a solution. Following the season, second-year GM John Idzik declined to publicly commit to Smith as his 2014 starter, which is telling after Geno was a premium selection in Idzik's first ever draft.
26. Minnesota Vikings
QB: Vikings GM Rick Spielman formally threw in the towel on Christian Ponder last year, signing Josh Freeman in-season and playing Matt Cassel down the stretch. None of the three are assured of returning to the 2014 roster. Minnesota has the No. 8 overall pick in May's draft and would likely jump at the chance to draft Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, or Derek Carr.
DL: 32-year-old free agent RE Jared Allen is almost certainly done in Minnesota, and nose tackle is up for grabs with Fred Evans' contract also up. Owed $3.95 million, Letroy Guion is a likely salary casualty. Re-signing DE Everson Griffen and DT Kevin Williams would go a long way toward stabilizing this position group. Sharrif Floyd will be counted on for a big second-year leap.
CB: Rookie left corner Xavier Rhodes flashed shutdown ability when healthy in his first season, but sophomore slot man Josh Robinson took a huge step back, and enigmatic RCB Chris Cook is a free agent. As new Vikings DBs coach Jerry Gray has history with Alterraun Verner, pre-free agency rumors will inevitably connect the free agent to Minnesota. Verner would be an outstanding addition as a natural right corner capable of manning the slot in nickel packages.
G: The Vikings are in good shape at 4-of-5 offensive line positions, but badly need an upgrade on LG Charlie Johnson following his second consecutive abysmal season. Ideally, Minnesota would find a legitimate starting left guard and demote Johnson into a reserve/swing lineman role.
27. Tennessee Titans
QB: New coach Ken Whisenhunt has had several opportunities to anoint Jake Locker his 2014 quarterback. He's balked every time. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't a starting-caliber passer and could even be a cap casualty with a $2.75 million salary. Picking 11th overall, Tennessee isn't ideally positioned to land one of the draft's premier signal callers. The top free agent quarterbacks are Michael Vick, Josh McCown, Josh Freeman, and Shaun Hill. Locker may be the guy by default.
RB: Although it's happening two years too late, the Titans will cut Chris Johnson this offseason. Career plodder Shonn Greene is left as Tennessee's only tailback signed for 2014. The Titans are one of the likeliest teams to use an early-round draft pick at running back. Whisenhunt is going to need a strong rushing attack to mask his new team's seemingly inevitable passing-game woes.
DT: The Titans will likely install a 3-4 defense under new DC Ray Horton. Derrick Morgan and Akeem Ayers are viable outside linebacker options, with Jurrell Casey, Sammie Lee Hill, and Ropati Pitoitua on the ends. (Pitoitua is a free agent, but will be affordable.) Horton prefers space eaters on the nose, a la Phil Taylor in Cleveland and Dan Williams in Arizona. Currently, the Titans don't have any of those. Defensive line is arguably free agency's deepest position.
OT: Blind-side protector Michael Roos is entering his contract year, while RT David Stewart's play no longer matches up with his $6.4 million salary. Backup right tackle Byron Stingily struggled in his 2013 spot starts and can't be counted on, while fellow top reserve Mike Otto is a free agent. It's similarly easy to imagine GM Ruston Webster investing an early-round pick at offensive tackle.
28. Buffalo Bills
OL: Erik Pears ($2.9 million) is a possible salary casualty after an awful year at right tackle, while Buffalo is still trying to replace 2013 free agent departure Andy Levitre at left guard. The Bills are set at the other three offensive line spots with C Eric Wood, LT Cordy Glenn, and RG Kraig Urbik.
TE: Scott Chandler is a free agent, and not worth premium tight end money. 2013 seventh-round athlete Chris Gragg did flash in limited rookie-year opportunities. Still, securing a safety valve for their young quarterback should be prioritized by the Bills. A quality blocking tight end could be a difference maker for this offense, which features the run. Buffalo led the NFL in 2013 rushing attempts.
QB: E.J. Manuel's performance when healthy disappointed as a rookie, and along the way he incurred three separate knee injuries, two requiring surgery. As far as backup quarterbacks go, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel are among the league's most pedestrian. GM Doug Whaley shouldn't stop supplementing the position. 2013 first-round pick Manuel has an awfully long way to go.
DB: The Bills have fewer glaring needs that it may seem. They're pretty well loaded on defense, but could use talented depth at both cornerback and safety. Even if free agent Jairus Byrd walks, Buffalo has Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy, and rising sophomore Duke Williams waiting in the wings. A trusty veteran DB would still be a welcomed addition for new coordinator Jim Schwartz.
29. Cleveland Browns
QB: Brian Hoyer impressed in limited 2013 duty with a quick trigger and aggressiveness, but tore his right ACL in October and isn't a long-term solution. 32-year-old backup Jason Campbell is overpriced at $3.25 million in salary and bonuses. Brandon Weeden almost certainly won't be in the new coaching staff's plans. Cleveland has the No. 4 overall pick in May's draft.
RB: Edwin Baker, Chris Ogbonnaya, Fozzy Whittaker, and Dion Lewis currently make up the top four spots on Cleveland's running back depth chart. None of them should be guaranteed 2014 roster spots. As the Browns will likely start a rookie quarterback under new coach Mike Pettine, it would make sense to complement him with a sustaining run game. Cleveland GM Mike Lombardi was a big fan of Ben Tate and Anthony Dixon before the 2010 draft. Both are now free agents.
