Tennessee Titans: Assessing the AFC South After Free Agency

The Tennessee Titans fell just short of winning the AFC South a season ago, so how do they stack up with the division after 2017 free agency?

We’re a little more than a week into the always silly NFL free agency and the Tennessee Titans have certainly made moves to improve their roster. However, the teams in the AFC South overall have been among the most active in the entire league.

Much of that activity, however, has been players moving back and forth within the division. Still, that could theoretically cause a shift in power within the division. Thus, it’s important to know which parts have moved and what that could mean.

Here’s a look at what’s happened around the AFC South in free agency and how it changes things heading into the 2017 season.

Houston Texans

Lost: A.J. Bouye, CB; Quintin Demps, S; John Simon, LB

Signed: None

If there’s been a team in the AFC South that’s been hurt the worst by free agency, it’s the Texans. Then again, the team traded failed quarterback Brock Osweiller, a 2017 sixth-round draft pick and a 2018 second-round draft pick to Cleveland. In return, the Texans dump the remainder of Osweiller’s misguided contract to Cleveland and also get a fourth-round pick this year.

Bouye was an emerging star and losing him within the division hurts. So, too, does the loss of Simon to Indianapolis. Demps makes it three starters the Texans lost in free agency on the defensive side. Even the return of J.J. Watt might not be able to make up for that.

Improvement: No

Unless addition by subtraction with the Osweiller trade is included, it’s been a tough offseason for the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

Lost: None.

Signed: Margus Hunt, DE (Cincinnati); Jeff Locke, P (Minnesota); Barkevious Mingo, LB (New England); Jabaal Sheard, DE (New England); John Simon, LB (Houston); Al Woods, DT (Tennessee); Sean Spence, LB (Tennessee)

The Colts have been active trying to upgrade their defense. But perhaps that money would have been better spent on protecting quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck matched his career high with 41 sacks last season in only 15 games.

Indianapolis clearly were looking to improve their pass rush, and adding Sheard and Simon should help, though they combined for just 8.5 sacks last season in part-time roles. The rest of the signings, however, seem like window dressing.

Improvement: Yes  

The Colts were 30th in the league in total defense and had just 33 sacks. Any help for this defense was a plus.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Lost: Prince Amukamara, CB; Joe Banyard, RB; Kelvin Beachum, OT; Johnathan Cyprien, S; Davon House, CB

Signed: A.J. Bouye, CB (Houston); Calais Campbell, DE (Arizona); Barry Church, S (Dallas); Audie Cole, LB (Minnesota); Lerentee McCray, LB (Buffalo); Earl Watford, G (Arizona)

The Jaguars were largely shuffling lounge chairs on the deck of the Titanic. But they have been among the most active teams. Getting Bouye away from Houston was a coup, but he’s just one guy. Jacksonville also spent a lot of money—$44 million over the first three years—for a player who had just one interception last season.

Campbell, who had eight sacks last season, will help improve the pass rush as the Jags had just 33 sacks last season. Church for Cyprien, however, is a bit of a wash as neither is great in coverage. Watford should compete for a starting job, or at least provide depth. The others are special teams/depth guys. House had fallen out of favor and Beachum and Amukamara were basically one-year rentals. 

But none of these moves matter if Blake Bortles doesn’t play better in 2017.

Improvement: Slightly

Campbell will help the pass rush. Bouye and Church, however, combined for just three interceptions last season. Jacksonville had seven as a team, so it doesn’t appear there will be a lot of help there.

 Tennessee

Lost: Anthony Fasano, TE; Chance Warmack, G; Al Woods, DT; Kendall Wright, WR; Sean Spence, LB

Signed: Darren Bates, LB (Oakland); Johnathan Cyprien, S (Jacksonville); Logan Ryan, CB (New England); Sylvester Williams, NT (Denver)

The loss of Wright hurts. But he had struggled to stay healthy of late, so it’s not crippling. Getting Ryan was a solid move. He might not be a No. 1 cornerback, but he’s better than Brice McCain or Valentino Blake.

The Titans released Woods and signed Williams.  They hope the former No. 1 pick of the Broncos will be an upgrade, but Denver wasn’t overly concerned about losing him.

Cyprien is at his best close to the line of scrimmage. He’ll be paired with emerging second-year free safety Kevin Byard to former what the Titans hope will be an improved back end to the defense.

Improvement: Yes

Ryan in place of McCain and Blake is a no-brainer. And the Titans rotated safeties last season, so Cyprien will be an improvement. Losing Wright hurts, but he had been limited to 21 games the past two seasons.

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