NFL: Playing “GM” For Every AFC Team Ahead of Free Agency

Last Sunday, we reached a sad point of the yearly cycle: it was the first Sunday without football. Fret not, though! With the NFL season coming to an end, we can shift our attention to a time that is arguably even more exciting than the actual season- the offseason.

Optimism towards the future, player movement, the offseason provides us with a lot of entertainment, as it is always fascinating to see how front offices go about building a winner not only for this year, but the future; balancing those priorities is always tough, and we can learn a lot about front offices’ interests in that balance based on the strategies they adopt during this time.

Today, we will be looking at the aspect of the offseason that has the greatest effect on wins and losses right away: free agency. Whereas the draft is much more complex and predicated on drafting as many valuable players as you can to keep a team functioning for several seasons, most rookies don’t reach their peak production until their second or third seasons, based on recent studies that have been done. Thus, drafting for need is generally a very poor and short-sighted approach; if you need to fill a roster spot, free agency is the way to do so.

Honestly, that is the beauty to it all; there is not one optimal way to attack free agency. Rather, teams’ strategies should all vary based on the state of their rosters heading into the next season.

However, there is another level to free agency. Studies have shown that free agents don’t make as much of an impact as they had the year before, and generally, teams tend to pay for peak performance, rather than a mean expectation of what to expect moving forward. Plus, with football being a game predicated on depth, going for volume rather than selling out on one non-quarterback, simply is optimal. At the end of the day, the goal is to find value, and with that in mind, that comes at a) valuable positions or b) productive players who have fallen through the cracks for whatever reason.

With that being addressed, let us step into the shoes of every AFC front office! To do so, we will highlighting the state of each AFC organization moving forward, looking at potential areas of roster improvement, key objectives for the offseason, and player fits. We will go in order by city.

Baltimore Ravens

Photo Cred: Baltimore Sun

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The Ravens have more cap space ($18 million) than most contending teams heading into free agency, and they could open up even more by cutting ties with interior defender Brandon Williams, though that is about the only cut they can make. They will soon have to make decisions on extensions on quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews, and tackle Orlando Brown Jr., though Brown appears to want to be traded. Extending Jackson will be interesting since he’ll likely want to be paid for his peak performance in 2019, rather than his production in 2020, while Andrews will likely be made the highest-paid tight end that is not Travis Kelce or George Kittle.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Wide Receiver
  • Offensive Line
  • Secondary Depth
  • Defensive Front-Seven Depth

The Ravens desperately need to diversify their passing attack, and that isn’t going to happen with their currently group of playmakers. Marquise Brown provides defenses stress over the top, but they need someone for Jackson to target outside the numbers (he generally sits over the middle of the field), and lack any depth at the receiver position. That’s certainly the most pressing issue, though if Orlando Brown Jr. is traded, then they’ll certainly need to find a stopgap there.

Defensively, Baltimore is settled with their starters in the secondary, but they could be vulnerable in the case of injury. Adding another versatile safety, as well as a cornerback to compete with Jimmy Smith, would help with that. Furthermore, with Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon set to hit free agency, continuing to find value from the edge rusher position with their blitz-heavy system should be their plan, rather than re-signing them; depth at linebacker would also help with their middle-of-the-field coverage.

WHAT NOT TO DO

The Ravens cannot afford to spend big on an edge rusher, particularly Ngakoue and Judon. They have done an excellent job scheming pressure with creative blitz packages, and they get away with that by building the best secondary possible. If anything, they need to continue to bolster their pass coverage, though their resources need to be spent on offensive playmakers.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver: Kenny Golladay, Allen Robinson, Will Fuller
  • Edge Rusher: Jordan Jenkins, Haason Reddick, Tarell Basham
  • Depth: Damarious Randall, David Andrews, Kevin Pierre-Louis

I’d prefer the Ravens acquire a receiver with size and reliability to complement Marquise Brown and win outside the numbers, which is why Golladay and Robinson make sense. However, going all-in on speed Fuller would be quite intriguing, and would give Baltimore two elite speedsters to complement Andrews over the middle. At edge rusher, Reddick’s versatility is intriguing, while Jenkins and Basham are both potential values as edge rushers who could be boosted by playing in this system.

In terms of other signings, David Andrews would be a useful player on the interior offensive line, safety Damarious Randall adds to their versatility in the secondary, while Kevin Pierre-Louis has been productive in coverage in small sample sizes.

OVERVIEW

Ultimately, spending big on a true #1 receiver, and adding depth in other areas is the key. While options on the offensive line are thin to the point I’d try to make things work with Brown Jr., there is plenty of depth to continue to add cheap versatility that they can get the most out of on the defense, making singing a high-end pass rusher foolish. A true impact receiver, on the other hand, could tear the limits off of their offense, which is their clearest path to competing for a Super Bowl.

Buffalo Bills

Photo Cred: bills.com

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

Coming off of a very successful season, the Bills will need to do what they can to sustain the magic they had in 2020. They currently are tight on cap space, but with how they’ve structured their contracts, they can create enough financial wiggle room to improve their roster. Similarly to Baltimore, they have a decision to make regarding extending their quarterback, though, in my opinion, seeing Josh Allen replicate his production and establish a stronger baseline of elite play may be wise before paying him $40 million per year.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Cornerback
  • Offensive Line Depth
  • Tight End/Another Weapon
  • Linebacker

You can never have enough quality cornerbacks, and although Levi Wallace is a productive starter, his 64.8 PFF grade highlights him as what he is- a replaceable player that can be upgrade at an extremely valuable position. Furthermore, Buffalo’s issues defending the slot became more clear down the stretch, so addressing that will be important. Meanwhile, although they shouldn’t break the bank at the position, particularly with cornerback being an extremely more valuable area to address, avoiding weak-links is critical for a defense, so finding a cheap replacement for linebacker Matt Milano would a) prevent them from paying big for Milano and b) would assist in their middle-of-the-field coverage.

