NFC Roster Reset: Biggest signings/losses, burning question for each team ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft

Our Roster Reset series takes a look at where things stand across the league heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. Kevin Patra examines the current makeup of the NFC below, addressing each team’s biggest additions, losses and one burning question. Check back next week for the AFC.

Want to know more about the Roster Reset series? You’re in luck! NFL Media talent are discussing the series in depth — along with other notable league stories — on the NFL Inside Report Podcast, which has new episodes multiple times per week. Click here to listen.

Dallas Cowboys

BURNING QUESTION: What’s the plan on the offensive line?

Much of the offseason in Dallas has focused on the receiver shuffle, but the bigger question in my book is the offensive line. The group struggled with consistency last season and has yet to receive significant upgrades. Right tackle La’el Collins was cut, and Connor Williams signed in Miami. Williams wasn’t going to be retained after his struggles, but the Cowboys now have a glaring hole. For years, Dallas boasted a talented O-line that allowed Dak Prescott to operate unscathed. Now attrition and age have set in, and it’s a unit on the verge of teetering. I’ll be stunned if the Cowboys don’t use at least one of their first two picks in the draft to fill a hole and/or add depth up front. 

New York Giants

BURNING QUESTION: Will the offensive line FINALLY be fixed? 

Dave Gettleman hacked away at solving the Giants’ O-line issues like a blindfolded child swinging at a birthday piñata. He missed over and over again — while the onlookers chuckled. New GM Joe Schoen must try to answer the riddle plaguing Big Blue for years. Thus far, saddled with a dismal salary cap situation, Schoen’s response has been to add veterans who can provide stability and experience on relatively cheap contracts. Gobbling up low-level vets to provide depth is a solid start to the overhaul — particularly given the cap restraints. With two top-10 picks in the draft, Schoen can then add at least one talented youngster to the mix to complete the rework.

Philadelphia Eagles

BURNING QUESTION: Another first-round WR incoming?

After spending most of the past month re-signing their own free agents and making one big play for former Temple Owl Haason Reddick, we wondered when the patented Howie Roseman splash maneuver was coming. It happened to a certain degree with Monday’s draft swap with the New Orleans Saints. The Eagles shipped one of their first-round picks in 2022 for future draft capital. Already unloading one of their three first-rounders changes the calculus a bit for Roseman heading into the draft. After selecting back-to-back first-round receivers in 2020 and 2021, he could choose to replenish the trenches. Or, perhaps with a need still pending at receiver next to DeVonta Smith — with Jalen Reagor not growing into a difference-maker and after Philly didn’t add a big name in free agency — a wideout is still on Roseman’s wish list early in the draft. In a pivotal season for Jalen Hurts, surrounding the QB with talented WRs is the best way to evaluate his viability beyond 2022.

Washington Commanders

BURNING QUESTION: Is Carson Wentz really the answer? 

Following the 2021 season, Washington’s starting QB plan was essentially: Anyone but Taylor Heinicke. That sentiment is how the Commanders ended up calling on every available signal-caller before ultimately landing on Wentz. The first-round pedigree continues to give Wentz shots despite evidence that he is an inconsistent quarterback who doesn’t raise the play of those around him. His dismal end to the 2021 season (five straight games under 230 yards passing) left the Colts begging for someone to take him off their hands. They found a desperate mate in Washington. To understand how much pre-draft evals stick with players, contrast Wentz getting a third team to invest in him heavily as a former first-rounder to how easy it is for Washington to bypass Heinicke, an undrafted player. Washington has pieces to make noise in the NFC East, starting with star receiver Terry McLaurin and running back Antonio Gibson. But if Wentz is an inaccurate mess again, it’ll be back at the drawing board in 2023.  

Chicago Bears

BURNING QUESTION: Did the Bears do enough to buffer Justin Fields in Year 2? 

Fields possesses the athletic ability to finally end the QB shuffling in Chicago after decades of searching. Unlike other clubs with young signal-callers, the cap-strapped Bears couldn’t buffer Fields with much talent this offseason. Losing Daniels in the middle and missing on restricted free agent guard Ryan Bates means the O-line rebuild is half-baked. Pringle is a fine third-fiddle receiver with upside but isn’t a game-changing talent. Chicago must look to the draft to add aid for Fields. Last year, the Bears pass-catchers rarely helped the young signal-caller by making tough plays. While there are strides for the QB to make from a processing standpoint in Year 2, he needs help. Thus far, it’s hard to see where that will come from outside of rising star Darnell Mooney.

Detroit Lions

BURNING QUESTION: Will the defense continue to improve without significant additions? 

