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AFC South Offseason Grades: Texans On Rise?

Which AFC South team made the biggest waves this offseason? Fan Nation publishers analyze:

The Houston Texans are coming off of a very difficult season in 2021, and are in the midst of one of the most important off-seasons in franchise history.

And so far, the Texans have passed that offseason test with flying colors, adding substantial young talent to the roster, and ridding themselves of a major burden in the process.

However, the Texans were far from the only team in the AFC South that made big improvements,

With that in mind, Fan Nation publishers got together and graded the offseason for each team in the division.

Who made the biggest improvements? Who still needs the most help? Find out below:


HOUSTON TEXANS

Key additions:
Derek Stingley Jr., CB (draft); Kenyon Green, OL (draft); Jalen Pitre, S (draft); John Metchie III, WR (draft); Kyle Allen, QB (FA) Cedric Ogbuehi, OT (FA); Maliek Collins, DT (FA); A.J. Cann, G (FA); Stephen Nelson, CB (FA); Mario Addison, DE (FA); Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB (FA); Raheem Green, DE (FA); Andy Janovich, FB (FA)

Key losses: Justin Reid, S (FA); Jake Martin, OLB (FA); Tyrod Taylor, QB (FA); AJ Moore, S (FA);

Offseason Grade: A. The Texans had a fantastic offseason on all fronts, most notably through the draft, where they landed potentially four immediate starters in Stingley, Pitre, Green and Metchie III. But they also did an excellent job making financially smart free-agent signings at priority positions as well, including backup quarterback, defensive end and along the offensive line. But their biggest and best move of the offseason was trading Deshaun Watson to Cleveland, and clearing out the cloud that hung over the franchise.

Biggest question: How will Lovie Smith fix this team? The Texans were broken last season. A lot of that had to do with Watson. However, Smith has seemingly come in and revitalized the franchise. Can he keep it going when the losses start mounting up? — Matt Galatzan

Fantasy fact: The Texans will head into this season with Davis Mills as their starting quarterback. He won’t bring much fantasy fanfare in drafts, but he did finish his rookie year strong. Mills actually ranked 10th in fantasy points among signal-callers over the final five weeks and outscored Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and Jalen Hurts during that time. — Fabiano


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Key additions:
Christian Kirk, WR (FA); Travon Walker, OLB (draft); Brandon Scherff, OG (FA); Foyesade Oluokun, LB (FA); Evan Engram, TE (FA); Devin Lloyd, LB (draft); Foley Fatukasi, DL (FA); Darious Williams, CB (FA); Zay Jones, WR (FA)

Key losses: DJ Chark, WR (FA); Myles Jack, LB (FA); Andrew Norwell, OG (FA); A.J. Cann, OG (FA); Taven Bryan, DL (FA); Brandon Linder, C (retired)

Offseason grade: B-. The Jaguars were one of the most aggressive teams in free agency, giving significant contracts to Kirk, Scherff, Fatukasi, Williams, Oluokun, Engram and Jones. That is a long and expensive list of players with perhaps only one name who is considered a top talent at his position: Scherff. But the Jaguars significantly improved a roster that didn’t have much depth or experienced talent. While the Jaguars did overpay (four years, $84 million for Kirk) for several players, each player represents a clear upgrade to what the Jaguars had at the position last year. Whether this is a sustainable model for team building is questionable, but the Jaguars entered this offseason hoping to improve defensively and in the wide receiver and tight end room, and their moves did just that. The Jaguars’ draft was one of the more unique ones this year. They bucked conventional wisdom at No. 1 in Georgia’s Walker and then added a defensive player with two of their next three picks (Lloyd at No. 27, Muma at No. 70). The Jaguars turned linebacker and edge rusher into two strengths after a year in which each unit suffered through injuries and poor depth. And Luke Fortner, who was taken with the No. 65 pick, will instantly give the Jaguars improved depth at both center and guard.

Biggest question: Can running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne stay healthy? Both are coming off serious season-ending injuries from a year ago. Etienne suffered a Lisfranc fracture in the preseason but was cleared for full practice at the start of OTAs, going on to shine with his explosiveness this spring. Robinson, meanwhile, suffered a torn Achilles in Week 16 and his return is uncertain. How close either is to 100% and what kind of impact they can have on the offense is a major question moving forward. — John Shipley

Fantasy fact: The Jaguars signed Kirk to a four-year, $72 million contract in the offseason. Over the last decade, the Jags have had just three receivers record more than 200 fantasy points and just one since 2016. Those wideouts, Allen Robinson, D.J. Chark and Allen Hurns, are also the lone receivers to post 1,000-plus yards during that time. — Fabiano