As for as the offense is concerned, tackle Daryl Williams is set to be a free agency, while Buffalo could use more depth on the offensive line in general to prevent holes opening up from injury. Speaking of, the same issues could persist if a receiver were to get injured, so adding another quality playmaker, such as a tight end to upgrade from Dawson Knox, would be critical for Allen in sustaining last year’s success.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Buffalo cannot afford to overreact to their loss to the Chiefs. Building a pass-heavy offense built around elite receivers and adopting an aggressive style of play put them over the edge, and shying away from that approach by focusing on less important areas, such as the running game or pass rush, would be suboptimal. Let me put it this way: their defense and rushing offense regressed significantly this season and they won 13 games in the regular season- that isn’t a coincidence.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Cornerback: Quinton Dunbar, Nickel Robey-Coleman, Shaquill Griffin
  • Offensive Tackle: Daryl Williams, Kelvin Beachum, Matt Feiler
  • Playmaker: Gerald Everett, Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz

Buffalo doesn’t have a lot of financial wiggle-room and can’t afford to hand out long contracts with Allen due for a contract soon, as well as Tre’Davious White’s extension set to kick in, so being responsible while improving the roster will be key. Thus, targeting some bounce-back secondary players, given how volatile the cornerback position, would be smart, and they don’t need to pay-up for a high-end offensive lineman such as Trent Williams or Joe Thuney.

As far as adding a playmaker, Zach Ertz likely would cost very little in a trade, which would make him a potential value addition, while Jordan Reed is an intriguing high-reward free agent as someone who is constantly productive, but just struggles to stay healthy. Their best overall target, however, may be Gerald Everett, who is projected to received a contract of around $5 million, but should be worth more that that given the value he brings after the catch.

SUMMARY

Continuing to boost their perimeter talent should the focus for the Bills. This is a rather strong roster, but simply adding depth and looking for value would be the responsible way to help their roster while also not hurting their long-term financial flexibility as their key players become more expensive.

Cincinnati Bengals

Photo Cred: Cincy Jungle

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The fate of the Bengals’ franchise changed for the best last offseason when they had the opportunity to select quarterback Joe Burrow with the #1 overall pick, and his future still is quite promising, despite a torn ACL suffered in the middle of his rookie season. They have $38 million in cap space and will get even more by cutting ties with veterans Geno Atkins, CJ Uzomah, and other depth players (Gio Benard), but they have a lot of work to do if they want to capitalize on the flexibility provided by Burrow’s rookie contract.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Wide Receiver/Playmaker
  • Offensive Line Depth
  • Cornerback
  • Defensive Front-Seven Depth

Goal #1 should be to make Burrow’s life as easy as possible heading into next season. Many will say that comes from the offensive line, and to be fair, Cincinnati should do whatever it takes to add quantity to protect him. High-end offensive lines don’t move the needle, but getting to average (a la Buffalo) is key, and should be a focus. Don’t dismiss the value coming from adding another high-end playmaker, however. Adding someone who can separate quickly is the best way to combat pass rushes, protect Burrow, and simply have a high-end offense, and there are plenty of impact playmakers in this free agency class.

Defensively, the Bengals have a lot to do at the cornerback position, especially with William Jackson being a free agent and with them having a lack of depth at the position. In general, depth is an issue with the defense as a whole, and as they look to get back to average on that side of the ball, attacking this problem with volume is optimal.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Many have labeled the Bengals as a landing spot for a high-end pass rusher, but what good is there adding one high-end defensive player. Not only is the impact that one singular defensive player can have limited, but it is especially true with this roster, and bolstering the offense needs to be the focus. If you aren’t doing everything in your power to help your young quarterback, you’re going about it wrong.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Playmaker: Will Fuller, Jonnu Smith, Gerald Everett
  • Offensive Line: Matt Feiler, Daryl Williams, Kelvin Beachum
  • Cornerback: William Jackson, Troy Hill, Desmond King

Want to help Joe Burrow’s deep-ball production? Will Fuller would be quite the way to do just that. He’d be a perfect fit alongside bigger-body receivers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, and might be the cheapest of the high-end receivers in this free agency class, as well as the most likely to not be franchise tagged. Also, since re-signed players generally perform better, it’d make sense to bring back Jackson, but even then, Troy Hill and Desmond King should be priority targets in terms of defending the slot.

SUMMARY

Doing whatever it takes to help Burrow, as well as just adding depth on both sides of the ball, should be the goal for the Bengals. Their roster lacks any sort of depth whatsoever, and with football being a weak-link sport, they can’t afford to have so many of weak spots. That means targeting lower-tier free agents, but luckily for them, that is where the value generally lies.

Cleveland Browns

Photo Cred BrownsZone

STATE OF THE ORGANIZATION

The Browns have been searching for organizational stability since their re-establishment, and they finally got that with the general manager/head coach duo of Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski. Berry has already established himself as one of the premier general managers in the NFL, and Stefanski’s offensive prowess already had a great effect in terms of getting the most of Baker Mayfield and the rest of the roster. Now, they enter the offseason with financial flexibility, a lot of mid-round draft capital, and a lot of overall youth.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Wide Receiver
  • Cornerback
  • Defensive Depth

It’s likely that the Browns bring back star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. rather than trading him, which is smart; the idea you upgrade your offense by trading a high-end player at a valuable position is silly. Yet, they’d still benefit from more receiver depth after relying on the likes of Rashad Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones this season. Mainly, though, a lot of resources should spent on the secondary. You can bank on safety Grant Delpit coming back from a torn ACL, but defensive coordinator Joe Woods wants to play a lot of dime defense and they didn’t get great safety play this year. Then, there’s the cornerback situation, where outside of Denzel Ward, they don’t appear to possess an average starter. That is quite problematic, and for them to not struggle defending the pass, they need to add multiple cornerbacks. Once that is settled, perhaps they can look on adding front-seven depth to their defense, and I’m guessing Berry, based on his tendencies, will rightfully add quantity, rather than one premier player, to their defense.

