For eight NFL teams, the 2022 season has yet to end. But for three-quarters of the league, the focus has already turned to the offseason, toward gearing up for 2023.
For some teams, that means a rebuild. In cities such as Chicago and Houston, expectations need to be tempered. Going from three wins to the playoffs isn’t unheard of—the Jacksonville Jaguars picked first in 2022 and made the postseason—but it isn’t especially likely.
However, some teams barely missed the playoffs this season. Others made the tournament but were sent packing during Wild Card Weekend. For those teams, the playoffs are a realistic expectation—provided they address the deficiencies that ended their seasons and take care of the holes that develop for even the best teams every offseason.
Each of the teams listed here won at least eight games. All are also watching the rest of the season unfold on TV just like us. And every one of them has a missing piece—part of the puzzle that must be filled in if the 2023 campaign is going to end on a better note.
Some teams will look to swing an offseason trade to fill a hole with a big name. Franchises with cap space will look to the veteran free-agent market. And some will look to the draft in April to add the player that will hopefully put them over the top and into the postseason.
But whatever the route, these teams need to find that missing piece to avoid another disappointing season in 2023.
Baltimore Ravens: Wide Receiver
For the sake of argument, we’ll assume that the Baltimore Ravens reach some sort of agreement with quarterback Lamar Jackson, whether it’s via a long-term contract or the franchise tag. If they don’t, the position would rocket to the top of their offseason to-do list.
But if they do, then the top offseason priority has to be improving the options around Jackson in the passing game. The Ravens traded Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals last year and then did very little to replace him, and it showed. Baltimore was 28th in the league in passing, and its top wide receiver (Demarcus Robinson) didn’t have 50 catches or 500 receiving yards.
Even for a run-heavy team like the Ravens, that’s not going to cut it. Since 2015, the Ravens have had just two 1,000-yard wideouts. And Brown (2021) and Mike Wallace (2016) cleared that threshold by less than 20 yards.
DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals: A trade for Hopkins won’t come cheaply, and given Baltimore’s cap situation, acquiring him wouldn’t be easy. But Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta showed with the Roquan Smith trade that he’s willing to be aggressive, and Hopkins would fill Baltimore’s need for a No. 1 receiver.
DJ Chark, Detroit Lions: Chark isn’t going to excite Ravens fans, but if Baltimore burns most of its $28.9 million in cap space (and then some) on tagging Jackson, a second-tier free agent may be the best it can do. Chark quietly averaged 16.7 yards per reception this year, and he had a 1,000-yard season in 2019 with the Jaguars.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State: Smith-Njigba’s 2022 season was all but wiped out by injury, but at this time a year ago he was widely regarded as the No. 1 wideout in this year’s draft class after catching 95 passes for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s also a polished route-runner who should be capable of producing from day one.
Detroit Lions: Cornerback
On some level, the Detroit Lions probably expected to be heading into the offseason with a high draft pick and a need behind center. But after eight wins in 10 games to close out the season, the Lions will pick 18th (though they also have the Los Angeles Rams’ No. 6 pick), and Jared Goff appears to be a more viable long-term option than many expected.
However, while those dynamics have changed, another has not. The Lions need help defensively after finishing last in total defense and 30th against the pass.
Jeff Okudah, the No. 3 pick in 2020, is coming off the best season of his career, and Jerry Jacobs has emerged as at least a capable starter in the slot. But the Lions badly need another starter opposite Okudah—that spot was a merry-go-round of mediocrity.
Marcus Peters, Baltimore Ravens: At 30 years old, Peters isn’t the player he used to be, as he allowed a passer rating of 113.7 last season. But Peters remains a decent starter and could provide a steadying veteran presence in the secondary. His next contract shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive either.
Troy Hill, Los Angeles Rams: If the Lions want to add veteran talent at cornerback without using a big chunk of their $15 million in cap space, Hill could make for a good target. The 31-year-old isn’t a world-beater but has started 55 games in his career and has experience playing all over the back end.
Joey Porter Jr., Penn State: The 6’2″, 194-pound Porter is the top-ranked cornerback in this draft class, according to Bleacher Report’s Scouting Department. He’s a talented, physical player with all kinds of potential. If he is as advertised, Porter and Okudah could combine to form an imposing duo for years to come.