WR: Beyond TE Jordan Cameron, returning NFL receiving yardage leader Josh Gordon has no help. Greg Little has been a complete flop as a starter, and slot man Davone Bess' problems extend far past his league-high 14 drops. Situational burner Travis Benjamin tore his right ACL in October. Cleveland could use a No. 2 receiver who poses a complementary threat. Lombardi must also factor in Gordon being one off-field hiccup away from a half- or even full-season suspension.
DB: Joe Haden is entrenched as a top 10-15 NFL corner, but Cleveland has little behind him. Buster Skrine is a nickel back at best, and 2013 third-round pick Leon McFadden got torched down the stretch. Opponents knew to attack Skrine and McFadden and had success doing it. Shoring up No. 2 corner could make Cleveland a dynamite defense in Pettine's first year. As for further needs, C Alex Mack must be re-signed and the Browns could use help at inside linebacker.
30. Houston Texans
QB: The Texans will release Matt Schaub in short order, while Case Keenum has a long way to go just to be a serviceable backup in the league. The organization has soured on third-stringer T.J. Yates. All signs point to Houston using the No. 1 pick on a quarterback. Owner Bob McNair will likely support Johnny Manziel, but rookie coach Bill O'Brien may fall in love with Blake Bortles.
LB: New DC Romeo Crennel's two-gap 3-4 scheme relies on its linebackers to get pressure as opposed to down linemen. We may see J.J. Watt do a lot more block occupying as opposed to gap shooting under Crennel. Either way, the Texans badly need an explosive edge presence. 2012 first-round pick Whitney Mercilus has been a disappointment, while Brooks Reed would be best suited inside next to injury-riddled Brian Cushing. This is a team in need of a franchise outside rusher.
DL: Undersized NT Earl Mitchell and RE Antonio Smith's contracts are up. Outgoing DC Wade Phillips was comfortable using one-gap nose tackles, but Crennel prefers space eaters in the middle. The Texans may believe they can replace Smith internally with Jared Crick. But the defensive line needs more talent and depth. Houston was regularly exposed in 2013 run defense.
OL: Longtime left guard Wade Smith is entering free agency, and his play has fallen off a cliff. RT Derek Newton was fantastically bad for the second straight year in 2013. The Texans have core pieces in LT Duane Brown, C Chris Myers, and RG Brandon Brooks, but need two new starters.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
QB: It's no coincidence that each of the bottom nine teams on this list have quarterback listed as a need. The Jaguars are at the forefront, having given Blaine Gabbert too much time in the first place and finally throwing in the towel in 2013. Jacksonville picks third overall in May's draft, guaranteeing GM Dave Caldwell a shot at one of the draft's top four signal callers. The Jaguars could also use a veteran backup. Unfortunately, the free agent QB cupboard is all but bare.
DE: The alternative to quarterback at No. 3 would be Jadeveon Clowney. Jacksonville's defense played competitively for the most part in rookie coach Gus Bradley's first season, particularly down the stretch. They have a number of intriguing young pieces. What they do not have is a difference-making edge rusher. One could conceivably turn Bradley's defense from a bottom-half unit into a sneaky top-15 group. Buffalo DE/OLB Khalil Mack is another sleeper at No. 3 overall.
OL: Football Outsiders graded Jacksonville 31st in 2013 run blocking and 24th in pass protection. Luke Joeckel's return should stabilize left tackle, but C Brad Meester is retiring, LG Will Rackley is an annual disappointment, RG Uche Nwaneri's scheduled pay ($4.8 million) no longer matches his play, and right tackle is wide open. This position group needs a serious facelift.
RB: Linebacker and tight end could also be argued as Jaguars needs, but the fact that they will in all likelihood start a rookie quarterback in 2014 necessitates a run-game upgrade. Rushing improvement begins up front and I don't expect Jacksonville to break the bank on a tailback, but based on 2013 performance Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson won't cut it. Maurice Jones-Drew is a free agent, and Justin Forsett is expected to be cut.
32. Oakland Raiders
QB: There really isn't a position group at which Oakland should feel comfortable entering 2014. Coach Dennis Allen's staff deserves credit for dragging the least talented roster in football to four wins this past season. Matt McGloin could be a serviceable long-term backup, but Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie have shown no confidence in Terrelle Pryor, and 2013 fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson is now a Tennessee Titan. The Raiders have the fifth overall pick in May's draft.
OL: Both Raiders lines are in disarray as the roster currently stands. Oakland can hang its hat on C Stefen Wisniewski and perhaps RT Menelik Watson as 2014 starters, but no one else. LT Jared Veldheer's contract is up. RG Mike Brisiel has been a free agent bust since McKenzie gave him a five-year, $20 million deal in March of 2012. Ineffective 32-year-old LG Khalif Barnes also is a free agent, and alleged 2012 UDFA gem Lucas Nix flopped spectacularly in an expanded 2013 role.
DL: Oakland's full starting defensive line is entering free agency: RE Lamarr Houston, LE Jason Hunter, NT Pat Sims, and DT Vance Walker. This position was arguably the Raiders' biggest 2013 strength, creating a gaping void on Allen and DC Jason Tarver's defense. The good news is McKenzie finally has enough cap space to retain at least two of them, ideally Houston and Sims. But he still needs a true outside pass rusher, and a gap-shooting interior pocket pusher.
RB: Re-signing Rashad Jennings would give Oakland some semblance of backfield credibility, but he turns 29 in May and isn't a long-term solution. OC Greg Olson doesn't seem to believe FB Marcel Reece is a realistic tailback option, while Allen publicly expressed disappointment in 2013 fifth-rounder Latavius Murray before he hit I.R. last August. Darren McFadden is done in Oakland.
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