After the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50, the Broncos lost a few key players on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Peyton Manning retired, and QB Brock Osweiler, who was supposed to replace Manning, signed with the Houston Texans. The Broncos didn’t re-sign linebacker Danny Trevathan or defensive lineman Malik Jackson.
However, the Broncos defense returns linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware as well as cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. It’s hard to doubt this team even if their quarterback position is uncertain.
The Oakland Raiders have been on the rise in recent years. Led by QB Derek Carr and defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack, the Raiders could be in the hunt for a playoff berth. In 2015, they went 7-9, which was an improvement from their 3-13 campaign in 2014.
Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs made the playoffs, and defeated the Houston Texans 30-0 in the wild card round. The Chiefs should be in the hunt for a playoff berth in 2016.
The San Diego Chargers went 4-12 in 2015 and finished last in the division. Perhaps they’re the AFC West’s dark horse, but it seems like the Chargers have the smallest chances to make the playoffs.
The Broncos, Raiders, and Chiefs all have a shot at winning the division title, and the Chargers could be in the hunt as well. Possibly three of the four teams could make the playoffs depending on seeding.
The AFC South has been one of the weakest divisions in the league in recent years. However, all four teams have improved drastically this offseason, and this division has the potential to be very strong in the near future.
In 2015, the Houston Texans won the division with one of the league’s top defenses. They were held back by their lackluster offense, and in the wild card round of the playoffs, it showed. They lost 30-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs. They spent the offseason revamping their offense with players like quarterback Brock Osweiler, running back Lamar Miller, and wide receivers Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. Houston’s offense could be very scary if all goes well.
Indianapolis Colts finished second in the division last year. Their Super Bowl aspirations were derailed when QB Andrew Luck was injured. Luck played in only seven regular season games. The Colts made it their priority to bolster their offensive line. Indy should be contending for the division title this season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished third in the division in 2015. However, they should be in the hunt for a division title with their improved defense. The Jaguars drafted defensive back Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack, and while Ramsey could miss some time with an injury, both rookies have the talent to make a big impact. In 2015, defensive end Dante Fowler, who was the Jags’ first round pick, missed the entire season with an injury, and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks missed 12 games with an injury. With Ramsey, Jack, Fowler, Marks, and recently signed defensive lineman Malik Jackson, it’s likely that the Jaguars will be contending for a playoff berth.
While the rookies haven’t hit the field yet, the Tennessee Titans’ draft class looks very strong. They are building around QB Marcus Mariota, and have the potential to push for a playoff berth this fall.
I expect that the race for the AFC South title will be very tight in December. All four teams have the talent to make the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson executed a massive deal last week that sent the first overall pick, a fourth round pick, and a sixth round pick to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for the 15th overall pick, two second-round picks, and a third round pick. The Titans also received a 2017 first round pick and a 2017 third round pick.
While it’ll take a few years to determine which team benefitted from the trade the most, the Titans are in a great position to shore up their roster. Having drafted quarterback Marcus Mariota last year, the Titans can build their roster around their signal caller of the future.
Having six picks in the top 76 spots typically bodes well for a franchise as long as they select players who fit their system and can develop into contributors. While the Titans could use some of their extra picks to move back up, having a high quantity of early picks gives the team more opportunities to add future starters.
After former Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller left for Houston and the Denver Broncos matched RB CJ Anderson’s offer sheet, the Dolphins’ backfield became pretty thin.
The Dolphins have been searching for a replacement, and their search will continue throughout the offseason. Former Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is visiting Miami on Tuesday. The 29-year old four-time Pro Bowler is recovering from a torn Achilles.
While you can expect the ‘Phins to add a running back or two in free agency and/or the draft, a dark horse is already on the roster. Meet RB Jay Ajayi, who played in nine games as a rookie in 2015. While new head coach Adam Gase has expressed his desire for having multiple running backs, he stated that Ajayi will be “a big part of what we’re doing.”
The Dolphins need to add depth, but Ajayi could emerge as a three-down back depending on his health. Ajayi should have a chance to be featured in the backfield following Miller’s departure.
Coming off of a 7-9 season, the Philadelphia Eagles currently have a quarterback quandary. New head coach Doug Pederson will install his West Coast offense, and quarterback Sam Bradford, who was the starter for most of the 2015 season, is set to enter free agency.
At this point, it is unclear who will start for the Eagles in 2016. Pederson stated that Bradford “would fit perfectly into the system,” but at the same time, Pederson reportedly views Chiefs backup QB Chase Daniel as potentially more than a clipboard-holder. Daniel will enter free agency, and could compete for the starting role in Philly. His familiarity with Pederson’s offensive system makes this a logical signing at the right price.
The Eagles have the 13th overall pick, and could select QB Carson Wentz or QB Paxton Lynch, depending on who is still available. QB Jared Goff is expected to be selected earlier. The Eagles could draft a quarterback to develop in a middle or late round.
The Eagles should attempt to re-sign Bradford on a one- or two-year deal with an option, and should sign Daniel to compete and push Bradford. Bradford has missed a lot of games in the past due to numerous injuries, so having a capable backup who knows the system is essential. If the Eagles have Bradford and Daniel entering the draft, they should consider adding another signal caller to develop.
The Denver Broncos can (and should) celebrate their Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers all offseason. They are at the top of the league and deserve to enjoy the moment.
At some point, the Broncos will have to address their contract situation. General manager John Elway constructed an extremely talented roster, and more specifically, an elite defense. Many key contributors are set to enter free agency this offseason.
Priority number one is outside linebacker Von Miller, who has been one of the league’s top pass rushers since the Broncos drafted him second overall in 2011. In the playoffs, Miller was unstoppable, and was named Super Bowl MVP.
If the Broncos and Miller don’t agree to an extension early this offseason, the team will likely franchise tag him. In an ideal world, they will agree to an extension with Miller and quarterback Brock Osweiler early this offseason so they can franchise tag someone like defensive lineman Malik Jackson or linebacker Danny Trevathan. The Broncos have already signed defensive lineman Derek Wolfe to a contract extension.
It would be more cost-effective to franchise tag Miller ($14 Million) than Osweiler ($20 Million), notably.
Winning a Super Bowl is a mountain of a challenge; winning two is Mt. Everest. The Broncos had the Super Bowl-winning formula this season, and they will be looking to retain as much as talent as possible.
New San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly had his introductory press conference on Wednesday, one week after he was hired.
Kelly previously spent three years in Philadelphia. In his first two seasons, the Eagles posted 10-6 records and made the playoffs once. However, the Eagles fired Kelly after he was 6-9 heading into Week 17 in 2015.
Perhaps Kelly, who infamously disassembled and reassembled the Eagles’ roster from top to bottom, had too much power. He was in charge of coaching and personnel, and the Eagles’ subpar 2015 record reflects how the experiment turned out.
The 49ers need to structure their organization immediately. Kelly will obviously spearhead coaching, and general manger Trent Baalke will handle personnel. CEO Jed York, who received huge amounts of criticism for parting ways with Jim Harbaugh one year ago, has to find some sort of balance in order for the 49ers to get back to winning ways.