With free agency all but in the books, the draft is the next challenge coaches and decision-makers face to help them avoid having this be their final season.
Can the April 26-27 draft save jobs? Many NFL bigwigs hope so. Here are some coaches -- and two executives -- who could bolster their job statuses as well as their teams if they can land the right fits in the draft (listed in alphabetical order):
• Brad Childress, coach, Minnesota Vikings: Picking 17th, Minnesota will not be able to do anything about helping the passing game in 2008. Childress could take Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, who is seemingly falling down boards. But the Vikings might be better served looking at Michigan's Chad Henne or Delaware's Joe Flacco in the second round since a rookie quarterback is not going to save Childress's job this year. A smart move could be to try to grab Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey, who might be gone by No. 17 after a terrific pro day. Defensive end is a big need for the Vikings. Harvey could make a decent defense better.
• John Fox, coach, Carolina Panthers: Picking at No. 13, the Panthers need to pump some life into the offense. The Panthers could use a playmaker at all skill positions. Fox needs to get lucky and get a team-changing player. Can he get one at No. 13? It could be tough, but his best chance might be rolling the dice a bit and taking Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart. Yes, Stewart is recovering from a toe surgery, but he is expected to be ready for the start of the season. Stewart is a top-eight talent, but some teams will be scared off by him. Fox has nothing to lose. Taking Stewart could result in an extended stay in Carolina for Fox.
• Lane Kiffin, coach, Oakland Raiders: Kiffin does have a chance to get a fine player with Oakland picking No. 4. He said last week that the Raiders would like to trade down to get more picks later in the draft, but with so many teams that pick high wanting to trade out, the Raiders might have to keep the No. 4 pick.
The Raiders need a defensive lineman and will have a chance to grab a fine one such as LSU's Glenn Dorsey, Virginia's Chris Long, USC's Sedrick Ellis or Ohio State's Vernon Gholston. Any one of these players will help Oakland's defense out tremendously. Will it be enough to ease pressure on Kiffin? Probably not.
• Marvin Lewis, coach Cincinnati Bengals: "We're going to compete with them, but right now they're ahead of us," said Lewis of the Steelers and the Browns. "There are some teams ahead of us. I think we have to win football games."
The Bengals have draft needs on both sides of the ball, but at No. 9, they likely will be looking for defense. Lewis is a defensive-minded coach, but it has long been the weak link of his team. The Bengals desperately need a stout defensive tackle, and they tried and failed to add one as trades for both Shaun Rogers and Dewayne Robertson blew up in early March. The Bengals are on their knees hoping Ellis somehow slides to them. If not, they might have to settle to fill a lesser need and Lewis might take a step closer to the door.
• Scott Linehan, coach, St. Louis Rams: Linehan's reward for the miserable 2007 season was the No. 2 overall pick. The expectations are that the Rams will take either Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long or Virginia defensive end Chris Long. Basically, whichever Long the Dolphins don't take at No. 1, the Rams will grab.
Either player will be a fine fit for the Rams, but it might be difficult to see either player single-handedly saving Linehan's job. He is a coach who needs to make several big hits in this draft. Linehan needs to hope a receiver such as Michigan's Mario Manningham or Cal's Desean Jackson is available in the second round.
Linehan also might want to think about getting a young quarterback in the second or third round. If the coach stays a while, he needs to revamp his passing game. But that might be a big "if." Yet, Linehan knows he needs to make the most out of this draft.
"In this league, if you can have the ball bounce your way a little bit, stay healthier, take advantage of a (high) draft status, you can get things turned around in a year in pro football," Linehan said.
• Eric Mangini, coach, New York Jets: It's been a strange first two years as a head coach for Mangini, and that's besides the Spygate controversy. After leading the Jets to the playoffs in his first season, he was called "Mangenius." That tag disappeared last season when the Jets struggled all year and were never a factor in the AFC East.
There is a gem awaiting Mangini that could help him stay in New York for the next several years: Darren McFadden. The Jets are holding their breath, hoping the best running back in the draft is available at No. 6. Mangini's biggest worry has to be Oakland at No. 4 and Kansas City at No. 5. If McFadden slips past those two teams, the Jets will get their guy. Don't be surprised if the Jets press the matter and try to swing a deal up to No. 4 with Oakland to get the game-changing back.
If McFadden is gone by the time the Jets pick, they might decide to trade down into the 12-16 range and take a back such as Stewart or Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall.
McFadden is the choice for Mangini as he enters this pivotal season, even if Mangini is playing coy.
"Whoever is there at six is going to be pretty good," Mangini said. "The good thing is we're picking at six."
• Matt Millen, general manager Detroit Lions: Once again, Millen has a fairly high pick in the draft; this year, he is picking 15th. After taking receiver Calvin Johnson at No. 2 last year, the Lions could use another offensive weapon. It's time for the Lions to give their offense more balance and take a running back who can make a difference. The Lions need some juice. Millen needs to provide it.
If Stewart or Mendenhall is available, the Lions, who have some talent on defense, have to take one of the backs. It's time for the Lions to make a move on the field or in the front office.
• Mike Nolan, coach, San Francisco 49ers: Nolan has the twin concerns of a public spat with former No. 1 overall pick quarterback Alex Smith and his poor coaching record. Nolan's time appears to be running short.
Making Nolan's task more difficult is the fact that the Patriots own the 49ers' top pick, the No. 7 pick overall. San Francisco gave New England its 2008 top pick last draft day in a deal that helped get tackle Joe Staley. Staley appears promising, but Nolan sure would have liked having the No. 7 pick in exchange for a bad 2007 season. Not all is lost, though, as the 49ers own the Colts' top pick, No. 29.
The 49ers have drafted well in recent years and need to identify a falling star at No. 29 such as Manningham, or perhaps a linebacker such as USC's Keith Rivers.
• Carl Peterson, general manager, Kansas City Chiefs: If the rebuilding Chiefs don't show big improvement -- and this rookie draft class doesn't show immediate promise -- Peterson could be on his way out.
Yet, there is hope this month. The Chiefs draft fifth and should find a standout. The Chiefs are hoping Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan slips past Atlanta (not likely) and falls to them. If not, McFadden could be a possibility for the offense-hungry Chiefs because of Larry Johnson's recent issues.
There is no question the Chiefs, decent on defense, have to shore up their offense. A quarterback and receiver are definitely needed. Peterson needs to find some gems this month or the Chiefs' rebuilding project might extend to the front office.
Bill Williamson covers the NFL for ESPN.com.