Jaguars Report: More on Jacksonville’s offseason

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TENNESSEE TITANS

Key additions: Treylon Burks, WR; DaShawn Hand, DE (FA); Austin Hooper, TE (FA); Roger McCreary, CB (draft); A.J. Moore, S (FA); Demarcus Walker, DL (FA); Malik Willis, QB (draft); Robert Woods, WR (trade)

Key losses: A.J. Brown, WR (trade); Jayon Brown, ILB (FA); Darrynton Evans, RB (released); Rashaan Evans, ILB (FA); Anthony Firkser, TE (FA); D’Onta Foreman, RB (FA); Jackrabbit Jenkins, CB (released); Julio Jones, WR (released); David Quessenberry, RT (FA); Rodger Saffiold, LG (released)

Offseason grade: C. GM Jon Robinson once again navigated a difficult salary cap situation with the release of several key veterans. Robinson also avoided any in-season contract drama with the trade of Brown to the Eagles during the first round of the draft.

There are serious questions about whether the Titans effectively filled the holes in their roster. There are no obvious replacements for Saffold and Quessenberry, who were fixtures on an offensive line that allowed too many sacks. The only proven wide receivers on the roster are Woods, who is on the mend from reconstructive knee surgery during the second half of last season, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, an undrafted rookie in 2020 who has 41 career receptions.

Burks, the 18th pick in the draft, was alternately limited or unavailable for on-field work throughout the offseason because of issues with asthma. That comes after 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Wilson was cut after one forgettable season and 2021 first-round choice Caleb Farley contributed almost nothing because of injury issues.

Biggest question: Who is going to be quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s go-to guy on the outside? Brown was Tennessee’s leading receiver in each of his first three years in the league, and it was clear how much Tannehill trusted him. Westbrook-Ikhine is the only one who has any kind of established relationship with Tannehill. Someone has to emerge from a group that includes veteran journeyman Josh Malone, 2021 fourth-round pick Dez Fitzpatrick and long-time practice squad members Cody Hollister and Mason Kinsey as reliable and productive options, particularly while Woods and Burks work themselves into the offense. — David Boclair

Fantasy fact: Derrick Henry rushed the ball 219 times in eight games last season before getting hurt. That pace would have resulted in a full-season total of 465 carries, which would have shattered Larry Johnson’s NFL record 416 carries (2006). Between the regular season and playoffs, Henry has a league-high 1,021 carries since 2019. That’s a ton of work. — Fabiano

All Titans: More on Tennessee’s offseason


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Key additions:
Matt Ryan, QB (trade); Yannick Ngakoue, DE (trade); Stephon Gilmore, CB (FA); Matt Pryor, OL (re-signed); Mo Alie-Cox, TE (re-signed); Alec Pierce, WR (draft); Nick Cross, S (draft); Brandon Facyson, CB (FA)

Key losses: Carson Wentz, QB (trade); Eric Fisher, OT (FA); Mark Glowinski, G (FA); Jack Doyle, TE (retired); Rock Ya-Sin, CB (trade); Zach Pascal, WR (FA); Khari Willis, S (retired); Xavier Rhodes, CB (FA); Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE (FA)

Offseason grade: A-. The Colts made significant upgrades at arguably the two most important positions; quarterback and edge rusher, while keeping much of their nucleus intact. Last year’s team looked like it could’ve beaten anyone in the NFL but one of its biggest issues was erratic quarterback play. Ryan should bring the stability, accountability and leadership the Colts are looking for. As for edge rusher, Ngakoue has been one of the NFL’s most consistent pass rushers throughout his career, never recording fewer than 44 total pressures (per PFF). The addition of Gilmore also represents an upgrade to the secondary. The Colts wisely moved on from Wentz and Fisher. However, not signing proven players at left tackle or wide receiver keeps them from receiving an even higher grade.

Biggest question: Who's the No. 1 receiver? The biggest mystery on the Colts roster is the pass catchers, both wide receivers and tight ends. The Colts elected not to sign established outside veterans in these spots, rather relying on the young players already on the roster and fortifying the group with explosive young talent through the draft. Still, behind top wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and tight end Mo Alie-Cox, none of the key players expected to contribute in 2022 had more than 13 receptions in 2021. The Colts will also rely heavily on running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines in the passing game, lessening the urgency at receiver and tight end, but proven depth is still lacking at those positions. Will a couple of players rise to the occasion in camp as the Colts expect? — Chad Jenson

Fantasy fact: During Ryan’s 14 years in Atlanta, the Falcons had 16 instances of wide receivers scoring 200-plus fantasy points. That includes Julio Jones and Roddy White, who each had at least one season with more than 300 points. That’s positive news for Pittman Jr., who had a near 26 percent target share in the Colts offense last season. — FabianoHorseshoe Huddle: More on Indianapolis’ offseason

Horseshoe Huddle: More on Indianapolis’ offseason