WHAT NOT TO DO

To piggyback off that last point, adding a top-end edge rusher when you already have Myles Garrett, thus having the potential to use that to get strong production from whomever rushes opposite of him, or a talented linebacker, wouldn’t be the best uses of Cleveland’s resources by any means. There simply is little value in elite front-seven play without a competent secondary.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver: Marvin Jones, TY Hilton, Rashad Higgins
  • Cornerback: William Jackson, Shaquill Griffin, Desmond King
  • Defensive Depth: Kevin Pierre-Louis, Keanu Neal, Everson Griffen

Cleveland doesn’t need to target the “top-end” receivers, but adding another quality option on a short-term deal, particularly someone who can work down the field like Marvin Jones and TY Hilton, would be optimal. Meanwhile, could you imagine the supposed improvements of their secondary if they paired Denzel Ward with William Jackson, or even Shaquill Griffin, while bringing in a quality slot defender such as Desmond King? That is certainly more appealing that a high-end edge rusher, and they certainly could still find value with the likes of Everson Griffen, Kerry Hyder, Jordan Jenkins, and Tarrell Basham; Kevin Pierre-Louis and Keanu Neal also are intriguing affordable players to help the second level of the defense.

SUMMARY

The Browns are in a great position, and if they can make improvements on the perimeter, they could seriously make a case as the second-best team in the AFC. The infrastructure here is remarkably strong, and there are few front offices I trust more to allocate their resources more efficiently than them.

Denver Broncos

Photo Cred: Predominantly Orange

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

Not only do the Broncos have $31 million in cap space, but they will free up more by cutting ties with edge rusher Von Miller, interior defender Jurrell Casey, and some depth players. They have some roster, but also a glaring hole at the game’s most important position, and until that is settled, that talent will continue to not be maximized.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Quarterback
  • Cornerback
  • Wide Receiver
  • Defensive Depth

What to do at the quarterback position? We’ll get to potential fits in a second, but banking on Drew Lock, who earned a 63.5 PFF Grade and has rather poor accuracy numbers, is not the answer; his baseline is too low for even a third-year improvement to be enough to justify sticking with him. They’ve already invested resources onto their offense and gotten little back from him, though, believe it or not, they’d still be wise to continue to bolster their receiver depth, rather than relying on continued improvement from their young playmakers- it’s too valuable of a position.

Sticking with the perimeter, the Broncos have a great cornerback in Bryce Callahan, but the depth after him isn’t exactly ideal. Vic Fangio’s system does. great job limiting the responsibilities of their cornerbacks, but if they go into next season with the same group as they did last year, that could be problematic; it’s hard to hide weak-links forever. There also could be some use for depth in the front seven, but not before going after the cornerback position hard.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Going into next season with Lock is simply their worse-case scenario. He was PFF’s second-lowest graded starting quarterback last season, and when that is the case, you’re not going to win a lot of games. You can try to add more cornerbacks or give him more weapons, but that is simply delaying the inevitable- being stuck in this same position a year from now.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Quarterback: Deshaun Watson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston
  • Defensive Back: Justin Simmons, William Jackson, Quinton Dunbar
  • Wide Receiver: Breshad Perriman, Sammy Watkins, David Moore

The Broncos have to be one of the most logical landing spots for Deshaun Watson, right? They have young impact players, have a top-ten pick in this year’s draft, AND the financial flexibility to take in his contract. It’d be quite ironic for them to go from having talent but having no quarterback to losing talent and being elevated the quarterback, but that is simply the more efficient ways to win games.

If not Watson, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston would be upgrades over Lock and should be rather affordable, and would provide them with short-term fixes at the position to help them be playoff contenders. Outside of quarterback, retaining star safety Justin Simmons makes sense given the amount of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value he provides compared to other non-quarterbacks, and how they address the cornerback position could depend on whether Callahan plays on the outside or moves back to the slot. Furthermore, a deep threat at the receiver position, especially with Courtland Sutton coming back from a knee injury, would be smart.

SUMMARY

Upgrading at the quarterback position has the focus for the Broncos. Sam Darnold, Marcus Mariota, and Carson Wentz aren’t doing much, but if Watson is available, they need to do everything in their power to try to acquire him. If not, I’m intrigued by the idea of bringing in Fitzpatrick while continuing to bolster their perimeter talent. This is a roster with young talent, which brings financial flexibility, but the longer they go without a quality quarterback, the harder it’ll be from to capitalize on their organizational strengths.

Houston Texans

Photo Cred: Texans.com

STATE OF THE ORGANIZATION

Where to start?

The Texans went 4-12 this season, and their reward is the Dolphins being able to have the third overall pick and their second-round pick in the draft by virtue of the Laremy Tunsil trade. Oh, and they have $3 million in cap space and although that can be cleared with veteran cuts, also have practically zero roster talent around Deshaun Watson.

Wait, there’s more! Now, their dysfunction has gotten to the point that Watson wants to be traded! I am not sure I have ever seen an organization in worse shape heading into an offseason.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Address Watson
  • Wide Receiver
  • Cornerback
  • Talent

If Watson is not on the roster next season, then the Texans would be probably better off just punting on next season. You don’t have the luxury of having an elite quarterback, and really the only way to replicate that would be to guarantee you have a top pick for a quarterback in next year’s draft. It’s not as though fan displeasure is something that they are not accustomed to anyways, and the fanbase would likely cater to the idea of another young quarterback should Watson be traded.

As for the rest of the roster, there isn’t much talent to be optimistic about, particularly on the perimeter. Whomever they start at quarterback needs better playmakers, though retaining Will Fuller would help, while their secondary was constantly ambushed. Overall, Watson is simply one of very few assets on this roster.

WHAT NOT TO DO

At some point, you have to look into the mirror, right? You don’t exactly get a elite quarterback very often, and to squander that opportunity would be quite foolish. So would prioritizing defensive talent, or any young players, over the best draft-pick package possible, as there is little need for players with this likely looking like a long rebuild.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Quarterback: Tua Tagovailoa, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Wide Receiver: Kendrick Bourne, Dede Westbrook, Breshad Perriman
  • Cornerback: Rasul Douglas, Akhello Witherspoon, Artie Burns

Even if the Texans got Tua Tagovailoa in a trade for Watson, that’s moreso adding valuable assets than committing to him as the long-term quarterback, and their future replacement likely could come via the draft in one of the next two seasons; Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick could be cheap veterans just to prevent further chaos as well. If Tagovailoa pans out, that’s another asset to capitalize on, though adding receiver depth to help would help; Will Fuller makes sense as someone to use as a franchise tag and trade type of player given their limited resources. Taking random shots at the cornerback position to try to find a gem, given how volatile the position is, would make sense and Douglas, Witherspoon, and Burns fit the mold of players who have shown flashes in the past.

