|Scott Boehm/Associated Press|
|Defensive end Cliff Avril posted 29 sacks over the last three seasons with the Detroit Lions, including 11 in 2011.|
With free agency set to kick off at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, Elliot Harrison identifies needs for all 32 teams over eight divisional primers. You'll find the outlook for each AFC South team below, but click here to examine other divisions.
Send your own thoughts on free agency to Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.
Top priority in free agency: Wide receiver.
Other areas of interest: Inside linebacker, safety, defensive line.
Potential fits: WR Mike Wallace, WR Brandon Gibson, WR Domenik Hixon, DL Chris Canty, NT Isaac Sopoaga, DL Mike DeVito, LB Daryl Smith, S Glover Quin, S Gerald Sensabaugh.
Houston won't head into the 2013 season with Kevin Walter starting opposite Andre Johnson at wideout again. Then again, I keep waiting for E.D. commercials to quit running during NFL games. Something has to give. Granted, using the 2013 NFL Draft as a resource is more probable than free agency here, but if we're talking about a team need ... Wideout fits the bill. Houston needs more production than 518 yards and two touchdowns from its WR2. The Texans have young developmental players in Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey and Lestar Jean, but this is also a franchise that considers itself a Super Bowl contender, not a 7-9 team on the up-and-up. Bear in mind that Johnson -- as great as he's been -- is entering his 11th season in the NFL. The Texans might not have enough cap room ($6 million) to make a play for Mike Wallace, but if they somehow could, imagine AJ as the possession guy and Wallace as the vertical. Coupled with the ground game, that would be one tough offense to defend.
Top priority in free agency: Offensive line.
Other areas of interest: Defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver.
Potential fits: OT Sebastian Vollmer, OT Gosder Cherilus, OG Louis Vasquez, DL Cullen Jenkins, DL Mike DeVito, NT Isaac Sopoaga, DE/OLB Paul Kruger.
The Colts must fortify both lines. If you watched their games last season, you often saw Andrew Luck getting crushed in a piling heap or running for his life. (He's faster than you thought, huh?) General manager Ryan Grigson has $40 Million to play NFL Monopoly. That's fantastic, because even though the Colts went 11-5, they were still outscored by opponents, 387-357. First things first, Indianapolis can strengthen both offensive tackle and guard in free agency. ProFootballFocus.com ranked starting center Samson Satele 33rd at his position. (Backup A.Q. Shipley actually fared better.) Reading the tea leaves, I feel the Colts will hit offensive line hard in the 2013 draft. Still, Indy could take a swing for the fences and try to get tackle Sebastian Vollmer, or, on a smaller scale, guard Louis Vasquez. If Vollmer is on the market long, someone is going to make the big move. The Colts have the financial means, the need and a huge investment to protect at quarterback.
Top priority in free agency: Defensive end.
Other areas of interest: Offensive tackle, cornerback, outside linebacker.
Potential fits: DE Cliff Avril, DE/OLB Paul Kruger, DE Michael Bennett, OT Sebastian Vollmer, OT Jake Long, OT Phil Loadholt.
It would be so easy to type "Quarterback" up there, but the Jags' new leadership has intimated that Blaine Gabbert is pretty much the de facto starter and will get some leash. Regardless, who could the Jaguars even get in free agency that would certifiably outplay Chad Henne (who was serviceable last season)? Another Dolphin retread in Matt Moore? Jason Campbell? Brady Quinn? (Yes!! No.) Right now, new GM David Caldwell is tasked with finding a pass rush in Jacksonville. The Jaguars ranked 32nd in sacks last season. They were tied for 25th in 2011. That's OK -- they made up for it by being tied for 30th and 32nd in the two prior seasons. Forget how uncomfortable Jacksonville's quarterback is in the pocket; the Jaguars must make the other guys' QB uncomfortable in the huddle. First choice: Cliff Avril. He's been productive in a 4-3, is still young (turning 27 in April) and would be an immediate upgrade. Not to mention, he was born and raised in the Jacksonville area. Paul Kruger and Michael Bennett are possibilities, but with over $20 million in cap space, why not at least investigate an Avril homecoming?
Top priority in free agency: Tight end.
Other areas of interest: Offensive guard, defensive end, defensive tackle.
Potential fits: TE Jared Cook, TE Fred Davis, TE Martellus Bennett, OG Andy Levitre, OG Louis Vasquez, OG Brandon Moore, DE/OLB Paul Kruger, DE/DT Richard Seymour, DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Terrance Knighton.
It's interesting how much run Jared Cook is getting on the ol' free-agent hot wire. Seems like the tight end is being talked up by beat writers of teams everywhere ... Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Frankfurt Galaxy. Alright, maybe not the last one, but can the Titans really afford to lose this guy to, say, the Miami Dolphins? No. Tennessee has a young quarterback in Jake Locker who needs a big, reliable target over the middle every bit as much as Ryan Tannehill does. (The Dolphins' prior starting TE, Anthony Fasano, is a free agent, and there have been rumblings that Miami could make a play for Cook with all that cap space.) The thought here is that Tennessee should bring back Cook, even if he isn't Shannon Sharpe. Now, if the front office has to pay him like Shannon Sharpe, let him walk and draft somebody. Or, roll with Craig Stevens and the kid from last year's draft, Taylor Thompson.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.