NFL Update: News and Team Needs for the AFC South
Here is a look at the AFC South, approaching free agency and the draft. Cap figures are per our friend Jason Fitzgerald at Over The Cap.
2013 Record: 11-5, division champions
Playoffs: The Colts made the playoffs for the second straight year of the Luck era.
Estimated current cap space: $37,514,024
Key Free Agents
CB Vontae Davis
ILB Pat Angerer
SS Antoine Bethea
NT Aubrayo Franklin
RB Donald Brown
RG Mike McGlynn
Backups and role players:
K Adam Vinatieri
DT Fili Moala
RB Ahmad Bradshaw
RG Jeff Linkenbach
S Sergio Brown
OLB Lawrence Sidbury
KR/CB Cassius Vaughn
ILB Kavell Conner
The Colts have re-signed P Pat McAfee, signed former Brown ILB D’Qwell Jackson, and tendered CB Josh Gordy and G Joe Reitz. C Samson Satelle (most well known in New England as the player Miami drafted in their trade with the Patriots for Wes Welker) was released; the move was partly due to performance, and in part due to $4 million in cap savings; RB Tashard Choice was also released.
Team Needs – CB, S, RG, C, WR, OLB, DE, RB, K
Both the offensive line and defensive secondary need attention. The Colts need to better protect their franchise quarterback, and will have new starters at RG and C in 2014. The team needs at least one corner (two if Davis departs), and probably two new starting safeties. Bethea turns 30 this summer and is a free agent; LaRon Landry is an injury prone liability in pass coverage who will also turn 30 this year.
Indy also needs to improve their pass rush. OLB Robert Mathis is very good, but they could stand an upgrade over OLB Bjoern Werner and DE Cory Redding. Werner missed time with a torn plantar fascia in his rookie season and will be given another opportunity to live up to his first round expectations, but at minimum some better depth at the position is in order.
Brown outplayed Trent Richardson at running back, but there’s a good chance that he will sign elsewhere in free agency; even if he does return the team needs more depth here. Reggie Wayne will be back but he turns 36 this season; a replacement needs to be brought in now. Adam Vinatieri is also a free agent that the club will need to make a decision on.
Round 2, Pick 27 (59)
Round 3, Pick 26 (90)
Round 5, Pick 26 (154)
Round 6, Pick 27 (187)
Round 7, Pick 17 (209) (From Ravens in trade for center A.Q. Shipley last May)
– Round 1, pick 26 traded to Browns last season for RB Trent Richardson.
– Round 4, pick 27 traded last year to the Browns for their 2013 3rd round pick.
– Round 7, pick 26 traded to Rams for CB Josh Gordy in 2012.
Potential first round picks: CB Victor Hampton, South Carolina; WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; C Marcus Martin, USC
In a very politically-correct manner, McAfee said that he would be open to taking over the field goal duties from Vinatieri. McAfee signed a five-year, $14 million with $5 million guaranteed; at $2.8 million per year that makes him the league’s eighth highest paid punter, and only three have more guaranteed money. McAfee, who already handles kickoffs for Indy, said “who knows what’s going to happen with Vinatieri? If he gets re-signed, if he wants to get re-signed, however long he wants to play, I just wanted to know whenever that guy is done, whenever that Hall-of-Fame career is over, that I just want a fair shake in kicking as well. That came up in the conversation. Who knows what’s going to happen with everything else obviously with him or who else they bring in. That definitely came up during negotiations and I’m excited to see how that turns out as well.”
2013 Record: 7-9
Playoffs: The Titans have not been to the playoffs since 2008, when Kerry Collins replaced Vince Young as the starting quarterback.
Estimated current cap space: $10,013,952
Key Free Agents
CB Alterraun Verner and WR Kenny Britt are the only starters hitting free agency. SS Bernard Pollard and DE Ropati Pitoitu have been re-signed. Other free agents include former starting C Rob Turner, C/G Chris Spencer, OT Mike Otto, DT Antonio Johnson, WR Damian Williams and WR Marc Mariani.
Team Needs – OLB, ILB, OT, NT, CB, RB, S
The Titans are moving to a 3-4 defense this year, and Kamerion Wimbley was a disappointment; an OLB at number 11 may be what Tennessee decides to do in the draft; another option would be to move Akeem Ayers outside and add an ILB such as Baltimore Raven free agent Daryl Smith.
Dave Stewart will likely be cut and Michael Roos, who will turn 32 this year, is in the final year of his contract. Offensive tackle is a position that should be used on one of the first two picks and/or with a starting caliber player in free agency.
Tennessee has dependable 4-3 defensive tackles but that don’t have that big wide body guy needed in the middle of a 3-4 defensive line. Drafting a guy like Louis Nix in the first round is a possibility.
If Alterraun Verner bolts in free agency then second year CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson will be given the chance to start opposite Jason McCourty, but some decent depth should be added if that is the plan; there’s no viable option currently as the number three corner. The club could also use some depth at safety behind Pollard and Michael Griffin.
Chris Johnson may become a cap casualty, which would mean that there will be an opening at running back; right now the backups are Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle.
Some fans think the Titans should draft another quarterback, but I think Jake Locker deserves another chance before doing so. Bridgewater, Bortles and Manziel will probably be already taken when the Titans turn comes up at number 11, and Derek Carr will likely be off the board before they pick again at number 42.
Round 1, Pick 11
Round 2, Pick 10 (42)
Round 4, Pick 12 (108)
Round 5, Pick 11 (139)
Round 6, Pick 10 (170)
Round 7, Pick 13 (205)
– Round 3, pick 77 and two 2013 picks traded to 49ers for San Francisco’s 2nd round pick, WR Justin Hunter; SF had acquired that pick from Kansas City in the Alex Smith trade.
