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2024 NFL season: Ten biggest remaining roster holes

Good organizations continue to tinker with their rosters throughout the calendar year, but the bulk of the team-building process has passed as we head into the NFL's summer sabbatical.

The 2024 NFL Draft and the first 27 waves of free agency have come and gone, but for every club, holes remain. Roster construction is a fluid operation. No team is ever perfect.

Ahead of July training camps, clubs can fill gaps with veterans -- some of whom probably preferred to sit out the spring portion of the offseason. Talent still meanders on the open market, with cornerback Stephon Gilmore, safety Justin Simmons and others available. Some players overcoming injuries, like interior O-lineman Connor Williams, will eventually find a home.

As the players head into summer break, it's a perfect time to spotlight the 10 biggest remaining roster holes scattered across the league.

Dallas Cowboys
Running back

Let's start our countdown with one to argue about. This feels like a true test of the theory that running backs are interchangeable. After years of disparaging Dallas for paying the going rate for RBs in a dwindling market, can we scoff at the Cowboys for going cheap at the position, given the other rising costs on the roster? The glaring issue is that there isn't a low-cost rookie option to lean on. Ezekiel Elliott played fine last season in New England but averaged a career-low 3.5 yards per attempt. He no longer owns the every-down juice. Entering his ninth NFL campaign, Zeke's best attribute at this stage is his pass protection, which is great because the Cowboys figure to pass a lot. Rico Dowdle is a fine complement, but can he sustain with a larger load? Deuce Vaughn got little run as a rookie last year, and the Cowboys are cross-training him at slot receiver. Running a committee is an acceptable plan, but adding another quality body or two, perhaps after roster cuts, feels needed. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Edge rusher

Shaq Barrett moving 200 miles south this offseason highlighted a gap off the edge of the Bucs' defensive front. Barrett led all Tampa defenders with 44 QB pressures last season, per Next Gen Stats. The next two players were interior defenders (Calijah Kancey, 33; Vita Vea, 29), and fourth on the list was departed linebacker Devin White (27). The top edge defenders left are Yaya Diaby (26 pressures in 2023), coming off a stellar end of his rookie season, and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (26), who hasn't lived up to the first-round billing. Right now, second-round rookie Chris Braswell, who had 10.5 sacks last year at Alabama, is in line to see a hefty role out of the gate. Todd Bowles likes to play big, but finding edge aid remains necessary. I like this Bucs roster probably more than most, and adding some veteran help off the edge would boost the odds of taking a fourth consecutive division title. 

New York Jets
Tight end

There was a reason seemingly every mocker pegged Brock Bowers to Gang Green leading up to the 2024 NFL Draft. Tyler Conklin sits atop the TE depth chart. He's a fine supplemental player, but not one who will command attention or see a major leap in production. He is what he is entering his seventh pro campaign. Fortunately for Conklin, the Jets didn't stockpile the position to push him for reps. Jeremy Ruckert has 17 career catches, Kenny Yeboah has four, Zack Kuntz has two career offensive snaps, and Lincoln Sefcik and Kevin Foelsch are undrafted free-agent signees. Aaron Rodgers has performed without special tight end talent in the past, so it's not an emergency-siren situation. However, bolstering the unit would help take some pressure off a pass-catching group that is counting heavily on receiver Mike Williams (torn ACL last September) returning to form. 

Miami Dolphins
Interior offensive line

Last year, Miami's offensive line took a brutal hit when center Connor Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury -- one significant enough that the free agent is still not signed with a club. The Dolphins responded this offseason by inking Aaron Brewer in free agency. The undersized Brewer should fit beautifully into Mike McDaniel's run scheme, particularly as a puller, but can get overpowered in pass protection. Brewer allowed a 10.7 one-on-one QB pressure percentage in 2023, third-worst among centers with at least 300 pass-blocking snaps, per Next Gen Stats. That wouldn't be as concerning if Miami didn't lose guard Robert Hunt in free agency and is counting on Isaiah Wynn to be healthy and consistent -- two things he hasn't been the past two years, playing in just 16 games in that span. Both guard spots have question marks in front of Tua Tagovailoa

New England Patriots
Left tackle

The Patriots have depth questions throughout the offensive line, but the most glaring hole sits at left tackle. Not only are the options not great but both are right tackles. Chukwuma Okorafor, who signed a free-agent deal this offseason, played RT in Pittsburgh, where he was benched last season for ineffective play. Caedan Wallace is a third-round rookie who played on the right side at Penn State. These are the top choices to cover the blind side of Jacoby Brissett and, eventually, Drake Maye? Oy. Whoever ultimately locks down the job at left tackle could be picked on all season. The LT question might also factor in how long the Patriots keep Brissett as the starter. New England also has questions on the interior, where former draft picks haven't stood out, and there is little depth. The Patriots might not even be 100 percent settled with right tackle Michael Onwenu, who just re-signed on a three-year deal -- reporters noted during minicamp that, at one point, Onwenu kicked into guard with Wallace taking a run at RT. Questions abound. Not many offensive lines can handle injuries well, but health issues in this area would be particularly worrisome in Foxborough, with a rookie signal-caller likely to eventually take over.

