1) Stay healthy, don't get stupid (Frank...), and build on last year's success
2) Hope that none of our rivals get lucky in the draft/FA (i.e. the Falcons getting Hardy and Suh, and drafting the next OBJ).
3) Get better at LT
Of the three, the most important is to stay healthy and on the field, and build on our success last year. We have a top defense if our guys are playing, and have a lot of reason to feel like we'll be even better with Frank Alexander in the rotation. If you have a top 5 defense, you're always going to be in the mix.
I don't see any of the NFC South rivals seriously threatening this year. Tampa Bay has a ton of talent but really needs leadership in the locker room, and it's been proven that it isn't coming from their current guys. Even if Winston is for real, he's not going to be that vocal veteran leader his rookie year. New Orleans is a train-wreck in the making on defense, and is too cap-strapped to make it better overnight. And Atlanta also needs a talent infusion. Of the three, I think Atlanta is the biggest threat because they have room to play in Free Agency and could get lucky there, finally.
And finally, our biggest weakness at the end of last year was LT. We need another receiver, we would all love to see a strong safety with some freaking coverage ability, and having another talented CB would make us all the more devastating on defense. But there's a difference in needing to improve and needing to plug a hole, and LT is a hole. We fill that, we can make do everywhere else.
We've got a good scouting staff, and I'm sure Gettleman listens to them. This is the same staff that brought us Gross (1), Bruce Nelson (2), Wharton (3), Mathis (3), Hangartner(5), Joe Berger (6), Will Mongtomery (7), Rashad Butler (3), Ryan Kalil (2), Jeff Otah (1), Geoff Schwartz (7), Mackenzy Bernadeau (7), Zachary Williams (6), Lee Ziemba, Amini (2), and Kugbila (4). Most of those listed had or are still having long careers in the NFL. So those guys are doing their part. And it's our pro scouts who are responsible for putting the FAs in front of Gettleman last year--he wasn't out combing the waiver wire himself.
As far as his track record, I'm not too excited about it where OL is concerned. Yes, he hit with Turner, but he swung and missed with Kugbilla. And as some of our picks have shown, it's not necessarily a matter of talent so much as how well that talent fits here, and how much our coaches can get out of it. A lot of that feels like hit-or-miss; a guy may show up here and be 'meh' with our scheme and who he's lined up with, and then go elsewhere and star (see Mathis, Schwartz).
I do think that if we take a tackle early, we're fairly likely to get a good one who will stick around. But if we try and plug the hole with a 3rd rounder we're really rolling the dice. It's likely that Gettleman will take a couple though, and sign one in FA. As long as he's better than Bell (and how hard can that be?), we're going to be better.
After the new CBA, teams were able to spend more money on their vets and less on rookies. So, you have a lot of older players who are getting paid more than they would have otherwise, and who are no longer worth that kind of money. This year is just the first in a "this is how it's gonna be" pattern going forward.