Free Agency Needs: AFC South
With the 2020 NFL season finally over, the preparation for the 2021 season has finally begun.
The 2021 NFL salary cap will drop within a range of $10-20 million, teams will need to be smart with how they spend their money. The Tactician analyzes which positions each team should target and what free agents are affordable and can fit that role. Our first edition will cover AFC South.
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): -0.049 (28th)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.168 (31st)
Draft Position: 1
Team Needs: QB, OT, CB
Barring a trade for Deshaun Watson, the Jaguars should be taking Trevor Lawrence with the first pick this upcoming draft.
They will also need protection for Lawrence as incumbent LT Cam Robinson is a FA and the unit as a whole finished 25th in pass block win rate per ESPN.
Finally, they need to find secondary reinforcements for their bottom barrel defense either via FA or the draft as they finished with the second-worst EPA/dropback allowed this past year.
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.093 (7th)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.168 (30th)
Draft Position: 3
Team Needs: IDL, CB, RB
Houston has put itself in a very tough spot because of the Laremy Tunsil trade. Assuming that Deshaun Watson is still on the roster and playing, the first priority for the Texans is to find an IDL, as they finished with the league’s worst EPA/rush allowed last year
Bradley Roby is a solid number one corner, but he is nearing 30 years old which tends to be the point where many corners regress. The Texans need to find a corner outside of Roby as starters Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves are both FA this year.
David Johnson only has one more year on his contract and he could be cut to create cap space this year so finding a new starting RB this draft is a need for the Texans.
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.091 (9th)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.003 (9th)
Draft Position: 21
Team Needs: WR, OT, CB
Longtime star wide receiver TY Hilton is set to be a free agent, which likely means Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell will be the top 2 WR for the Colts. They could use a savvy route running technician as Pittman is a possession WR and Campbell is a burner.
The Colts lost their cornerstone LT Anthony Castonzo to retirement, and the Colts should focus on giving Carson Wentz as much protection as possible to try and recreate his 2017 MVP form.
Xavier Rhodes had an excellent bounce-back season on a one-year prove-it deal, but he will likely command too much money for the Colts to give him. He will likely leave the Colts in FA meaning they need a true CB 1 opposite Rock Ya-Sin for them to contend next year.
Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.177 (2nd)
Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.133 (28th)
Draft Position: 22
Team Needs: Edge, WR, TE
The Titans finished the year with 19 sacks which was third worst last year and finished 21st in EPA/rush allowed. The FA signings of Jadaveon Clowney and Vic Beasley failed, so the Titans must invest in the edge position to consistently generate pressure and be able to stop the run.
Corey Davis is set to be a FA and the former fifth overall pick had a career year which could lead to a big payday. While AJ Brown is one of the best young receivers in the league, he will need another playmaker alongside him to keep this offense at an elite level.
Jonnu Smith is another FA who had a good year and could seek more money elsewhere. Given that the Titans use TEs regularly in their offense to help block for Derrick Henry, they need to find an able replacement for Smith that is an able blocker and reliable WR.
Contributors: Arjun Menon, Ray Matera, Anthony Molina, and Sam Mattson.