Picking one free agent every NFL team must sign

Broncos will need to pay to keep Osweiler (1:55)

ESPN NFL Insider Joe Banner discusses the market for quarterback Brock Osweiler and how the Peyton Manning decision is impacting Denver's ability to finalize a deal. (1:55)

We've looked at the biggest free agents for every team, and we've evaluated how active each team will be in free agency. Now, as we approach the start of free agency, it's time for NFL Nation reporters to choose a free agent every team must sign this offseason. Here are the results.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


Buffalo Bills

Running back Bilal Powell

The Bills tried to sign Powell last offseason, but he ended up returning to the Jets once Buffalo decided to keep Fred Jackson (at least until September). Powell is on the market again, and after parting ways with reserve running back Boobie Dixon, the Bills could use veteran depth at the position. The uncertainty surrounding LeSean McCoy's status makes Powell and Rex Ryan reuniting a no-brainer if the cost is reasonable. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele

The Dolphins would take a nice step forward offensively by signing the free-agent guard. The market for Osemele, however, could be too pricey. Miami has failed drafting guards in recent years, including Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas, who still has time to grow. The free-agent route could be the best way for the team to address its offensive line, and Osemele is the top-rated guard on the market. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

Running back Matt Forte

Two of the Patriots' top needs are running back and receiver, so why not sign a player who can help fill both voids in one package? Forte is listed as a RB on the roster, but his excellent pass-catching skills make him almost wide receiver-like. I'm envisioning him on the field at the same time as Dion Lewis. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could scheme up some innovative stuff. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

Before they look elsewhere, the Jets have to take care of their own, and that means re-signing Fitzpatrick. This isn't rocket science. He's their undisputed starter, and there are no viable options on the open market. They won't have much cap money to spend in free agency, so they should use it wisely by securing the leader of their offense. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele

The Ravens typically spend the most to retain their own players, and their best free agent is undoubtedly Osemele. Baltimore certainly agrees, as it extended an "aggressive" offer to him at the NFL combine, coach John Harbaugh said. Osemele is Baltimore's preference to be the long-term solution at left tackle. But he could command $9 million to $10 million per season, so he might end up being the latest Ravens player lured elsewhere. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Defensive lineman Malik Jackson

The 26-year-old Jackson, who had a manageable $1.6 million cap charge in 2015, would be an intriguing addition. He would be a possibility if the Bengals don't re-sign Wallace Gilberry, a third-down pass-rush specialist who had only 2.0 sacks in 2015. Jackson had 5.0 on significantly more snaps. Jackson's signing would also be a message to backups Will Clarke and Margus Hunt, two ends who have shown relatively little and are entering their pivotal third and fourth seasons, respectively. But Cincinnati doesn't often make splash free-agency signings, and this year will likely be more of the same, with 14 of Cincinnati's own headed to unrestricted free agency. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns

Wide receiver Marvin Jones

Jones emerged with 65 catches and 816 yards for the Bengals in 2015, his best season. He's a big target, a Browns need and a reliable player whom new coach Hue Jackson knows well. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Safety Eric Weddle

Yes, Weddle might be too costly. But given that he is 31, perhaps the Steelers could negotiate a reasonable price while selling the sentiment of his playing for a Super Bowl contender. Weddle would be perfect for what the Steelers want to do defensively. He's a rangy safety who has good cover skills and can chase tight ends down for quick tackles. He's versatile enough to adapt to any look. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin

He's faster than anyone on the Texans roster -- heck, he's faster than most anyone on any roster. The Texans lack speed in their receiving corps, which is OK for a guy such as DeAndre Hopkins, who's so dynamic anyway, but it's not OK for the group as a whole. They also need a punt returner, and Benjamin can serve that role. The Browns didn't exactly have a great quarterback situation last year, and Benjamin still had 966 yards on 68 catches. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins

The Colts have a Pro Bowl cornerback in Vontae Davis, but he needs help on the other side because solid cornerback play allows extra time for the pass-rushers to get to the quarterback. Greg Toler didn't help Davis as the other starting cornerback last season. Jenkins had three interceptions and 15 passes defended last season with the Rams. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Safety Eric Weddle

Pass rush is a big need, but right behind it is free safety, and Weddle is the best option. He's not the long-term answer, but he could certainly help for a couple years. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Safety Tashaun Gipson