Chicago Bears
Defensive line

Ryan Poles did an admirable job upgrading the offense for new starting quarterback Caleb Williams. However, the Bears GM neglected to find an adequate edge-rushing complement to Montez Sweat. Last year, Chicago inked Yannick Ngakoue (four sacks in 2023) during camp, but the group struggled to generate pressure until Sweat arrived. It’ll again count on a combination of DeMarcus Walker (3.5 sacks), Dominique Robinson (0.5 sacks) and others to work opposite Sweat. Inside, Chicago needs 2023 draft picks Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens to develop into difference-makers. The Bears are relying a lot on Sweat and Matt Eberflus' scheme to generate pressure. Chicago could be a team that lets the early part of the season play out before trying to add at the trade deadline again, if the youngsters get blown off the ball. 

Washington Commanders
Offensive line

Jayden Daniels' blind side sits in a precarious spot. Washington didn't address left tackle in free agency and waited until the draft's third round before taking a tackle. Thirty-two-year-old journeyman Cornelius Lucas, who's started double-digit games once in 10 seasons, and third-round pick Brandon Coleman are in line to compete for the gig. Guard Nick Allegretti was a backup in Kansas City for the past five years and will be tasked with locking down the left guard spot. RG Sam Cosmi is a stud and C Tyler Biadasz is solid, but the rest of the group has significant question marks. The hope is that Daniels' elusiveness can mitigate some of the issues, but that's asking a lot of a rookie.

Los Angeles Chargers
Wide receiver

In Jim Harbaugh's first season, the plan appears to be: throw bodies at the receiver spot and see who rises to the top. A true No. 1 appears lacking. Second-round pick Ladd McConkey could see a trove of targets, but he'll still be a first-year player who never saw overwhelming production at Georgia and dealt with injuries. Josh Palmer also missed games last year and profiles as a solid No. 3 rather than a field-tilter. Then there is 2023 first-rounder Quentin Johnston, who was miscast in the offense last year and struggled mightily with play strength and drops. The Chargers seem to be counting on Johnston to develop exponentially in a more suitable system. DJ Chark, Derius Davis and seventh-round rookies Brenden Rice and Cornelius Johnson round out the group. Adding another veteran to the mix could help Justin Herbert in a transition year.

Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 2 wide receiver

Whenever I talk to Yinzer friends, the very first comment is about the Steelers' receiver room. It's George Pickens and a trove of Riddler-style question marks. Third-round pick Roman Wilson profiles as the most likely candidate to step into a sizable role next to Pickens, but it's a lot to ask a low-production, mid-round rookie to immediately play a substantial role in the NFL. However, we've seen the Steelers strike gold in the draft in the past. Perhaps The Fastest Man in Hawaii can become the latest WR find in Pittsburgh. The rest of the gaggle isn't as promising. With Van Jefferson entering Year 5, we can stop hoping for a breakout campaign. Calvin Austin III and Quez Watkins profile as gadget options. Denzel Mims, Marquez Callaway and Scotty Miller are fliers. Tight end Pat Freiermuth will play a significant role in the passing game. TEs Darnell Washington and Connor Heyward should also see increased chances to contribute in Arthur Smith's offense. But it will be a surprise if the Steelers don't add to the WR room before Week 1.

Atlanta Falcons
Edge rusher

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The yearly questions about the Falcons' edge pressure continue. Last season, Calais Campbell led the Falcons with 43 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats. Bud Dupree was second on the team with 40. Neither is currently on the roster. Even their two best pressure players weren't exactly studly. Forty-eight edge defenders earned more pressures than Campbell last season. The top two remaining edges left in ATL are Arnold Ebiketie (31 pressures, six sacks in 2023) and Lorenzo Carter (24, 3). Rookie third-round pick Bralen Trice currently has a path to a ton of snaps off the bat. The Falcons are counting on new head man Raheem Morris coaching up the talent, as he did in L.A., to cover for the lack of pressure. More help is needed, however, if the defense is going to help get Atlanta back to the postseason for the first time since 2017.

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