Potential first round picks: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA; ILB C.J. Mosely, Alabama; DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame; OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
RB Chris Johnson is due to make $8 million this year, counting $10 million against the cap. Releasing him would save the Titans $6 million in cap space, which is likely unless he agrees to a restructure or pay cut.
RT Dave Stewart is another potential cap casualty. Stewart will turn 32 before the season kicks off and is not the player he was a few years ago; he is scheduled to be paid $6.4 million this year, and there would be no dead money as he is in the final year of his contract.
2013 Record: 4-12
Playoffs: Jacksonville’s playoff appearance was in the 2007 season, when they lost to the Patriots in the division round.
Estimated current cap space: $56,373,848
Key Free Agents
The only free agents that were starters are RB Maurice Jones-Drew and DE Jason Babin, but they also cut RG Uche Nwaneri and C Brad Meester retired. here’s also the situation with WR Justin Blackmon; he is suspended indefinitely, pending an appeal for reinstatement. The Jaguars have re-signed QB Chad Henne and LT Cameron Bradfield, and also signed former Seahawk DE Red Bryant. In addition the Jags have re-signed some depth players: TE Clay Harbor and OT Sam Young, and they tendered RB Jordan Todman. Other free agents include former Patriots DT Kyle Love, DE Brandon Deaderick and WR Taylor Price. CB Will Blackmon is also a free agent but because played under a minimum-salary, one-year veteran contract in 2013, his deal doesn’t expire until the start of the new league year; as a result he cannot sign a new deal until Tuesday.
Team Needs – QB, G, C, WR, RB, CB, S
Blaine Gabbert was not the answer at quarterback and while Chad Henne is okay, he is not the long term answer. While I would not be very surprised if the Jaguars do not select one of Bridgewater, Bortles or Manziel with their number three overall selection in the draft in light of Henne being re-signed; this is their best opportunity to grab an elite quarterback; even though they are the Jags, they can’t count on getting a top five pick every year. If they pass on a QB early and draft a defensive player such as Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack, then they might go after Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round; head coach Gus Bradley got a close look at the Eastern Illinois product when he coached the Senior Bowl.
With a new quarterback presumably selected in the first round, the next step is to improve the offensive line. The Jags will have an entirely new interior on the line in 2014 since Meester retired, Nwaneri was released, and LG Will Rackley needs to be replaced. After that there is still more to be done on offense: a running back or two will need to be added to replace MJD, and a WR to go opposite Cecil Shorts; Justin Blackmon should not be counted on at all.
On defense the Jaguars signed Red Bryant to upgrade the line; next priority is the secondary. At corner there is Dwayne Gratz, Alan Ball and Will Blackmon; that’s a position that should be upgraded. Jacksonville has two second-year players at safety: second round SS Jonathan Cyprien and sixth round FS Josh Evans. At minimum another safety should be brought in to compete with Evans, and to add depth.
Round 1, Pick 3
Round 2, Pick 7 (39)
Round 3, Pick 6 (70)
Round 4, Pick 5 (101)
Round 4, Pick 14 (110) (From Ravens in trade for OT Eugene Monroe)
Round 5, Pick 4 (132)
Round 5, Pick 10 (138) (From Lions in trade for WR Mike Thomas)
Round 5, Pick 19 (147) (From Ravens in trade for OT Eugene Monroe)
Round 6, Pick 3 (163)
Round 7, Pick 7 (199)
Potential first round picks: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; QB Blake Bortles, UCF; QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
2013 Record: 2-14
Playoffs: After two straight playoff appearances and high expectations, the Texans bottomed out with the NFL’s worst record in 2013.
Estimated current cap space: $8,325,377
Key Free Agents
The biggest Texan free agent is technically not a starter: RB Ben Tate has been stuck behind Arian Foster, and will find more playing time (and a bigger paycheck) elsewhere. Greg Jones is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL, but he will turn 33 in May. DE Antonio Smith will also turn 33, but the Texans only have a pair of street free agents on the roster at DE beyond JJ Watt. DT Earl Mitchell may walk as well; Miami and Chicago have been rumored as possible destinations. Daryl Sharpton and Joe Mays got some playing time at ILB, but now serve strictly as depth with Brian Cushing presumably returning from his knee injury in time to start the season. LG Wade Smith is another free agent that started last year; he’ll be 33 next month and has had some knee troubles the last couple of seasons. Smith has said that he would like to return but new coach Bill O’Brien may prefer to get younger; he may come back for depth purposes though, since the cupboard is bare at the position. Other free agents include TE Garrett Graham and backup tackles Andrew Garner and Ryan Harris.
Team Needs – QB, RT, S, ILB, OLB, CB, LG
Aside from the obvious – a new QB – the team also needs an upgrade over RT Derek Newton, an ILB alongside Cushing, a passing down OLB, and a slot/nickel corner to upgrade Brice McCain, a FS to replace Ed Reed and Shiloh Keo, and a LG to replace or compete with Wade Smith.
Round 1, Pick 1
Round 2, Pick 1 (33)
Round 3, Pick 1 (65)
Round 4, Pick 1 (97)
Round 5, Pick 1 (129)
Round 6, Pick 1 (161)
Round 7, Pick 1 (193)
Potential first round picks: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Rumors are flying that O’Brien has interest in Patriot backup QB Ryan Mallett. It would make sense for the Pats to move Mallett and get something for him before he hits free agency, and O’Brien certainly saw plenty of him in his days in Foxboro to make a decent assessment of his capabilities.
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