AFC South Free Agency Preview
NFL Free Agency Preview
The following is a 2019 NFL Free Agency breakdown written by Anthony Cervino. Throughout this NFL Free Agency preview, Anthony tries to identify team needs from each and every NFL franchise. He also takes a stab at trying to accurately predict logical landing spots for impending free agents and connect the dots for some surprising moves that we may not see coming.
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Salary Cap Space: $64,464,917
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- DE Jadeveon Clowney (26) — received the franchise tag
- DT Christian Covington (25)
- CB Kareem Jackson (31)
- CB Kevin Johnson (27) — released
- RB Alfred Blue (27)
- WR Demaryius Thomas (31)– released
- K Ka’imi Fairbairn (25)
- OLB Brennan Scarlett (25)
- DT Joel Heath (25)
Quarterback — Although the Texans employ Deshaun Watson, his primary backup, Brandon Weeden is headed to free agency, leaving them with ungatz at QB2. And while Watson is one of the better signal callers in the league, the fact that he was sacked the most times (62) of all NFL passers, holds on to the ball too long and is a mobile QB makes him a liability of sorts. Therefore, the Texans must add an insurance policy at the most important position in sports. While they could bring back Weeden or Tom Savage, it might be in their best interest to obtain a QB with a similar skill set to Watson. Acquiring a player like Tyrod Taylor, Robert Griffin III or Jacoby Brissett would be the wise move for the Texans. While Taylor and Griffin are a free agents, Brissett would have to be had via a trade with the Colts, which is an unlikely scenario.
Offensive Line — As I mentioned above, Watson was sacked the most times of any NFL QB. And while he does hold on to the football too long extending plays with his mobility, Houston’s offensive line holds a lot of the blame. In fact, PFF ranked their front five the 10th worst in the NFL, which puts their quarterback at risk. If the Texans are smart, they’d spend a good chunk of their cap tightening up their line. Due to Bill O’Brien’s connection to the Patriots, tackles that include Trent Brown — if the Texans want to pay up — or Cameron Fleming — if they want to go the value route — could make sense for Houston. Although Fleming played in Dallas last season, he spent some time with and started for the Patriots earlier in his career.
Running Back — While the Texans have needs along their defensive front as pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, DT Christian Covington, NT Brandon Dunn, DL Angelo Blackson are all free agents, they placed the franchise tag on Clowney, which would have been their most significant loss. And since the Texans have the cap room to re-sign another one or two of those players, the need is there but not as bad as it looks. Therefore, I believe the Texans should target running back depth behind Lamar Miller, especially since Alfred Blue is a free agent. And while Texans brass talks up D’Onta Foreman, he has yet to stay on the field long enough to impress due to his lingering Achilles injury. Although Miller was already named the Texans 2019 starter, it always seems like he is on the cusp of losing his job. What’s more, he could always end up becoming a cap casualty in June. Taking in consideration the potential departure of Blue and the unreliability of Foreman, it would be smart for the Texans to bring in a running back who can get the job done, especially since Miller is entering his walk year and could be playing his final season in Houston. If the Texans really want to make a splash, they could bring in Le’Veon Bell if they can make the money work. Houston could also flirt with the idea of pursuing Tevin Coleman, who kind of reminds me of Miller anyway.
Salary Cap Space: $109,069,061
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- S Clayton Geathers (26)
- OT Denzelle Good (28)
- WR Ryan Grant (28)
- K Adam Vinatieri (46) — re-signed (one-year, $3.87 million)
- S Mike Mitchell (31)
- CB Pierre Desir (28)
- DL Margus Hunt (31) — re-signed to a two-year deal
- WR Dontrelle Inman (30)
- G Evan Boehm (25) — RFA
- WR Chester Rogers (25) — RFA
- S Matthias Farley (26) — RFA
- RB Jonathan Williams (24) — RFA
- OG Josh Andrews (27) — RFA
- CB Chris Milton (26) — RFA
Wide Receiver — If you’ve listened to me on the FF Faceoff, then you know how I feel about the Colts. Not only did I view them a playoff team when nobody else did last season, but given their situation — top-end QB, top-end o-line, young defense, reliable kicker, strong head coach and front office — but I also said that they are set up as the NFL’s next potential dynasty because of their cap situation. Despite qualifying for the playoffs, the Colts will enter the free agent signing period with the most cap space, which means they can spend money to fill the few needs that they have. The first glaring need I see for the Colts is at wide receiver. While T.Y. Hilton had a career resurgence in 2018 with Andrew Luck back under center and healthy, he was the only Colts wideout to make any noise. And although the Colts signed Ryan Grant last offseason to be that WR2, he clearly didn’t pan out. In fact, it was Dontrelle Inman, who was an unsigned free agent picked up off the street in the middle of the campaign, who ended up developing into Luck’s No. 2 option at receiver. With the Colts set with a pair of uber-productive tight ends to terrorize the middle of the field, finding a quality WR2 on the outside should be at the top of Indy’s priority list to complete their offense. Per reports, the Colts will heavily pursue Tyrell Williams in free agency. A downfield burner with legit top-end speed, the Colts could make a splash by roping in Williams on the open market. Another more cost-effective option might be bringing back Donte Moncrief, who played with Luck and Hilton earlier in his career prior to his one-year hiatus in Jacksonville.
