The AFC South gets no respect, and even less attention. When Roster Reset assignments are being doled out, this is the division that gets picked last. Here's to hoping that the Jaguars, Titans and Texans step up to prove us wrong because otherwise this is set up to be the worst division in football.
There is some reason to believe that things could turn around. Houston won nine games last season. Jacksonville and Tennessee each took some smart calculated chances on younger free agents. But while the teams chasing the Colts search to find or develop their Andrew Luck, the Colts attacked free agency with aggression to support the real thing. The gap is only widening at the top of the AFC South.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Why the Colts stand apart: General manager Ryan Grigson knows that winning a poor division isn't enough. The Colts haven't lost a division game since 2012, but the Colts' roster had more holes than perhaps any playoff team a season ago. Grigson attacked the offseason like the Colts were coming off six wins and his job was on the line. Perhaps it is; the pressure to capitalize on Andrew Luck's prime (starting now!) is immense. Just ask Jim Mora about his time with Peyton Manning.
Grigson replaced his biggest mistake (Trent Richardson) with a runner who defines trustworthy (Frank Gore). Andre Johnson should ably replace the Reggie Wayne we saw back in 2012. Trent Cole was a quality addition to the team's pass rush, with role players like Todd Herremans and Kendall Langford adding bulk to the Colts' lines. Luck and some of his receivers are just starting their careers: Donte Moncrief, T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. But this is not a young team; it's a group heavily reliant on veteran free agents. Grigson needs to draft better on defense so he doesn't need to spend so heavily each offseason.
» Bulk up both lines: The Colts still need to get tougher up front on both sides of the ball. It should be a focus on draft day.
2. Houston Texans
Why the Texans are closer to No. 3: The Texans closed the gap in the standings last season, but they are still in transition under coach Bill O' Brien. They are closer to Jacksonville and Tennessee than being a true title contender. Re-signing Ryan Mallett and bringing in Brian Hoyer is an uninspiring band-aid to the team's quarterback question. Watching Andre Johnson head to the Colts hurt the fan base deeply, not to mention the Texans' offense. That's not to say it was a lost offseason.
» Continue to build up wide receiver group: The Texans need weapons, whether it's at wide receiver or tight end. In a passing league, they risk being punchless.
» Keep expectations reasonable: It's a lot harder to go from good to great in the NFL than it is to bounce back from an embarrassing season. The Texans improved their win total by seven last season, but a slide back under .500 is more likely than another step forward with this roster.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Why Jaguars fans can smile: It's Year 3 of the coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell regime, and they have steadily re-made a poor roster. They didn't get all the big names they wanted in free agency -- with Devin McCourty and Randall Cobb going elsewhere -- but Julius Thomas, Jared Odrick, Davon House and Jermey Parnell were young free agent signings with upside.
Thomas is the X-factor here. Blake Bortles needs help badly from his offensive line and his weapons. Thomas is talented, but also could drive Peyton Manning crazy at times. Odrick is a great versatile piece, and House could be a quality starter. The Jaguars projected bigger roles with their free agent signings, paying starter prices to players who weren't every-down players at previous stops. Caldwell knows he needs to get bang for his buck with this crop, and show his rebuilding project is starting to bear fruit.
»Do something with Marcedes Lewis: If they can't find a taker in the draft, perhaps Lewis will take a pay cut to reduce his $8.2 million cap.
» Work on Bortles' bad habits: Last year's No. 3 overall pick did a lot of things right despite his ugly numbers last year. But his mechanics and decision-making still need a lot of work in the offseason under new offense coordinator Greg Olson.
4. Tennessee Titans
Why the Titans are last: This is one of the most talent poor rosters in the league. Of the eight players with the highest cap figures on the team, only safety Michael Griffin has made the Pro Bowl. (And his best days are behind him.) That's why it was worth a shot for Tennessee to take a chance on linebacker Brian Orakpo, who has upper shelf talent if he can stay healthy. Bringing back underrated pass rusher Derrick Morgan at a reasonable rate was a win and gives the team a chance to build an identity with a deep pass rush.
»Sprinkle Dick LeBeau's magic dust: The Titans don't have an awful defensive roster; they just lack a cohesive guiding principle to the entire team. Perhaps the addition of LeBeau with old friend Ray Horton will create something more memorable from this vanilla squad.