AFC South: Carlos Rogers

How the 21 franchise tags from around the NFL affect the teams of the AFC South.

Houston Texans

Salary cap limitations likely mean the Texans are not active in free agency. The market may have shifted on a guy like Reggie Wayne, who could have been attractive with Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson and Wes Welker out of the unrestricted free agent picture.

More significantly, the price defensive end/outside linebacker Mario Williams will be able to attract if he gets to free agency is likely up. The Colts tagged Robert Mathis, the Lions tagged Cliff Avril and the Cardinals tagged Calais Campbell, and they were the next-best pass-rushers for needy teams to target.

Indianapolis Colts

Those three receivers -- Bowe, Jackson and Welker -- disappearing from the market mean that two Colts unrestricted free agents to-be probably fare a bit better. Pierre Garcon has speed and youth to sell and Wayne has veteran wiles and reliability.

The Colts could make another charge at signing Garcon before March 13th, but he may be determined to see what free agency can bring him.

I don’t think they will have much money to spend on free agents, but the offensive line and defensive tackles pools -- their biggest positions of need beyond receiver -- are unchanged.

Jacksonville Jaguars

No one needs a big-time, team-leading wide receiver more than the Jaguars do. I don’t believe they would have been players for Jackson or Welker. But Bowe could have been a guy they were interested in.

Whether or not they will be players for Williams, plan B should have been Mathis. The hit to the potential defensive end market hurts as a big-time pass-rusher is the big defensive need. Cornerback could still be OK with Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan, Kansas City’s Brandon Carr and San Francisco's Carlos Rogers on track to reach free agency.

Tennessee Titans

That San Francisco tagged Dashon Goldson and Oakland franchised Tyvon Branch severely thinned the safety market, which helped prompt Tennessee to tag Michael Griffin. I would have loved to have seen their approach is the two guys from the West Coast were heading for unrestricted free agency.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported that Mathis would have been a target and general manager Ruston Webster had said a special, pass-rushing defensive end was one position for which the team might have been willing to overpay. He didn’t say overpay by a gigantic degree, however. With a bid for Williams unlikely, who’s the next best rusher now?

Joey Harvey from San Antonio, TX writes: When considering physical demands, how can NHL players handle 80 games a yr and NFL players only 16?

Paul Kuharsky: Hockey is very physical and the ability of players to endure the grind can be remarkable.

Still, I think even most hockey players would tell you the ability to bounce back from a hockey game and from a football game are different. I don’t think a hockey player is taking the pounding in one game that a running back or lineman takes in one game. A hockey shift and a football series are two different things, too.

Rivers McCown from Houston writes: Assuming that the Texans miss out on [Nnamdi] Asomugha because, well, they're the Texans, is signing someone like Carlos Rogers or Ike Taylor along with a safety such as Gerald Sensabaugh enough in your mind to get the Texans defense to average?

Paul Kuharsky: I like the idea of Rogers or Taylor. But Sensabaugh is no big solution. Jaguars have all kind of safety issues and they dropped him a couple years back. Add one of those corners and find a safety and they could be on their way to average.

Ben from the UK writes: After seeing your response on the Plaxico Burress issue, I must say I disagree with your assessment on the Colts' requirements. Your description of what the Colts need as a 'sharp route runner who reads coverage and adjusts' merely sounds like Austin Collie, and to an extent what we still have with Reggie Wayne. Do you not feel we need someone with game-breaking speed and utility around the offense (like for example Reggie Bush minus the ridiculous salary) as opposed to another slower route runner?

Paul Kuharsky: Yes, they need game-breaking speed. I don’t think Burress has it. (And even a speedster needs to run routes the way the Colts expect.)

I refer to someone more knowledgeable than me on such things, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.:
“It is Burress' movement skills that I worry about. Even a few years ago when he was in his prime, Burress was never a real quick-twitch guy. He is a long strider who had build-up speed, but he wasn't quick, elusive or explosive. Now, you just have to think that those movement skill qualities have lessened over the past two years.

“Although he might look great and probably spent a lot of time in prison lifting weights, I tend to think that keeping his explosiveness under the circumstances he was in was close to impossible. And he does turn 34 in August.

"Now, like [Michael] Vick, that isn't to say he can't get those skills back to some extent. But separating from defenders seems like the hurdle Burress is going to have the most difficult time getting over upon his return.”

Doesn’t sound to me like a guy who would give the Colts what they lack.