Hampered by an ankle injury, the Browns free safety didn't have his best season in his contract year. But he has proven to be a top-flight coverage safety, and the Titans are in dire need of one of those as they move forward after nine seasons with Michael Griffin. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos

Quarterback Brock Osweiler

With Peyton Manning on the brink of a retirement decision, the Broncos still need a quarterback over the long haul, and they have invested four years into Osweiler's development. The team went 5-2 in his starts in 2015, and though he must improve his pocket awareness and not take so much punishment, he is their best option moving forward. It might mean they pay more than expected, but all signs, barring a break-the-bank offer from another team, point to Osweiler's staying with the Broncos. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Cornerback Sean Smith

The Chiefs will have a difficult time replacing Smith if he leaves as a free agent. Smith didn't make many plays in 2015, but he didn't have to because rookie Marcus Peters was making so many on the other side. Smith's steady presence and down-to-down reliability made him the perfect fit with Peters. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders

Safety Eric Weddle

What better way to strengthen yourself than by weakening a divisional foe? Yes, I've written that Oakland needs to make a run at Raiders legacy Chris Long and put him opposite All-Pro Khalil Mack, and though that would make for a nice narrative, the Raiders should also go after Weddle. The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro safety for the Chargers could instantly replace the retired Charles Woodson. Yes, Weddle is getting long in the tooth, but Oakland's secondary desperately needs a veteran presence and a playmaker. Weddle, who has 19 career interceptions but just three the past three seasons, represents both qualities. -- Paul Gutierrez

San Diego Chargers

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin

The Chargers finished with a league-low 84 punt-return yards in 2015, so Benjamin would be a significant upgrade for San Diego in that role. Benjamin could also help replace the retired Malcom Floyd as a vertical threat for Philip Rivers. Benjamin -- or a player like him -- should be San Diego's top priority in free agency. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys

Linebacker Rolando McClain

The Cowboys aren't going to break the bank for any player in free agency, so it's difficult to make a prediction as to whom they will sign. One guess at the moment: San Diego safety Eric Weddle. He would bring stability on and off the field. But a more sure guess would be McClain, whose market will be mitigated by his four-game suspension last year. He has found a home with the Cowboys after struggling with the Raiders. By keeping McClain, the Cowboys can move away from middle linebacker as a draft need. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin

The Giants need 4-3 outside linebackers, and Irvin has been an excellent one in Seattle. They need pass-rushers, and Irvin has pass-rush ability that he wasn't always asked to showcase in Seattle's defense. The 28-year-old Irvin isn't in the Seahawks' plans but should be in the Giants' plans; they seek versatile playmakers to help rebuild a defense that finished last in the league in 2015. Irvin doesn't fix all their problems, but he helps fix a few of them. While two of his former defensive coordinators are now head coaches in Atlanta and Jacksonville, the Giants should be willing to compete with those teams to do what it takes to bring Irvin in. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles

Offensive guard Brandon Brooks

At 6-foot-5, 345 pounds, Brooks would fill a few holes for the Eagles. He could play either guard spot, which would keep the Eagles from overrating guards in the draft. If they wind up with a right tackle in the draft (Michigan State's Jack Conklin, maybe?), Brooks could play alongside him and help the rookie adjust. Or he could play on the left side and help veteran Jason Peters bounce back from a down 2015. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins

Outside linebacker Junior Galette

The Redskins don't have a lot of cap space available as of now (they can create more with a few moves), but Galette fills a definite need at pass-rusher, and because he is coming off an injury, he'll be cheaper than anyone the team could add on the open market. The Redskins need help all over defensively, but this is one area where they can re-sign their own. Galette paired with Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, who had eight sacks as a rookie, would be a good start. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Linebacker Danny Trevathan

Trevathan is an instant upgrade at a position of need for the Bears. Just a few weeks shy of his 26th birthday, Trevathan is obviously connected to John Fox, who coached him for three years (2012-14) with the Broncos. As an ascending player, Trevathan (109 regular-season tackles for the Super Bowl 50 champions) is expected to have multiple suitors in free agency, but the Bears have an abundance of salary-cap space. Chicago can afford to pay in the neighborhood of $6 million or $7 million per year for a player with Trevathan's upside. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Defensive lineman Malik Jackson

