1) Offensive coordinator
Would love to see the external appointment of someone like McDaniels, but that is hopeful. We do need an outright one however: promote Mike Miller and give him sole playcalling duty.
2) Defensive coordinator
Keith Butler's name is being thrown about and that would be tremendous: after all, the Pittsburgh linebackers are pretty acceptable. He is, however, touted to take over from Dick LeBeau when the great man retires so we may have to look elsewhere. Nolan, if he gets released by Miami, would be a steal. I think our best bet is John Fox, whom I can't see being hired as a Head Coach just yet by anyone. He also started his coaching career in Pittsburgh and that always sits well with Whiz.
Do not reach for need and grab a project like Newton or someone like Mallett who has boom or bust all over him in the draft. I say we make a trade for Kyle Orton, who offers great value compared to Kevin Kolb for one. He is an accurate smart football player and the perfect guy to bring in to hold down the job for a few years while Skelton matures. We'd probably have to give up our third, but we may be able to wrangle a fourth - he's got one year left on his contract worth in the region of $8 mil and so the Broncos will want to get rid of him. When we land him, extend him to a three year contract, which he should accept provided he's not low-balled, given that our quarterback job is an enviable one for anyone who wants a chance to start with some great receivers. We could also pick up Marc Bulger reasonably cheaply as someone to compete for the job, both seeing if he's got anything left in the tank and giving Skelton a pretty savvy mentor.
4) Draft/Free Agency
Our primary needs heading into the draft are LB and OL. Our defense is staying a 3-4 as it should. If we were able to pick up a Patrick Willis or a Lamarr Woodley in the draft, this defense would become superb (incidentally I'm all for throwing indecent amounts of money at the latter in free agency to try and get him here). Our D-line and secondary are both one of the most talented groups in the league. I think we'll be looking more OLB at 5th and though it's always pointless throwing around names before the evaluation starts, Robert Quinn sounds like a money pick. I'd also be interested in trading down in the first and grabbing Akeem Ayers who is a true 3-4 OLB - a rare thing to find coming out of college and one which diminishes a lot of the risk associated with picking such a position. However, trading out of the top five is always easier in theory and probably wouldn't happen until draft day, if at all.
We'd then probably get good value hunting for an OT in the second round. I'd also be up for looking for a bargain there in free agency - I believe Doug Free is hitting the market, in theory. If there isn't value there or if we get a sufficiently good veteran, we could go ILB although I don't think there's a pressing need there just yet with Paris Lenon's excellent play this year. We do need one for the future, but at the moment it's not an acute need. With so many holes, we wouldn't go wrong with a value pick in the second. The rest of the draft should be used to pick up a (future) starting TE, a nickel corner who could potentially start down the road, a raw WR with plenty of upside, an ILB and an OT provided neither were taken in the second round.
On our free agents. Retain Breaston - the man is a consummate pro who has played with heart all season. To let him go with how precarious the WR position is with Fitz heading into his final year would be nuts. Also, though I really don't want to reward several seasons of indolence and disappointment, give Branch a multiyear contract. He has actually become quite good and offers depth. On the O-line, we should try to keep Deuce, if he'll stay; if not, that becomes a major need in FA/draft. Also bring back Sendlein and Faneca if he doesn't retire - no, he's no longer a pro bowler, but he's decent enough and is a locker room leader. Also resign Hightower to a multiyear - one needs to remember he's a very good running back with great versatility. Sort out the fumbles and it's golden. Keep Money Mike. Let Hayes walk. Anyone else I would say is expendable.
Now the cuts. Porter is too expensive and hasn't produced...once again our marquee free agent doesn't pan out. He is given his walking papers. Haggans is much cheaper and I think we keep him a little longer. DA will not be here next season. I'd be very surprised if either Bartel or Max Hall were as well. Some of the smaller names may also be let go.
Finally, once we have shored up the QB situation, pumping quite a bit of dollar into the position, offer Fitz a highly lucrative extension. I'd be surprised if he accepted, but we need to show we're serious about keeping our best player. This guy is excellent at getting us over a barrel time and time again, but if we get some good veterans (Orton and Bulger being my preference) and offer him a lot of money (which FO surely will) then I think he'll be inclined to stay, although that decision will almost certainly come next offseason so get ready for some nailbiting agony.
All these moves, in my uninformed opinion, make us a potential playoff team in 2011 (which isn't saying all that much in the NFC West). We don't need a whole rebuilding year, I think, but we do need a big overhaul: this season has been painful to watch and we have too much talent for a 5-11 team, who were so much worse than their record. I'm intrigued to see how it plays out. Thanks for reading. Thoughts?