Free Agency Primer: AFC South
• Key free agents: QB Chad Henne, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, TE Clay Harbor, CB Will Blackmon
• Players Jacksonville needs back: Henne, Harbor, Blackmon
Henne beat out Blaine Gabbert for the starting job last season, and while that’s not exactly long division to do, he’ll be a great backup and help to whichever franchise quarterback the Jags take in 2014. Harbor is a good possession player, while Blackmon was one of the more underrated pass defenders in the league in 2013.
• Players Jacksonville should let walk: Jones-Drew
It’s time for this dance to end. Jones-Drew and the Jags have been going back and forth for a good long time about his long-term future. While the previous front office was incorrect in assuming he didn’t deserve a rich deal, there may very well be too much tread on the tires at this point.
• Outlook: The Jags’ current front office is one of the smarter and more positive ones in the league, at least on paper. This is the year in which they must take major strides forward. With nearly $50 million in cap space (only the Raiders have more) and a system in which the front office and coaching staff are simpatico, there will be fewer and fewer rebuilding excuses as time goes on. General manager Dave Caldwell seems to get it, and head coach Gus Bradley is a very smart guy. But now, and especially in a division where there isn’t one clearly dominant team, it’s time for the one without a winning season since 2007 to make some stronger statements.
• Key free agents: WR Kenny Britt, WR Damian Williams, CB Alterraun Verner, S Bernard Pollard
• Players Tennessee needs back: Williams, Verner, Pollard
Williams is developing into a fine second receiver — someone Jake Locker (or Tennessee’s future quarterback du jour) can trust. Verner is a huge priority — there were times last season when he played very much like the best cornerback in the NFL, and he may not have hit his ceiling just yet. Pollard is a tough, wily veteran who had a great season in 2013.
• Players Tennessee should let walk: Britt
It’s pretty obvious that Britt won’t be back, as he had another inconsistent season and responded to healthy scratches by blasting the team for having a “double standard.” It will be interesting to see how much interest there is on the open market for a player with some talent, but with a great deal of development needed. Some in the league believe that Britt will never really get it.
• Outlook: It remains to be seen what effect the Titans’ offseason front office shakeup will have on the field, but in new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, there’s at least a guy with a proven ability to bring out the best in quarterbacks. And at this point, the Titans will only go as far as Jake Locker — a healthy Jake Locker with some of his inconsistency issues put to bed — will take them.