SUMMARY

There is very little reason for optimism should Watson be traded, and the fact it has gotten to this point is inexcusable. If he stays, then making his life easier with more roster depth should be a priority, and if not, it’s time for a hard reset. Honestly, I don’t know what much more can be done given the situation they’ve put themselves in.

Indianapolis Colts

Photo Cred: Stampede Blue

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The Colts now have their new quarterback in Carson Wentz, which, in my opinion, doesn’t generate much optimism; they go into next season with an average quarterback and most likely won’t have their first-round pick next season. Is Wentz going to give you better quarterback production than Phillip Rivers did last year? I don’t think so, nor do I believe they’ll be true competitors in the AFC.

As far as the rest of the roster, they have a few extensions pending with offensive lineman Quinton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard, which will be fascinating negotiations. They still have $40 million in cap space, though going without a first-round pick for two of the next three years is going to be an issue as the roster becomes more expensive.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Wide Receiver
  • Cornerback
  • Overall Roster Depth

Without a doubt, the Colts’ main priority this offseason has to be to stock up on playmakers this offseason. A tight end could be useful, but mostly, they need help on the perimeter. Michael Pittman Jr. provides them with a solid intermediate threat, but getting someone who can work down the field, while also simply having a true impact receiver, is something this team needs to do if they want any chance of making this work with Wentz.

Sticking with the perimeter, Indianapolis got great production from Xavier Rhodes last season, but even in a zone-heavy system, they need to accumulate more depth at the cornerback position. They’re in a great spot to take advantage of buy-low options, but adding premier talent in the secondary could also help them defend the pass and combat defensive regression. After that, Chaz Green is currently their starting offensive tackle if Nelson stays at guard, and they could use more depth on the defensive front seven as well.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Trading for Carson Wentz was one of the worst-case scenarios for this organization, and the way they could compound it is by investing more resources on the offensive and defensive trenches. Trench play doesn’t move the needle, and if the Colts are ever going to be more than a 9-10 win team, they have to become more athletic and talented on the perimeter.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver: Allen Robinson, Will Fuller, Kenny Golladay
  • Defensive Back: Quinton Dunbar, Patrick Peterson, Shaquill Griffin
  • Depth: Jordan Reed, Kelvin Beachum, Aldon Smith

As mentioned, having someone who can work down the field is something this offense needs, making Fuller and Golladay tremendous fits, while Robinson, Chris Godwin, or any impact receiver is key; a depth signing like Sammy Watkins or Breshad Perriman would also make sense. Heck, why not Jordan Reed to attack the middle of the field?

Other than that, there are plenty of bounce-back candidates at the cornerback position that are interesting fits, while Shaquill Griffin is a younger free agent who could be a potential value signing. Players on the trenches such as tackle Kelvin Beachum, edge rushers Aldon Smith and Everson Griffen, as well as interior defender Mario Edwards Jr., would also add depth.

SUMMARY

I’ve suddenly a lot lower on the Colts following the acquisition of Wentz, who really limits them overall. At this point, doing whatever it takes to improve on the perimeter on both sides of the ball to complement their talented players at less-valuable positions is the only way to go, and they have the cap space to bring in a true #1 receiver. How they try to make this work with Wentz will be very interesting to watch play out.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Photo Cred: Big Cat Country

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The Jaguars are a great example of the benefits of taking a hard reset and picking a clear direction. They looked towards the future by trading veteran players for draft capital, and, now, find themselves with the #1 pick, a lot of mid-round picks, and the most cap space in the NFL. They went for a splashy head coaching hire with Urban Meyer and will pair him with presumed #1 pick Trevor Lawrence, which is a duo they are counting on to lead them to the promise land.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Wide Receiver/Tight End
  • Offensive Line
  • Cornerback
  • Safety
  • Roster Talent

This might be the worst overall roster from a talent perspective, and it’s not ideal that their highest-paid players are interior offensive linemen and linebackers. Between DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault, they have multiple exciting young playmakers, but for Lawrence to prosper, they cannot stop there. Having Chark Jr. as a deep threat, Sheanult Jr. doing damage after the catch, and then a true #1 receiver could be lethal, while a tight end to work the middle of the field wouldn’t be a shabby addition either. Going for an elite receiver, and then going for volume on the offensive line to protect Lawrence would appear to be a smart play, and would allow them to do what several teams fail to do: put a strong infrastructure around their young quarterback.

Right now, the Jaguars’ chances of defending the pass are quite low. Thus, completely overhauling the secondary makes sense. They don’t need to go after a high-end talent, as their main resources should be spent on improving Lawrence’s surrounding cast, but taking chances on as many bounce back players with upside in the secondary as possible would be optimal. After that, simply acquiring more roster depth to win between the margins, given the state of the roster, also makes sense.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Many have linked the Jaguars to edge rushers and linebackers, but what could is a premium player at a non-valuable position for a team with such little overall talent? As much as they’ll be looking to make a move in the AFC South with Lawrence, you have to first focus on getting quality production from him, and games are won from strong quarterback and perimeter play anyways; you accomplish both goals by improving the offense and avoiding the defensive front seven.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver: Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller
  • Offensive Line: Daryl Williams, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler
  • Defensive Backs: Marcus Williams, Desmond King, Shaquill Griffin

Adding the best receiver possible should be the focus, and the idea of Lawrence paired with any of these guys, Chark Jr., and Shenault is very exciting. Meanwhile, rather than going all-in on one offensive lineman, spreading the wealth with multiple “second-tier” options should be a priority, and the same can be said about the secondary, though I like Marcus Williams for them given how undervalued the safety position tends to be.

SUMMARY

The Jaguars have accumulated an abundance of resources, but, now, it is time to put them to use. Doing whatever deemed imaginable to make certain that Lawrence succeeds at the NFL level, particularly by improving their receiver play and getting to average on the offensive line, has to be the priority. If so, they certainly will be heading in the right direction compared to where they were a few years ago.

