AFC South Free Agent Grades and Draft Needs
Free Agency: Houston made a lot of nice depth pickups including Cato June at outside linebacker, with Antonio Smith a nice option opposite Mario Williams in what is fast emerging as one of the best defensive lines in the league – against the pass at least.
Draft Needs: Shonn Greene is a later round smash-mouth compliment to Steve Slaton, an option Houston wants if their constant feeble attempts to include Ahman Green in that offense are anything to go by. Their first round pick is a little awkward since BJ Raji won’t be there, 15 is a little high for Peria Jerry, no right guard or safety is worthy of the first round let alone 15, so their choice comes down to adding one of the USC trifecta to their much of a muchness linebacker core – Clay Matthews’ stock seems sky high, whilst Brian Cushing is sinking fast in many eyes – or alternatively trading down. Luckily there could be offers on the table since 15 may be the last slot to grab Josh Freeman.
Free Agency: They re-signed Jeff Saturday and Kelvin Hayden whilst cutting Marvin Harrison and Dominic Rhodes, and that’s about it. I guess if Harrison refused a pay cut he was a necessary free agent casualty, but I highly doubt he finds much success outside of that vertical passing scheme and Manning connection. Harrison may well wind up back on the Indianapolis squad come training camp.
Draft Needs: Last year the Colts were horrific against the run so a defensive tackle beast like Peria Jerry is target number one for Indianapolis in the first round. Since they want to keep Anthony Gonzalez in the slot, a number two wideout would require consideration should Jerry not be there. A lot people are heralding Brian Robiskie as the Peyton Manning of receivers, but I doubt he slides to the bottom of the second.
Free Agency: Khalif Barnes couldn’t pass block if his life depended on it so received his marching orders, and with his departure the Jags moved quickly to secure veteran left tackle William Tra Thomas. Drayton Florence and Joey Porter were highly paid free agent acquisitions of last year that failed spectacularly, and Matt Jones finally ran out of warnings being cut after cocaine charges. With him gone the already weak receiving core needed bolstering, and that made Tory Holt a no brain signing. Fred Taylor moved on surprisingly, meaning the team will lean on the diminutive Maurice Jones Drew all next year. Great player, but can he carry that offense all season?
Grade: D – When you think about it they really haven’t done anything except rectify last year’s mistakes
Draft Needs: There are a lot of top 10 talents that interest the Jags, which isn’t surprising when your team sucks as much as they do, but trading out is still a possibility. After losing Marcus Stroud they fielded nothing next to John Henderson so might consider BJ Raji. Tra Thomas was cut due to age by Philadelphia so transitively you’d have to think the Jags would like a youthful upgrade like Eugene Monroe.
Their receiving core is now a small step above absolutely nothing with the signing of Tory Holt, but a youthful franchise receiver who can be a Jag for the next 10 seasons without question is a totally different proposition. That’s why at the moment a lot of mocks have them taking Michael Crabtree, but I don’t think he’s there at 8 so Jeremy Maclin might be their guy. I’m not a huge Maclin fan; to me he’s a speed guy who might just get lost in the shuffle after making the step-up to the pros, and I’d prefer a more dynamic possession threat like Brian Robiskie in the second if I was Jacksonville. They need a top corner as well, but there is a lot of debate as to whether any corner is worth a top 10 selection. You always assume that the Jags are a decent side, but when you think about them they really are terrible. That’s the main reason why I don’t think they take Sanchez; they have way too many other holes to justify backing up a decent QB in Garrard. Speaking of Sanchez that brings me to the possibility of trading down; Green Bay are in a tight spot so won’t move back, meaning the Jags will have their phone ringing off the hook with Denver, San Francisco, Washington, New York and Tampa all interested. According to the trade value chart it would take just a third round pick to swap slots with Jacksonville so it’s more than affordable, and the Jags would get to take a top corner like Darius Butler without paying top 10 money – remember that Jacksonville are a cripplingly poor franchise in an ailing economy and terrible market. Maclin will likely be available in the mid teens as well, as would Michael Oher.
Free Agency: Despite losing Albert Haynesworth that bullying front seven will remain just as punishing and suffocating in 2009. Tony Brown alongside James Jones was a dynamic partnership when Haynesworth was out, and newly acquired Jovan Haye could start or rotate in depending what is asked of him. There still isn’t a stand out receiver in place with Nate Washington being a deep threat at best and the Titans falling short in their bid to allure Tory Holt, but they need something. Even if they’ll be running all 3 downs and throwing to Chris Johnson if they absolutely have to, they still need some sort of spark at receiver.
Draft Needs: That defence is such a tight unit but it is getting older. Nick Harper is 35, Keith Bullock is 32, whilst Vanden Bosch and David Thornton are both 30. Sean Smith can blitz well from safety and has elite measurables at 6-4 with and a 4.47 40. Despite ponytailed blonde hair and a USC diploma, Brian Cushing is a tempting punch in the mouth option at linebacker. I think they wait till the second for a receiver or defensive end.