One thing each AFC team needs to do to dethrone the Chiefs as conference champions
Here's how each team in the AFC can knock off Kansas City
The Kansas City Chiefs are not only the kings of the AFC, but are now the reigning Super Bowl LIV champions after taking down the San Francisco 49ers down in Miami. For the rest of the spring and summer, Patrick Mahomes and his teammates can flex their championship muscles, while the rest of the conference will begin scheming a way to leap over them in 2020.
The last time we saw a back-to-back Super Bowl winner came all the way back in 2003-04 when the New England Patriots were able to earn consecutive Lombardi's. With that drought on the table, that should give plenty of confidence to the rest of these AFC teams that they can knock off K.C. next season. But it won't come without a little tweaking to their current roster.
As you'll see below, we've highlighted the most important thing on each AFC club's offseason to-do list that'll, in theory, inch them a bit closer to dethroning the Chiefs for conference superiority.
Draft Joe Burrow
Truth be told, the Bengals need a lot for them to even come close to contending against the Chiefs, but drafting Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick at this year's NFL Draft is one heck of a start. They will have solidified a franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future and then can begin building around him in a similar fashion Kansas City was able to do so with Patrick Mahomes. As other franchises can attest to, once you actually find your franchise quarterback, things start falling more easily into place. Cincinnati will hope for a similar outcome once Burrow gets to town.
Spend, spend, spend!
The Dolphins have an array of needs, but they luckily have the most cap space in the entire NFL at just under $94 million. That's also not even mentioning the three first-round picks they have at the 2020 NFL Draft, including No. 5 overall. Some pieces are already in place like receiver DeVante Parker, but the Dolphins need to address a bunch of areas to become viable in 2020. Because of that draft capital and cap space, there is an opportunity for them to turn things around rather quickly, so long as they spend their money and draft assets wisely.
Pry Tom Brady from the Patriots
The main focus for the Chargers this offseason should be to try andThey have a roster that can compete against their division rival Chiefs, but need to that final piece in a franchise quarterback to really get them over the hump. If Brady makes the decision to leave the Patriots, L.A. needs to make sure they are the destination.
Fix Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield took a step back in 2020 after an extremely promising rookie season. You could chalk it up to the lack of leadership with head coach Freddie Kitchens, but that also may be letting the former No. 1 overall pick off the hook a little bit. No matter the case, first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski needs to unlock that potential that still rests inside Mayfield for the Browns to have a productive season in 2020. He did it with Kirk Cousins in Minnesota, so why not with Baker, too?
Re-sign Yannick Ngakoue
Of course, the quarterback situation needs to be hammered out in Jacksonville between Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew, but don't sleep on the Jaguars' need to re-sign defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. He just posted his fourth consecutive season with at least eight sacks and had a career-high in tackles (41) in 2019. If Jacksonville wants to contend next season, they need to be stout on both sides of the ball. One of either Foles for Minshew will emerge under center, but they need to have Ngakoue as additional firepower on the defensive side.
Get Sam Darnold a legit No. 1 receiver
Sam Darnold had a tumultuous second year in the league that was almost instantly dented due to mono. While he dealt with that illness, the Jets QB was able to show some flashes in 2019. With Robby Anderson entering free agency, it puts even more emphasis to give Darnold help in the passing game. Could they be a player for A.J. Green or any of the other big-time pass-catching free agents? Why not? Regardless of where they can find it, they need to give him a reliable option to go to when he drops back to pass.
Upgrade from Jacoby Brissett
The Colts have the pieces in place to contend in 2020, but the low ceiling of Jacoby Brissett may be their ultimate undoing if they roll into next season with him as their starting quarterback. They have a ton of money to spend and there will be a lot of talented quarterbacks available. Would Philip Rivers be an upgrade? That's an avenue they should definitely explore.
Las Vegas Raiders
Improve the defense
Only the Miami Dolphins were a worse unit in the NFL last season in terms of defensive DVOA. The Raiders are starting a new era in Las Vegas next season and, while many are pegging them to potentially replace Derek Carr at quarterback, fixing the defense is the biggest problem. Specifically, they should look to add not one, but two linebackers to really sure up the heart of their defense. They should look to address that issue in the draft, as well as in free agency.
Find a replacement for Emmanuel Sanders
The Broncos shipped away Emmanuel Sanders at the deadline this past season and now they need focus on finding a replacement for the crafty receiver that can complement second-year quarterback Drew Lock and up-and-coming receiver Courtland Sutton. If Denver could land a player like Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy out of Alabama, it could do Lock a world of good in Year two. Of course, if they don't re-sign Chris Harris, cornerback may become a more pressing priority.
Get Ben Roethlisberger healthy
The Steelers were a borderline playoff team even without Big Ben in 2019. After acquiring safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Dolphins earlier in the season, Pittsburgh's defense was lethal and pretty much carried them throughout the year. As long as they can help Roethlisberger on the road to recovery, the Steelers should be in the thick of contention next season.
Re-sign Derrick Henry
Yes, the Titans also need to figure out their quarterback situation and possibly bring back Ryan Tannehill, but Derrick Henry is arguably the more important free agent for Tennessee. There's no denying that he was the key piece in the Titans AFC Championship run this season that included road wins against the Patriots and No. 1 seeded Ravens. Typically you don't want to sign workhorse running backs to massive contracts, but Henry seems like a different animal that can handle the workload. He's a guy that Tennessee should hitch their wagon to.
Find Josh Allen a top pass catcher
Similar to his fellow AFC East quarterback in New York (East Rutherford, NJ?) in Sam Darnold, the Bills should look to give Josh Allen a prime-time receiver weapon. They tried to do it last offseason with Antonio Brown, but the receiver shut down the trade before it was really even out there. If they dip their toe in the NFL Draft, someone like Clemson's Tee Higgins, who our own would suffice.
Add a corner
The Texans don't really have the ability to further stabilize the offensive line after they traded their first-rounder to the Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, so the next best thing should be to work on the secondary. Johnathan Joseph and Bradley Roby are slated to be free agents and it'd behoove Houston to inject some youth into a secondary that struggled mightily in 2019. As a club, they allowed 267.2 passing yards per game in the regular season (fourth-worst in the NFL). That poor production was on full display in their Divisional Round collapse against Kansas City this postseason.
New England Patriots
Bring back Tom Brady
This one is the most obvious, right? Tom Brady is slated to be a free agent for the first time in his NFL career and the Patriots should do everything in their power to keep him in Foxborough. Brady may not be at his highest powers, but he's still plenty good enough to help you win a Super Bowl. it should priority No. 1 for New England to keep TB12 where he's been for two decades.
Re-sign Matthew Judon
For most of the year, the Ravens were looked at as the favorite to come out of the AFC and win Super Bowl LIV thanks to the MVP season Lamar Jackson was putting together. They were upset by the Titans in the Divisional round, but should be right back in contention in 2020. That said, they should look to re-sign linebacker Matthew Judon, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2019. If they can retain him, Baltimore would have a defense that can do more than simply compliment Jackson and the Ravens offense.
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