Posted by: mdegeorge | August 12, 2011

NFL Free Agency Diagnosis: AFC South

The 2011 NFL season has come courtesy of an unprecedented time in the league’s history. Essentially two offseasons worth of transactions have been jammed into around two weeks to completely reshape the entire league in the blink of an offseason eye. Most of what you thought you knew about a team can be thrown out, with some teams having close to 40 percent of their rosters overhauled instantly.

Let’s try and bring some order to this mess, since the pressure is going to ratchet up starting Thursday when the first round of preseason games kicks off and the hot stove might cool a bit. Below are the lists of departures and arrivals for each of the 32 NFL teams and just what they mean for teams.

We’ll continue with the AFC South.

Joseph Addai, back and (hopefully) healthy for Indy. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Houston Texans

Signed: G Mike Brisiel, DE Tim Bulman, OT Rashad Butler, WR Jacoby Jones, CB Johnathan Joseph, QB Matt Leinart, DT Damione Lewis, S Danieal Manning, P Brad Maynard, G Kasey Studdard, FB Lawrence Vickers

Lost: DE Mark Anderson, LB Zac Diles, FB Vonta Leach, DT Amobi Okoye, S Bernard Pollard, P Matt Turk

Diagnosis: The name of the offseason game in Houston was revamping the league’s worst pass defense. They use free agency to add a shutdown corner in Joseph and replace Pollard with Manning. Anderson leaves, but they replace the pass rush with first-rounder J.J. Watt, second-rounder Brooks Reed and add depth in the secondary with their next two picks. Quarterback Matt Schaub doesn’t get any new weapons other than retaining Jones. The loss of Leach could negatively affect the production by Arian Foster this year. But even if the offense stays at its 2010 levels, any improvement in defense will help this team.

Indianapolis Colts

Signed: RB Joseph Addai, DE Jamaal Anderson, S Melvin Bullitt, DE Eric Foster, DT Tommie Harris, DT Antonio Johnson, LB Ernie Sims, K Adam Vinatieri

Lost: OT Charlie Johnson, DT Dan Muir, LB Clint Session

Diagnosis: As per usual, the perpetually cap-strapped Colts add little pieces. Beside, with the number of injuries they had last year in the passing game, simply getting healthy is like a few acquisitions. They retain Addai and hope he can stay healthy long enough to form that 1-2 tandem with Donald Brown they envisioned in drafting the latter two years ago. Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie are presumably healthy; if that continues, they’ll provide the newly-inked Peyton Manning with one of the league’s most formidable wideout corps. Gone from the O-line is the frustratingly inconsistent Johnson, meaning Manning’s blindside will be protected by a pair of rookies in Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana. The defense losses some of the speed and athleticism it cherishes in Session but retains Bullitt and adds Sims, who’s used to playing a Tampa-2 defense. The defensive line that anchored the league’s seventh-worst run defense adds a big body in Harris while holding onto Foster and Johnson, and the pass rush is bolstered by Anderson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Signed: CB Drew Coleman, S Dawan Landry, LB Paul Posluszny, LB Clint Session, G Jason Spitz, P Matt Turk, OL Tony Moll

Lost: S Sean Considine, LB Justin Durant, QB Trent Edwards, P Adam Podlesh, WR Mike Sims-Walker, LB Derrick Harvey

Diagnosis: After struggling defensively a year ago, the Jags completely revamp the center of their defense. The Harvey era comes to an unceremonious end. He and Durant are replaced by Posluszny and Session, the latter being an intradivision coup. Considine is also allowed to walk, but Jacksonville replaces him ably with Landry. Edwards is let go with first-rounder Blaine Gabbert ready to assume the understudy role. What the Jags are unable to do, however, is replace Sims-Walker. Already one of the league’s worst passing attacks, they lose a big target for David Garrard to aim for – though they do tie up tight end Mercedes Lewis long-term.

Tennessee Titans

Signed: LB Patrick Bailey, DE Dave Ball, DE Jacob Ford, TE Daniel Graham, FB Ahmard Hall, G Leroy Harris, QB Matt Hasselbeck, OT Michael Otto, LB Barrett Ruud, DT Shaun Smith, CB Frank Walker

Lost: DE Jason Babin, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tullock, QB Vince Young, QB Kerry Collins, WR Randy Moss

Diagnosis: A new era has dawned in Nashville with the departure of Jeff Fisher and arrival of Mike Munchak. The retirement of Collins and rocky end to Young’s tenure brings Hasselbeck into town as the starter while lottery pick Jake Locker matures in the shadows. One of Collins’ favorite targets, Scaife, is onto greener pastures, but Graham’s acquisition adds depth. Defensively, they bid farewell to long-time defensive captain Tullock and last year’s surprise Babin. Ruud is a younger upgrade for Tullock, while the combination of Ford, Ball and Jason Jones will be counted on to make up for Babin’s sack total. The defensive line adds a big veteran in Smith. While they did well in free agency, unanswered questions haunt this team, like the legal status of number one receiver Kenny Britt and the ongoing holdout of running back Chris Johnson. It’s quite a load for a first-year coach to contend with.

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