2021 Offseason Team Needs: Colts, Jaguars, Texans, Titans

     

Thanks for checking out our 2021 Offseason Team Needs previews. Consider this a primer for the goals each team has to accomplish this offseason and the resources they have to work with. 

A couple of notes. Salary cap projections are from Over The Cap and based on a cap of $180.5 million. That number could ultimately be different depending on what the NFL and NFLPA figure out before free agency. Compensatory picks are also from OTC’s projections, which are historically the most accurate in the industry. Their methodology is outlined here.

With that, let’s get into it:

Colts

Projected Cap Space: $69,197,114

Draft Picks: 7

  • 1st (No. 21)
  • 2nd (No. 54)
  • 3rd (No. 85)
  • 4th (No. 118)
  • 5th (No. 149)
  • 6th (No. 182)
  • 7th (No. 213)

Notable Free Agents: CB Xavier Rhodes, WR T.Y. Hilton, S Malik Hooker, DE Justin Houston, LB Anthony Walker, QB Jacoby Brissett, DL Denico Autry, RB Marlon Mack, TE Trey Burton, CB T.J. Carrie, OT Le’Raven Clark, S Tavon Wilson, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, OT Chaz Green, C Joey Hunt

  1. Quarterback

It’s hard not to play the what-if game with the Colts. With how good the rest of the roster is, what if Andrew Luck hadn’t retired? Colts GM Chris Ballard can’t dwell on that, though, he has to find the next franchise quarterback for a franchise that was blessed to get Luck as Peyton Manning was walking out the door. It’s typically much harder to fix the position and the Colts seem to be learning that now. They weren’t willing to go hard in the paint to get Matthew Stafford and now might have to resort to either Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold or perhaps a trade-up in the draft. The worst-case scenario appears to be re-signing Brissett and running back the 2019 season, hoping there’s a different result if Brissett can stay healthy. 

2. Left Tackle

Finding a quarterback alone would be hard enough. But complicating Ballard’s job this offseason is the retirement of LT Anthony Castonzo, opening up a huge hole at left tackle. That’s a premium position that usually requires a premium investment to fill, but the Colts will face some challenges managing their resources to fill both this spot and quarterback, along with their other needs. Indianapolis does have the second-most cap space in the NFL, though, if they wanted to make a run at someone like 49ers LT Trent Williams.

3. Defensive End

Ballard is a big believer in keeping the offensive and defensive lines strong, which is why he was willing to pull the trigger on trading a first-round pick at No. 12 overall last year to get DT DeForest Buckner and promptly pay him $21 million a year. But the Colts weren’t completely where they wanted to be in that area in 2020. They were 12th in the NFL in sacks with 40 but didn’t have any one player in double digits. Houston led the edge rushers with eight sacks and the 32-year-old is a pending free agent. Indianapolis has high hopes for young pass rushers like Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu and Tyquan Lewis, but they need proven production here to really be a contender. 

Jaguars

Projected Cap Space: $77,514,963

Draft Picks: 11

  • 1st (No. 1)
  • 1st (No. 25, from LAR)
  • 2nd (No. 33)
  • 2nd (No. 45, from MIN)
  • 3rd (No. 65)
  • 4th (No. 97)
  • 4th (No. 121, from LAR)
  • 5th (No. 129)
  • 5th (No. 154, from CLE)
  • 7th (No. 193)
  • 7th (No. 214, from TEN)

Notable Free Agents: LT Cam Robinson, CB D.J. Hayden, DE Dawuane Smoot, C Tyler Shatley, WR Keelan Cole, CB Sidney Jones, WR Chris Conley, WR Dede Westbrook, DT Abry Jones, RB Chris Thompson, DL Adam Gotsis, QB Mike Glennon

  1. Left Tackle

Let’s just venture out slightly onto a limb and posit that the Jaguars will address their hole at quarterback by drafting Trevor Lawrence. From there, keeping him upright and healthy to throw to their surprisingly underrated cast of skill position players should be the priority. That’s where the need for left tackle comes in, as Robinson was the weak link in an otherwise solid starting line. The Jaguars will have a chance to upgrade with his replacement. 

  1. Defensive Line

Defense is still where the Jaguars need major help. They’ve spent first-round picks in consecutive drafts on pass rushers like Josh Allen and K’lavon Chaisson but they still need help along the rest of their defensive line. One more impact interior player could go a long way toward helping the defense back to respectability. 