Adam C from Central Vermont writes: Missed your chat yesterday Paul due to a busy spell at work. I read that you think the Titans should target a guy like Carson Palmer, but said a second round pick was too expensive to do so. Would Cincinnati really be willing to take less than that? What do you think is an offer the Titans should give to see if Cincy will actually accept?

Paul Kuharsky: Once they spent No. 8 on Jake Locker, the option of giving up a value pick to get a veteran disappeared. They can’t trade now for a guy who they may only stick with as the starter for six games.

So it’s got to be a free agent: Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins or one of the lesser names who will be on the market and cost nothing more than a contract.

@texantakeover writes: Do you think that with the Texans defense vastly improved this year would allow them to overtake the Colts for the division?

Paul Kuharsky: Vastly improved? We’re basing that on a new coordinator, some new assistants and a draft class? I’m going to need to see it all result in better play before I declare the Texans D vastly improved. And even if it’s vastly improved I have trouble seeing Houston winning the division.

Dan from Raleigh, NC writes: The Randy Moss experiment was a failure but the Titans could still use some help on the outside. When FA starts, does Plax get a shot? Or are the Titans' sights aimed exclusively at a veteran QB?

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t see them chasing another big-name veteran receiver. And I can’t imagine Mike Munchak and his staff -- who will put a premium on discipline and character -- are looking to start off with a big acquisition of a guy who just got out of jail.

RFA fits? We try matchmaking

March, 5, 2010
After consulting with my blogging brethren, I was looking to play matchmaker between AFC South teams and restricted free agents. I was hit most by this:

Though they could have a shot at Earl Thomas or Taylor Mays in the draft at No. 20, Houston could have a really good chance to upgrade at free safety in the RFA department, allowing themselves to focus on other things -- running back, cornerback, defensive tackle, interior offensive line -- high in the draft.

Here are a couple options that look like they could be good:

St. Louis safety Oshiomogho Atogwe -- The Rams free safety finished last year on IR with a shoulder injury. But he was the team’s franchise player in 2009, and now falls back into restricted status. He was tendered to right of first refusal with no draft-pick compensation attached because otherwise the Rams would have had to guarantee his salary at 110 percent of 2009 level (near $7 million). Scouts Inc. says he’s aggressive, fast and especially good over the deep middle. Sounds like a good pairing with Bernard Pollard who’s solid stepping forward. With the right offer sheet the Texans could get him for no compensation.

Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea -- He’s tendered at a first-round level and the Texans cannot give up No. 20 for him. But Rick Smith could call Bill Polian and offer him Houston’s second-rounder, No. 50 overall, and see what kind of reaction he gets.

Indianapolis safety Melvin Bullitt -- He's been at strong safety with Bob Sanders out, but has also seen nickel action in the past and seems versatile enough to me to shift over. If Houston believes Bullitt could split the middle with Pollard to form a quality tandem, Bullitt’s tendered at a second-round level, and they could try offering a third.

Other possibilities for Houston: Washington corner Carlos Rogers is tendered at a first but we've heard he could likely be had for a fourth or even a fifth; Carolina corner Richard Marshall is tendered at a second and could be worth a third or fourth; Seattle guard Rob Sims is tendered as a fourth-rounder and the Seahawks would liked to have gone higher. A team that needs interior help could consider making an offer?

Thoughts on the rest of the division:


The Colts aren’t prohibited by the final eight rule from shopping restricted free agents. It’s just that they are highly unlikely to do so.


I don’t see a lot for them. Defensive ends and receivers aren’t on the list or aren’t reasonably priced. Unsettled at free safety, they could like Atogwe but don’t have the second-rounder they could need for Bethea.


Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison -- He’s got a third-round tender, so how about starting off by offering a fourth? If Keith Bulluck isn’t re-signed and the breaking down David Thornton doesn’t make it out of camp -- I expect them both to be gone -- the Titans need a veteran to go with Stephen Tulloch and Gerald McRath or they’d be too young. Morrison’s experienced and can run and anticipate. At 6-2, 240, he’d also add a little bulk.

Chicago kick returner/safety Danieal Manning -- Tendered at a third, the Titans could offer a fourth. (They should get an additional, untradeable third-rounder as a compensatory pick for Albert Haynesworth.) Manning could probably solve the kick return issues and might be able to handle punts too -- he did it at Abilene Christian. He would also add some depth to the secondary. An experienced free safety, he’d be insurance if Michael Griffin continued to tumble. He could work in the occasional dime package and provide an alternative to Vincent Fuller if the incumbent nickel got hurt.

Other possibilities for Tennessee: Rogers; Marshall