Secondary –While the Colts have a glaring need at receiver, they also have one of the defensive sides of the football in their defensive backfield. Although the Colts ‘ defense yielded the eighth-fewest yards to enemy RBs, their secondary gave up the 16th most passing yards in 2018. And while the Colts finished as the 11th best unit in total defense, they could improve on the back-end, especially if they want to make a championship run in 2019. With S Mike Mitchell, CB Pierre Desir, S Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley all set to hit the open market, there is a good chance that the Colts will lose one or more of those players. Therefore, they must revamp their secondary and get help for S Malik Hooker and CB Kenny Moore, the mainstays of the unit. If the Colts really want to invest in their immediate future will all their cap room, targeting players like Earl Thomas and Jason Verrett could be in their best interest since they could use help at both corner and safety. Both Thomas and Verrett are star-caliber players who played on teams who utilized a cover-3 zone scheme, similar to the one DC Matt Eberflus runs in Indy. Think about the impact that those two could make. Another option at safety could be the recently released Eric Weddle, who might cost a little bit less due to his age, has been around long enough to adapt to most defensive schemes, still making Pro Bowls and could serve as a strong presence in a young locker room.
Pass Rusher — Although the Colts re-signed DE Magnus Hunt, he’s going to turn 32 by the time the regular season begins and is on the back end of his career. And since the Colts finished 2018 with the 19th most sacks (38) and the 10th most takeaways, adding a terrorizing pass rusher to this defense could help bolster both of those statistical categories, which is a must if they want to make it out of the Divisional Round of the playoffs. While they can add depth in the draft, the Colts could elect to spend spend spend in free agency and lure one in on the open market. I mean, considering all of the variables, it wouldn’t be a tough sell, especially for a veteran who has done everything but win a championship. Since Eberflus runs a base 4-3 defense, a perfect fit could be Dante Fowler. Although he was traded to the Rams last season, Fowler was drafted third overall in 2015 by the Jaguars, who run a similar defense under Todd Walsh. Another low-cost but quality option is Benson Mayowa, who crossed paths with Eberflus during their time in Dallas together in 2016 and 2017.
Salary Cap Space: -$4,316,311
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- WR Donte Moncrief (25)
- RB T.J. Yeldon (25)
- TE James O’Shaughnessy (27)
- K Josh Lambo (28)
- RB Corey Grant (27)
- LS Carson Tinker (29) — released
- RB Carlos Hyde (28) — released
- OT Jeremy Parnell (33) — released
- DT Malik Jackson (29) — released
- FS Dashaun Gipson (29) — released
- CB Tyler Patmon (28)
- OT Josh Walker (27)
- OT Ereck Flowers (24)
- FB Tommy Bohanon (28)
- TE Blake Bell (27)
- WR Rashad Greene (26)
Quarterback — Obviously, Jacksonville’s top need is a quarterback. After Blake Bortles clearly didn’t work out (again), it appears like the Jaguars are finally going to move on from him as their QB1 and find one on the open market. That “one,” is Nick Foles. Officially poised the open market as the Eagles have elected not to place the franchise tag on him, Foles has been linked to the Jaguars ever since they hired John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator in January — Defilippo was Foles’ QB coach in Philadelphia in 2017. What’s more, all the talk from the combine suggests that Foles to Jacksonville is inevitable. While they could draft a signal caller, Foles or another experienced veteran makes the most sense in this situation. The Jaguars are built to win now and many within and outside of the organization believe they are a quarterback away. Foles checks all their boxes and could be the answer.
Running Back — Although they employ Carlos Hyde and Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars need to add a running back. Not only is Corey Grant and T.J. Yeldon set to test the open market, but the team has reportedly placed Hyde on the trading block despite acquiring him around last year’s trade deadline. If the Jaguars deal Hyde and lose both Grant and Yeldon in free agency, they’d be left with Fournette, which would be outstanding if he could stay on the field. Between injuries and suspensions, Fournette has missed 11 of a possible 32 games in his first two years as a pro. While he’s been extremely productive when healthy, the Jaguars must add an effective change of pace option and pass-catching option to replace Yeldon, who has also been a quality fill-in when Fournette had been out. While a player like Jalen Richard could make a lot of sense here, he is a restricted free agent meaning the Jaguars would have to surrender compensation should the Raiders tender him. Another player that would make sense in Jacksonville is LeGarrette Blount, who like Nick Foles, played in Philidelphia while OC John DeFilippo was coaching there in 2017. Blount would add a quality short-yardage insurance policy Fournette who could also bring his off the field leadership intangibles to a Jacksonville team that is viewed by some as immature.