The Detroit brass seems intent on pushing the QB question into 2023. In the more immediate future, will one of the worst defenses in the NFL show improvement without a big-name veteran addition? Re-upping Harris and Walker will keep the core intact under DC Aaron Glenn, but most of the Lions’ offseason adds were on the periphery. Signing corner Mike Hughes and bringing linebacker Jarrad Davis back to Detroit were solid, low-cost moves with upside, but won’t drastically change the defense. Jeff Okudah returning from an Achilles tear could be the most significant addition to a secondary that needs help. The Lions are counting on the continued improvement of its young players under Glenn and DB coach Aubrey Pleasant. There are building blocks, with the likes of corner Amani Oruwariye and Levi Onwuzurike up front. Then there is the No. 2 overall pick, which could be used on defense. Given the offseason moves, it’s clear the Lions are counting on their coaching staff to maximize the talent rather than shelling out dough to import game-changers. 

Green Bay Packers

BURNING QUESTION: Who will Aaron Rodgers be throwing to in 2022? 

Adams wanted out, forcing a trade to the Raiders that came with a new contract. The collateral damage of that new deal also led directly to Valdes-Scantling not re-upping in Green Bay: Tyreek Hill wanted to surpass Adams’ contract, which led to Hill being traded to Miami, with Kansas City then scooping up MVS. Now it’s unclear whom Rodgers returned to throw to. A 31-year-old Randall Cobb is the most accomplished receiver on the roster. Lazard was retained on a restricted free agent tender. Then it’s Amari Rodgers and likely whomever the Packers pluck out of the draft. Regardless of whom Green Bay selects, the development of Rodgers (a 2021 third-rounder) is key to the makeup of the corps. You can’t have a “draft and develop” plan without the latter part of the process. The Packers haven’t selected a WR in the first round since 2002 (Javon Walker). If that doesn’t change this year, Wisconsin might riot. 

Minnesota Vikings

BURNING QUESTION: Is the defense fixed? 

Kirk Cousins used his leverage to get another year of big guaranteed money and a no-trade clause. But the bigger focus for the Vikings’ offseason was on the defensive side of the ball. In Mike Zimmer’s final season, the D turned porous, and no amount of A-gap blitzes could stem the tide. This offseason, along with a new coaching staff, the Vikings imported Smith from Green Bay. If healthy, he’ll pair well with Danielle Hunter to give the Vikes a two-headed monster. Z brings a versatility to the D-line Minnesota lacked in the past. Adding a clean-up specialist in Hicks helps the middle. Questions remain on the back end, however. Patrick Peterson‘s return helps some, but the 31-year-old corner isn’t the same player he once was. A Fangio-style D needs sticky corner play to work effectively. It’s not clear whether the Vikes have the horses to compete. However, if the defense plays well, the Vikings could be a sneaky candidate to make noise in an NFC that has seen a load of talent depart the conference. 

Atlanta Falcons

BURNING QUESTION: What will Arthur Smith’s offense look like with a gutted receiving corps? 

The Matt Ryan trade signaled a significant rebuild in Atlanta. Marcus Mariota’s familiarity with Arthur Smith’s scheme will be a benefit, but whom will he be throwing to? Outside of tight end Kyle Pitts, there isn’t a dominant pass-catcher on the roster. Running back Cordarrelle Patterson could play a more prominent role in the passing game. Then what? The wide receiver room is a massive question mark. Calvin Ridley is suspended for at least the 2022 season. Russell Gage signed with division rival Tampa. The top of the depth chart includes restricted free agent speedster Olamide Zaccheaus, former Bengal Auden Tate, former Lion KhaDarel Hodge and former Bear Damiere Bryd. Tate boasts the most talent out of the four, but he has managed just 799 yards on 61 catches in his four-year career. Currently, it’s the thinnest receiver crew in the entire NFL. Also, given Mariota’s injury history, Atlanta likely isn’t done adding to the QB room. The question is simply whether it comes high in the draft (No. 8 overall) or with a post-draft veteran addition. 

Carolina Panthers

BURNING QUESTION: Is Carolina really giving Sam Darnold another shot? 

Picking up Darnold’s fifth-year option last year saddled the team with the QB for another season at $18.858 million guaranteed. It’s the only reason he’s on the roster. But the Panthers can’t head into a pivotal season for coach Matt Rhule with Darnold as the lone hope, right? RIGHT? We’ve seen enough of Darnold to know he’s not going to carry an offense. Even his ability to move the offense when everything sets up perfectly — solid blocking, open receivers off the snap — is crimped by a propensity for turnovers and dunderheaded plays. It is who he is. Carolina has swung and missed at every opportunity to upgrade the QB spot. The last, best chance is the draft. With the No. 6 overall pick, the Panthers could have their choice of signal-callers (Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, etc.). It’s not a great year to need a rookie QB, but Carolina is running low on options at the position.

