Who is one highly drafted or highly paid player from each AFC South team who needs to show something during the remainder of the offseason?
Houston Texans: I can’t find a highly paid or highly drafted player who could be in jeopardy. Shiloh Keo was a fifth-round draft pick in 2011 and ranked as a Wade Phillips favorite. Keo played in every game last year, even seeing time as the often-used third safety when Quintin Demps fell out of favor. But Keo is limited, primarily because he’s slow. The Texans replaced Glover Quin with Ed Reed, which doesn’t really affect the bottom of the safety depth chart. Demps is an unsigned free agent who won’t be back. Second-round pick D.J. Swearinger will be the third safety. Keo and Eddie Pleasant are the fourth and fifth safeties now, and the team had five on the roster at the end of last season. But a good player at the back end of another position could prompt them to keep just four, which could put the limited Keo in jeopardy if he doesn’t perform well in camp.
Indianapolis Colts: A team that didn’t have a true nose tackle option last season because of injuries and personnel deficiencies will have a glut this summer if everyone remains healthy. Now they have Aubrayo Franklin and 2012 fifth-rounder Josh Chapman, who’s back from the knee injury that kept him out last year. They also have new fifth-round draft pick Montori Hughes as well as Ricky Jean Francois, a versatile lineman who can man the middle on occasion. I don’t expect Martin Tevaseu to stick, and if the rest of that pack remains healthy, one player who will need to have a solid camp to make his case to stay is Brandon McKinney, who’s due $1 million this year. Brought in as a free agent from Baltimore last year, he too is coming off a serious knee injury. He’s expected to be ready for camp but could have already lost some ground in organized team activities and minicamp.
Jacksonville Jaguars: While the Texans don’t have a highly paid or highly drafted veteran who could be in trouble because they have drafted well and their roster is solid, the Jaguars don’t really have one because they are young and largely unproven. They already parted with an expensive guy who wasn’t worth his contract in strong safety Dawan Landry. Tight and Marcedes Lewis ($4.2 million base this year) and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu ($1.8 million) are overpaid based on recent production, but the Jaguars have money and don’t have promising replacements for either.
Tennessee Titans: I don’t think right tackle David Stewart is in jeopardy. But he’s coming off a down year when he committed too many penalties, is recovering from a broken leg, has an ankle that seems to be a lingering concern and is due a $5 million base salary. I’m not sure Mike Otto or Byron Stingily, the team’s two primary backup tackles, are starting-caliber guys. But the team did visit with free agent Eric Winston, who worked with offensive line coach Bruce Matthews in Houston. If Winston remains on the market and Stewart doesn’t look ready to bounce back, perhaps the Titans would still consider adding Winston and allowing him to slug it out with Stewart. That could be an epic battle.