Kansas City Chiefs

Photo Cred: Fan Duel

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The Chiefs couldn’t quite win back-to-back Super Bowls, but they’ll go into next season as the easy favorite to win it all and will continue to be for a long time as long as Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are teamed up together. However, this is a key time for them. Mahomes’ rookie contract is over, and with them paying multiple defensive linemen over $20 million per year and a lot of their top players getting older, they need to be very responsible in terms of roster construction. If not, they’ll risk their chances of winning sustainably; going for a short window would be such a misuse of a generational player.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Wide Receiver
  • Secondary Depth
  • Offensive Line Depth
  • Overall Roster Depth

The Chiefs’ downfall in the Super Bowl had more to do with their lack of depth at the receiver position than anything else, and with the receiver position being a weak-link spot, they need to make sure Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce aren’t the only providers of playmaking ability. Mecole Hardman remains an intriguing player, but replacing Sammy Watkins, or adding multiple buy-low playmakers, will keep their offense production. So will adding offensive line depth, though I certainly believe that another receiver is their main area of improvement.

Kansas City’s secondary is actually better than you’d think it would be after the excellent draft pick of L’Jarius Snead, but if Tyrann Mathieu is going to continue to defend the slot, upgrading from safety Daniel Sorenson would help. So would adding more coverage depth in general, as they wouldn’t be in a great position if injuries were to come into play. After that, a lower-tier coverage linebacker may be useful, though their resources need to spent first on other key areas.

WHAT NOT TO DO

The Chiefs cannot overreact to their Super Bowl loss. One game should not sway them from how successful they have been building around Mahomes and elite skill-position players- believe it or not, but offense wins championships! Trying to add a premier offensive lineman or defensive front-seven player would not make sense given their current position, nor would any major investment on a singular player, for the most part.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver: Breshad Perriman, David Moore, Will Fuller
  • Pass Coverage: Terrance Mitchell, Malik Hooker, Josh Bynes
  • Offensive Line Depth: Mike Remmers, James Hurst, Matt Feiler

It’s likely the Chiefs settle for a lower-tier receiver on a one-year contract, but if Fuller’s suspension causes him to be undervalued, could you imagine the potential of that offense. Depending on how they structure the contract, that would be intriguing. Meanwhile, players like Mitchell, Hooker, and Bynes are exactly who they should be targeting on defense in terms of very affordable, yet competent options (Hooker would be a fantastic signing), while Remmers, Hurst, and Feiler offer versatility, something that is needed when you’re trying to deepen your offensive line at a cheap cost.

SUMMARY

The Chiefs could do nothing and go into next year as the Super Bowl favorite by a wide margin, but they’ll look to continue to deepen their roster to avoid worse-case scenario- not being able to handle adversity if injuries once again hit them hard. Mainly, though, their activity will come in the draft, where they really need to focus on re-stocking on the perimeter with young, cheap players, especially after using their first two picks on a running back and linebacker last year- not exactly premium positions.

Los Angeles Chargers

Photo Cred: Los Angeles Times

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

I’m always optimistic of the Chargers’ outlook, as they’ve generally been very strong in terms of allocation of resources, but this is the offseason where they can make an ascension to being a true playoff team. Even if Justin Herbert’s performance in unstable facets of play regresses next season, he’ll still be an above-average quarterback on a rookie contract, while they have plenty of overall talent and now have an exciting new head coach in Brandon Staley, who appears to be quite the modern thinker not just with defensive play-calling, but football as a whole. Herbert’s rookie contract provides them with more than enough cap space, particularly with some cuts on the way.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Offensive Line Depth
  • More Playmakers
  • Cornerback
  • Defensive Front-Seven Depth

The Chargers ranked in the bottom-three in both pass-blocking and run-blocking last season, based on PFF grades. You don’t need to be much more than average on the offensive line, but right now, they are far from it, and probably need four new starters, in addition to depth for the oft-injured Bryan Bulaga.

However, Los Angeles could also help Herbert with another playmaker to work with. Tight end Hunter Henry probably is someone they could let leave if he is set to earn around $12 million, but adding a quality third receiver and replacing Henry with a cheaper tight end would give Herbert plenty to work with.

Staley rightfully wants to build through the secondary on defense, but he’ll need a starting cornerback outside Casey Hayward Jr., in addition to depth at cornerback and safety, for that to happen. Meanwhile, getting more versatility and athleticism in the front seven, albeit at a cheap cost, would help polish out the roster.

WHAT NOT TO DO

The Chargers may tempted to spend big on one interior offensive lineman, but doing so would still leave a lot of holes on the offensive line, and thus wouldn’t solve their problems. Meanwhile, should their try to invest further in their defensive front seven, they’ll likely be dismissing more important areas of their roster. The last thing they want to do is put pressure on whomever they draft with the 13th overall pick to make an impact as a rookie, given what we know about rookie learning curves.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Offensive Line: Matt Feiler, Alejandro Villanueva, Kelvin Beachum
  • Wide Receiver: Rashard Higgins, Danny Amendola, Gerald Everett
  • Cornerback: Troy Hill, Jason Verrett, Chidobe Awuzie

With the Chargers have so many holes on the offensive line, acquiring someone with versatility, such as Matt Feiler, would make sense. Meanwhile, Villanueva and Beachum are quality pass protectors who would be nice stopgaps at the tackle position.

A package of Amendola in the slot and Everett to replace Henry would actually be a fantastic use of resources, and would really diversify their passing attack and allow Herbert to flourish. Meanwhile, Hill, Verrett, and Awuzie are all undervalued assets who have experience flourishing in a zone-heavy system.

SUMMARY

Too many teams rely on the draft to fill areas of need, particularly the offensive line. However, with the draft being unpredictable and player development not being linear, relying on rookies is not a strong strategy. Thus, following the Bills’ model and using free agency to acquire 3-4 average offensive lineman, while continuing to be strong on the perimeter, is the best way for the Chargers to go about building roster. By doing so, they’ll truly establish themself as a impact playoff contender heading into next season. If you couldn’t tell by now, I am quite optimistic about this moving forward.