New Orleans Saints

BURNING QUESTION: Are the Saints rebuilding or reloading? 

On its face, the Saints’ offseason seems like the approach of a team re-upping for another run. They seemingly promoted everyone after Payton stepped down. They re-signed Jameis to be the starter and veteran Andy Dalton to fill the backup role. They imported safety Marcus Maye, who is coming off an Achilles tear. They re-signed WR Tre’Quan Smith and DB P.J. Williams. These are all moves for a team operating like it’s on the verge of another postseason run. But New Orleans’ losses are massive. Payton was a top-five coach. Armstead was a stud left tackle who leaves a gaping hole. And Williams felt irreplaceable on the back end of the defense. Add in Malcolm Jenkins retiring, and the Saints went from an excellent safety duo to one with looming questions. Monday’s trade gives the Saints enough assets to add a playmaking wide receiver and perhaps the QB of the future. If New Orleans is to contend in the first year sans Payton, the team must hit multiple home runs with those draft picks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

BURNING QUESTION: When will holes be filled on the defensive front? 

Given the veteran talent — led by Brady — I’m not worried about the transition from Bruce Arians to Todd Bowles. It’s possible the swap is even an upgrade. From a roster perspective, Brady’s return has led to a trove of re-signings and some perfect veteran additions like Russell Gage and Logan Ryan. The biggest question remaining for the Super Bowl contender is on the D-line, where Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh remain free agents. Suh is already campaigning to return. At this point, the Bucs should look to the draft to fill the void; they can wait until after the draft to potentially re-up the vets.

Arizona Cardinals

BURNING QUESTION: How will Chandler Jones’ production be replaced? 

The Cardinals lost some significant pieces of their playoff team. None bigger than sack master Chandler Jones, who generated 71.5 QB takedowns in six seasons with Arizona. The Cards’ defense struggled down the stretch last season even with Jones in the lineup, and there is no obvious replacement on the roster for his disruptive spirit. Marcus Golden is a solid edge rusher, but not one whom offensive lines tilt toward. Jordan Hicks‘ release opens up snaps for 2021 first-rounder Zaven Collins to play alongside 2020 first-rounder Isaiah Simmons. The Cardinals invested a lot of draft currency in two inside linebackers. The question is whether Collins is ready for a bigger role in Year 2. 

Los Angeles Rams

BURNING QUESTION: Will the champs be able to replace the depth that helped propel them to a Lombardi Trophy?

The Rams continued their top-heavy build by importing receiver Allen Robinson and linebacker Bobby Wagner. But the losses are just as big. Robert Woods is gone. The Rams couldn’t hang onto Von Miller. Andrew Whitworth’s retirement necessitated Joe Noteboom’s re-signing. But there were more critical losses — like defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, corner Darious Williams and guard Austin Corbett — who played key roles in the Super Bowl run. Where will the O-line depth come from if injuries strike? Then there is the lingering question of Odell Beckham Jr. and his possible return after the ACL tear. L.A. brass has done a remarkable job at finding plug-and-play depth in the middle rounds of the draft. That will be just as key this season with some of the depth siphoned off.

San Francisco 49ers

BURNING QUESTION: Will Jimmy Garoppolo actually stick around?

We’ve hammered the Garoppolo storyline like Noah building his ark, but until there is some clarity on the situation, it’s the biggest question in The Bay. It sounds more and more likely that the San Francisco brass could hang on to Jimmy G to see if a preseason QB injury could prompt a trade that isn’t currently in the cards. With no deadline to move on, the Niners insist they won’t just cut the QB. It could get hella awkward come training camp if he’s still making $25 million but Trey Lance is getting all the reps. Beyond the obvious QB storyline, the 49ers need to replace guard Laken Tomlinson, an underrated starter in Kyle Shanahan’s blocking scheme.

Seattle Seahawks

BURNING QUESTION: Can Pete Carroll really avoid a rebuild without Russell Wilson?

The 70-year-old coach insists the Seahawks are not building for the future. Yet, the roster makeup suggests otherwise, with several glaring holes. Seattle is paying a lot to the safety duo of Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams while staring at a pass-rush hole. Adding Uchenna Nwosu was an underrated move, but questions remain about how the ‘Hawks will disrupt the passer. Bringing back Rashaad Penny on a one-year deal was smart after he dominated down the stretch last season, but there are significant question marks along the O-line, as Duane Brown remains a free agent. However, the most blatant question mark is at quarterback, where Drew Lock is in line to start despite flagrant struggles in Denver. Whether it’s scooping up a rookie in the draft in hopes of recreating the magic it had with a young Wilson (even though the defense isn’t nearly as good) or shopping for a veteran like Baker Mayfield, Seattle can’t sit pat at QB if it genuinely isn’t planning to be in rebuild mode.

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