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2019 NFL free agency: Biggest needs for each NFC team

The free agency market officially opens at 4 p.m. ET on March 13. Before signings start taking over your news feed, Chris Wesseling provides three big needs for each NFC team (listed in alphabetical order):

NOTE: Projected cap-space figures were gathered from Over The Cap on March 8.

Arizona Cardinals: Offensive line, wide receiver, defensive line

Projected cap space: $43.7 million.

By the end of the season, Josh Rosen was a sitting duck behind a shoddy offensive line that was starting three street free agents and a pair of overmatched rookies. If right tackle and left guard are the biggest needs on offense, wide receiver isn't far behind. Although Christian Kirk showed promise prior to a season-ending foot injury, future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald is no longer a big-play threat and 2017 third-round pick Chad Williams hasn't lived up to expectations. New defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is transitioning to a 3-4 scheme, which leaves defensive end as a problem area, with former All-Pro Chandler Jones moving back to outside linebacker.

Atlanta Falcons: Guard, defensive line, cornerback

Projected cap space: $6.7 million.

Atlanta boasted one of the league's most effective offenses in the season's first two months. After losing both starting guards to injuries, however, Matt Ryan's attack turned one-dimensional, with no consistency in the run game. The Falcons could use young legs at all three interior positions up front. The defense was desperate enough for pass-rushing help to bring in Bruce Irvin after the veteran was dumped by the lowly Raiders. While the franchise tag keeps Grady Jarrett inside, edge pressure is an issue, with Vic Beasley averaging just five sacks over the past two years. The Falcons cut starter Robert Alford and have yet to re-sign versatile nickel corner Brian Poole, depleting the secondary's depth.

Carolina Panthers: Pass rusher, offensive line, safety

Projected cap space: $17.0 million.

Even before franchise legend Julius Peppers announced his retirement, defensive end was a glaring weak spot. Beyond 31-year-old Mario Addison, the Panthers simply have no edge rushers with the demonstrated ability to put heat on opposing quarterbacks. Ron Rivera's coaching staff has done a commendable job developing quality offensive line depth in the face of a litany of injuries, but this team has a major Kalil conundrum. Longtime center Ryan Kalil is retiring, while left tackle Matt Kalil is a highly paid liability coming off a lingering knee injury that caused him to miss the 2018 season. The defense's youth movement claimed 37-year-old Mike Adams as a victim, leaving a vacancy opposite Eric Reid at safety.

Chicago Bears: Defensive back, running back, kicker

Projected cap space: $18.1 million.

Executive of the Year candidate Ryan Pace's 2018 reconstruction was such a smashing success that the Bears will enter free agency with few deficiencies. If strong safety Adrian Amos reaches the open market, new defensive boss Chuck Pagano will need a starter alongside All-Pro ballhawk Eddie Jackson. After hearing throughout last offseason that his skill set was ill-suited to Matt Nagy's offense, power back Jordan Howard managed to reach the century mark just twice in 17 games, averaging an anemic 3.7 yards per carry. Nagy could use another backfield playmaker to complement Tarik Cohen and provide insurance for Howard. Playoff goat Cody Parkey was essentially handed his walking papers last month, leaving kicker as a top offseason priority for a Super Bowl contender.

Dallas Cowboys: Defensive line, tight end, slot receiver

Projected cap space: $20.0 million.

Randy Gregory and (impending free agent) David Irving are suspended indefinitely, Taco Charlton is recovering from January shoulder surgery and twice-tagged franchise player DeMarcus Lawrence is no closer to finding common ground with the Cowboys on a long-term deal. With so many question marks up front, pass rushing will be a priority in 2019. Even with the return of legacy case Jason Witten, tight end is an area in need of an upgrade. None of the returning tight ends managed to top 350 yards, and Witten might be the league's slowest chain-mover at age 37. With so many nucleus players in line for new contracts, slot receiver Cole Beasley is a luxury rather than a necessity. Reportedly unwilling to accept a hometown discount, he might just price himself out of Dallas' plans.

Detroit Lions: Pass rusher, tight end, slot receiver

Projected cap space: $40.5 million.

