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Free Agency Grades: AFC South

Nate Bouda April 3, 2012 Colts, Jaguars, NFLTR Features, Texans, Titans No Comments

 Colts

Additions: WR Reggie Wayne (R), DE Robert Mathis (R), DT Cory Redding, OT Winston Justice, C Samson Satele, QB Drew Stanton, S Tom Zbikowski, WR Donnie Avery

Subtractions: QB Peyton Manning, WR Pierre Garcon, C Jeff Saturday, TE Dallas Clark, TE Jacob Tamme, G Ryan Diem, CB Jacob Lacey, RB Joseph AddaiGary Brackett, S Melvin Bullitt, WR Anthony Gonzalez, QB Dan Orlovsky

I found the Colts offseason to be the most fascinating of any NFL team. Normally, a franchise will take a few seasons to weed out the remnants of a previous era, but the Colts didn’t waste much time at all moving in a new direction.

Chuch Pagano will bring a new look to Indianapolis’ defense and Cory Redding should make their transition to a hybrid 3-4 defense much smoother. Last year he was actually ranked as the #16 defensive end by Pro Football Focus and signing him to a  three-year, $10.5 million deal shouldn’t be a huge mistake. I’m very interested to see if Mathis can be effective standing up. If not, he could end up being a pretty serious liability, as the Colts invested $36 million over  four-years in a 31-year-old. It’s worth noting that this deal is front loaded which should prevent them from being hand cuffed in the coming years. The Reggie Wayne signing was a surprise, but he’s better than many want to give him credit for being, even at this stage in his career.

Now to the subtractions. They got rid of Peyton Manning and I’m sure that you understand the significance of this so I won’t waste anymore time on the subject. The fact that Pierre Garcon turned down a reported five-year deal worth $35 million from the Colts could end up being a blessing for them, assuming that they find a decent receiver in the draft. Losing Saturday, Clark, Addai, Bullitt, and Gonzalez isn’t  going to hurt them much at all considering that all of them aren’t expected to be huge contributors in the coming years. Transitions are usually tough to begin with, but it made little sense to carry these guys along for another season. Jacob Tamme is an underrated player that I would have considered re-signing, but the Colts didn’t show that much interest in retaining him. Maybe they’re planning on targeting a TE in the draft?

Andrew Luck will be asked to do what Manning was able to do for them year’s ago, which is to be the cornerstone for this franchise.  Indy will really need improve their offensive weapons, O-line, and secondary, but no one’s expecting them to compete for a title right out of the gate.

C

 

 Jaguars

Additions: DE Jeremy Mincey (R), WR Laurent Robinson, CB Rashean Mathis (R), S Dwight Lowery (R), K Josh Scobee (F), LB Russell Allen (R), QB Chad Henne, CB Aaron Ross

Subtractions:

Jacksonville came into the offseason with plenty of money to spend, and although they did sign some players, it’s hard to say that they’re going to get their money’s worth out of them.

To start, I really like that they were able to re-sign Jeremy Mincey. Great move for them. Mincey should be able to provide a solid pass rush in the coming year’s, but they’ll have to find a better compliment than Aaron Kampman. Matt Roth isn’t expected to be back, so drafting someone in the early rounds seems pretty plausible. Chad Henne had to know that signing with Jacksonville was going to be his best shot at starting in the near future. Blaine Gabbert still has time to turn things around, but he’ll have to show improvement in a number of areas to hold off the calls for Henne. The Jag’s had to find a better receiving option, and while I’m Laurent Robinson will be an upgrade, he’s by no mean’s worth the contract that they gave him. His 11 td’s got him paid, but he was looking to make a roster a year ago before catching on with the Cowboys. He’s young and has plenty of potential, but it’s a risk to give him a  five-year, $32.5 million contract that includes $13.8 million guaranteed. They chose to keep Rashean Mathis, which I can understand to some degree, but I’m skeptical about Aaron Ross being a true solution to their cornerback needs.

