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One thing each NFC team can do to hit Super Bowl LII

With Super Bowl LI nearly upon us, 30 teams already have begun the effort to reach Minneapolis next February for Super Bowl LII. Here's one thing each NFC team can do to help the cause of displacing the Atlanta Falcons as conference champions.

Arizona Cardinals: Convince Carson Palmer to return.

With Larry Fitzgerald choosing to play again in 2017, the Cardinals need their quarterback to join him. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Palmer is considering walking away at age 37, in part because of injuries. It's extremely rare for a player like Palmer to leave guaranteed money on the table, much less the $17.5 million Palmer is due. (Then again, the amount of money Palmer has earned in his career is also extremely rare.)

Palmer quietly performed like a top-10 quarterback in the second half of this past season. He wasn't the problem in Arizona and cranky Cardinals fans wanting to see what's behind quarterback door No. 2 might not like what they find. There is still enough talent in the desert to make a title run with Palmer.

Carolina Panthers: Upgrade offensive tackle.

General manager Dave Gettleman confirmed at the Senior Bowl he's going to "attack the issue" at tackle this offseason, so at least he is aware of the problem. Gettleman also expressed concern with Michael Oher's lingering concussion, which kept him on the sideline from early October to the end of the season. His future is unclear, as is the identity of next season's starting left tackle and right tackle.

Cam Newton's mechanics will be an offseason focus as part of a greater transition within the Carolina passing attack. The biggest way to help Cam, though, would be to get those pass rushers off his back.

Chicago Bears: Finally replace Jay Cutler.

After eight seasons of going to bed at night whispering, "He's not great, but at least we have a quarterback,"Bears fans are readying for life without a quarterback. It's hard to imagine the team bringing Cutler back, while Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are free agents. I thought of coming up with a less-obvious answer than quarterback (defensive line? wide receiver?), but the promise of John Fox's defense means little without a passable signal caller.

Two of Eastern Illinois' finest, Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo, should be available via trade. Perhaps general manager Ryan Pace fondly remembers Mike Glennon, a free agent this offseason, from their days together in the NFC South. Bears fans can only hope they never wake up to a realization that Cutler wasn't so bad after all.

Dallas Cowboys: Start next year from scratch.

I already mapped out five areas for the Cowboys to address this offseason in a separate post, so this suggestion is more about the big picture rather than focusing on the pass rush or the secondary.

No one hypes better than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and no team risks believing their own hype more than this Dallas group. It happened to the Cowboys in 2008 after a disappointing playoff exit as a No. 1 seed. 2006-07 was the only time the 'Boys made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons this century. Dallas will have the expectations and pressure of a champion without the sweet memories. They have an offensive nucleus ready to compete for titles, but dealing with success is a skill. Just ask the 2016 Panthers.

Detroit Lions: Bulk up the defensive line.

General manager Bob Quinn showed an appreciation for the hog mollies up front in his first year in Detroit, a trend that should continue. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin needs more juice throughout his unit, especially up front. Adding another pass rusher to the mix with Ezekiel Ansah and Kerry Hyder, or a young tag-team partner at defensive tackle for 2016 draft pick A'Shawn Robinson, could give Detroit's generic D an identity once again.

Green Bay Packers: Be open to the charms of free agency.

Tight end Jared Cook is the perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward free-agent pickup that paid off for general manager Ted Thompson. Hopefully that success will encourage Thompson to do more in March because he's pretty good at it. (Julius Peppers and Charles Woodson agree.) The Packers have more key veterans set to hit free agency than any other team in the NFC, including Peppers, Cook, T.J. Lang, Nick Perry, Eddie Lacy, Datone Jones and Micah Hyde. The Packers can't keep them all, but they can improve their overall depth by looking for value on the market.

Los Angeles Rams: Find Jared Goff some receivers.

New Rams coach Sean McVay was hired to turn Goff's career around. That job will begin in OTAs, but it will only work if general manager Les Snead finds someone for Goff to throw to. The Rams' top two receivers last season (Kenny Britt and Brian Quick) are free agents. Their third-most productive wideout, Tavon Austin, was vastly overpaid to produce 668 yards from scrimmage and league-average return numbers. The tight end position could also use a makeover. Perhaps McVay will bring one of his Redskins receivers (free agents DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon) to Los Angeles because this situation is dire.

Minnesota Vikings: Move on from Adrian Peterson.

