Now that the offseason is in full swing, front offices of all 32 NFL teams have begun to assess priorities for the coming months. What areas should each team address? This sounds like a job for Maurice Jones-Drew. The NFL.com analyst andformer All-Pro running back tries his hand at general manager and identifies three areas each team should tackle this offseason. Today, MJD examines the AFC South:
J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney form one of the best pass-rush duos in the league, but decisions must be made on Clowney, who's due to hit the market this offseason. I know some will disagree with me, but I would not pay top dollar for Clowney when the Texans could use those funds to address two glaring needs on their win-now roster: offensive line and secondary. Clowney is a fantastic player, and if they can figure out a way to sign him to a team-friendly long-term deal, then I'm all for it. But the Texans still have Whitney Mercilus and Watt to rush the passer, so I think they can afford to let him walk to pay for more pressing priorities. (UPDATE: The Texans announced Monday that they placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Clowney.)
1) Remake the offensive line. This is a no-brainer. After years of searching for a capable quarterback, they found one in Deshaun Watson. Unfortunately, Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times last season. Houston can find quite a few options in free agency and the draft. In my first mock draft of the year I project Houston to pick offensive tackle Greg Little, who could provide a building block for the unit.
2) Bolster the secondary.Kareem Jackson, Kayvon Webster, Shareece Wright and Tyrann Mathieu are set to hit free agency in March. Not to mention, Johnathan Joseph will be 35 at the start of next season and 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson has been a near no-show after a promising rookie campaign. Even if one or two of these guys are re-signed, Houston still must add depth in free agency -- this year's draft isn't deep with defensive backs.
3) Bring in playmakers at tight end and running back. After addressing the O-line situation, Houston must find weapons for Watson. The Texans need a pass catcher who can go over the middle -- and take some attention off DeAndre Hopkins -- and an every-down running back who can provide a consistent ground game. Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman have had good games but they haven't provided the consistency Watson and this offense need.
GM Chris Ballard took a team that looked pretty bleak in 2017 to the Divisional Round this past season. First and foremost, he deserves a ton of credit for bulking up the offensive line to keep a rejuvenated Andrew Luck upright. Now that the Colts have a foundation and Frank Reich as their respected leader, there are some odds and ends to address.
1) Shore up the pass rush. In the Colts' Cover 2 scheme, they need players who can consistently get to the quarterback on the edge or inside. Luckily for them, the draft is overflowing with pass-rush talent. Time to load up.
3) Make THE move of the offseason and get Le'Veon Bell. I recently wrote that Marlon Mack's stock is up after proving himself to be a viable back in 2018. However, Bell is the type of player that can take the offense, especially one headed by Luck and a solid offensive line, to new heights. Bell could be the reason the Colts book a perennial spot at the top of the division.
The Jags already made the mistake of not hiring Gary Kubiak, who landed in Minnesota. He's known for quickly putting together an offense to complement a good defense, and he could have done big things with a quarterback like Joe Flacco, who the Jags should have traded for if they had Kubiak. But enough of shoulda, coulda, woulda. Since that's no longer an option this season, here are the next steps.
1) Get new OC John DeFilippo a quarterback. Flip was Nick Foles' QB coach during the Eagles' Super Bowl run, so they could be a perfect match in Jacksonville. Foles runs the spread offense well and wouldn't skip a beat despite being with a new team. If Foles isn't Jacksonville's guy, Missouri's Drew Lock or Oklahoma's Kyler Murray could also thrive in Flip's offense. If it's me, I'm going after Murray because we've seen how dynamic he can be.
2) Establish better veteran leadership in the locker room. Over the last calendar year, the Jaguars have lost a good amount of veterans, including Paul Posluszny (retired), Barry Church (released in December) and Marcedes Lewis (released last offseason). Calais Campbell is the oldest starter on the current roster at 32 years old. The Jags shouldn't just sign older guys in free agency for the heck of it. They need the right guys who can hold others accountable. (For starters, I would sign Frank Gore.) They need a veteran presence or Jacksonville could turn into the Wild West before we know it.
3) Sign playmakers at tight end and running back. The defense is solid. Now it's time to bring in some playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. The Jags need a tight end who can be an inline blocker and receiving threat, and there are several options in the draft, including Iowa's Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson. And like it or not, they must bring in another versatile running back, most likely in the draft, to spell Leonard Fournette. They need a guy who they're comfortable with when Fournette is unavailable, which is often, and they can't rely on Carlos Hyde alone in that role.
1) Get a big receiving target.Corey Davis is improving, but the Titans need another legitimate big-bodied receiving target for Mariota. The pass game struggled without the injured Delanie Walker, who will be 35 years old at the start of next season, so it's time to bring in another receiver and/or tight end to bring balance to this run-first offense.
2) Improve the pass rush. The secondary is the most well-rounded unit of the defense, so I'm looking at the front seven. The Titans already lost outside linebacker Brian Orakpoto retirement (and cupcakes) this offseason, yet there are plenty of good replacement options in free agency and the draft. This defense needs pass rushers to pressure division-rival QBs Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson.
3) Get a backup for injury-prone QB. Mariota has struggled to stay healthy -- he's yet to play a full 16-game, regular-season slate as he enters Year 5. Blaine Gabbert played well at times in relief of Mariota, but Tennessee needs a backup who emulates its franchise QB -- like Baltimore had with Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III. The best option is to take a mid-to-late-round quarterback in the draft.