AFC free agency preview: Advice for every team
NFL free agency officially begins March 14. Here's an early look at how AFC teams might approach the market. (Each club's projected cap space is noted in parentheses, courtesy of overthecap.com as of March 7.)
Buffalo Bills ($24 million)
Free agents: LB Preston Brown, CB E.J. Gaines, LB Ramon Humber, WR Jordan Matthews, WR Deonte Thompson, RB Mike Tolbert, DT Kyle Williams
Advice: They'd obviously like to upgrade at quarterback, but it makes sense to pay Tyrod Taylor's $6 million roster bonus given there's no assurance Buffalo can do better in free agency or the draft. Coach Sean McDermott loves Williams' leadership, but he'll be 35 this year. Limited cap space might be better used on Brown, Gaines or perhaps a No. 2 receiver.
Miami Dolphins ($8M over the cap)
FAs: S Nate Allen, OL Jermon Bushrod, QB Jay Cutler, TE Anthony Fasano, QB Matt Moore, K Cody Parkey
Advice: Given QB Ryan Tannehill's injury history, Miami needs to consider a quality alternative, and bringing Moore back might be the answer. But the cap doesn't offer a lot of options, especially as long as WR Jarvis Landry's $16M franchise tag eats into it.
New England Patriots ($15M)
FAs: WR Danny Amendola, RB Rex Burkhead, CB Malcolm Butler, LB James Harrison, RB Dion Lewis, ST/WR Matthew Slater, LT Nate Solder
Advice: Tough choices for the AFC champs, who also have to start pondering QB Tom Brady's next deal. With WR Julian Edelman (ACL) on the mend, keeping Amendola seems wise unless another team swoops in with a huge offer. Brady would surely like to see Solder back, too, though the Pats tend not to overpay linemen (or running backs).
New York Jets ($90M)
FAs: K Chandler Catanzaro, CB Morris Claiborne, ILB Demario Davis, DE Kony Ealy, QB Josh McCown, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Advice: Quarterback remains the priority, and a run at Kirk Cousins appears inevitable given New York's cap resources. If that fails, the Jets are better served to re-sign McCown and target their next franchise passer with the sixth pick of the draft. Whoever is under center will need help at the skill positions, and GM Mike Maccagnan needs to acquire corner help (Malcolm Butler?) while also rebuilding the defensive line.
Baltimore Ravens ($5M)
FAs: OL James Hurst, C Ryan Jensen, WR Mike Wallace, TE Benjamin Watson, RB Terrance West
Advice: Jensen, 26, developed into a player worth keeping. But Baltimore will have to do major restructuring to pursue top-line receivers such as Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson.
Cincinnati Bengals ($35M)
FAs: C Russell Bodine, TE Tyler Eifert, RB Jeremy Hill, QB AJ McCarron, LB Kevin Minter, OL Andre Smith
Advice: It would be nice to have Eifert back, though his injury history will deter any team from giving him a huge guarantee. But Cincinnati really needs help on the O-line and would be wise to recruit Nate Solder even though doing so would cut against the franchise's general avoidance of outside free agents.
Cleveland Browns ($114M)
FAs: RB Isaiah Crowell
Advice: No team has more cap space, though few need more help than one coming off an 0-16 campaign. GM John Dorsey can set up the next two generations of Kirk Cousins' family, though Cleveland doesn't check the quarterback's box for joining a contender. AJ McCarron, a favorite of coach Hue Jackson's from their time together in Cincinnati, would be a more affordable bridge to DeShone Kizer or the quarterback Dorsey is expected to draft. Crowell should be easy enough to replace in a back-heavy draft, but Cleveland might also look at Solder if LT Joe Thomas retires. CBs such as Trumaine Johnson or Malcolm Butler and a mid-tier wideout like Paul Richardson would fill significant holes.
FAs: OL Chris Hubbard, LB Arthur Moats
Advice: With RB Le'Veon Bell carrying the franchise tag again, the Steelers have plenty of work to do to free some funds beyond restructuring WR Antonio Brown's contract.