Losing oft-injured defensive end Ezekiel Ansah to free agency exacerbates an already existing dark hole at edge rusher. Coach Matt Patricia can't run his defense without importing multiple players capable of pressuring the passer. While frustrated Lions fans watched former first-round pick Eric Ebron set a franchise record for touchdowns by a tight end in Indianapolis, their own tandem of Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo combined for a meager 350 yards and one trip to pay dirt. Both tight ends are due to reach free agency next week. While deep threat Kenny Golladay made good on his potential with a breakout campaign, the rest of the receiving corps was a train wreck by Thanksgiving. Slot receiver is an obvious need following the late-October trade that sent Golden Tate to Philadelphia.

Green Bay Packers: Pass rusher, safety, tight end

Projected cap space: $36.0 million.

More of a designated pass rusher than a well-rounded linebacker, backup Kyler Fackrell recorded more sacks (10.5) than the overpaid starting tandem of Clay Matthews (3.5) and Nick Perry (1.5) combined. With Matthews due to reach the open market and Perry set to hit the chopping block, perhaps the Packers will kick the tires on Chiefstrade candidateDee Ford. Following the midseason trade of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was so desperate for safety help that street free agents Eddie Pleasant and Ibraheim Campbell saw heavy snaps down the stretch. Can 36-year-old converted cornerback Tramon Williams last as a starter opposite third-year strong safety Josh Jones? General manager Brian Gutekunst's recent claims to the contrary, tight end Jimmy Graham was a free-agent bust in Year 1 with Green Bay. Graham was a negligent blocker, failed to create consistent separation on his routes and no longer has the juice in his legs to out-rebound defenders on 50/50 balls.

Los Angeles Rams: Pass rusher, offensive line, safety

Projected cap space: $33.6 million.

Desperate for an edge presence to complement Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, GM Les Snead traded for Dante Fowler at the deadline. On the heels of a strong postseason showing, Fowler is due to break the bank as a free agent. The Rams also believe that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will price himself out of their range, leaving Wade Phillips' front seven short-handed. Safety Lamarcus Joyner's Los Angeles future is in doubt after he failed to draw a long-term deal on the 2018 franchise tag. On the other side of the ball, the team expects to move on from veteran center John Sullivan and guard Rodger Saffold. While second-year players Brian Allen and Joseph Noteboom are candidates to slide into starting jobs, that leaves little depth or insurance on the interior.

UPDATE: The Rams re-signed Fowler to a one-year contract.

Minnesota Vikings: Offensive line, linebacker, slot receiver

Projected cap space: $5.0 million.

After playing lights-out football early in the season, quarterback Kirk Cousins crumbled behind shaky play-calling and spotty pass protection in the season's second half. The Vikings desperately need reinforcements on the offensive line, especially with new coordinator Gary Kubiak and right-hand man Rick Dennison bringing their trademark zone-blocking scheme to Minnesota. Cousins could also use a new slot receiver, as 2016 first-round flop Laquon Treadwell continues to disappoint. On defense, four-time Pro Bowl selection Anthony Barr is set to fly the coop. Coach Mike Zimmer will be in the market for a replacement alongside middle linebacker Eric Kendricks.

New Orleans Saints: Tight end, quarterback, running back

Projected cap space: $10.3 million.

It's amazing to see three offensive positions on this list, considering the team's identity under Sean Payton and Drew Brees. While the Saints have spent the past couple of years adding dynamic young talent to an improving defense, Brees' aerial attack grew stale at the end of last season. Payton's perennial concerns over Brees' advanced age came into focus in December and January, when the 40-year-old quarterback failed to find success beyond 25-30 yards downfield. Brees will be in the market for a new tight end following the retirement of venerable 14-year veteran Ben Watson. Despite several turns as an offseason hype bunny, Josh Hill has failed to top 200 yards in any of his six seasons with the Saints. If Mark Ingram ends up signing elsewhere, Alvin Kamara will need a new running partner to keep his legs fresh and avoid Payton's temptation to overuse the offense's most dynamic mismatch.

New York Giants: Quarterback, defensive back, pass rusher

Projected cap space: $23.9 million.