They didn’t lose anyone so I guess that’s a benefit, but they weren’t exactly the most talented team last season. Jacksonville really needs to hit a home run this year in the draft, which is something that they’ve been unable to do in year’s past.

C-

 

 Titans

Additions: LB Kamerion Wimbley, S Michael Griffin (F), G Steve Hutchinson, S Jordan Babineaux (R)

Subtractions: CB Cortland Finnegan, DT Jason Jones

The Tennessee Titans have taken a pretty balanced approach towards building their team. The decision to make a sudden run at Peyton Manning had more to do with owner Bud Adams than the people that were hired to do the job.

The Titans wasted no time in re-signing Jordan Babineaux and franchising Michael Griffin. Babineaux isn’t close to Griffin in terms of talent, but they were able to keep him for a reasonable two-year deal worth $3.2 million contract. Still don’t love it. After that, they addressed their most pressing  needs by adding Steve Hutchinson and Kamerion Wimbley. Tennessee was hoping to get an interview with Mario Williams, but the Bills were smart enough to prevent him from leaving Buffalo. With that being said, the Titans were still able to find a great pass rusher. Wimbley is one year removed from tallying 16 sacks for the Raiders and was actually rated as the #3 best 4-3 OLB last year by Pro Football Focus.  They gave him a five-year deal worth $35 million and $13.5 million guaranteed so it a pretty serious investment, but they had to find some that could get to the QB. As I mentioned in the NFC North grades, Hutchinson was a great addition considering the productive season that he put together last year. The Titans had to shore up their interior offensive line and he should certainly be able to do that for them.

While it may seem strange that the Titans should almost no interest in retaining Cortland Finnegan, there is some sense to the move. Finnegan was going to land a huge contract on the open market at some point. The Titans could have used their franchise tag on him but they would’ve had to address his contract next season anyways. St Louis gave him a five-year, $50 million contract, with $24 million guaranteed which could definitely end up being a albatross in the coming years. While he is coming off of a very productive season last year, he was rated as the #98 CB out of 100 in 2012 by Pro Football Focus, so there’s no guaranteeing that he’s going to be as productive. They totally misused Jason Jones last year, and it really didn’t seem like he wanted to return, despite their interest in keeping him. It would be wise to address both positions at some point in the upcoming draft.

C

 

 Texans

Additions: RB Arian Foster (re-signed), C Chris Myers (re-signed)

Subtractions: DE Mario Williams, OT Eric Winston, TE Joel Dreessen, LB DeMeco Ryans, CB Jason Allen, G Mike Brisiel, QB Matt Leinart, FB Lawrence Vickers

Almost no team was hit harder than the Houston Texans during free agency this year.

There was no way that they were going to be able to keep Mario Williams considering that franchising him was out of the question. They couldn’t come anywhere near the six-year, $96 million contract with $50 million in guarantees that the Bills gave him. I’m sure that releasing Eric Winston wasn’t a move that they were happy to make either. He’s a very solid RT and the Chiefs must be pretty happy that they were able to land him. Trading Ryans isn’t the worst move considering the position that he plays and the fact that Kevin Bentley should be able to fill in for him. Swapping third-round picks and adding a fourth is alright, but they also cleared some much needed cap space with the move. Joel Dreessen is an underrated rated player and Jason Allen was pretty good at creating turnovers despite his average at best coverage skills.

Houston did managed to keep, arguably, the best C in football. It seemed as though Meyers had little interest in playing elsewhere. He should really help to stabilize their O-line in the year’s to come. You can’t argue with locking up Foster either. They had get him under contract and prevent him from reaching the open market next season. Houston gave him a five-year, $43.5 million contract that includes  $20.75 million guarantees.

The Texans will have to find a better compliment to Andre Johnson in the draft and adding depth to both their defensive and offensive lines would also make a lot of sense.

D

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