There are a few options here, but pass-rushers and defensive linemen are critical to the Detroit defense. Going hard after Jackson should be a priority for the Lions. He is hitting his prime at age 26 and has been durable, playing all but two possible games in his career. He has compiled 134 tackles and 14 sacks in his career. He could line up immediately opposite Ezekiel Ansah, replacing Jason Jones. He also has the size to play inside on passing downs, if necessary. He'd be a versatile threat on the line. Other coveted options include safety George Iloka, wide receiver Marvin Jones and center Stefen Wisniewski. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Linebacker Danny Trevathan

Clay Matthews has to move back to outside linebacker, where he can make a bigger impact on games than he did on the inside, but do you trust Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan as the full-time players on the inside? I didn't think so. In that case, the Packers should go after Trevathan. He would give the Packers an inside linebacker who can play on all three downs and stand out in coverage, where the returning inside 'backers have struggled. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele

Osemele would be expensive -- the Ravens made him an "aggressive" offer, coach Jim Harbaugh said, and he could command about $8 million a year in free agency -- but he's one player on whom the Vikings might find a splurge to be worthwhile. Osemele is only 26, he has played both left guard and left tackle, and at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, he's a load for defensive linemen in the run game. If the Vikings had designs on parting with Matt Kalil, Osemele would make sense, and even if they didn't, he could be a force at guard. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons

Linebacker Danny Trevathan

It's unclear if the Falcons would be willing to pay Trevathan the type of money he desires, but they could use a player to help stabilize the situation at linebacker. Trevathan is coming off a Super Bowl title with the Broncos and is familiar with the expectations of Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith, his former linebackers coach in Denver. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Safety Eric Weddle

A potential player of interest from another team could be the veteran Weddle. Ron Rivera coached Weddle while he was the defensive coordinator with the Chargers, and the Panthers could be looking for safety help with 33-year-old Roman Harper now a free agent. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Offensive guard Tim Lelito

The "boring" answer is Lelito, who is a restricted free-agent guard. After releasing Jahri Evans, Lelito is now the only experienced guard on the Saints' roster, and he's a solid up-and-comer who has played well as a part-time starter the past two years. The more exciting answer needs to be someone who can add juice to the pass rush. Big names such as Mario Williams and Jason Pierre-Paul might be too costly, but if the Saints spend any big money, that's where it should be. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Running back Doug Martin

Believe it or not, the Bucs need to make re-signing their top rusher a priority. Quarterback Jameis Winston needs a solid run game to help him out. Charles Sims was solid as Martin's backup, but he can't carry the load and be the top back. -- Mike DiRocco


Arizona Cardinals

Defensive end Robert Ayers

The Cardinals are in serious need of a pass-rusher, and the former New York Giant defensive end might be the ideal answer. He had 9.5 sacks last season on a team that struggled to get to the quarterback. Put Ayers in a defense with talent inside and on the other side of the line, and he could flourish. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Safety/linebacker Mark Barron

The best answer is probably any quarterback who would be an upgrade over what they currently have, but it doesn't seem that such a solution is out there or will come at a reasonable price tag. That makes keeping Barron the second-most important piece of the puzzle. Yes, the Rams have other key defenders to retain, such as Rodney McLeod, William Hayes and Janoris Jenkins, but they released James Laurinaitis with the intent to move Alec Ogletree into the middle and re-sign Barron to play weak-side linebacker. If they can't get that done, it creates another big need on a team that still needs to improve its offense. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers

Linebacker James Laurinaitis

Laurinaitis broke the Niners' hearts in 2014 when he recovered Colin Kaepernick's fumble in the end zone to clinch a Rams victory at Levi's Stadium. What better way, then, for Laurinaitis, a salary-cap casualty of the Rams last month, to mend things than by coming to Santa Clara to solidify the 49ers' linebacker corps and play next to NaVorro Bowman in the team's 3-4 scheme? Laurinaitis, who hasn't missed a game in his seven-year career, knows the NFC West intimately, so his knowledge and skill level would definitely help as an upgrade over either Michael Wilhoite or Gerald Hodges. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks

Left tackle Russell Okung

The Seahawks have the core of their roster in place and are set to make a Super Bowl run in 2016. But one area in which they need to improve is offensive line. The problem with potentially losing Okung is they have nobody on the roster to replace him, and there are limited alternatives on the free-agent market. Okung was the team's best offensive lineman in 2015. Given how well Russell Wilson played when given a clean pocket last season, the Seahawks cannot afford to take a step backward up front. Okung will test the market and have suitors, but the Seahawks need to strongly consider making him a competitive offer to come back. -- Sheil Kapadia