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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Matt Verderame

AFC South Forecast 2024: One Move Every Team Should Make This Offseason

The AFC South was wild in 2023.

Going into the year, almost everyone predicted the Jacksonville Jaguars to run away with the division while the other three teams lagged behind fighting for second place.

Instead, the Jaguars built up a substantial lead and then fell apart amid injuries and a horrific secondary, while the Houston Texans rose up to win the division behind C.J. Stroud and DeMeco Ryans. Furthermore, the Indianapolis Colts were one win away from a playoff berth, shockingly finishing above .500.

So which direction should each of these teams take this offseason? We look at each situation.

Houston Texans

Schultz had 59 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns in 2023.

Andrew Nelles/USA TODAY Network

One move they should make: Upgrade the secondary.

Much like the Colts and Titans, the Texans are loaded with cap space at more than $57 million in projected room. Considering Houston just put forth a stunning AFC South title and earned a playoff win, one would imagine general manager Nick Caserio being aggressive in free agency.

Houston has good weapons and would be wise to retain tight end Dalton Schultz, although the main focus should be defensively. The Texans first need to re-sign edge rusher Jonathan Greenard, who after three uneven seasons, posted 12.5 sacks under DeMeco Ryans’s tutelage.

Then, Houston has to find help in the secondary to put alongside corner Derek Stingley Jr. and safety Jalen Pitre. Looking at the market, Caserio could make a strong play for safeties Antoine Winfield Jr., Geno Stone and Kyle Dugger, and/or corners L’Jarius Sneed, Chidobe Awuzie and Kendall Fuller. Regardless, Houston must upgrade the back end to take the next step.

Indianapolis Colts

Pittman finished the season with 109 catches for 1,152 yards and four touchdowns.

Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

One move they should make: Use the franchise tag on Michael Pittman Jr.

The Colts enter the offseason with $58.9 million in projected cap space, fifth-most in the NFL. It’s time Chris Ballard uses it.

The Indianapolis general manager has largely been conservative in free agency, but he needs to make upgrades after watching first-year coach Shane Steichen almost make the playoffs despite Anthony Richardson playing four games.

While those moves should include adding a receiver, tight end, edge rusher and corner, the Colts need to first tag or extend Pittman. Throughout his rookie deal, the USC product has been excellent, posting a pair of 1,000-yard seasons despite lackluster quarterback play. If Richardson proves to be the answer, Pittman’s stock should only rise in the coming seasons.

For years, Indianapolis has been devoid of targets beyond Pittman. If the Colts can retain him and then add another option to blend with second-year man Josh Downs, Richardson will be flush with skill-position talent.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Allen posted 17.5 sacks and 33 quarterback hits in 2023.

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union/USA TODAY NETWORK

One move they should make: Fix their salary cap.

For what feels like a decade, the Jaguars have spent major money in free agency to have only bloated salaries with declining players a few years later.

This offseason, general manager Trent Baalke needs to fix his cap situation by moving on from left tackle Cam Robinson and corner Darious Williams. Those two moves would save Jacksonville $28.2 million and increase its potential cap space from $11.2 million to $39.4 million, giving Baalke a chance to get lean and find some value deals.

Most importantly, this opens cap space to tag Josh Allen if need be, or sign him to an extension. After falling apart in the AFC South last season and missing the playoffs, Baalke should prioritize building his defense. That can’t happen without first signing Allen long-term after he posted 17.5 sacks and 33 quarterback hits in 2023.

Tennessee Titans

Henry is still a solid back, evidenced by his 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2023.

Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports

One move they should make: Allow Derrick Henry to leave in free agency.

The Titans are starting fresh with the hiring of Brian Callahan as coach, all while Ryan Tannehill is headed for another zip code this offseason.

There’s also no reason to keep Henry around, despite his considerable talent. Tennessee’s aim this offseason should be to get younger while maintaining as much cap flexibility as possible while GM Ran Carthon assesses the roster under a new staff.

While Henry is still a solid back, evidenced by his 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, he’s also 30 years old after leading the league in carries four of the past five years. The Titans would be better served using money on younger weapons at receiver while continuing to build up the offensive line around second-year quarterback Will Levis.

If Levis does prove to be the answer in Tennessee, getting younger now should pay off in the coming years.

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