Dave Gettleman's protestations aside, Eli Manning hasn't been able to make "all the throws" -- much less escape pressure in the pocket -- since his brother was still in the league. While free-agent safety Landon Collins is as good as gone and pass rusher Olivier Vernon is on the trade block, the Giants have found plenty of money to overpay the quarterback and left tackle (Nate Solder) on an offense that has been downright dysfunctional for the bulk of the past three years. That side of the ball can at least take solace in all-world talents such as running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Odell Beckham. The defense, by contrast, is in tatters. Should Vernon follow Collins out the door, Gettleman will have to place a high priority on both positions this offseason.

Philadelphia Eagles: Cornerback, running back, defensive line

Projected cap space: $23.4 million.

For an organization with so much postseason success of late, the Eagles have quite a few holes on their roster. Running back was an issue throughout the 2018 season, wideout depth is shaky beyond No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery and 37-year-old left tackle Jason Peters began to struggle with speed rushers in 2018. Questions abound on the other side of the ball, as well. Veteran defensive end Brandon Graham landed a three-year extension, which now places Michael Bennett's future in jeopardy. Defensive tackle depth will take a hit, as Timmy Jernigan's option was declined and Haloti Ngata is expected to mull retirement. Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is a free agent, as is top cornerback Ronald Darby. Jim Schwartz could use reinforcements at all three levels of his defense.

San Francisco 49ers: Pass rusher, linebacker, wide receiver

Projected cap space: $66.7 million.

It didn't take long to discover that first-round picks Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas are much more effective inside than out, combining for just 8.5 sacks over the past two years. Now that the 49ers have accepted the limitations of both defensive linemen, an athletic edge rusher tops their wish list this offseason. After dumping troubled tackler Reuben Foster and watching former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith start just five games in two years, the team is also in the market for a linebacker next to second-year standout Fred Warner. While Kyle Shanahan has collected shifty slot receivers and speedy deep threats, his offense has long emphasized a physical "X" receiver, such as Andre Johnson in Houston and Pierre Garcon in Washington and San Francisco. Now that Garcon is gone, Shanahan should be searching for size at the position.

Seattle Seahawks: Pass rusher, offensive line, linebacker

Projected cap space: $31.6 million.

The Seahawks were counting on reclamation projects such as Barkevious Mingo and Dion Jordan to provide a pass-rushing presence, only to see the former top-five picks combine for 2.5 sacks last year. Even with Frank Clark retained via the franchise tag, Pete Carroll could use reinforcements for his front seven. The veteran initial tandem of D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy paved the way for a resurgent ground attack, but both guards are due to test their value in free agency. As problematic as that position has been in Seattle of late, Carroll can't afford to start over on his offensive line. While middle linebacker Bobby Wagner remains the backbone of a changing defense, longtime running mate K.J. Wright's future is in doubt after missing the majority of last season with a lingering knee injury. Linebacker depth should be on the shopping list this time around.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Offensive line, defensive back, linebacker

Projected cap space: $2.8 million.

Bruce Arians' Bucs staff harbors high hopes for enigmatic quarterback Jameis Winston and underperforming running back Ronald Jones, perhaps removing those two positions from the top of the priority list. The offensive line, however, is in need of repair. While left tackle Donovan Smith is returning on an unbelievably lucrative three-year deal, right guard remains a glaring weak spot, and right tackle Demar Dotson is entering his age-34 season. The other side of the ball has been the primary culprit of late, with the secondary continually in flux. New coordinator Todd Bowles could use a veteran presence at both safety and cornerback. Returning from ACL surgery and due to reach free agency, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander will have to be replaced if he seeks greener pastures.

Washington Redskins: Quarterback, wide receiver, pass rusher

Projected cap space: $17.0 million.

UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday that the Redskins are working on trade for Broncos QB Case Keenum.

Considering Alex Smith's derring-do playing style and inability to throw with conviction downfield or outside the numbers, the Redskins can't count on the quarterback to return as a 36-year-old starter in 2020 after sitting out the 2019 season with a devastating leg injury. This team needs a new identity -- one that doesn't revolve around 34-year-old power back Adrian Peterson, a free agent in his own right. Jay Gruden's next passer will need help in the receiving corps, as Josh Doctson has been a full-fledged tease, Paul Richardson can't stay healthy and Jamison Crowder is a week away from drawing heavy interest on the open market. Should Gruden's defense lose outside linebacker Preston Smith to free agency, he'll need a pass rusher to pair with four-time Pro Bowl selection Ryan Kerrigan.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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