Much of the 2023 offseason is in the rearview mirror, with a majority of top free agents off the market and the draft complete. However, there are still pressing matters for each team to address before the '23 NFL season kicks off on Sept. 7.
Marc Sessler identifies the top remaining offseason priority for each AFC team below.
Top priority: Bathe in Todd Monken's new scheme
The Ravens could use help on defense -- cornerback and edge stand out as areas of need -- but the transformation on offense is the story of the summer. Greg Roman's medieval ground-and-pound act is out the door, replaced by a Todd Monken-authored playbook that promises more commitment to the pass. With Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor and first-round rookie Zay Flowers added to a stew starring Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman, Lamar Jackson finally boasts the requisite weapons to shine through the air. No more excuses for a quarterback telling us he's ready to throw for 6,000 yards.
"You're paid to move the football and score, and that's a lot easier with talented players," Monken told reporters after the draft. "As I always say, 'Cookies taste better with sugar than they do with vinegar.' So, you surround yourself with sugar."
Top priority: Call the Cardinals
For an organization still peering through a Super Bowl window, the task is clear: Keep up with the Bengals and Chiefs. That means amping up an offense that too often lost sight of itself last season. Josh Allen is the league's most dangerous one-man band when he's asked to save the day, but how about adding a rock-solid helping hand across from Stefon Diggs? Gabe Davis is a proven asset, but I'd speed dial the rebuilding Cardinals to pry away an All-Pro talent in DeAndre Hopkins.
Top priority: More juice at tight end
The Bengals went heavy on defense early in the draft. Nothing wrong with that, but they zigged where many expected them to zag into a shiny new weapon at tight end. Instead, they march into the summer with Irv Smith Jr. atop a thin list of options at the position. Touted before as a potential breakout candidate in Minnesota, Smith in real life has just 91 catches over three campaigns. His supporting cast in Cincy -- Drew Sample, Tanner Hudson, Nick Bowers, Christian Trahan and Devin Asiasi -- account for 77 pro receptions. Like the Bills above, the Bengals can't afford to toy around with their offensive arsenal.
Top priority: It all boils down to Deshaun
General manager Andrew Berry has pieced together a brilliant offseason, adding wideout Elijah Moore on offense and Za'Darius Smith, Ogbo Okoronkwo and Dalvin Tomlinson to a defensive front that finally offers firepower around Myles Garrett. The Browns are sneaky-solid all over the map -- a team widely overlooked -- but their destiny hinges on the quarterback. Deshaun Watson's messy six-game stretch last season might have been an outlier after a lengthy layoff, but the bigger red flag was how the attack flattened out around him. Ranking fourth in offensive DVOA with Jacoby Brissett at the wheel, Cleveland plummeted to 18th under Watson's watch, according to Football Outsiders. Former Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski is under immense pressure to better tailor the scheme to his highly paid starter. From there, it's up to Watson to prove he's still a top-tier talent.
Top priority: Russ & Payton sitting in a tree ...
A year ago in this space, I pegged Denver's top to-do as "Russ & Nathaniel sitting in a tree ..." Said tree was beamed into a wood chipper when comforting summertime highlights of Russell Wilson throwing the ball in shorts morphed into an autumn apocalypse. Nathaniel Hackett and his quarterback doubled as a floating disaster from wire to wire, prompting Broncos brass to pull Sean Payton off the street to save the day. I refuse to buy into flowery think-pieces about Wilson as a bounce-back candidate, but I largely trust Payton to craft a functional, productive attack. Their partnership is one of the offseason's largest looming mysteries. I remain convinced that Payton was given the greenlight to move on from Wilson if he's shot for good. We'll see meaningful snaps from Jarrett Stidham if trouble arises.
Top priority: Reliable receiving help
I have DeMeco Ryans atop my candidates for Coach of the Year. I expect new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik to become a household name in time, as his Shanahan-inspired offense takes hold in Houston. Arrow up for C.J. Stroud and the Texans, but the rookie passer's progress will take time unless the front office finds more help around him. After trading away Brandin Cooks, Houston's cast of wideouts looms as suspect. Nico Collins is a promising third-year building block. Hope surrounds John Metchie III's return from acute promyelocytic leukemia. From there, though, Robert Woods, Noah Brown and a whole bunch of inexperience round out the cast. General manager Nick Caserio isn't afraid to churn the roster, so expect the Texans to find veteran assistance in time.
Top priority: Patch up the front five
The new-look Colts loom as much-watch material with athletically freaky rookie passer Anthony Richardson baked into a Shane Steichen-authored playbook. Their early success hinges largely on the state of Indy's work-in-progress O-line. The injury-riddled conglomerate fell off a cliff last autumn, turning Matt Ryan into a weekly punching bag while giving up the second-most sacks league-wide with 60. The Colts ignored their line in free agency before waiting until the fourth round to draft tackle Blake Freeland out of BYU. Fellow tackle Jake Witt came in the seventh, but nothing was done to shore up a troubling situation at right guard. It's up to general manager Chris Ballard to find help before Richardson is unleashed in games that count.
