Free Agency 2016

AFC Teams Who Must Hit In Free Agency

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It’s about that time for free agents to start officially signing with teams. With that in mind, there’s certain teams in the AFC that can’t afford to miss during this free agent period.

Let’s take a look at those teams:

Denver Broncos – Winning the Super Bowl is already hard enough, but what’s even tougher is trying to repeat. General manager and hall of fame quarterback John Elway knows a thing or two about repeating, as he helped the Broncos do it back in the late 90’s.

Thing are a bit different this time around for a various of reasons.

First of all, Denver will be without Peyton Manning and while he was a complete shell of himself this past season, it’s still difficult to replace his wisdom and leadership in the locker room.

Brock Osweiler, 25, was believed to be Manning’s successor and he still may be, but the two sides haven’t talked much since he was offered a three-year deal worth about $39 million. 

“I hope Brock is back,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders stressed. “I don’t want him to go anywhere.”

The Broncos already lost defensive end Malik Jackson to Jacksonville, Osweiler to Houston and now linebacker Danny Trevathan to the Chicago Bears.

Denver doesn’t want to be the first team to go from Super Bowl to last place, but they have no answer at quarterback, and their great defense is being depleted quickly.

Kansas City Chiefs – There isn’t a team that faces more off-season decisions than the Chiefs. Having said that, Kansas City franchise tagged the guy they wanted to retain the most in Eric Berry.

Also, the Chiefs just recently struck a deal with veteran pass rusher Tamba Hali.

While Kansas City is on a good path, they still must address the cornerback position. During the regular season, their secondary performed well, but they were exposed in the playoffs after Tom Brady picked them apart. With Marcus Peters entering his second season, keeping veteran corner Sean Smith around would be clutch.

The only problem with that is Kansas City shouldn’t break the bank for Smith and with teams in dire need of secondary help, the Chiefs just may get outbid.

Fortunately, Marcus Peters is already in the fold. If Smith does indeed bolt, Peters will need to grow up very fast, as general manager John Dorsey may have to find a stop-gap guy as their No. 2 cornerback.

Jacksonville Jaguars – It’s been nearly 10 years since the Jaguars experienced postseason play. Ever since their last playoff berth, Jacksonville has only reached the .500 mark once when they went (8-8) back in 2010.

Despite their struggles, this team has tons of promise moving forward.

Offensively, the Jaguars are very potent with Blake Bortles under center to go along with receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

On the flip side, this team needs major help defensively.

Jacksonville finished 31st in points allowed per game (28.0), while placing 20th in team sacks (36). To help the cause, the Jaguars were able to sign Malik Jackson to a six-year, $90 million deal.

The buck can’t stop there because in today’s league, you can’t have enough pass rushing, which is why Jacksonville has been linked to Seattle’s Bruce Irvin and Miami’s Olivier Vernon.

Although they expressed interest in signing both players, they decided to go elsewhere and if the Jaguars are going to jump from perennial Top-5 draftees to hosting a playoff game they still need to improve on the defensive side of the ball.

They addressed their secondary by signing former Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, and they hope to improve upon the 29th ranked pass defense last season. The aforementioned Sean Smith is someone who may be on their radar.

Houston Texans – Of all the teams with clear needs at certain positions, there may not be a more obvious need than Houston at quarterback.

Due to the AFC South being so putrid, Houston was able to sneak into the playoffs with an (9-7) record, despite Brian Hoyer’s poor play. Unfortunately, Houston was demolished by Kansas City 30-0 in that wildcard matchup.

For any chance Hoyer had of being the quarterback for the near future, the 30-year-old did himself in versus Kansas City when he completed only 15-of-34 passes for 136 yards with four interceptions.

Houston addressed the need by signing Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million deal.

Osweiler has a very small sample size and as we know, so Houston will be taking a risk, but it’s necessary.

After releasing four-time Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster, Houston was in the market for help in the backfield and they grabbed former Dolphins running back Lamar Miller.  Miller has never received a full dose of carries but that’s what we’re expecting as they try to take some heat off of Osweiler.

Baltimore Ravens – After reaching the playoffs for five straight seasons from 2008-2012, Baltimore has now missed the postseason two out of the last three years.

Being in unfamiliar territory is never an easy thing and for a fan base that’s grown accustom to success over the years, this isn’t where they’d like to be.

Just like a lot of teams, secondary is an area of concern for Baltimore. Throughout the season, the Ravens had trouble covering guys on the perimeter. As an unit, they finished with only six interceptions, which ranked dead last in the NFL.

With Joe Flacco being under contract until 2022, there’s no way he’s going anywhere, but he could surely use some help at receiver. Sure, it’s great that Steve Smith Sr. is returning, however, Baltimore needs more depth at the position.

Assuming Baltimore makes the proper tweaks to their roster, this team will be right back in the mix of things in the AFC.

Buffalo Bills – Year two is on the horizon for Rex Ryan in Buffalo and his team is really close to being a major player in the AFC.

Despite not looking like a prototypical Rex defense, Buffalo still managed to finish .500 at (8-8). Typically, you’ll expect a Rex defense to get after the opposing quarterback relentlessly and while they showed flashes, it wasn’t a sustained effort.

Buffalo finished second to last in the league in team sacks (21), only finishing ahead of the Atlanta Falcons.

In a division where you have to face Tom Brady twice a year, it’s vital to have a pass rush capable of making the four-time Super Bowl champion uncomfortable.

On a brighter note, the Bills were tops in the league on the ground with an average of 152 rushing yards per game and with them re-signing left tackle Cordy Glenn, there’s no reason not to believe they won’t be near the top in this category again.

To complement their rushing attack, it’d be wise for Buffalo to explore their options at the second receiver spot.

New York Jets – The season didn’t end how the Jets would’ve liked it to, as their playoff dreams came to a crashing holt at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. In that season finale, Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t have his best game of the season, but that doesn’t take away from the season he had.

Before the season, everyone was under the belief that Geno Smith was going to be the man, which ended up being far from the truth.

It feels as if the Jets have been knocking on the door for years now, so in order for them to finally breakthrough, there’s key areas they must address.

To take pressure off Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson, the Jets must find an elite pass rusher on the edge.

After losing Chris Ivory to Jacksonville, the Jets replaced him with the ultra-productive Matt Forte, who is tracking a potential Hall of Fame career.

Miami Dolphins – Just like the previous two teams, Miami is looking for a way to dethrone the New England Patriots.

Although Miami doesn’t have a huge influx on money to spend, if they were to overpay at a particular position, it may be corner. The Dolphins were near the bottom of the league in pass defense, allowing 250 yards per game in the air.

Another area of concern comes up front.

Miami ranked 8th in most sacks given up with 45.

All in all, Miami has most of their starting positions filled, but as far as depth goes, they simply don’t have it right now.

The Dolphins are hoping that Mario Williams is a better football player in the short term than Olivier Vernon, but the jury is certainly still out on that.  Also, the team released cornerback Brent Grimes and will address the position.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.