Wide Reciever/ Tight End — One year removed from losing both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in free agency, the Jaguars have a need at pass catcher for the second consecutive offseason. Not only is Marqise Lee coming off yet another injury-shortened season (torn ACL) in 2018 — he is hard to rely on — but Donte Moncrief and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ contracts are also expiring. Assuming both Moncrief and Seferian-Jenkins walk, the Jaguars would be left with Lee, D.J. Chark and Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. If you told me that the Jaguars may not have a legitimate WR1 on their roster, I wouldn’t call you a liar. If the Jags are going to pay up and bring in Nick Foles, they must surround him with suffice weapons. In a deep draft for pass-catchers, the Jaguars could address their needs at receiver and tight end on days one and two. However, if they elect to draft an offensive guard with one of their early selections, they could go out and pursue available free agent wideouts that include Dez Bryant, John Brown or Tyrell Williams on the open market, depending on their budget. Another option is trading for DeSean Jackson, who played with Foles during their early days in Philly from 2012-2013.
- LS Matt Overton — re-signed to a one-year deal
Salary Cap Space: $42,020,158
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- G Quinton Spain (27)
- TE Luke Stocker (30)
- S Jonathan Cyprien (29) — released
- LB Derrick Morgan (30)
- S Kenny Vaccaro (28)
- DT Bennie Logan (29)
- LB Brian Orakpo — retired
Wide Receiver — While Corey Davis has flashed in his short career, his ceiling appears to be hindered for two reasons. First off, reliability at QB, but we’ll get to that later. The second reason is the fact that outside of Davis, the Titans don’t really employ a legitimate pass-catching threat beside him. And despite ample opportunities for one of Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe or even Jonnu Smith to capitalize on the lack of depth and separate themselves from the pack, not one of them stepped up in 2018. although the Titans will get Delanie Walker back, he is coming off of a significant ankle injury and is also entering his age-35 season. While he might still have some gas left in the tank, the Titans still need help at receiver. If they can’t land Antonio Brown — the Titans are one of the teams that have reportedly expressed interest in trading for him — look for Tennessee to target one early in April’s draft. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they entertained bringing back Rishard Matthews, who despite relatively ugly divorce last season, neither Matthews or the Titans had success without each other.
Quarterback — Speaking of quarterback above, the Titans need one. While Marcus Mariota is expected to enter 2019 as Tennessee’s QB1, he is coming off of yet another injury-shortened season. In fact, in four years as a pro, Mariota as never played in a full 16 game slate, missing eight games since 2015. Moreover, Mariota will enter 2019 with his fifth offensive coordinator in as many years. It’s almost like he’s on the Alex Smith in San Francisco plan — and we all saw how that turned out early in Smith’s career. With a starter whose injury issues are considered a major liability, the Titans must do a better job employing a quality QB2 who can not only step in in the short term but who can go out there and win games should Mariota miss extended time. Blaine Gabbert, the Titans’ current QB2 just doesn’t do it for me. In his career, Gabbert has only had one winning season which was last year, in which he went 2-1. Since Mariota is heading into his walk year, the Titans have an unavoidable decision to make. If they believe Mariota is not the long term answer, perhaps they target a QB in the NFL Draft if one happens to fall to them. However, if the Titans still think that they have something long term with Mariota, then acquiring a backup with experience winning is a must. I’d look in the direction of Tyrod Taylor, Teddy Bridgewater or Ryan Fitzpatrick as my liability insurance policy behind Mariota for 2019. Titans quarterbacks combined for the fourth fewest yards passing in the NFL last season (2,975) while Mariota accounted for a career-low 2,528/11/8 stat line in 14 games.
Pass Rusher — With Brian Orakpo retiring and Derrick Morgan poised to hit the open market, the Titans must replenish a pass rush which only accumulated 39 sacks last season. Holding the 19th overall pick in April’s draft, the Titans could be in a prime position to draft a game-changing pass rusher that could have fallen into their laps, especially if there is an early run on quarterbacks and wide receivers, whether it’s warranted or not. Another option for the Titans is spending up in free agency and targeting a 26-year-old Preston Smith, who has accumulated 24.5 sacks in his four-year career without missing a game and reportedly has yet to engage in contract talks with the Redskins. Both the Redskins and Titans run base 3-4 scheme and could be a good fit for both sides.
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