Free Agency Diary

AFC South Free Agency Preview

on

The AFC South is one of the more interesting divisions in football entering the 2016 season, as each of the four teams feel that they have a realistic chance of winning it.

The Indianapolis Colts dominated the division with a healthy Andrew Luck, and he will begin 2016 healthy again; The Houston Texans are the defending champs, and they feel like their defense can lead them to great things; The Jacksonville Jaguars have a young, explosive offense and if they can iron out some of their wrinkles they can compete with anyone; The Tennessee Titans played a lot of close games last year and with Marcus Mariota having a full offseason to prepare and get better, along with the top pick in the NFL Draft, it’s possible that they can make a quantum leap.

Tennessee Titans

Team needs: Offensive line, wide receiver, running back, inside linebacker, cornerback, safety.

The Tennessee Titans have no shortage of team needs, and the best available player in the draft and best available free agents can certainly be a need.  Virtually any of the top names available can improve Mike Mularkey’s roster and the Titans have plenty of cap space to accomplish making the team better.

Top target that would make sense:  Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins

The Titans need to have a more balanced offense and the speedy Miller will help the spread offense with Mariota, who might be the fastest quarterback in the NFL.  Miller’s presence alone will make defenses play with an extra man in the box which will make the passing game that much more productive for Mariota.

A few other targets: Alfred Morris, RB, Washington; Malik Jackson, DE/DT, Denver; Eric Weddle, S, San Diego; Prince Amukamara, CB, N.Y. Giants. 

If the Titans strike out on Miller, Morris will be a cheaper option that could fit in well in Mularkey’s offense.  Jackson might be the prize of free agency and he would help any defense in football.  Weddle is the best available safety on the market and he will be paid as such.  Amukamara will be the best Titans cornerback and when healthy he is more than serviceable.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Team needs: Defensive end, safety, linebacker, center, offensive guard, cornerback

The Jaguars offense appears to be ready to roll and most of their offseason is going to be spent on attempting to make the defense competitive.  They have the second-most cap space in the NFL so they can afford to overpay for some talented guys.

Top target that would make sense: Malik Jackson, DE, Broncos

Jackson is a young defensive end coming off his first contract and he’s turning into a special player.  The Jaguars can pay more than just about anyone for his services, and he figures to fit in Gus Bradley’s defense particularly well.  If you line him up along with 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler, the Jaguars could make enormous strides.

A few other targets: Eric Weddle, S, San Diego; Antonio Cromartie, CB, N.Y. Jets; George Iloka, S, Cincinnati; Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City.

The Jaguars safety tandem was the worst in football a season ago, and don’t be surprised if they replace more than one of them.  Weddle is a proven veteran who is generally in the right position even if he’s no longer a big-time playmaker.  Cromartie is the type of long, lanky cornerback that Bradley had in Seattle and he makes big plays, despite being a bit of a gambler.  If the team strikes out on Weddle, Ikoka is an up-and-coming safety who will get a look from plenty of teams.  He would immediately become the team’s best player in the secondary.  Johnson is a higher priced guy in the middle of the defense and his presence would improve the athleticism of the second level for the Jaguars.

Indianapolis Colts

Team needs: offensive line, running back, defensive end, cornerback, defensive tackle.

The Colts lack of depth and the poor roster construction came to a head in 2015 when Andrew Luck’s level of play dropped along with his subsequent injury.  Indianapolis showed themselves to be a mediocre team around a great quarterback, and if they’re going to take the next step in the postseason the roster is going to have to be improved.

Top target that would make sense: Cordy Glenn, OT, Bills

With all apologies to Jim Irsay, Andrew Luck is the most important person in the Colts franchise and 2015 was a lost season due to to his injuries.  The franchise quarterback must be protected at all costs and Glenn is the best offensive lineman on the market.  He would allow Anthony Castonzo to flip to right tackle and that will make the entire offensive line better.

A few other targets: Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo; Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City; Lamar Miller, RB, Miami; Prince Amukamara, CB, N.Y. Giants.

The Colts are known as a finesse team, and Incognito would add a certain physicality to change their image.  Johnson would immediately be the best player on the Colts defense and he’d likely be the best inside linebacker in team history.  The Colts haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in two years and Miller would likely change that immediately.  He’s the prize of the free agent market at running back and he would add another dimension to the Colts offense.  Amukamara would help the back end of the Indy defense as he’s a very talented cover cornerback when healthy.

Houston Texans

Team needs: Quarterback, running back, offensive line, wide receiver, safety, defensive tackle.

The Texans can’t truly be taken seriously as a contender until they find a legitimate answer at quarterback, and that’s likely to come in the draft.  In the meantime, they need to build up the offensive line and run the football more effectively to play ball control offense.

Top target that would make sense: Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay

The Texans need to run the football to be effective and it’s likely that they’ll be moving away from Arian Foster. Doug Martin can step right in and be a Pro-Bowl caliber back and the Houston offense will be more dynamic than it was a year ago, despite who is lining up under center.

A few other targets: Chase Daniel, QB, Kansas City; Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo; Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati, George Iloka, S, Cincinnati

Daniel has been a functional backup quarterback and he can certainly compete for the starting job in Houston, and likely win it.  Incognito will help any offense become more physical and he was one of the best guards in football last season.  Jones will fit in perfectly opposite DeAndre Hopkins as he runs precise routes and has excellent hands.  Iloka certainly helps the back end of the Texans defense as they’ve been looking for a playmaking safety.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.