Dumping perhaps the greatest player in franchise history is not a must if Peterson is willing to take a steep pay cut, but it's most likely time to start a new era in Minnesota. Peterson's $18 million cap figure is clearly untenable and it's worth wondering if Peterson fits in a quick-throwing, shotgun-based offense run by Sam Bradford. Even at 32 years old, it would not be shocking to see Peterson producing well next season. It just would make more sense for a mid-level contract on another team where he doesn't have the same emotional baggage, where he could transition to being a role player without it getting awkward.

New Orleans Saints: Improve team speed on defense.

The Saints should take a page out of the Falcons' team-building approach and invest in speed. This idea, cribbed from Adam West of the Saints Talk Podcast, should start at the linebacker position. The Saints' defense quietly took a turn toward respectable under coordinator Dennis Allen in the second half of the season, but it's still a slow, talent-poor front seven. The linebackers aren't versatile enough to play on the Superdome's fast track and the pass rush doesn't have enough NFL-quality players. Stealing from Atlanta isn't all bad: Just look at the Ying Yang Twins.

New York Giants: Start making unemotional decisions at key spots.

General manager Jerry Reese needs to start evaluating his roster with clear eyes or get caught being too loyal to some of his players. Eli Manning was a below-average starter last season who often held back his young wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. Reese's recent top-10 draft pick Ereck Flowers is not a left tackle and could be moved. Victor Cruz has been a terrific ambassador for the team, but is nowhere near worth $7.4 million next season after splitting time as a reserve with younger receivers like Roger Lewis Jr. late in the season.

Reese even admitted after the season that the Giants need to start thinking about finding their next starting quarterback. That's a great sign that Reese sees the deeper issues which an 11-5 record masked.

Philadelphia Eagles: Find Carson Wentz some receivers.

Sometimes the sports radio conventional wisdom is right. Wentz and the Eagles' offense won't take a step forward until the front office finds more reliable weapons for Wentz to target. That search for big plays -- notably missing in 2016 -- figures to start at wide receiver. General manager Howie Roseman and VP of football operations Alec Halaby only know one offseason speed, unafraid to make the big moves.

It would be a surprise if the Eaglesdon't spend in free agency at receiver, whether it's on Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Kenny Britt or someone else in a relatively deep free-agent wideout crop. Jordan Matthews will make a lot more sense as a supporting player and Nelson Agholor will make more sense on the bench.

San Francisco 49ers: Find a quality defensive coordinator.

Kyle Shanahan, the presumptive 49ers leader, will deserve 2017 Coach of the Year consideration if this roster sniffs a winning record. His offensive scheme should travel well, but finding a defensive coordinator who can match him will be difficult. Coaching staffs are largely set by now and Shanahan has the last pick of the litter. This exact situation helped sink 49ers coach Chip Kelly, who could not field a quality defensive staff. Don't be shocked if Shanahan is forced to reset his defensive staff a year from now when more veteran coaches become available.

Seattle Seahawks: Find the next group of defensive stars.

The obvious answer here is to fix the Seahawks' offensive line. But if the organization knew how to do that, it would have happened during any other offseason of the Russell Wilson era. Instead, why not get back to something the Seahawks were great at: finding core pieces for their defense.

Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman form the backbone of an incredible defensive nucleus with remarkable continuity. Outside of pass rusher Frank Clark, though, the Seahawks haven't hit on many defensive draft picks since 2013. General manager John Schneider and Pete Carroll will have to turn over this roster eventually and there's no time like the present.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Support Jameis Winston.

Winston's second season in the NFL was a success overall despite sub-standard pieces all around him. The receiver depth is far worse than league average. The running game was ranked No. 28 by Football Outsiders. The team's pass protection was ranked No. 25 by Pro Football Focus. It's a miracle this offense finished near average in points and yards on the strength of Winston, Mike Evans and very little else.

Washington Redskins: Beef up the defensive line.

General manager Scot McCloughan made his name in San Francisco by knowing how to build a tough team in the trenches. That signature style is lacking in Washington, where Chris Baker is the only above-average player on the team's defensive line -- and he's set to hit free agency. New Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky worked under McCloughan with the 49ers, so there should be good synergy on the kinds of players this organization wants. Manusky could use more talent throughout his defense, especially up front.

(And yes, I'm aware the Redskins' quarterback is a free agent. He's unlikely to go anywhere.)

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