Las Vegas Raiders

Photo Cred: Just Blog Baby

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The good news for Raider fans is that they got strong production from quarterback Derek Carr this season, and appear to finally be settled there.

The bad news? They still finished with a negative point differential and are over the salary cap. Trading backup quarterback Marcus Mariota, as well as cutting ties with defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, receiver Tyrell Williams (already done), guard Gabe Jackson, and other depth players will help give some money to spend, but they still aren’t exactly in an enviable position.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Defensive Backs
  • Defensive Backs
  • More Defensive Backs
  • Wide Receiver
  • Depth

A 33.5 coverage grade from PFF tells you all you need to know about the Raiders’ biggest area of needed improvement- the secondary. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen hasn’t yet progress, rookie cornerback Damon Arnette was a liability, and they could not defend the slot whatsoever. Meanwhile, their safety play also wasn’t particularly strong, especially with Jonathan Abram receiving a 30.1 PFF grade; he doesn’t profile as a modern-day safety and is moreso a box safety specializing against the run.

I think the Raiders will benefit from improved play from Henry Ruggs III, but with Nelson Agholor set to be a free agent, they also need to reload on offense by giving Carr more ammunition to work with. Given what Agholor brought as a vertical threat, finding someone with a similar skillset would be the optimal fit.

Furthermore, this isn’t exactly a talented roster when it comes to any facet of play. Rushing the passer and defending the run are less-important areas of play, but when you’re a liability in both facets, that is an issue. Thus, getting back to average in those areas with lower-level depth signings also should be a focus.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Overpaying for a defensive lineman is something I fully expect the Raiders to do. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has stated often that he wants to the team to bolster its pass rush, and it’s likely the spend big on a pass rusher such as Bud Dupree, Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue or even Leonard Williams on the interior. The problem is that signing those players won’t move the needle if quarterbacks can get ride of the ball right away due to poor coverage, while their offense could easily regress if they go into next season with their current group of players. In other words, allocating resources to valuable positions, particularly when you’re limited on said resources, is simply a necessity for them.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Outside Cornerback: William Jackson, Richard Sherman, Chidobe Awuzie
  • Slot Corner: Mike Hilton, Brian Poole, Desmond King
  • Safety: Malik Hooker, Keanu Neal, Marcus Williams
  • Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins, Breshad Perriman, AJ Green

The Raiders are such in need of talent in the secondary that the best fits for them are essentially any quality defensive back that doesn’t figure to be overpaid. Regardless, if they don’t acquire a talented outside cornerback, a slot corner, multiple safeties, and more outside cornerback depth, they’ve gone about this offseason wrong. Meanwhile, Watkins and Perriman would stretch the field for their offense, while Green would be interesting on a one-year prove-it deal.

SUMMARY

The Raiders are in such a strange spot in that Carr and the offense showed a lot of promise last year, but they still aren’t a very talented team and have invested a lot on players that have failed to meet expectations. They essentially need a new starter at every starting spot in the secondary, and even then, need more depth, while they also need to be on the lookout for another receiver and more roster talent. They’ve seen first hand what happens when you rely on rookies to fill areas of need, and if they’re going to take advantage of Carr’s improved play, it’s time for an overhaul in terms of roster talent by virtue of proper allocation of resources.

Miami Dolphins

Photo Cred: News.journalonline.com

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

Few trades have boosted an organization’s stock as much as the one as the Dolphins’ trading of tackle Laremy Tunsil. They head into this offseason with the third-overall pick after falling just short of the playoffs, Houston’s second-round pick, and still have a lot of cap space to work with. It’s unclear what they’ll do at the quarterback position given their draft capital (this is their last chance to add an impact quarterback), but regardless, they certainly will be looking to continue to progress as an organization. Some of that will come through the development of their young players, but I’m sure that they won’t want to be completely tied to something that is completely non-linear and unpredictable, especially since they’ll face turnover and defensive regression next season.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Wide Receiver
  • Offensive Line
  • Quarterback*
  • Pass Coverage

The Dolphins have three options at the quarterback position: Deshaun Watson, Tua Tagovailoa, or a quarterback in the draft. If Watson is attainable, they need to be all-in on acquiring him; the value of quarterback like him is ridiculous; you stock up on draft capital to have a chance to make a move like this. If that doesn’t work, I’d personally draft a quarterback to compete with Tagovailoa in order to increase the odds of finding a franchise quarterback, though the likely outcome is the stick with Tagovailoa.

If Tagovailoa or any quarterback is going to succeed here, they are going to need more weapons to throw to. Devante Parker and Preston Williams are useful big-body receivers, while Mike Gesicki broke out as a vertical tight end this season, but they desperately need speed and shiftiness at the receiver position. The draft has a lot of options who could fill that void, but I’d rather them go out and acquire a true #1 receiver in free agency. Furthermore, their reliance on young offensive linemen was an issue last season, so getting back to average by adding an offensive tackle, as well as more overall depth, would also make Tagovailoa’s chances of succeeding higher.

The Dolphins were very strong defensively, but it’d still be interesting to see them continuing to add volume to their pass coverage. They rightfully have built through their secondary, but their safety production wasn’t great, nor was their ability to defend slot receivers or tight ends. Luckily for them, this is deep class to shore up those areas of the roster.

WHAT NOT TO DO

If Miami spends big on a running back, such as Aaron Jones, or a pass rusher, that would be a very poor allocation of resources. We’ve dissected the lack of connection between a quarterback playing well and running back performance in the past, while the Dolphins have a) already invested a lot in their defense and b) run a defensive system built to develop and get the most of second-tier pass rushers. If they want to combat regression and take a step forward as an organization, they have to continue to prioritize the positions that move the needle.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver: Will Fuller, Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin
  • Offensive Line: Austin Reiter, Matt Feiler, Jason Peters
  • Pass Coverage: Duron Harmon, Gareon Conley, Denzel Perryman

Godwin is the perfect fit for the Dolphins as an excellent separator, but it’s very unlikely he leaves Tampa Bay. Thus, Will Fuller’s speed makes him an ideal complement to the current group of receivers on Miami’s roster, though if you have the chance to add Allen Robinson and Kenny Golladay, you don’t pass it up. I’d expect the Dolphins to take a long look at a center like Austin Reiter or David Andrews, meanwhile, and bringing in versatility and veteran depth with Matt Feiler, Jason Peters, or even someone like Mike Remmers would help protect whomever is at quarterback. Harmon, Conley, and Perryman all classify as strong schematic fits and affordable players to shore up the Dolphins’ pass coverage.

