The Texans are coming off another disappointing season. But they should get a boost with the hiring of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator.
While some question whether the Texans can make the successful conversion form a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, it’s a step in the right direction. They’ll just need to keep adding talent on the back end of the defense in order to take the next step to respectability.
Key Free Agents
Vonta Leach, FB — He quickly has become one of the better blocking fullbacks in the NFL—just ask RB Arian Foster.
Jacoby Jones, WR — No one can doubt his talent, but Jones is wildly inconsistent. He has been given plenty of chances to prove himself since he was selected in the third round of the 2007 draft.
Owen Daniels, TE — It will be a tough call to re-sign Daniels, who was once one of the better young tight ends in the NFL before suffering a torn ACL almost two years ago. The Texans have pretty good depth at the position. If he’s not re-signed, Daniels should be able to find a starting job elsewhere.
Mike Brisiel, G — Should they not re-sign Brisiel, who figures to be a restricted free agent, backup G Antoine Caldwell is his likely replacement.
Shaun Cody, DT — The veteran interior defensive lineman is probably a better fit for a 4-3 defense than the 3-4 that Houston is transitioning to.
Zac Diles, LB — The talented linebacker should be a good fit for Houston’s 3-4 defense, but the team is high on LB Darryl Sharpton, who filled in for Diles when he was out with an illness.
Bernard Pollard, SS — The veteran safety is a much better run defender than pass defender, so the chances of him returning for another season aren’t great.
NT, DE, OLB, ILB, SS, CB
The Colts were a quick out in the playoffs for a few reasons. While their injury issues were large, the defense came up small when it needed to make a big stop. The Colts still are going to be a solid contender, but they need to add some talent on the defensive side of the ball if they want to go further in the playoffs next season.
Key Free Agents
Joseph Addai, RB — Because the team used a first-round pick two years ago on RB Donald Brown, the chances of the Colts re-signing Addai are probably much less than 50-50.
Charlie Johnson, LT — He did a Yeoman’s job playing through injury last season, but personnel sources say Johnson is really just an average starter, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they didn’t re-sign him. However, they don’t have anyone left on their 80-man roster who is ready to replace him.
Daniel Muir, DT — Muir started 24 games the past two seasons, and it’s not like the Colts have much depth behind him.
Clint Session, WLB — The Colts don’t have a strong history of keeping outside linebackers around for many years, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team doesn’t re-sign Session.
Melvin Bullitt, S — Because of Bob Sanders’ injury history, the Colts need to do what they can to re-sign the talented Bullitt.
LT, DT, DE, SS
The Jaguars continue to underachieve, but when you look at the talent they have, you can see why they aren’t a strong playoff contender year after year.
The Jaguars badly need to add talent and depth at wide receiver. They also need to upgrade the talent at various positions on defense. The pass rush continues to be a big problem as well.
Key Free Agents
Mike Sims-Walker, WR — Sims-Walker could be a restricted free agent under the new CBA, but the Jaguars must do what they can to keep the talented wide receiver because they have next to no depth at the position. He’s one of the most talented young receivers in the AFC and runs well for his size.
Marcedes Lewis, TE — The veteran tight end had been somewhat of a disappointment through his first four seasons. However, Lewis had a breakout season in 2010 and finished with 10 TD catches, tying the league high for tight ends. The Jaguars are hurting for quality receiving options, so giving Lewis the franchise tag designation is not out of the question.
Kirk Morrison, MLB — The durable veteran played well during his only season with the Jaguars. Morrison, who turns 29 over the weekend, should yield a decent free-agent deal if the team decides not to re-sign him.
Justin Durant, OLB — He’s had some durability issues during his four years here, but Durant is a talented player who can play in a variety of schemes.
QB, WR, TE, DE, MLB, OLB, FS, CB
The Titans will enter uncharted waters. Jeff Fisher will not be patrolling the sideline as head coach for the first time since he took over for the 1994 season.
And one of the issues that won’t go away is the quarterback dilemma. Veteran Kerry Collins is unsigned and Vince Young will be cut or traded.
It’s hard to win when you don’t have a good quarterback, and that’s an issue for at least a third of the teams in the NFL right now.
Key Free Agents
Kerry Collins, QB — Fisher thought highly of Collins, but the new coaching staff might not want him as part of the new outlook for the team.
Ahmard Hall, FB — The former undrafted free agent should be pursued to return by the Titans considering they have no viable replacement for him.
Randy Moss, WR — The veteran did next to nothing after being claimed off waivers last season, so don’t look for him to return.
Bo Scaife, TE — Scaife, who turned 30 last month, had his playing time reduced a bit last season in favor of Jared Cook and Craig Stevens, so don’t look for him to return.
Leroy Harris, G — Ryan Durand or Fernando Velasco figures to take over if he isn’t re-signed.
Dave Ball, DE — He had been a backup his entire seven-year career until last season, when he posted eight sacks. Ball, known as a very hard worker, should get an offer to return.
Jason Babin, DE — Babin had been a disappointment as a first-round pick until last season, when he posted 12.5 sacks. Unfortunately, his defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who was credited for helping Babin significantly last season, left to join Philadelphia. Give Babin credit for finally realizing his potential, albeit for one season.
Stephen Tulloch, MLB — The Titans have no replacement for him on their 80-man roster.