Houston Texans ($67M)
FAs: T Chris Clark, T Breno Giacomini, S Marcus Gilchrist, CB Johnathan Joseph, P Shane Lechler, QB Tom Savage, G Xavier Su'a-Filo
Advice: Their first- and second-round picks belong to Cleveland, so new GM Brian Gaine will be compelled to devote his ample cap space to rebuilding the offensive line and secondary. Solder, who played for Bill O'Brien during his rookie year in New England, also makes sense here. Houston also could target Panthers All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell in a bid to buy protection for franchise QB Deshaun Watson.
Indianapolis Colts ($72M)
FAs: LB Jonathan Bostic, DB Darius Butler, RB Frank Gore, G Jack Mewhort, LB Barkevious Mingo, WR Donte Moncrief
Advice: Name a position, and the cap-flush Colts probably need help -- especially on defense, where a game wrecker like DL Sheldon Richardson or corner like Malcolm Butler are made to order. It's also imperative they shore up the blocking in front of recuperating QB Andrew Luck, so count Indy among teams that should try to woo Norwell, Ryan Jensen and maybe Justin Pugh.
Jacksonville Jaguars ($35M)
FAs: CB Aaron Colvin, QB Chad Henne, WR Marqise Lee, G Patrick Omameh, LB Paul Posluszny, WR Allen Robinson
Advice: QB Blake Bortles needs receiving help. It would be nice to bring Robinson back, but his knee rehab apparently prohibited the Jags from franchising him. Big targets such as Jeannette graduate Terrelle Pryor or TE Jimmy Graham might be helpful and more affordable. Even if the Jags draft a developmental quarterback (Lamar Jackson?), they should keep a familiar vet like Henne.
Tennessee Titans ($48M)
FAs: WR Eric Decker, WR Harry Douglas, DE DaQuan Jones, G Josh Kline, LB Erik Walden, LB Avery Williamson
Advice: Jones, Kline and Williamson are reliable players it would be nice to keep in order to maintain continuity without breaking the bank. A deep threat like Seattle WR Paul Richardson could really open up the offense.
Denver Broncos ($25M)
FAs: OL Allen Barbre, RB Jamaal Charles, DE Jared Crick, LB Todd Davis, TE Virgil Green, QB Brock Osweiler, T Donald Stephenson
Advice: GM John Elway will surely have to find more cap space if he's going to make lure Cousins. Pursuing Case Keenum or AJ McCarron would be an easier route to addressing the quarterback conundrum while keeping most of the roster intact. Crick and Davis, both starters, can be replaced internally.
Kansas City Chiefs ($3M over the cap)
FAs: OL Zach Fulton, LB Derrick Johnson, DL Bennie Logan, S Ron Parker, WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas, WR Albert Wilson
Advice: They've already been active, with QB Alex Smith and CB Marcus Peters set to be traded. Most holes probably can be addressed during the draft, though one more veteran corner, say Prince Amukamara or Morris Claiborne, would help.
Los Angeles Chargers ($22M)
FAs: S Tre Boston, QB Kellen Clemens, TE Antonio Gates, OL Matt Slauson, LB Korey Toomer, G Kenny Wiggins
Advice: Boston played well in 2017 but seems to be seeking a major payday. GM Tom Telesco might be wise to first bolster one of the league's worst run defenses. And what about locking up a fairly reliable kicking option like Sebastian Janikowski or even Cody Parkey?
Oakland Raiders ($16M)
FAs: LB NaVorro Bowman, CB T.J. Carrie, DT Justin Ellis, K Sebastian Janikowski, QB EJ Manuel, S Reggie Nelson
Advice: It probably makes a lot of sense to re-sign Bowman, who made an impact after coming across the Bay midway through last season. Otherwise, start pushing money into the 2019 cap while Jon Gruden evaluates this roster.