SUMMARY

It would be awesome to see the Dolphins add Watson, but, regardless, they need to make substantial improvements to their offense. That needs to come through a true impact receiver, and making sure that “need” doesn’t become the focus of their draft. This is a pretty strong roster, but an improved surrounding cast for whomever is at quarterback, mainly a true #1 receiver who can gain quick separation, could do wonders for this organization.

New England Patriots

Photo Cred: NESN.Com

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The Patriots come into this offseason with $62 million in cap space and a lot of draft capital. Unfortunately, they also have an aging roster and are weak at the most valuable positions, meaning that it’s unlikely they’re an impact contender next season. I’d expect them to continue to look towards the future, so parting ways with veterans (trading Stephon Gilmore) makes a lot of sense.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Playmakers, Playmakers, and More Playmakers
  • Quarterback
  • Cornerback
  • More Roster Talent

It’s well known that the Patriots are lacking in the way of playmakers. Julian Edelman is 34-years-old, and after that, only Jakobi Meyers profiles as a starting-caliber option moving forward. This is obviously quite the offseason to need receiving talent, and I’d like New England to target the younger options as they build towards the future. As for the quarterback position, they’re not in a spot to go in on a veteran option, but taking a chance on a undervalued player who could become an asset, as they tried to do with Cam Newton, probably is the best way to go given their position.

The Patriots rightfully value the cornerback position more than other teams do, and it might be time for them to revamp there. That probably should come through the draft, but looking for buy-low athletes in a man-heavy system would raise the ceiling of their 2021 outlook while keeping the floor low- something they should strive for from a team-building perspective.

WHAT NOT TO DO

If the Patriots continue to try to win through their defense and builds the trenches, that would be problematic. As mentioned, their older roster and issues at the quarterback position limit their ceiling, so raising their floor and building through the defense will put them right where they are now- mediocrity.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver: Will Fuller, Corey Davis, Kenny Golladay
  • Quarterback: Jalen Hurts, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota
  • Cornerback: Gareon Conley, Artie Burns, Jason Verrett

I mentioned the Patriots’ need to add a true playmaker who can stretch a defense, and that is exactly what Fuller, Davis, and Golladay can do. Fuller is my favorite fit as the most likely to be undervalued and someone who offers a lot of speed, though I could see a world where Davis falls through the cracks as well.

What about Jalen Hurts as the Patriots’ quarterback? That certainly would qualify as raising the ceiling of their organization moving forward, and depending on the draft capital needed, it would be quite logical to try to acquire him if Philadelphia needs extra draft capital to move up for a quarterback. If not Hurts, Jameis Winston is the perfect ceiling raiser, and for a mid-round pick, taking a chance on a 27-year-old Marcus Mariota isn’t the worst idea either. Oh, and if Conley, who thrives in man coverage, isn’t a Patriot in 2021, I would be very surprised.

SUMMARY

The Patriots aren’t going to be premier Super Bowl contenders next season, so realizing that and building towards the future is critical. That may mean eating some dead cap space to move players or perhaps taking on a bad contract to acquire draft capital, there are a lot of ways they can take advantage of having much more cap space than other teams. Meanwhile, targeting young players that can be part of their next contending team in 2022 or 2023, primarily at the receiver position, would be optimal.

This may not be the “sexy offseason” that many want, but when was the last time Bill Belichick went that route? I’m optimistic he’ll continue to look towards the future and remain responsible, which drastically increases this organization’s chances of winning sustainably again, this time without Tom Brady.

New York Jets

Photo Cred: Yahoo! Sports.

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The Jets may not have a lot of roster talent, but having the second overall pick, over $60 million in cap space, and a new general manager/head coach duo (Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh) can change a lot in a hurry. They’re obviously in position to draft a quarterback and build towards the future, and even if they’re aren’t a playoff contender next season, their organizational progression could happen rather quickly.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Deshaun Watson
  • Wide Receiver
  • Offensive Line
  • Cornerback
  • Roster Depth

Every team that isn’t the Chiefs should be trying to acquire Deshaun Watson, even the Jaguars with the #1 overall pick. The opportunity to have the #2 pick could appeal to the Texans, and if a deal can be had, New York should flex their extra draft capital to bring in a franchise-changing player.

Getting back to realistic scenarios, which involve a rookie quarterback, the Jets would be foolish not to add multiple impact receivers to their roster. Similarly to the Jaguars, the goal of the offseason should be to make the rookie quarterback’s life as easy as possible, and getting more playmakers is the way to do just that- just ask Sam Darnold. Meanwhile, getting back to average with the offensive line by attacking the unit with volume would certainly help.

Defensively, I’m not sure the Jets have an average cornerback on the roster, which is an issue. If they bring back safety Marcus Maye, they’ll have a nice safety tandem with him and Ashtyn Davis, but adding 3-4 cornerbacks would go a long way for them. Meanwhile, simply more overall roster talent wouldn’t hurt.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Sticking with Sam Darnold, PFF’s lowest-graded starting quarterback last year, when you have the #2 overall pick, probably isn’t the right approach. Neither would be investing heavily on the pass rush, which I fear they may do; the goal is to help the rookie progress, and perimeter talent makes more of an impact regardless.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver: Allen Robinson, Will Fuller, Kenny Golladay
  • Offensive Line: Matt Feiler, Daryl Williams, Jason Peters
  • Cornerback: Jason Verrett, Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar

I like Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder, but if you want a rookie quarterback to succeed, more talent is needed at the receiver position; Robinson, Fuller, and Golladay certainly profile as impact players. Furthermore, with the amount of draft capital they have, they could be in position to draft a tackle later on, but I wouldn’t want to count on a rookie holding up, so acquiring versatile offensive linemen like Feiler, Williams, James Hurst, or Peters makes a lot of sense for them specifically. I’d also absolute love to see Jason Verrett reunited with Robert Saleh, and there are plenty of cornerbacks that can be great value signings in Saleh’s system.

