The 2018 season is in the books and in 23 days the 2019 NFL Season begins! That’s right Free Agency 2019 is just 23 days away! So, while we wait, we at 5 Yard Rush have teamed up with Shaun and Lee from All32 to bring you a 4 part look at the state of the franchises, as they stand today. There is no point in looking back, 2018 is over, so instead we look at what has changed already, as well as what players are going to hit Free Agency and what positions are position of need in FA and the NFL Draft.
We will not make predictions. Instead we are just giving you the facts. The four of us also recorded this in audio form, so download the 5 Yard Rush podcast on all good podcast platforms or pop over to the Podcast Page on this website to listen to us talk these teams out and summarise.
So without further delay, here is the State of the Franchises Part 2, and we continue with the AFC North and AFC South.
Ravens- Stocks (10-6-0) -Run Ravens, Run. That was the mantra for the Baltimore Ravens in 2018 and I don’t expect much to change in 2019. Why? Because they have a Quarterback entering his first season as starter who is a much better runner than passer. This may change in the off-season with some serious practice, fingers crossed. With Jackson being on a rookie contract this it the time for them to win a championship. The Ravens need to bolster the Offensive Line to give Jackson time to throw but to also help with the run game that faltered towards the end of the season. It’s about time the Ravens had a true X receiver and drafting at 22nd could mean one of the top recovers in this class falls to them. Someone like K’neal Harry fits the bill perfectly. Or D. K. Metcalf. Both physical beasts with tacky hands. It’s on the defensive side of the ball that the Ravens are ageing and need to backup players that are either unrestricted free agents or will leave sounds because of age. C.J Mosley and Tyrell Suggs are both top end defenders and need replacing when they do leave if neither are offered new contracts. Pass rusher, Cornerback and Safety are the biggest defensive needs for the flock to fly high once more.
Steelers- Murf (9-6-1) Mike Tomlin is going to make coaching changes, and Mike Munchak, the Offensive Line coach, has moved to Denver. They have some very notable players heading to Free Agency but none will be as notable as Le’veon Bell. However they are also potentially losing G Ramon Foster, TE Jesse James and backup C/G B.J Finney. They will be drafting at number 20 and their primary focus will be CB/LB/EDGE although, depending on what happens with the future of Antonio Brown, they might also need WR help as well. In order for them to go deep into the playoffs, they will need to retain Brown and shore up some defensive positions. They lack an elite EDGE Rusher and need to improve against the run. The Steelers aren’t too far away from the playoffs, but to another Super Bowl? They will need a huge defensive improvement to have any chance.
Browns- Shaun (7-8-1) Coaching changes all around again in Cleveland as Freddie Kitchens is rewarded for the offensive improvement in the 2nd half of the 2018 season with his first head coaching opportunity. Todd Monken comes over from the Bucs to fill the OC role, Steve Wilks is in as DC and Mike Priefer is Special Team Coordinator. The Browns are in an enviable position of having plenty of salary cap space and not having any notable pending free agents of their own. Greg Robinson started at LT in the second half last season and will likely be retained at a reasonable price but the rest of the potential free agents are either restricted or easily replaceable. Tyrod Taylor will most likely find a new home after the debut season performance of Baker Mayfield looks to have solved the never ending saga of Browns quarterbacks. Look for the Browns to add a starting calibre tackle, wide receiver and cornerback depth and interior defensive line help throughout the draft and free agency. John Dorsey was aggressive in his roster turnover last year so look for the Browns to potentially make a big free agency splash. They will be picking 17th in the draft and do have some needs at CB/IDL and LB. So expect one of these positions to be taken with the 17th pick.
Bengals- Lee (6-10) After a hot start to 2018 The Bengals suffered injuries which led to a disappointing end and the firing of long-time coach Marvin Lewis. Lewis is succeeded by Zac Taylor former QB’s coach and member of the defeated super bowl participant Los Angeles Rams. This seems like a team hoping for the next Sean McVay by a young offensive minded guy. Look for the Bengals to possibly be suitor for the service of Ryan Tannehill if he is to be jettisoned by the Dolphins, Taylor was his QB coach as a rookie. All this is dependent on how the new staff feel about the Red rocket Andy Dalton whose play has been inconsistent and has now had multiple injuries that have ended his seasons and ultimately the teams. The Bengals will have a need at CB heading in to free agency and the draft. They can address this by locking up one of their own in former first round selection Darqueze Dennard who was tied for a team high 2 INT. The team has over $50m in cap space so have enough to lock up Denard as a decent NFL starting corner or go shopping on the open market. Look for the Bengals to address the o line with the 11th pick in the draft with multiple needs at OT/IOL and after to address the Line-backer position.
