The countdown to the active parts of the NFL off-season has begun, starting with free agency. Here’s a mock rundown of where the AFC teams will go.
Oakland Raiders – $64.3 million – Sign: Michael Johnson
Improving the defense is a top priority for Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders. The best place to start is up front. Michael Johnson only had three sacks at defensive end in 2013 but deeper stats show he was one of the most disruptive and versatile pass rushers in the league. He can help Oakland in a variety of ways off the edge.
Jacksonville Jaguars – $59.3 million – Sign: Michael Bennett
Why not trade one Seahawks coach for another and get paid while doing it? That is what defensive end Michael Bennett will be thinking when he signs with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Have played in Seattle and won a ring with Pete Carroll, he can get his money and fill a need for Carroll’s former coordinator Gus Bradley in Jacksonville.
Cleveland Browns – $49.9 million – Sign: Jairus Byrd
It’s been one of the most consistent rumors all off-season and now has a real chance to become reality. The Cleveland Browns want more playmaking from their safeties. Jairus Byrd is on the market and was coached by Cleveland head man Mike Pettine in Buffalo. Best of all the Browns have the money Byrd is sure to demand.
Indianapolis Colts – $44.4 million – Sign: Eric Decker
Having their deep threat in place with T.Y. Hilton, the Indianapolis Colts could use a solid #2 receiver who offers that big body and ability to make tough catches. Eric Decker filled that role very well in Denver. He’s got a big frame and the ability to find holes in coverage to make the play.
Miami Dolphins – $35.1 million – Sign: Eugene Monroe
Everything must be about ensuring the safety of Ryan Tannehill for the Miami Dolphins. That means getting the best offensive lineman they possibly can. Eugene Monroe is a sturdy, dependable and strong left tackle who can also help out with his solid run blocking.
Cincinnati Bengals – $29.4 million – Sign: T.J. Ward
There really aren’t many holes to speak of on the Cincinnati Bengals roster, save for the safety position on defense. They’ve gotten by the past couple seasons with decent role players but what they really could use is a talented leader on the back end. T.J. Ward would bring experience, toughness and consistency with him, along with Pro Bowl credentials.
Denver Broncos – $28.7 million – Sign: Sam Shields
There is no doubting the Denver Broncos can stop the run, so their primary mission in NFL free agency must center around improving the pass defense. With two of their key corners leaving investing in that position makes sense. Sam Shields is a good fit for their system and one of the more underrated cover men set to hit the market.
Baltimore Ravens – $24.9 million – Sign: Geoff Schwartz
John Harbaugh wants to get back to running the football. If so, then signing Geoff Schwartz would certainly help. The Kansas City guard was one of the best run blockers in the league last season and sturdy in pass protection as well. He could really help them in their efforts.
New York Jets – $23.3 million – Sign: Emmanuel Sanders
It doesn’t matter where they come from, all that matters is that the New York Jets start adding offensive weapons to their roster. Emmanuel Sanders is not that #1 go-to guy but the former Steelers would make an ideal slot man to compliment whomever Gang Green decides to pick up in the draft.
Buffalo Bills – $23.1 million – Sign: Rodger Saffold
E.J. Manuel needs better protection if he’s going to realize his potential as the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback. Starting with NFL free agency couldn’t hurt. Rodger Saffold would be an excellent get because he has experience playing at both tackle and guard, allowing the Bills to place him wherever they prefer once the roster is clearer.
Tennessee Titans – $10.7 million – Sign: Anthony Spencer
Ray Horton is in town with his 3-4 defense, so finding pass rushers who fit it has become a top priority for the Tennessee Titans. The key will be finding a player who comes relatively cheap. That being the case, former Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer is only 30-years old and should come at a reasonable price after missing the 2013 season.
New England Patriots – $12.7 million – Sign: Kenny Britt
Turning around aimless careers has become a specialty for the New England Patriots. Given their shifting needs at wide receiver, they should take a serious look at Kenny Britt. The massively talented player could never find a groove in Tennessee, thanks in part to his off-the-field troubles. Still, there is no denying at 6’3″ that he is an inviting target and with some proper coaching could become a force on the outside.
Kansas City Chiefs – $9.9 million – Sign: Donte Whitner
They won’t do much spending in NFL free agency but the Kansas City Chiefs could still upgrade their roster if they find the right player. Donte Whitner is not a turnover machine but he is still a tone-setter at strong safety who could help on the back end next to Eric Berry for the Chiefs.
Houston Texans – $8.9 million – Sign: Chris Clemens
Another safety that gets overlooked is former Miami Dolphins standout Chris Clemens. He isn’t known for his impact in coverage but he is steady, tackles well and shows no signs of being injury-prone. The Houston Texans need somebody on the back end who know their job. That can be Clemens.
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