SUMMARY

The Jets shouldn’t be focused on winning games next season as much as helping their rookie quarterback, which in turn actually increases their win projections. I’m optimistic about Saleh and Douglas’ direction for this organization, especially if they either trade for Watson or draft Justin Fields, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Photo Cred: The Undefeated

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

The Steelers aren’t exactly in a great situation right now, to say the least. They are $30 million over the cap, have an aging roster, holes at valuable positions, and likely will bring back quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who didn’t exactly move the needle; PFF’s 22nd-graded quarterback and one of the lowest average depth of targets in the NFL. Just to get under the cap, they’ll likely have to kick some contracts down the road with restructuring, and still won’t be in a position to remain a playoff contender when their defense suffers inevitable regression, particularly with turnovers. In fact, outside of Houston, who at least has the hope of retaining Watson, I’m not sure any AFC team is in a worse spot.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Offensive Line Depth
  • Cornerback
  • Wide Receiver/Tight End

Strangely, the Steelers don’t have a lot of roster needs, but that’s because Roethlisberger is honestly their weakest link. The offensive line is set to lose Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler, which could be problematic, while nickel corner Mike Hilton and cornerback Joe Haden may not be back next year as well. Thus, Pittsburgh will need to find cheap replacements, which will be very difficult. Meanwhile, another receiver to impact their passing game, which was quite stale last year, could help- they ran a lot of empty formation sets last year.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Pittsburgh cannot continue to push their chips into the table anymore. With Roethlisberger, they’ll be stuck relying on strong defensive play, and as they saw down the stretch last season, that has clear limits. At this point, they need to just make the best of this situation and look towards the future, and if they go all-in and sign JJ Watt, or even worse, a pricey running back. Bringing back Roethlisberger at his current $41 million cap hit, or re-signing Juju Smith Schuster, would also qualify as “what not to do”.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Offensive Line: Mike Remmers, Lane Taylor, Ben Garland
  • Cornerback: Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Corn Elder
  • Playmaker: Dede Westbrook, Jordan Reed, Rex Burkhead

The Steelers don’t likely have the funds to spend big on any position, but they do need veteran offensive line depth; someone with the ability to play center, such as Daniel Kilgore or Ted Karras, also could make sense. Meanwhile, they desperately need someone to defend the slot, and with Hilton only projected to make around $4-$5 million, they may be able to bring him back.

To replace Smith-Schuster, Dede Westbrook is a buy-low candidate who has shown some promise in the past, while tight end Jordan Reed is terrific, and is poor durability could cause his price to go down. Should the Steelers want to add a running back, Rex Burkhead offers some value as a receiver, Matt Breida is explosive, and Wayne Gallman was relatively productive in a tough situation with the Giants last year.

SUMMARY

The Steelers are in as tough of a position as one can be in. Roethlisberger retiring, and them going into next season with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins to hope to secure a premier draft pick for a quarterback is the best approach, but with Roethlisberger going back, they probably will be in the same position, if not worse, a year from now. They’ve done a great job maintaining organizational stability and developing their drafted players, yet I don’t know how they work themselves out of this.

Tennessee Titans

STATE OF ORGANIZATION

It’s hard not to see the Titans as the favorites to win the AFC South next season. Ryan Tannehill was able to back up his elite 2019 season with another 90-grade season from PFF, they still have a lot of offensive talent, and their defense should regress positively next season.

At the same time, offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is now in Atlanta, which could really hurt their offense, especially if receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith leave as free agents. Being over the cap doesn’t help either, though they can cut players like Malcolm Butler and Adam Humphries to help with that.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON

  • Wide Receiver
  • Slot Cornerback
  • Defensive Front Seven

AJ Brown is fantastic, but I’d be quite worried about receiver depth if I were the Titans. Davis was a major reason for their success, and I’d seriously look into franchise tagging him or signing him to a backloaded extension. Furthermore, assuming Kristian Fulton steps in for Butler, they’ll still need to defend the slot, which was a major issues at times last year.

Defensive line and linebacker aren’t valuable positions, but the Titans project to be liabilities in those facets. Getting average linebacker play in coverage with Jayon Brown set to leave would be advisable, and there are plenty of lower-tier edge rushers that could be an upgrade over what they were working with last year.

WHAT NOT TO DO

I could easily see the Titans overreacting to last season by investing big on an edge rusher. However, doing so would be a clear oversight, since it would come at the expense of maintaining elite offensive production or getting better pass coverage. Sure, they may be able to rush the passer better, but is it worth it if it comes at the cost of addressing more valuable areas, which leads to less overall team success? I’d certainly say no.

POTENTIAL FITS

  • Wide Receiver/Playmaker: Corey Davis, Rashard Higgins, Gerald Everett
  • Slot Cornerback: Desmond King, Brian Poole, Mike Hilton
  • Defensive Front-Seven Players: Kevin Pierre-Louis, Tarrell Basham, Ryan Kerrigan

Bringing back Davis should be the focus, though Higgins succeeded in a similar style of offense and will cost half the price. The same thinking applies to Everett replacing Smith, given his abilities after the catch.

Desmond King played well after being traded to Tennessee last season, while Poole and Hilton also are above-average slot cornerbacks with a lot of overall versatility. Meanwhile, Basham and Kerrigan are low-priced edge rushers that would fit their defensive scheme, and Kevin Pierre-Louis’ abilities in coverage would be very useful when it comes to finding a cheap replacement for Brown.

SUMMARY

Losing Arthur Smith, in addition to their pending free agents, will be a tough pill for the Titans to swallow next year. Revamping their perimeter depth and finding competent replacements for their departed players will be a necessity, and that cannot happen by spending big on an edge rusher. I’ve long admired this organization’s ability to accumulate roster talent and build through the perimeter, but this will be a pivotal offseason for them.

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