Texans- Lee (11-5) The Texans finished the season in disappointing fashion with a home playoff loss to the division rival Colts. But this is a team stacked with talent and including DeAndre Hopkins, JJ Watt, Dashon Watson and impending free agent Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney amassed 9 sacks this season and will be a free agent prize during the offseason. The Texans of course have the inside track being able to negotiate an extension at any time before the start of the new league year on 13th March. The Texans have over $60m in cap space so can make sure Clowney doesn’t hit the open market but if the team want to save some of the money Clowney could cost they could sign fellow DE Christian Covington. Corner is another positions that will need to be addressed with two guys set to be free agents Kareem Jackson and Kayvon Webster. So after free agency the Texans will have a clearer plan of how to attack the draft with the 23rd overall pick and needs at potentially at OT/OIL and CB
Colts- Shaun (10-6) Frank Reich did an incredible job in turning the Colts around from a disappointing previous campaign and a 1-5 start to ultimately make the playoffs last season. The coaches have all been retained and comeback player of the year Andrew Luck has another 9 months of rehabilitation to get into his shoulder ahead of the next campaign. Not many marquee names when it comes to pending Free Agents but CB Pierre Desir, S Clayton Geathers and the versatile Offensive Lineman Evan Boehm should be retained as solid depth and mid level starters. Armed with the projected most cap space in the NFL heading into Free Agency the Colts are primed to add premier talent to their ranks. Look for them to add a premier wide receiver to play opposite TY Hilton and for quality to be brought into the defensive backfield and pass rush department. A potential landing spot for Le’Veon Bell, despite the late season play of Marlon Mack at the RB position. They will be picking 26th and have some needs at IDL/WR/S and CB.
Titans- (9-7-0)- Stocks The Titans have gone 9-7 in the last three seasons and made the playoffs just once in 2017. Marcus Mariota’s health is a concern. He has struggled to stay fit because of his playing style and the fact his offensive line ranked 31st in pass protection. The emergence of Derrick Henry as a legitimate Running Back finally after being released into the offense is another reason to sure up this Offensive line. Give Henry some help to get upfield and protect Mariota. Malcolm Butler hasn’t been the Cornerback they hoped he would be and a new, young corner alongside Adoree Jackson will help hugely. Add another dynamic pass rusher along side 2nd rounder Harold Landry will add much needed bite. Kenny Vaccaro has been good at Safety but upgrading at the position is needed. The defence isn’t awful, they just had a case of the Rams Super Bowl offense all season long. No help from the offensive side of the ball. Corey Davis is yet to explode into the 1st round talent he came into the league promising to be. They need help at Wide Receiver in order to give Mariota another target and reduce the heat on Davis. Delanie Walker has been a stud at Tight End for years but foot and ankle issues may well have ended his career as a stud. A safe pair of hands at tight end will allow Mariota to dump off short passes too as a safety net. The Titans only have 6 picks after giving the 6th round pick to the Ravens for Kamalei Correa, they may need more in order to rebuild this season. They will be picking 19th and require EDGE/WR/IOL help.
Jags- Murf (5-11) The Jags were arguably the biggest disappointment in 2018. Tipped for first place by many pundits they ended up dead last in the division. Despite this, Doug Marrone was retained and will be back in 2019. However his staff did pay the price for the teams results. At the time of recording, they have hired 8 major coaches, with OC John DeFilippo, touted by many to be a Head Coach in 2019, making the move to spark some life into a stagnant offense that ranked 30th in Football Outsiders DVOA rankings. Their only notable Free Agent in 2019 is TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins but considering he did nothing in 2018 on offense, Jags fans might be glad to see the back of him. However he had a great 2017 with the Jets and had Blake Bortles throwing to him, so I am sure there will be a market for him. They are drafting at 7 in 2019 and have several needs, TE and EDGE but none more obvious than Quarterback. Unless they take a QB in Free Agency, they will most certainly take one with the 7th pick. I would like them to go for Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock. We all know this team has a great Defence, but the Jaguars had no offense last year. They will be spending significant cap and draft capital this year on offense, and depending on who they get, they could be back challenging for the playoffs in 2019.
Look out for our Part 3 shortly and get in touch via the comments below, or with Shaun @all32shaun, Lee @all32lee or Murf and Stocks @5yardrush. Please download and listen to the podcast and get in touch with our Facebook group Rush Nation on the Facebook Page @5yardrush
See you for Part 3.
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