The free agent period has calmed down significantly, so it’s time to take a look back and reflect on the events that have transpired over the past couple of weeks by grading each team by division. It’s time to take a look at the NFC South, where the Jacksonville Jaguars added a couple of more former Seattle Seahawks standouts and the Indianapolis Colts made sure to make some splashes in their effort to gun for a deeper run in the playoffs.
Indianapolis Colts B+
Although the Colts spend an awful lot of money on Arthur Jones, the former Baltimore Ravens 3-4 defensive end was always going to command a great deal of money on the open market. The 27-year-old can play on multiple fronts and is a perfect fit in Chuck Pagano’s defense. Jones also has the ability to succeed in run defense and as a pass rusher, and many teams showed interest in him as a player who could break out in 2014.
The Colts two best moves in the offseason were to sign Hakeem Nicks and re-sign Vontae Davis, and the latter move was obvious. If the Colts didn’t retain Davis, then they would have had to scramble for an elite corner. Without Davis, their secondary would have been a mess last season, and he’s a true shutdown corner who was the best impending free agent corner (Darrelle Revis doesn’t count as he was cut). Nicks has a lot to prove after a putrid contract year, but one thing he doesn’t have to prove is his elite talent. Without much pressure, Nicks could blow up in 2014 and give the Colts one of the NFL’s most feared offenses, especially if Trent Richardson breaks out. T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Nicks, Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener are an excellent top-five group of weapons for a top-notch QB.
Ryan Grigson grossly overpaid for D’Qwell Jackson in a move that isn’t worth anyone trying to justify, but that’s the lone blemish in what has been a very productive offseason thus far. The Colts were once again aggressive, and they also did well to keep players like Pat McAfee and Ahmad Bradshaw around. One point of criticism is their offensive line, as the interior is still weak. Donald Thomas was an incredibly underrated signing last offseason, but the Colts didn’t get the upgrade they needed at center despite signing Phil Costa. However, Grigson deserves a bonus for at least addressing the position, and he certainly made up for the ill-advised Jackson signing which was born out of desperation for an LB.
Tennessee Titans D-
I love the Tennessee Titans new coaching staff led by Ken Whisenhunt, Ray Horton, and Jason Michael, but I absolutely hated what the Titans did this offseason. Keeping Bernard Pollard around and getting a key upgrade at LB in Wesley Woodyard were two nice moves, but they really hurt themselves by overpaying Michael Oher, who hasn’t been a plus player since he was a rookie. There was nothing they could do about David Stewart, but Oher is still a huge downgrade at right tackle. Charlie Whitehurst is also a downgrade as the backup quarterback, but I do think that sets up the Titans to draft a QB in the mid-rounds of the draft. Maybe I’m being too critical of the Titans organization for their work in free agency, but the coaching moves look considerably stronger than the personnel moves in Nashville.
Houston Texans C
The Houston Texans had a quite free agency, but we all know their draft will be as loud and drama-filled as it gets. That said, they did do well to re-sign Garrett Graham and save some money by cutting ties with Owen Daniels, who is a solid player but was a luxury for a team that needs to squeeze every penny. Ryan Griffin is a potential breakout player in 2014, and he and Graham should form a solid TE duo for the Texans, who always seem to be very strong at the position. The Texans also did well to bring in Fitzpatrick as a backup and deal Matt Schaub, which sets them up to draft a QB with the first overall pick. Kendrick Lewis is a subpar starter, but I don’t have any qualms with at least adding him to the mix at safety. All in all, it was a pretty ho-hum couple of weeks for Rick Smith, and this is certainly the quiet before the storm.
Jacksonville Jaguars B-
The Ziggy Hood signing was a bizarre move, and the Jaguars shouldn’t have given so much to Zane Beadles, who seems to be overrated by some people. Beadles is a massive upgrade for a team that may have had the worst guards in the NFL before signing him, but I still think they could have gotten him for considerably cheaper or added a different player. Toby Gerhart is a gamble, but it’s one that ace GM David Caldwell could easily be vindicated on. Adding Chris Clemons and Red Bryant were excellent moves, and the fact that they were able to keep Jason Babin around for cheaper is another huge plus. The Jaguars defensive line is no longer a weakness, and they made three other quality signings/re-signings in Tandon Doss, Dekoda Watson, and cornerback Will Blackmon.