As the heart of the offseason quickly approaches, NFL teams are preparing their “to-do” and “wish” lists. With free agency less than a month away and the NFL Draft‘s April 30th start right around the corner, team’s must soon be finalizing their desired plans for the offseason.
In this series, we take a look at key moves – signings, draft picks, player extensions, etc. – each team should make over the course of the next three months in order to improve their franchise.
Next up is the AFC South and the NFC South…
Houston Texans: Sign Brian Hoyer (QB), Draft Andrus Peat (OT, Stanford)
The Texans made some monstrous improvements under Bill O’Brien in 2014, but they need to continue improving. Most importantly, they need stability under center. Brian Hoyer can give them such stability for the next few years, giving them time to develop the quarterback of the future – whether that means drafting Brett Hundley or waiting until 2016 or later. However, Hoyer will have a few other suitors (hello AFC East) this offseason as well, many of who have much more money to spend this offseason than Houston.
Continuing the re-loading of the offense, it might be tempting for the Texans to grab another receiver early in the draft. However, it would behoove them to bolster their offensive line. Peat is able to fend off opposing pass rushers, making him any quarterback’s best friend – not mention the type of player the Texans could really use.
Indianapolis Colts: Sign Doug Free (OT), Draft TJ Clemmings (OT, Pittsburgh)
It is imperative that the Colts find adequate protection for Andrew Luck. It has been fascinating seeing how dominant he can be despite spending more time on his back than standing upright. Doug Free did a fine job in Dallas protecting Tony Romo and would bring skills and veteran leadership to the front line of Indianapolis.
Luckily for the Colts, this draft class is deep at the running back position – something they are in desperate need of. However, first they must continue addressing the men who hold Luck’s life in their hands. By drafting TJ Clemmings, the Colts could continue adding much needed depth to the offensive line. Clemmings, assuming all goes to plan, would protect Luck for many years to come for the Colts. Luck is still looking for his Jeff Saturday…
Jacksonville Jaguars: Sign Knowshon Moreno (RB), Draft Randy Gregory (OLB/DE, Nebraska)
Gus Bradley and the Jaguars need a better running game to take some pressure off of Blake Bortles, that can begin with Knowshon Moreno. After an injury plagued 2014 season, Moreno will be looking to show he is the 1,000-yard rusher he was in Denver two years ago. Such a presence in the backfield could do wonders for an offense that struggled mightily at times last season.
On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars must find a way to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Randy Gregory has that ability, though it remains to be seen if he will do so as a defensive end or an outside linebacker. Regardless, his skill set will be extremely beneficial for Bradley and the Jaguars in 2015 and beyond.
Tennessee Titans: Sign Mark Sanchez (QB), Draft Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
I know Titans fans, you want a franchise quarterback so badly but the 2015 Draft might not give you the results you need. Sadly this team has way too many needs to settle for either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota in this year’s draft. In the meantime, they could do a lot worse than signing Mark Sanchez. Like Hoyer and the Texans, Sanchez could bring some stability while bridging the gap until the quarterback of the future arrives.
With regards to those previously mentioned “needs”, pass rushers would be one of those. Leonard Williams would immediately give the Titans some speed and power off of the end of the defensive line, finally giving Ken Wisenhunt‘s defense a greater ability to get after the quarterback.
Atlanta Falcons: Sign Julius Thomas (TE), Draft Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
If there was ever a team that needed help defensively, it would be the Falcons. However, the team might not be willing to shell out big money for the defensive players available in free agency. Instead, they should go after a big splash with Julius Thomas and make Dan Quinn‘s offense unstoppable under the lead of Matt Ryan…
…then in the draft, they can begin re-building that horrid defense. Shane Ray would give Quinn the pass rusher that the Falcons desperately need. Ray’s raw ability would also give Atlanta a legit cornerstone to build their defense around. If there is anything we know about the Falcons right now, it is that their defense needs a total makeover – and Quinn could be the perfect man for the job.
Carolina Panthers: Sign Anthony Spencer (DE), Draft Andrus Peat (OT, Stanford)
The Panthers need to protect their quarterback and get after opposing quarterbacks. They can begin their offseason by signing Anthony Spencer to provide help on their defensive line. At 31-years old, Spencer will by no means be a big splash in free agency, but he could help provide depth in the Carolina pass rush. He is a ways removed from his 11-sack 2012 season, but assuming he is finally healthy the Panthers could get a huge reward out of a low cost signing.
If the Panthers can land Andrus Peat, Cam Newton may have a new best friend in his life. Peat would instantly give Newton additional protection – in the passing game as well as the running game. It might be a stretch to assume Peat could fall to Carolina at 25, but it is still a possibility. Considering how badly they need to find a way to protect Newton, this would be a match made in heaven.
New Orleans Saints: Draft Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
The Saints are in a real mess financially, so don’t expect another Jairus Byrd splash in free agency this offseason. Even though they could really use a signing such as Byron Maxwell, they just can’t afford it. That is why the team will need to hit home runs in the draft. The consensus around the league is that Bud Dupree and his insane athleticism will land him in New Orleans – and that could be the best case scenario for Rob Ryan. Dupree would bring athleticism to a defense (and team) that is continuing to grow old…and look even older.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sign Jason Pierre-Paul (DE), Draft Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
The Bucs need a lot of help, but they also cannot afford to strike out in free agency as much as they did last offseason when they signed Josh McCown and gave massive contracts to Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson who went on to have disappointing seasons. Jason Pierre-Paul has 42 sacks in five years, and is still just 26-years old. If he doesn’t receive the franchise tag from the Giants, he could be a key addition to Lovie Smith‘s defense.
Jameis Winston or Mariota? We’ve given our reasons as to who is the better quarterback prospect, but the pick here is a no-brainer; they must select Mariota. The former Oregon standout is a smart quarterback who has a ton of potential in this league. While he may not have the physical tools of Winston, he has the personality and brain to be successful for the Buccaneers for a long time – and he has a ton of weapons on offense as well. It might not be incredibly sexy, but it is by far the best choice for Tampa Bay to make.
Cover Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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