Even though the NFL season just ended, free agency will be here before we know it. For dynasty leagues it’s important to know what each teams’ depth chart looks like because all it takes is for one free agent to leave town for an opportunity for a lesser known player. We’re going to go through each division and evaluate each team before free agency. Today our focus is the AFC South.
Key free agents: A.J. Bouye, cornerback, Quintin Demps, safety, John Simon, edge rusher, Vince Wilfork, defensive line, Antonio Smith, defensive line
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Weakness: This defense needs a backend difference maker in the worst way possible. Quintin Demps was serviceable but he’s 32 and should only be brought back to bridge the gap to a young player. Other than that, the biggest weakness this defense has faced the last couple of years is “availability”. They need to stay out of the trainer’s room and on the field.
Strength: When healthy, this team has enough pieces to be a disruptive force. If they can get J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney healthy at the same time the AFC South won’t have an answer for that. Clowney finally lived up to the hype this season and looks incredible. J.J. Watt’s back will be a hot item all off-season because that is the type of injury that never really goes away. Benardrick McKinney, Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing are all key cogs to the front seven as well.
Priority Free Agents: Bringing Bouye and Demps back on the cheap should be in the works for the Texans as well as a team friendly deal for one of Wilfork or Antonio Smith.
Key free agents: Mike Adams, safety, Darius Butler, cornerback, Trent Cole, linebacker
Weakness: Without a doubt, a pass rush was the biggest weakness on this team even before the retirement of Robert Mathis. The next men up on the depth chart are Akeem Ayers and Curt Maggitt. To put it nicely, they’re in trouble. In addition, the team just released veteran D’Qwell Jackson and will turn to a couple of youngsters in Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison. Jackson was a shell of his former self but could’ve been a mentor to the young players.
Strength: This secondary will never be confused for “The Legion of Boom” but they have players with the talent to get the job done with Vontae Davis, Patrick Robinson, T.J. Green, Clayton Geathers and Mike Adams, should he be brought back. Unfortunately, a pass rush is a secondary’s best friend and we just talked about how the Colts are in a world of hurt in that department.
Priority Free Agents: I don’t see how the Colts allow Darius Butler out of town unless some team grossly overpays the cornerback. While I don’t expect Mike Adams to command a lot of money as a 36 year old safety, the Colts may still opt to re-sign him to a mentor role they seem to be lacking on the defensive side of the ball. Green and Geathers are the safeties of the future and present though and Adams’ re-signing should not alter that.
Key free agents: Johnathan Cyprien, safety, Prince Amukamara, cornerback, Tyson Alualu, defensive line
Weakness: This secondary will become a bigger issue very quickly if Amukamara and Cyprien get out of town. The team wisely drafted Jalen Ramsey last spring to bolster the cornerback position but keeping him paired with Amukamara would be wise while keeping Davon House and Aaron Colvin as second teamers.
Strength: The linebackers are the strength of this defense, led by Telvin Smith. At some point, Paul Posluszny is expected to be cap casualty so the team can move Myles Jack into the starting lineup. Even though the Jags went through a coaching change, defensive coordinator Todd Wash was retained to lead this defense after overseeing a top 1ten unit in his first season on the job.
Priority Free Agents: I think someone is going to overpay for Johnathan Cyprien’s services this spring and won’t be back in Jacksonville. He had a great season and will undoubtedly cash in. Because of this, the Jaguars’ top priority should be getting Prince Amukamara under long term contract. He was signed to a one-year “prove it” deal last offseason and will also be getting paid this year.
Key free agents: Karl Klug, defensive line, Sean Spence, linebacker, Rashad Johnson, safety, Antwon Blake, cornerback
Weakness: Talent. Overall this team needs an overhaul. They’re thin at every level and where they’re not thin they’re just average. A punishing inside linebacker would help. Avery Williamson finally showed enough to be somewhat excited about. Wesley Woodyard is mediocrity embodied. Quickly figuring out what they have in second year edge rusher Kevin Dodd is critical as well. He’ll be 25 before week one and has already undergone two foot surgeries as a pro. He didn’t look great before the injury and appears to be a bust at a position the team couldn’t afford.
Strength: Even though they’re not spectacular, I almost like this secondary when you factor in Rashad Johnson. The Titans seem to have something in free safety Kevin Byard and Jason McCourty continues to hold his own. Bringing Johnson back would be a wise move for the Titans.
Priority Free Agents: Like I mentioned previously, I expect Rashad Johnson to be the team’s top priority in free agency. Right or wrong, I would also be shocked if Sean Spence was playing anywhere but under Dick LeBeau in Tennessee. He’s one of the coach’s guys and would have his best opportunity of a starting gig in the NFL.
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Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.