Top priority: Unearth a pass rusher
The warp-speed growth of Trevor Lawrence makes it easy to forget how much help is needed on defense. Jacksonville's Josh Allen-led front notched the seventh-fewest sacks in 2022, but it barely addressed the need beyond snagging fourth-round edge Tyler Lacy out of Oklahoma State. Why not make a run at free agent Frank Clark? And yes, you could make a case for an equal need at cornerback following the release of Shaquill Griffin.
Top priority: Trade for a big-time wideout
Many a breath was wasted last offseason fretting over a Chiefs attack suddenly missing Tyreek Hill. Andy Reid turns panic into production and he'll do so again no matter who lines up at wide receiver. It felt like Kadarius Toney was just beginning to bubble into a figure of wonder come the Super Bowl. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Richie James and rookie Rashee Rice will help fill the void left by JuJu Smith-Schuster. Justyn Ross is a 6-foot-4 item of intrigue, too, but Kansas City rests in a unique spot. Player development is king, but trading for a plug-and-play star -- maybe Tampa's Mike Evans or this column's oft-mentioned DeAndre Hopkins -- would keep the Mahomes Machine a step ahead of the Bengals and Bills.
Top priority: Don't stand pat along the O-line
Little was done to strengthen a hodgepodge line that needed a boost. After the Cardinals snatched up tackle Paris Johnson Jr. with the sixth overall pick in the 2023 draft, Vegas chose pass rusher Tyree Wilson at No. 7 and ignored their front five for the rest of the draft. Beyond Kolton Miller, this remains a suspicious bunch. (OK, Jermaine Eluemunor had an acceptable run last season at right tackle.) The Raiders proved they could pave the way for Josh Jacobs in 2022, but Jimmy Garoppolo running for his life is never a pleasant sight. Trading for a blue-chip helper could be invaluable.
Top priority: More versatility at tight end
It's a roster absent of gaping holes. There's no excuse for the Chargers to flatline in 2023, but a few tweaks can still be made. Gerald Everett is a quality pass-catching tight end, while 6-foot-8 Donald Parham has shown red-zone promise. As The Athletic's Daniel Popper noted in his roster deep dive, though, Kellen Moore's new offense lacks a bona-fide, run-blocking tight end. The Bolts bypassed the position in the draft, but general manager Tom Telesco did a strong job patching summertime holes a year ago. A TE mauler would add consistency to a ground game that came and went last fall.
Top priority: Keep adding big heavies up front
As I tapped out a riff about Miami's need for line help, general manager Chris Grier dutifully inked Isaiah Wynn to a one-year contract. The Fins also added former Bengals tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. Wynn flamed out in New England, but brings a dash of versatility to South Beach. He logged time at guard and both tackle positions -- his best days came as a bookend -- and that's not easy to find in mid-May. This roster is loaded, but it's never an evil to keep auditioning large humans up front. Terron Armstead's durability remains a concern, while Austin Jackson remains an iffy proposition. Nothing matters more than keeping Tua Tagovailoa vertical.
Top priority: Data wipe last year's disaster on offense
The Patriots are wanting at wideout. JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne form a vaguely acceptable offering, but the operation falls off a cliff if injuries strike. Sixth-rounders Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas are what-ifs alongside a supporting cast fronted by second-year receiver Tyquan Thornton. Bill Belichick appears determined to win games 14-9 with a defensive-themed roster operation that aggressively ignored the development of quarterback Mac Jones a year ago. Bill O'Brien calling plays will help, but the weaponry could use some sprucing up.
Top priority: Get Aa-Rod comfortable in a hurry
I'd love to see the Jets add to their offensive line, but let's not prance around the bigger picture: New York's schedule is a rough-and-tumble brawl out of the gate with the Bills, Cowboys, Patriots and Chiefs zooming in to spoil the party. The hiring of Nathaniel Hackett (last year's Peter principle-doused car crash aside) suggests a soft landing for Aaron Rodgers. His plays, his scheme, his world. The Jets might have one year with Aaron, so the only thing that matters is a comprehensive sync job of everyone involved. If Hackett was under pressure to thrive with Russell Wilson a year ago, he's doubly on the hook to help Rodgers sing ASAP in NYC.
Top priority: Find another cornerback
Pittsburgh remains a sneaky candidate to take 11 games and stun the North. Mike Tomlin wins nine when the club is reportedly rebuilding, so what's not to love about a team that rocked the draft and rebuilt its offense over the course of two offseasons. Big Ben feels from 12,000 years ago, but the Steelers still have a few needs. I'd point to cornerback, where lovely-but-aging Patrick Peterson sits across from rookie Joey Porter Jr. Pittsburgh must deal with Joe Burrow and in-theory ramp-ups through the sky via Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. A reliable cover man should be priority No. 1.
Top priority: Get serious at wide receiver
The Titans have me flummoxed. Are you rebuilding? Or hanging on to the vestiges of a team that came close before stalling? Amid whispers that Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill were shoppable, Tennessee kept both -- drafted their replacements in Will Levis and Tyjae Spears -- and did little to band-aid a low-octane wideout room. I'm not sure seventh-rounder Colton Dowell covers the sins of a group owning little beyond Treylon Burks and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine as weekly reliables. New general manager Ran Carthon is reworking this roster, but giving Tanny -- or rookie Levis -- more help feels necessary from the outside looking in. Do the think-for-themselves Titans agree?