Inside AFC South: Deal or No Deal?

The weekly series on AFC South Division developments focuses on if the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, or Tennessee Titans will make a trade before Tuesday’s deadline.
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As the NFL trade deadline approaches on Tuesday, what possible moves could be made by AFC South Division teams?

The Tennessee Titans (5-1) and Indianapolis Colts (4-2) might look to add a player at a need position to boost playoff pushes. The Houston Texans (1-6) and Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) can try to stockpile draft picks by dealing players who aren’t in the long-term plan.

Here’s what writers for the Sports Illustrated-powered sites of each team suggested when asked, “Deal or no deal?”

The Houston Texans could make wide receiver Will Fuller V available for a move before Tuesday's NFL trade deadline.

Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V could be available for trade.

Houston Texans

Matt Galatzan/Texans Daily

The Texans season has gotten off to a disastrous start, and sitting at 1-6, it’s aall but over. They are struggling mightily on offense and the defense has been just as bad, if not worse.

A tough schedule has not helped their cause, but it has quickly become apparent that the former administration had all but burned things to the ground before being dismissed.

The problem for the Texans, however, is that they were left with next to nothing in terms of draft capital. In other words, if they’re going to get out of this situation, they’re going to have to make multiple trades to try build back capital.

The Texans recently made it clear that they are open for business. However, they also made it clear that J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, Laremy Tunsil, and Titus Howard are off-limits.

Outside of that, the Texans are open to trading anyone, and with a good deal of depth at wideout, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, and Will Fuller, seem like a logical place to start.

While Cooks is still on a long-term deal, Stills, Fuller, and Cobb are movable, and if a contending team comes along looking to solidify depth, the Texans would surely jump at the chance to add some picks.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebackers Zach Cunningham and Whitney Mercilus are possible, but would be difficult to move given hefty contracts.

One trade already has been made. Defensive tackle Eli Ankou was shipped to the Dallas Cowboys for a future seventh-round pick. That deal was minor, not the type that is going to move the needle for a team clearly in a rebuild. Perhaps the Ankou deal was just a tipping point before other players are moved.

Washington tight end Ryan Kerrigan could be moved before Tuesday's NFL trade deadline.

The Colts could aid the pass rush with Washington's Ryan Kerrigan.

Indianapolis Colts

Phillip B. Wilson/AllColts

General manager Chris Ballard is known for hoarding draft picks, trading down in each of his four drafts to acquire more. So the idea of him parting with a pick to acquire a veteran rental before the trade deadline is unlikely.

But he deviated from his modus operandi in March by sending a first-round draft choice to acquire All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. And then Ballard gave Buckner a four-year, $84-million extension to lock up the three-technique defender as a cornerstone. Buckner has been as solid as expected.

In scanning a short list of possible acquisitions, don’t expect a young star in his prime like Buckner. The Colts could consider adding either a pass rusher like Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan or a wide receiver like Cincinnati’s A.J. Green.

Why pass rusher? The Colts have had just four sacks in three games. Defensive end Justin Houston is in a contract year and didn’t do anything in his last two starts. Defensive end/tackle Denico Autry is also in a contract year and his two sacks came in the season opener. Third-year defensive end Kemoko Turay, who is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, started practicing for the first time this week in his possible return from surgery on a fractured ankle suffered in Week 5 last season. The Colts have three weeks to decide if Turay can help, and it’s understandable if it takes some time to get up to speed.

Perhaps Kerrigan, who has four sacks in seven games, could do enough in the second half to stick. And even if it’s a rental situation, he could help a decent defense that has had just four sacks in the past three games.

Depth at wide receiver has plagued this team for two years and counting. The Colts probably can’t count on second-year wide receiver Parris Campbell returning from knee surgery, and even if so, his inability to stay healthy makes him unreliable. Veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton hasn’t played up to past four-time Pro Bowl form in a contract year, which means his future is in doubt. A big wide receiver would address an obvious need.

The problem with Green is he could get hurt, too. The seven-time Pro Bowl star once considered among the NFL’s elite pass-catchers missed all of last season with an ankle injury. He was also sidelined for seven games in 2018. He has just 29 receptions for 297 yards in seven games, but his best game came two weeks ago against the Colts, when Green caught eight passes for 96 yards.

If Ballard decides to pull the trigger, giving up a mid- or late-round draft choice would be a small price to pay, especially when considering he would likely get a pick back by trading down again in the next draft. The Colts have missed the playoffs in four of five years and have shoved a lot of chips into the proverbial pot to make the postseason. One more move would make sense.

New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon is mentioned as a popular acquisition before Tuesday's NFL trade deadline.

Jets tight end Chris Herndon is a popular trade possibility.

Jacksonville Jaguars

John Shipley/JaguarReport

At 1-6, the Jaguars are far from having the kind of start to a season they wanted. The defense has been among the league's worst, while the offense has cooled off in a big way since the first two games. That said, the Jaguars have a few interesting options at the trade deadline to improve the team moving forward, even if they aren't going to win many games.

With 11 picks in the 2021 NFL draft, including five picks in the first three rounds, the Jaguars are in a position to make any moves they want. They have the capital to acquire players they think could fill voids on the roster beyond 2021. Two players who automatically make sense are New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon and Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris.

The Jaguars have a bleak outlook at tight end past 2020 due to injuries to Josh Oliver and the ineffective Tyler Eifert. Herndon hasn't been impactful this season, but he has talent that can be unlocked in the right scheme. Harris would be a major upgrade at strong safety. Josh Jones has been one of the team's bigger liabilities on defense and the Jaguars have the cap space to afford to give Harris a long-term deal.

If the Jaguars opt to be sellers, they have limited options. D.J. Hayden and Dede Westbrook had trade value but Hayden is on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and Westbrook sustained a serious knee injury in Week 7, placing him on injured reserve. Defensive tackle and former first-round pick Taven Bryan may have some minor trade value, but no team is going to give up a major pick for him. Ultimately, the Jaguars will likely be rather quiet on the trade front, but they do have some options and different directions to consider.

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown breaks free against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Titans might want to acquire a wide receiver to take some of the burden off Pro Bowl star A.J. Brown.

Tennessee Titans

David Boclair/AllTitans

At 5-1, the Titans are in an enviable position. There’s no question about whether they should add talent prior to the trade deadline, if the opportunity presents itself, or look to offload talent. Plus, given their record, the fact that they lead the division and that they have not played their best, there’s no pressing need to make a move.

If there’s one area that needs to be addressed, it’s the pass rush. Only one team has fewer sacks than the Titans’ seven, and the team leader is Jeffery Simmons, an interior defensive lineman, with two. Harold Landry, who had a team-high nine in 2019, has just one and a half.

Here’s the thing, though: management spent more than $20 million on free agents Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley during the offseason, and so far, neither one has a sack (or even half a sack). Any additional moves in that regard would feel like throwing good money after bad, so that’s not likely to happen.

If there is a deal to be made, more likely it is at wide receiver. With A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries, Tennessee has three proven and capable performers (they’re the team’s three leading receivers). Beyond that trio are players like Kalif Raymond, Cody Hollister, and Cameron Batson, guys who have one or two things they do well, and coaches use them accordingly.

A well-rounded veteran who could play any of the three positions would be useful – and probably would not cost much, given the influx of dynamic receivers that now occurs annually. At present, the Titans hold 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including three in the sixth round. So, a deal can be made.

(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is phillipbwilson24@yahoo.com.)