Free Agency marks the beginning of a new league year and is often characterized by over-spending, buyer’s remorse and ultimately salary cap purgatory. Hopefully your favorite team gets it right and adds the missing link via free agency rather than trying to build their team through the annual NFL Off-season Sweepstakes.
Estimated Cap Space: $36 million
Key Free Agents: Mike Adams S; Darius Butler CB; Corey Redding DT/DE; Ahmad Bradshaw RB; Hakeem Nicks WR; Reggie Wayne WR
Team Needs: DE, DT, RB, OLB, S, T
First Round Pick: 29th Overall
Synopsis: In order for the Colts to overtake the Patriots they have to improve substantially on defense. It starts with the front seven. Haloti Ngata and Colts’ head coach Chuck Pagano have history together in Baltimore. The Colts would do well to acquire him to anchor their defensive line. Terrance Knighton would be a good fit as well considering how poorly the Colts’ defense played against the run last season. Defensive end Arik Armstead of Oregon is a tailored made 5-technique for an odd man front, he may be in play at pick #29. The next order of business from a free agency standpoint is edge rusher, outside linebackers that can consistently pressure the quarterback. The starting combination of Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner combined for only 10 sacks and failed to consistently set the edge against the run. Pernell McPhee and/or Brian Orakpo (if he can stay healthy) would be significant upgrades. I think the writing is on the wall for Trent Richardson. With the Colts tendering running back Daniel Herron they can pair him with a physical (and effective) back like Ryan Mathews. If the Colts really want to make a splash at the position they could swing for the fences and attempt to outbid their division rival Jacksonville Jaguars for Demarco Murray.
Estimated Cap Space: $6 million
Key Free Agents: Ryan Mallet QB; Kendrick Lewis S; Ryan Pickett DT; Brooks Reed OLB
Team Needs: QB, DT, WR, OLB, S, CB
First Round Pick: 16th Overall
Synopsis: The Texans cap situation isn’t as dire as it seems. They have managed to retain two of their better players in Kareem Jackson and Derek Newton who are both squarely in the prime of their careers which is the appropriate way to build your team. The Texans have decided to move on from Andre Johnson and will likely designate Johnson a Post June 1 cut which will result in about $11 million in savings if they are unable to trade him. However, that move generates a need at receiver. Long-time starter Jonathan Joseph isn’t getting any younger and there is a lack of options at corner in free agency. It may behoove the Texans to go corner at #16 and receiver in the 2nd round of the draft. Rahim Moore would be a shrewd acquisition at safety if the Texans don’t retain Kendrick Lewis and they need a nose tackle to anchor the defensive line. A situational 3-4 pass rusher may be needed as insurance if Jadeveon Clowney continues to have complications with his knee. I may have buried the lead but the Texans obviously need a quarterback. Re-signing Ryan Mallet on a short-term deal may be the best course of action.
Estimated Cap Space: $68 million
Key Free Agents: Geno Hayes OLB; Cecil Shorts III WR; Alan Ball CB
Team Needs: RB, DE, S, T, G, OLB, TE, CB
First Round Pick: 3rd Overall
Synopsis: The Jaguars are expected to sign Julius Thomas at the opening of free agency. Tight End isn’t a glaring need but with cash to spend and a need to add talent throughout the roster Julius Thomas isn’t a bad investment. Jacksonville has also been linked to Demarco Murray and given that they have to reach the cap floor, paying top dollar to keep Murray from the Cowboys or Colts won’t torpedo the Jags’ cap situation down the road. The only other “splash” signing I would recommend is Bryan Bulaga, considering his age (25-years-old) and the Jaguars’ glaring need to protect Blake Bortles. However, the Jaguars cannot try to build their team by throwing money around indiscriminately. The must target young, upcoming free agent options at reasonable prices (easier said than done) and hit in the draft. Pass rusher is a no brainer for the Jags at pick #3 in the draft. Resist the urge to blow all that cash, the Jags aren’t going to be contenders in 2015.
Estimated Cap Space: $46 million
Key Free Agents: Derrick Morgan OLB; Jake Locker QB; Michael Oher OT; Michael Roos OT; Nate Washington WR
Team Needs: QB, RB, T, DE, DT, ILB, MLB, CB, S
First Round Pick: 2nd Overall
Synopsis: The Titans’ have one of the least talented rosters and no quarterback. Unless the Titans draft Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota they could very well go into the 2015 season with Charlie Whitehurst as their starting quarterback. I think the Titans should be on the phone with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles want Mariota and he will likely be available at pick #2. If the Titans can net Nick Foles (upgrade to Charlie Whitehurst but not necessarily the answer) and a host of draft picks from the Eagles in 2015 and 2016 that could put them on the path to turning things around. They may lose out on Leonard Williams but they have so many needs they need to put that 2nd overall pick to use and turn it into 8-10 draft picks and hopefully they hit on 4-5 of them. That being said, their approach to free agency should mirror that of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One or two high price tag players in their prime (Bryan Bulaga, Demarco Murray) and a host of young, cost-effective talent.