The AFC South was a roller coaster in 2022. The preseason favorite Indianapolis Colts completely flopped with Matt Ryan, the Tennessee Titans looked like the best team in the division by far before injuries derailed their entire campaign and then the Jacksonville Jaguars came out of nowhere, winning six out of their last seven games to claim their second AFC South title.
Trevor Lawrence and the Jags winning the division wasn't a fluke either, as Jacksonville is currently the favorite over at Caesars Sportsbook to repeat as AFC South champions in 2023 (-150). However, they did lose a couple of important players in free agency. They aren't alone, though.
Below, we will grade the four AFC South teams and how they have fared through the first few weeks of free agency.
Free agency information taken from Over The Cap
Houston Texans: B+
Additions: WR Steven Sims (Steelers), C Michael Deiter (Dolphins), EDGE Chase Winovich (Browns), RB Devin Singletary (Bills), WR Noah Brown (Cowboys), TE Andrew Beck (Broncos), DL Hassan Ridgeway (49ers), RB Mike Boone (Broncos), LB Cory Littleton (Panthers), LB Denzel Perryman (Raiders), QB Case Keenum (Bills), DL Sheldon Rankins (Jets), OG Shaq Mason (traded from Buccaneers), S Jimmie Ward (49ers), TE Dalton Schultz (Cowboys), WR Robert Woods (Titans)
Re-signings: WR Drew Estrada, WR Jalen Camp, DL Taylor Stallworth, EDGE Derek Rivers, C Scott Quessenberry, CB Tavierre Thomas, S M.J. Stewart, S Eric Murray
Departures: TE O.J. Howard (Raiders), WR Phillip Dorsett (Raiders), OG Justin McCray (Panthers), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Lions), WR Brandin Cooks (traded to Cowboys), TE Jordan Akins (Browns), EDGE Obo Okoronkwo (Browns), CB Tremon Smith (Broncos), QB Kyle Allen (Bills)
The Texans and first-year head coach/former linebacker DeMeco Ryans have been busy in free agency. A couple of their notable additions include former Cowboys wideout Noah Brown, former Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins, former 49ers safety Jimmie Ward and they scored former Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz on a bargain of a deal. He will be a nice target for the rookie quarterback coming in.
I also liked the Mason trade. The Texans gave up just a sixth-round pick for a starting offensive guard. The only decision I questioned was Houston quickly jumping on the veteran Woods, and giving him $10 million fully guaranteed coming off of the worst season of his NFL career. But, he is a good leader.
Houston is rebuilding, but there's no doubt the Texans got better in free agency. They found new starters at reasonable prices that can help get the franchise back on track.
Indianapolis Colts: C
Additions: DE Samson Ebukam (49ers), K Matt Gay (Rams), DT Taven Bryan (Browns), QB Gardner Minshew (Eagles), WR Isaiah McKenzie (Bills)
Re-signings: LB E.J. Speed, WR Ashton Dulin, DE Tyquan Lewis, CB Tony Brown, EDGE Khalid Kareem, DL Chris Williams, RB Deon Jackson, OT Carter O'Donnell
Departures: LB Bobby Okereke (Giants), WR Parris Campbell (Giants), CB Brandon Facyson (Raiders), DT Byron Cowart (Chiefs), OT Matt Pryor (49ers), CB Stephon Gilmore (trade to Cowboys)
Losing Okereke is certainly a hit to the Colts defense, and I would guess there's a contingent of fans that were hoping to retain Campbell after his career year. Additionally, could the Colts have gotten a bit more for Gilmore in that trade? The Ebukam signing was one that was needed on the edge. Last year he set career highs in sacks (5) and QB hits (13). Minshew and McKenzie are both underrated signings, but the headliner for Indy may be Matt Gay.
The Colts agreed to terms on a record-setting contract with the former Rams kicker earlier this month. It's reportedly a four-year deal worth $22.5 million, which makes it the largest contract any kicker has ever signed in free agency. The deal makes him the second-highest kicker in the NFL in terms of AAV. Gay is certainly a great kicker, but that's some big-time money!
The Colts now need to focus on adding a new right guard, competition at left tackle, a cornerback, wide receiver and hitting on their new quarterback in the draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C+
Additions: DE Michael Dogbe (Cardinals), RB D'Ernest Johnson (Browns), DL Henry Mondeaux (Giants)
Re-signings: S Andrew Wingard, DE Adam Gotsis, CB Tre Herndon, TE Evan Engram (franchise tag), QB C.J. Beathard, WR Tim Jones, OT Blake Hance, OG Cole Van Lanen, K Riley Patterson, RB JaMycal Hasty, CB Tevaughn Campbell, DL Roy Robertson-Harris (extension)
Departures: OT Jawaan Taylor (Chiefs), DE Arden Key (Titans), TE Chris Manhertz (Broncos)
Jacksonville losing its starting right tackle is tough, but at the same time, there was no way the Jaguars could top the Chiefs' offer. A big bump in pay to serve as Patrick Mahomes' blindside blocker for the reigning Super Bowl champion. However, this of course skyrockets right tackle up the big board of team needs for the Jags. Maybe Walker Little is an in-house replacement?
The Jaguars made a good move in re-signing Robertson-Harris, and found a way to keep Engram in the fold. Although I really thought an extension was coming instead of the franchise tag. Now, Jacksonville needs to look at adding a left guard and some pieces in the secondary. The Jags are another team that hasn't been too busy in free agency, but Calvin Ridley being reinstated is exciting. Maybe the Jaguars haven't been busy adding outside talent, but Trent Baalke is clearly trying to keep his guys in the fold. Just look at all they have re-signed.
Tennessee Titans: C
Additions: OT Andre Dillard (Eagles), DE Arden Key (Jaguars), OT Daniel Brunskill (49ers), LB Azeez Al-Shaair (49ers), LB Luke Gifford (Cowboys), CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (Buccaneers)
Re-signings: WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, DT Naquan Jones, OL Aaron Brewer, DT Teair Tart
Departures: OG Nate Davis (Bears), DT Kevin Strong (Cardinals), LT Dennis Daley (Cardinals), DE DeMarcus Walker (Bears), LB Dylan Cole (Bears), WR Robert Woods (Texans), TE Austin Hooper (Raiders), LB David Long Jr. (Dolphins), DB Lonnie Johnson (Saints), OT Le'Raven Clark (Steelers), QB Joshua Dobbs (Browns)
The Titans have had an interesting offseason. Despite the Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry rumors, both remain on roster as we enter April. Tennessee added a prospective Taylor Lewan replacement in Dillard, but in reality, he may be the new left guard. The former Eagle came more expensive than I thought he would -- $29 million over three years. Key on the other hand is a huge addition that will thrive in Tennessee's defensive scheme, and the same can be said for Al-Shaair -- who fills a big need at linebacker. Both had connections to new general manager Ran Carthon. Murphy-Bunting is another solid add for the Titans, as their cornerback room struggled in 2022. Tennessee shouldn't be done there.
While the Titans made some intriguing additions, they also let some notable names go. Tennessee now has to replace another starter on the offensive line with the departure of Davis, and Long's new deal with Miami is a bit of a bargain. It's clear the Titans still have some work to do. The fact that Tennessee has done nothing at wide receiver is definitely worrisome. The market worked in their favor, and they still didn't land anyone like Mecole Hardman, D.J. Chark, Mack Hollins or Marquez Callaway. The offense was bad last year, and hasn't gotten any better.