What a mess the AFC South has become. The Indianapolis Colts were handed the division on a silver platter and instead of building around Andrew Luck and constructing a powerhouse, they’ve floundered and made poor decisions at every turn.
Now they have a depleted roster that wasn’t even good enough for second place in a division that was won by the Houston Texans, a team quarterbacked by Brock Osweiler. The Tennessee Titans seem to be on the right track with Marcus Mariota though, and the Jacksonville Jaguars seemed so close before last season started and we found out it was actually just more of the same.
Free agency is right around the corner and the 49ers may be competing with some of these teams for talent on the open market.
Below, we’re going to take a look at the four teams in the division and their biggest needs going into the free agency period. Figuring out the needs of every other team is crucial in figuring out the landscape of the entire NFL and what it means for the 49ers. We’ll cover the rest of the divisions over the next several days.
Needs: Quarterback, cornerback, tight end, right tackle
Quarterback is the big need because Osweiler is not a good quarterback. He just isn’t. But he’ll get another year and they won’t actually address the position despite it being a need. The biggest need, aside from that, comes at cornerback. A.J. Bouye is set to be a free agent and they need to re-sign him to a long-term deal.
Back to the offensive side of the ball, they need an upgrade at right tackle. Derek Newton sustained two torn patellar tendons this past season and need to add somebody, preferably somebody young. They also lack a true offensive weapon at the tight end position and need to find somebody there.
Needs: Cornerback, safety, defensive end
The Titans are a very promising team with few holes on the roster. But the big one is at cornerback. Jason McCourty is simply not a No. 1 corner and they need a playmaker badly. At safety, they also need an upgrade and it stands to reason they’ll take one of the two with the fifth pick in the NFL Draft. The other could be targeted in free agency. Karl Klug was injured last season and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back to 100 percent. On top of that, he’s a free agent so they could use some help on the defensive line.
Needs: Linebacker, cornerback, offensive line, running back
The Titans don’t just need one line backer, nor two ... nor three ... they may need four. They have nobody to do anything at outside linebacker, with Trent Cole injured last season and set to become a free agent. And inside, they have been bad for some time and need two guys there as well. It’s the same deal at cornerback, as they need at least two of them to add to the rotation. Darius Butler is a free agent and even if they re-sign him and Vontae Davis bounces back, they still need a nickel corner.
On offense, they need a right tackle and a guard. Jack Mewhort is a good guard, even a great guard. But they have nobody opposite him on the interior. Protecting Andrew Luck is the top priority and the right tackle is more important at thisp oint, however. Then there’s running back, as Frank Gore will be 34 years old next season.
Needs: Quarterback, defensive line, safety, running back
Blake Bortles isn’t the answer at quarterback. He’s not progressing. He’s not improving. He’s not the answer, but the Jaguars may wait another season before they pull the plug on his experiment. At running back, Chris Ivory simply isn’t a starter and T.J. Yeldon has shown nothing to make me believe he can be a feature back at all.
Safety is a big issue because Johnathan Cyprien is a free agent. But if they retain him, one of the top safeties in the league, then the position isn’t an issue. On the defensive line, they need help at both end and tackle. Dante Fowler simply wasn’t good in his first year as a starter and there are some questioning his dedication. At defensive tackle, they need a replacement for the aging Sen’Derrick Marks.