For the first time in three years, we saw a different team step up and steal the AFC South away from the Tennessee Titans. Doug Pederson, Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars took the division in a thrilling Week 18 matchup against Tennessee, then upset the Los Angeles Chargers on Super Wild Card Weekend in what was the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history (27 points). The Jags are in a good spot moving forward, but what about the rest of the division?
This offseason will be a time of change for the AFC South. The Titans have to choose between rebuilding and rebuilding and have some decisions to make with some important players on the roster — like quarterback Ryan Tannehill. As for the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, they will likely be drafting new franchise quarterback prospects who could either speed up their rebuild or keep them at the bottom of the division.
Below, we’ll break down the team-by-team needs for each member of the AFC South, list their projected cap space, and examine which draft specialists they have to select with their first-round pick. Ready? Let’s jump in.
Salary cap data courtesy of Over The Cap.
Needs of: QB, C, LB, EDGE, WR, DL
In recent years, the Texans have been rebuilding their way. They went up with the players they liked, but they didn’t swing for the fences. With DeMeco Ryans now at the helm, I’m interested to see how Houston works differently. The Texans hold the No. 2 overall pick. It’s somewhat precarious to be in, since many believe the Chicago Bears will trade the No. 1 overall pick. That means the Texans likely won’t have the quarterback pick at No. 2.
As for team needs, the Texans could stand to upgrade just about anywhere. A new center could be something Houston wants to add, and no one would be upset with an addition at guard as well. Something to remember about the offensive line is that star left tackle Laremy Tunsil plans to restore the market this offseason, so be ready to deal with it. I also think the Texans need to add a wide receiver for Bryce Young/CJ Stroud.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans statistically had the third-worst unit in the league last year, allowing 170.2 yards per game — which was by far the worst in the league. Additions are needed at all three levels, although it’s nice Houston can say it hit Jalen Pitre and Derek Stingley Jr. The bottom line is that this rebuild will not be completed in a single offseason. Winning the draft will be important.
CBS Sports Draft Previews: The Texans hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. CBS Sports NFL Draft experts Ryan Wilson and Chris Trapasso have Houston Alabama’s Bryce Young selected, while Josh Edwards and Kyle Stackpole have Houston to take CJ Stroud from Ohio State.
Estimated cap space: $37,612,053 (No. 5 in NFL)
Needs of: QB, OT, OG, CB, WR
Another year, another offseason where the Colts are looking for a new quarterback. However, armed with the No. 4 overall pick, it appears that Indy will draft a signal caller rather than pursue another veteran. Make sure you’ve identified the correct one.
Offensively, the Colts could stand to upgrade on the line. Indy needs a new right guard and to add, at the very least, some competition at left tackle. Center Ryan Kelly could also be a casualty. The Colts also need another wide receiver. I’m intrigued by Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce as much as anyone, but no one would argue that the Colts have one of the best wide receiver corps in the league. Adding a tight end is also something Indianapolis could decide on, although I think Jelani Woods has tremendous potential.
Defensively for the Colts, there are some decisions to be made. Yannick Ngakoue and Bobby Okereke are free agents and then there may be some losses. Cornerback Kenny Moore could be one to watch. Depth is likely a need at all three levels, but cornerback and pass rusher are two areas I would look at for Indy.
CBS Sports Draft Previews: The Colts hold the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, though many see them as trade candidates. CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Ryan Wilson has Indianapolis selecting Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud No. 4 overall, while Kyle Stackpole has Indy taking Kentucky quarterback Will Levis. Chris Trapasso has the Colts trading up to No. 1 overall for Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, while Josh Edwards has the Colts trading up to the No. 1 pick for Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
Estimated cap space: $12,230,976 (No. 13 in NFL)
Needs of: CB, S, DL, OG, WR
What a great year it’s been for the Jaguars, but this young team understands the work isn’t done yet. Last offseason, Jacksonville went on a spending spree in free agency that paid immediate dividends. The Jags aren’t in a position to do anything similar this offseason, but if they make some big additions, they’ll likely come on defense.
The Jaguars had the fifth-worst pass defense in the NFL last season. They need to add a cornerback, especially with Shaquill Griffin a potential casualty, and he could be upgraded at safety as well. You have to look at the interior of the defensive line as well, especially with Corey Peters and Adam Gotsis being free agents. Jacksonville’s defensive front as a whole is on its way to being special.
Offensively, many have pointed to the tight end position as a need, but it looks like Evan Engram to me could return. I believe we can throw in wide receiver as a “need” as well. Marvin Jones is a free agent and you hope Calvin Ridley, who turns 29 in December, makes an immediate impact in 2023, but adding an exciting piece would at least establish some depth at the position. On the offensive line, a starter could be needed at left guard and then right tackle Jawaan Taylor is a free agent.
CBS Sports Draft Previews: The Jaguars hold the No. 24 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. CBS Sports NFL draft expert Ryan Wilson picks Jacksonville, Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave, Chris Trapasso has the Jags getting offensive tackle Maryland has Jaelin Duncan, Josh Edwards has Clemson defensive lineman Brian Bracy and Kyle Stackpole has Jackson Darnville over Georgia. .
Estimated cap space: -$22,753,686 (No. 29 in NFL)
Needs of: CB, WR, OT, OG, LB
Taylor Lewan, Zach Cunningham, Robert Woods and Randy Bullock have now been cut. Left tackle, linebacker, wide receiver and kicker are all needed for the Titans. The offensive line as a whole will be something to watch. Tennessee needs the aforementioned left tackle, possibly a new left guard, center Ben Jones could be a casualty, and then Nate Davis is a free agent. Right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere hasn’t been a dominant performer in his first season, but he has potential moving forward. In addition to the offensive line, the Titans’ wide receiver corps needs to be completely overhauled, as Tennessee had the third-worst passing game in the entire league last season. As for the quarterback position, I have argued that the Titans will restore it with Tannehill.
Defensively, the Titans could stand to add just about anywhere. Another pass rusher would be nice, and finding a starting inside linebacker is something to consider with David Long free and Cunningham a casualty. The position that worries me the most is the corner. Kristian Fulton and Roger McCreary are legit players, but Caleb Farley was a big loss. This is a top position, and with the Titans’ injury history, additions need to be made here.
CBS Sports Draft Previews: The Titans hold the No. 11 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. CBS Sports NFL Draft experts Ryan Wilson, Chris Trapasso and Kyle Stackpole have Tennessee selecting Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. , while Josh Edwards has the Titans taking Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones.
Estimated cap space: $12,408,843 (No. 12 in NFL)