  1. Safety

The Jaguars’ secondary as a whole is a weakness, but they’ve put some effort into addressing cornerback recently at least. 2020 first-round rookie C.J. Henderson had some good moments and Eagles castoff Sidney Jones looked competent at times as well. Safety, however, is a rough patchwork collection of former waivers claims and undrafted free agents. A playmaker or two here could do wonders. 

Texans

Projected Cap Space: $3,305,070

Draft Picks: 8

  • 3rd (No. 67)
  • 4th (No. 100)
  • 4th (No. 113, from ARI)
  • 5th (No. 131)
  • 6th (No. 164)
  • 6th (No. 178, from MIA)
  • 6th (No. 188, from HOU)
  • 7th (No. 195)

Notable Free Agents: WR Will Fuller, LB Tyrell Adams, S Michael Thomas, CB Vernon Hargreaves, CB Gareon Conley, QB A.J. McCarron, LB Brennan Scarlett, CB Phillip Gaines

  1. Cornerback

The Texans would have had plenty to worry about this offseason without pissing off their superstar quarterback, as years of roster mismanagement have left things in bad shape and also handicapped Houston’s ability to fix things. The team has a huge hole at cornerback that it’s tried to fix but so far unsuccessfully. New DC Lovie Smith will put more of a premium on zone-style corners than the man-to-man prototype his predecessors did, which can be easier to find. But the Texans still have little choice but to keep throwing resources here, as it’s impossible to compete without competent cover corners. 

2. Defensive End

J.J. Watt moving on was predictable but still leaves a gaping void on the Texans defense that will need to be filled. Watt’s injuries in recent seasons mean Houston isn’t entirely unfamiliar with life without him in the lineup, but there’s a stark difference in their pass-rush productivity when he’s been absent. Houston has a couple of players who could develop into roles on the interior, like Charles Omenihu and 2020 second-round DT Ross Blacklock, but finding another edge rusher across from Whitney Mercilus will be vital. Mercilus is another player who might have been on the chopping block had he not just signed an extension that made moving on prohibitive, for now. 

3. Guard

The Texans struggled mightily to run the ball this past season despite a major investment in the running back position. In consecutive seasons, Houston traded a third-round pick and star WR DeAndre Hopkins for Duke Johnson and David Johnson. Those two might bear some responsibility for the run game struggles but to their credit they often didn’t have a lot of room to work with. Max Scharping, Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete struggled to be effective and while Houston recently spent a second-round pick on Scharping, they don’t have the same investment in the other two to stop them from trying to upgrade. 

Titans

Projected Cap Space: -$3,079,736

Draft Picks: 8

  • 1st (No. 22)
  • 2nd (No. 53)
  • 3rd (No. 86)
  • 3rd (comp)
  • 4th (No. 117)
  • 5th (No. 150)
  • 6th (No. 161, from JAX)
  • 6th (No. 191, from KC)

Notable Free Agents: DE Jadeveon Clowney, WR Corey Davis, TE Jonnu Smith, CB Desmond King, LB Jayon Brown, DL DaQuan Jones, K Stephen Gostkowski, OT Ty Sambrailo, DL Jack Crawford, LB Will Compton, RB D’Onta Foreman

  1. Outside Linebacker

Despite adding Clowney and Vic Beasley, the Titans got no sacks out of either and saw their pass rush drop off precipitously, notching just 19 sacks in 2020 compared to 43 the year before. Beasley is already gone and Clowney could follow him out the door but the Titans will still need to address their pass rush, as it was the root of a lot of their issues on defense. 

  1. Wide Receiver

Not only is Davis a pending free agent, but there’s a strong chance the Titans will release WR Adam Humphries to save some cap space to address other issues. That leaves A.J. Brown and not much else in Tennessee’s receiving corps. While the Titans’ main focus on offense remains running the ball, which allays the need for a deep receiving corps to some extent, they still probably need to make multiple additions here if Davis finds a richer paycheck elsewhere as is expected. 

  1. Defensive Line

Two of the Titans’ three starters on the defensive line are pending free agents in Crawford and Jones. If Tennessee doesn’t bring either or both back, that moves the interior defensive line up on their list of needs to surround DT Jeffery Simmons, who looks like a budding star. Boosting this position would be another way to improve the Titans’ lackluster pass rush. 

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