Although there are still many months to go until any meaningful NFL games take place, the majority of impact offseason moves are in the books. Sure, there are still plenty of significant roster changes on the long road to the final 53 for each team, but we’ve got more than enough meat on the bone to cast our useless judgement down upon everyone.
So which AFC South team has come out on top of this competition that isn’t a competition at all? Let’s see how a few BRB staffers weigh in on the question.
Titan Matt Weston, Slanderer of “Blade Runner” and a Huge Fan of the Texas Rangers, who are Currently Dead Last in the AL West:
I really like Houston’s offseason, considering how they improved the secondary, which depends on a possible top five pass rush anyways, and the offensive line; not signing Nate Solder was good and Zach Fulton is a cost-effective alternative to Andrew Norwell. The Texans did all that while not having their first two picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and not burning all of their cap space.
Tennessee spent a bunch of money but didn’t really toss the talent into the microwave to transform the team. Unless the coaching or Marcus Mariota dramatically improve, their ceiling still seems the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs.
The Colts did a fine fine fine job if Andrew Luck doesn’t play Week One and a terrible job if he does.
The Jags went all in. They had the best offseason and they are still the best team in the division. They should have beaten New England on the road in the AFC Championship Game but they played off-man coverage with A.J. Bouye and handicapped their own offense. Blake Bortles didn’t blow it; Jacksonville just didn’t let him win it.
They took that style and doubled down on it the past few months. Norwell is like the sixth best guard in the league and should revolutionize a stagnant inside run game, even with Leonard Fournette. They kept skill players who can run quick short routes and pick up yards after the catch. The passing offense is still going to be spread it out, throw quick-cutting routes, run forever, and if nothing is open, let Bortles scamper away like the beautiful Bud Ice slamming eagle that he is. Occasionally there will be some deep bombs to Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens. This, plus a top five defense, should be a Super Bowl contender as long as Bortles can middle-manage things.
Definitely two different questions when you ask who will win the division and who had the best offseason.
I don’t think anyone in the AFC South had a great offseason.
For me, the Jaguars had a bad one because they did not address the QB problem, although the new Bortles money isn’t difficult for the Jags to get out of should he, you know, continue to be Blake Bortles. That trumps any positive moves, in my opinion. Added to that, they essentially swapped Allen Robinson for...Donte Moncrief...really?
The Colts still are placing their bets on Andrew Luck getting back to form. He wasn’t playing great before the latest injury, but I think in their position they don’t have much of a choice other than hope he gets back to at least being better than average. I didn’t really expect them to “address the QB situation” in the offseason. Their best addition was first-round guard Quenton Nelson, along with hiring head coach Not Chuck Pagano.
The Titans seem to be the chalk pick for the team in the division that’s had the best offseason, but their head coach hire of Mike Vrabel is still quite questionable to me. Sure, he may end up being great, but there’s nothing he was great at in his time in Houston other than as a position coach - where he was actually, legit GREAT. I’m also not loving Marcus Mariota. A guy who throws more interceptions than touchdowns is a franchise QB? I dunno about all that, and of course they way overpaid (which you have to do) to get CB Malcolm Butler.
The Texans addressed some needs by adding safety Tyrann Matheiu (my GOD, I love this move) and cornerback Aaron Colvin, as well as what I thought was a great first draft pick in third-round safety Justin Reid. My big problem with the Texans is that they weren’t able to adequately address the offensive line. Will it be better? Yes, I’m convinced it will be. What I’m not at all convinced of is that it will be significantly better - which it absolutely needs to be.
For me, the best offseason of the bunch? It’s between Houston and Tennessee. Maybe a bit better for the Titans.
That said, the AFC South Champions in 2018 will be your Houston Texans.
Jacksonville: Adding Andrew Norwell should be huge for them; I really wanted the Texans to sign him. Having him paving the way for Leonard Fournette should take some heat off Blake Bortles. I hate to admit it, but the Glitter-Kitties are seemingly legit these days.
Tennessee: I’ve read a few pieces where the writers are amped by what the Titans have done this offseason, but I’m not smelling what they’re cooking. As much as I like Vrabel, him leading that team to the promised land isn’t a product I’m buying either.
Indianapolis: Just like always, the Colts rise and fall on their quarterback. Can Luck really come back and do what they expected him to do when he replaced Peyton Manning? That’s hard to say, but with the Jacksonville and Houston defenses hammering them twice a year, the tiny horses have a tough trail ahead.
Houston: *IF* the Texans had landed Norwell or another top tier offensive lineman, I’d say H-Town won the offseason for sure. As it stands, it’s hard to say they didn’t with Mathieu, Colvin, Justin Reid, and the other pieces on the defensive side. Not to mention getting back Whitney Mercilus, J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson is a bigger talent injection than most teams league-wide saw in the offseason.
My vote: Houston Texans take the offseason division title.
For my money, the BE-SFs easily won the AFC South offseason simply by ridding itself of the football cancer known as Mike Mularkey. I’m among those not exactly buying the MIKE VRABEL, LEADER OF MEN line, but hiring Matt LaFleur to run the offense is a great move. The BE-SFs will no longer be wasting Marcus Mariota, which really does suck.
As far as ranking the teams:
4. Indianapolis Colts: New banner idea—“Andrew Luck Might Play Again. Maybe.”
3. BE-SFs: I think LaFleur jump starts the offense, but that defense is still on the older side and riddled with holes. Malcolm Butler won’t be the answer.
2. Texans: The defense will almost certainly improve over its 23rd DVOA ranking in 2017, but I don’t see us being better than 13th or so. I love the Aaron Colvin signing, and signing Tyrann Mathieu was nice. The problem is that Mathieu looked seriously done quite a bit last year. Offensively, the team scheme is a giant wild card. If the guys we signed/drafted or any indication, it looks like we are moving to more of an outside zone run scheme, which would be a great change.
1. Glitter Kitties: The only team without a serious wart aside from QB. There’s just a ton of talent on the team, and it’s still young in a lot of areas. They are a legit playoff contender even with Blake Bortles, though their playoff time would likely be limited.
I think the Titans easily had the most impactful offeseason simply because of the coaching changes they made. Matt LaFleur is a perfect fit scheme-wise for the Tennessee personnel, and I expect Derrick Henry to have a monster year now that he is back in a zone-based system (compared to Mularkey’s uninspired power/gap run scheme). The fact that the Titans also had a mini-overhaul of their defense was big too, bringing in Malcolm Butler, Harold Landry, and Rashaan Evans. The Titans might legitimately be the most dangerous team in this division now (other than a fully healthy Texans squad of course, which almost never happens), so I think we are going to see them making serious noise in January.
If nothing else, the AFC South appears to be continuing to trend upward and further away from the “weakest division in football” moniker it carried for so many years. How do you rank the AFC South offseasons? Who do you have as your early favorite to win the division in 2018? Feel free to weigh in below and enjoy your weekend!