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NFL: 6 Big Holes To Fill On Offense

Sam Spiegelman looks at the teams that lost the most in NFL free agency and will struggle to replace the production from their departed stars.

Cam Newton
Cam Newton

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

We often talk about free agent winners and losers, but sometimes we forget to address just how the teams go about life after that.

Some of the biggest free-agent departures have set the stage for veterans and rookies to take on bigger roles in their respective offenses and defenses.

Here are the six biggest holes that need to be filled on NFL rosters on the offensive side of the ball.

Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant for Steve Smith

The Panthers’ top wide receiver for the past decade in now catching passes from Joe Flacco, leaving Cam Newton without a true No. 1 option in the passing game.

Carolina drafted a project in Kelvin Benjamin and signed veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant in free agency to help fill the void left by Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. If they can’t step up, expect Newton to regress.

Rodney Hudson, Donald Stephenson, Jeff Linkenbach for Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz

The Chiefs lost three starters from their offensive line in free agency — their right tackle, right guard, and center. That’s nothing that should be looked over.

Albert, Asamoah, and Schwartz are now with Miami, the Jets, and Giants, respectively, leaving a handful of inexperienced players to take over one of the Chiefs’ strongest units from a season ago. It’s bound to impact Alex Smith‘s pass protection and the run game.

Travaris Cadet, Brandin Cooks for Darren Sproles

The Saints traded away their most dangerous weapon in Sproles to the Eagles in the offseason. Now, the team will try and use a committee of players to try and replace Drew Brees‘ most talented pass-catching back.

Youngsters Cadet and Cooks, the team’s first-round pick, will both see action as a pass-catcher in Sproles’ spot, as well as Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. Those are some big (little) shoes to fill.

Markus Wheaton for Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders switched allegiances to the Broncos this offseason to replace one of their big losses in Eric Decker. Now the Steelers will look to some young, unproven talent to replace him.

Last year the Steelers drafted Wheaton with high hopes, and now he’ll have a chance to prove them right. Also, the team signed Lance Moore and drafted Martavis Bryant to help fill the void.

Bishop Sankey for Chris Johnson

Though Johnson is on the down-side of his career, he’s still managed to produce a 1,000-yard season year in and year out. Now that he’s with the Jets, the Titans drafted Sankey to succeed him.

The rookie isn’t the most talented or dynamic offensive player, but offensive-minded Ken Whisenhunt will try and find a way to use him to help replace Johnson’s steady production. In addition, Shonn Greene may be involved to form a backfield by committee.

JC Tretter, David Bakhtiari for Evan Dietrich-Smith, Marshall Newhouse

The Packers have long had issues protecting Aaron Rodgers, but the unit started to figure it all out last year with Newhouse at left tackle and Dietrich-Smith at center.

Both were positively graded out by Pro Football Focus and both left via free agency, leaving a 2013 fourth-rounder Tretter to fill in at center and another second-year player, Bakhtiari to protect Rodgers’ blindside. Should be a challenge, to say the least.

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