AFC South: 2014 Free-Agency Primer

Free-agency primer: Texans

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
AM ET
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Key free agents: NT Earl Mitchell, TE Garrett Graham, DE Antonio Smith, LB Darryl Sharpton, G Wade Smith, RB Ben Tate, OT Ryan Harris, FB Greg Jones.

Where they stand: It’s difficult to assess how new coach Bill O’Brien views guys he’s inherited and to judge how they will fit into his system. Graham might amount to the most valuable guy on the list if the Texans use a lot of two-tight end sets, as he’s grown into a productive and effective player. Tate and Sharpton are injury-prone guys expected to move on, and Tate could get a good deal elsewhere. Mitchell did mostly solid work, but Wade Phillips was a lot more at ease with a small nose tackle than Romeo Crennel typically is. The two Smiths are 32 years old, and I expect a big move toward youth.

What to expect: The Texans have roughly $8 million in cap space and can get more if they cut Matt Schaub and/or safety Danieal Manning. General manager Rick Smith has been measured in free agency. But with a new coaching staff, I certainly expect the franchise to reach out and bring in at least a few players who fit what they want to do and can be torchbearers for a new regime and new message. They could sift through the market for a safety, a guard and a nose tackle, among other things. Quarterback is the big issue, and perhaps O’Brien sees a reclamation project on the very limited list of free agents. The broader expectation, however, is that they address the position in the draft.

Free-agency primer: Jaguars

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
AM ET
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: QB Chad Henne, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, CB Will Blackmon.

Where they stand: The Jaguars’ priority is re-signing Henne, ideally before he hits the open market at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Henne has said he wants to return, and GM David Caldwell has said that re-signing Henne, improving the offensive line and adding a few weapons would help keep the offense afloat -- which seems to indicate the Jaguars are leaning toward not taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft if they re-sign Henne. Caldwell said Jones-Drew has earned the right to test the market. The Jaguars would like to bring him back, but Jones-Drew is looking for a longer contract for more money than the Jaguars are willing to offer. Blackmon was a surprise in 2013, and the Jaguars want the veteran back.

What to expect: Interior offensive line is the biggest need in free agency after the release of Uche Nwaneri earlier this week. The center pool isn’t as deep as hoped, but expect the Jaguars to target players such as Brian De La Puente, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Ryan Wendell. Cleveland put the transition tag on Alex Mack, so the Jaguars also could make a run at him but run the risk of the Browns matching the offer. There are more options at guard, and the Jaguars will target several players here, possibly Geoff Schwartz, Zane Beadles and Shelley Smith. The Jaguars also will try to find help at outside linebacker, running back and receiver.

Free-agency primer: Colts

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
AM ET
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: CB Vontae Davis, S Antoine Bethea, K Adam Vinatieri, RB Donald Brown

Where they stand: The Colts have the fourth-most salary-cap space ($41 million) in the league. They solved one of their issues when they signed inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson on Thursday to start alongside Jerrell Freeman, Erik Walden and Robert Mathis. Davis is the most important player to re-sign with having to acquire a new starting center next in line after Samson Satele was released on March 6. The Colts re-signed punter Pat McAfee to a five-year deal Friday. The 41-year-old Vinatieri believes he can kick for several more seasons. Expect the Colts to look to add depth at receiver to give quarterback Andrew Luck another target to go with receivers T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

What to expect: The Colts should be able to work out a deal with Davis, who was inconsistent last season but has the talent to be one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Don't expect the Colts to go with a rookie or second-year player as their starting center. The position is too valuable for them to go that direction with their franchise player, Luck, taking the snaps. New Orleans' Brian De La Puente and Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith are both free agents. Denver receiver Eric Decker is an ideal receiver to go with Hilton and Wayne. The Colts and Decker have mutual interest, but he may be out of their price range if he wants to be paid like a No. 1 receiver. Hakeem Nicks and James Jones are also free agents the Colts could pursue. Acquiring a veteran guard is a better option than drafting one, because Indianapolis has the talent to take another step in the AFC next season. Decker's teammate in Denver, guard Zane Beadles, is a free agent.

Free-agency primer: Titans

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
AM ET

» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: CB Alterraun Verner, DE Ropati Pitoitua, KR Leon Washington, WR Damian Williams, DT Antonio Johnson, WR Kenny Britt.

Where they stand: The Titans re-signed outspoken, thumping strong safety Bernard Pollard, one of their most important free agents, with a two-year deal. He has spoken glowingly about the direction the team will head under coach Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Ray Horton. "We're going to be 11 dogs without leashes running around biting people," Pollard told a Nashville radio station 3HL. They also re-signed third-string running back Jackie Battle, who’s a staple special-teamer. It’s hard to know how other people project into the new systems that come along with a new coaching regime. The Titans have indicated to everyone on that list, beside Britt, that they are interested. But will the interest translate into new contracts?

What to expect: The Titans will wind up with a couple of their own guys back, though they are not desperate to keep anyone on the list. Verner is very likely to hit the market and find a team that puts a higher price tag on him than the Titans will. I believe Pitoitua can be a valuable piece of the new hybrid front, particularly in the run-stopping effort. Washington can bring a secure feeling to the return game. Williams is a smart and versatile fourth wide receiver, but there is a giant pool of free-agent wideouts and a quality draft class, so he'll need to settle for minimal money if he wants to stay and they want to have him. The team won't spend $100 million in free agency, as it did last year, but will make several key additions.

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