Between now and the start of the new league year in March, we’re going to look ahead at the offseason for each NFL team, division by division.
Our offseason summaries began with the AFC East, continued with the AFC North, and up next is the AFC South. The division yielded two playoff teams last season, which are two of the up-and-comers in the conference. Can the rest of the division catch up to the Jaguars? And are the Jags suitable challengers for the Patriots and Steelers?
2017 record: 4-12 — third place
What’s new? Romeo Crennel is defensive coordinator again following the departure of Mike Vrabel.
Projected salary cap space: $58 million — The sixth-highest projected total in the NFL.
Key in-house free agents: CB Johnathan Joseph, S Marcus Gilchrist, G Xavier Su’a-Filo, OT Breno Giacomini, OT Chris Clark.
Key needs: The entire offensive line and the entire secondary.
Draft breakdown: They don’t have picks in either of the first two rounds, or the fifth, but they do have two third-rounders.
Other potential priorities: It might be time to move on from Brian Cushing and his $7.6 million salary. He hasn’t aged well and hasn’t been on the field enough.
Outlook: They have the money to retool the offensive line and the secondary should be fine. If Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt get/stay healthy and produce, the sky’s the limit. If that doesn’t happen, they’re probably screwed regardless of what happens elsewhere.
2017 record: 4-12 — 4th place
What’s new? Frank Reich is now the head coach, and he just might have a healthy Andrew Luck under center.
Projected salary cap space: $79 million — The fourth-highest projected total in the NFL.
Key in-house free agents: CB Rashaan Melvin, RB Frank Gore, WR Donte Moncrief, G Jack Mewhort, S Darius Butler.
Key needs: Pass-rusher, cornerback (especially if they lose Melvin) and of course the offensive line (they could use upgrades everywhere except at left tackle).
Draft breakdown: They hold the No. 3 overall pick and have all of their selections the rest of the way.
Other potential priorities: They can’t afford to mess around with a backup plan for Luck this time. If there’s a slight chance he won’t be able to suit up Week 1, they have to have a better option than they did in 2017.
Outlook: If Luck is good to go, a team with tons of cash to spend and a good draft situation could have a chance to go from worst to first in 2018.
2017 record: 10-6 — First place
What’s new? They’re removing the tarps!
Projected salary cap space: $23 million — Close to the middle of the pack.
Key in-house free agents: WR Marqise Lee, WR Allen Robinson, G Patrick Omameh, LB Paul Posluszny, Aaron Colvin.
Key needs: Wide receiver, guard, linebacker and cornerback, although none are needs if all of the guys above return. So yeah, they’re in good shape.
Draft breakdown: They pick 29th overall and they’re missing their fifth-rounder.
Other potential priorities: Blake Bortles is sticking around, but they could still consider alternatives at quarterback. That was their only real weakness in 2017.
Outlook: This will likely be an eerily quiet offseason for a Jags team that has more talent across the board than anyone else in the league.
2017 record: 9-7 — 2nd place
What’s new? The entire coaching staff, led by promising young head coach Mike Vrabel.
Projected salary cap space: $49 million — The eighth-highest projected total in the NFL.
Key in-house free agents: LB Avery Williamson, WR Eric Decker, G Josh Kline, G Quinton Spain, G Brian Schwenke.
Key needs: Guard (they don’t have any under contract), wide receiver (need something more in case Corey Davis doesn’t emerge), defensive end and linebacker (especially if Williamson gets away).
Draft breakdown: They pick 25th and have one selection every round.
Other potential priorities: They might have to find an offensive tackle who can hold things down in case Jack Conklin isn’t ready to return from offseason knee surgery.
Outlook: The Titans continue to be on the right track. They should continue to get better with age, and they’ve got some money to keep the momentum going. It’ll probably come down to what they get from quarterback Marcus Mariota in Year 4.