After breaking down the NFC last week, it is time to discuss which AFC free agents will impact the 2020 NFL Draft. The Patriots await Tom Brady’s free agent decision while the rest of the division hopes to close the game and patch up their offensive lines. Tennessee’s incredible run came courtesy of a number of players that are not under contract for 2020. Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville all enter free agency with at least one major player it needs to bring back. The reigning Super Bowl champs have to figure out what they will do with Chris Jones. Meanwhile, Los Angeles might need to rebuild its whole offense. In the North, the Ravens have some difficult decisions to make regarding Matt Judon and Michael Pierce. The Browns, Bengals and Steelers all need reinforcements in the trenches. Catch up on all the major pending free agents ahead of the scouting combine! Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. https://anchor.fm/theaftermath
There is no shortage of drama in football this week as Jalen Ramsey heads west and the College Football Playoff suffered a major shakeup as Georgia went down. Catch up on all of that and check out this week’s studs and sleepers. Plus find out which games to watch and the prospects to watch in each contest. You can find every episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Every year, there is a premier talent that hits the open market in the NFL. Turns out that the hottest commodity is one we did not expect.
Alex Mack announced at Pro Bowl practice that he would like to opt out of his current deal with the Cleveland Browns. Mack is a three-time Pro Bowler and a former All-Pro. He is widely regarded as a top five player at his position.
Mack is set to make $8 million with his current deal, but he and his agent believe that he is worth a lot more than that and that he can get a lot more than that. With few other centers expected to be available in free agency, we could see that boost Mack’s value even more.
While this does not mean that Mack is definitely leaving the Browns, the possibility now exists. So I figured it was time to find a couple of good fits for when he hits the free agent market. Something to note is that Mack definitely fits better as a pass blocker than a run blocker, so that needs to be considered.
Cleveland Browns Obviously, Mack would have just opted out of his Browns deal, but it seems more monetary than distain for Cleveland. With the Browns under a new direction with Hue Jackson at head coach, Mack might be enticed into hanging around. The Browns would need him too. The closest thing to a backup center is either long-snapper Charley Hughlett or rookie right guard Cameron Erving, who played center at Florida State. Mack would be a center piece on a developing offense that needs a huge makeover already.
Seattle Seahawks This past offseason, Seattle outsmarted itself in trading for Jimmy Graham. It was assumed that the former All-Pro tight end would push the Seahawks of the brink and turn them into a true powerhouse. However, the lack of a steady offensive line proved to be the constant issue for the offense all year. Part of the deal to acquire Graham involved sending Pro Bowl center Max Unger to New Orleans. Bringing in Mack would truly make Seattle’s offense scary. If they cut down on the 46 sacks allowed this past season and give Russell Wilson more time to pick apart offenses, look out.
Jacksonville Jaguars Even though spending big every season in free agency hasn’t seemed to work, adding Mack could be a savvy move for this young Jaguars squad. Blake Bortles is clearly coming into his own and the skill positions for Jacksonville look to be improving. Solidifying the offensive line by signing a proven veteran like Mack would make a major impact. Jacksonville allowed the fourth most sacks in the league this season and failed to impress in the running game. Mack would immediately remedy both of those issues, along with replace soon-to-be free agent Stefan Wisniewski. In the end, Jacksonville should push very hard to sign Mack.
Tennessee Titans Another AFC South team could use some help on the offensive line, especially when you consider the circumstances. Tennessee has a young quarterback in Marcus Mariota who got banged around this season and missed some time with various injuries. The Titans also match up twice a year with the Houston Texans, which means a nice dosage of J.J. Watt. The Titans allowed the most sacks by any NFL team this season and had a ground game that was average at best. Plugging in Mack and then drafting Laremy Tunsil first overall makes this group look like one of the better ones in the league. Mack’s presence could make a huge difference in whether the Titans continue to falter near the bottom or start showing signs that the rebuild has worked.
Free agency is still a long way off but Mack seems intent on exploring his options. If Mack does leave Cleveland, I think his first choice would be to play in Seattle, but I would not be surprised to see him land in Jacksonville either.
Week 16 kicks off tonight with an AFC South matchup between the Jaguars and Titans. This is not one of the exciting games between title contenders but it is a battle to avoid finishing last in the division. It is also likely that one of these teams will be holding the first pick in the NFL draft next May and this game will play a part in determining which team that is. Tennessee is coming off a mostly awful performance against the Jets last week while Jacksonville lost a tough game in Baltimore. Both teams are really more suited to begin looking towards next year but that starts with tonight’s contest. We should see some young players getting a shot to impress the coaching staff and earn themselves a job for next season.
<span “font-size:13.0pt;mso-fareast-font-family:”times=”” mso-bidi-font-family:arial”=”” roman”;=””>Tennessee has been a mess this year. They have had three different starting quarterbacks in as many weeks now with Charlie Whitehurst getting tonight’s start. The only other quarterback on the roster is the recently sign Jordan Palmer. If Whitehurst were to get hurt, Palmer would be thrust into action, who has only attempted 15 regular season passes in his six-year career. The running game has not been very effective for Tennessee either ranking in the bottom quarter of the league. Defensively Tennessee has managed to hold up through the air, sitting around the middle in terms of yards allowed per game but on the ground, the defense has gotten blasted for a league-high 140 yards per contest. Tennessee might be able to hold their own tonight though as Jacksonville’s running back Dennard Robinson is out injured. Look for the Titans to work hard shutting down the running game, making Jaguars’ rookie Blake Bortles have to start carrying the offense. Bortles has been turnover prone this year and the Titans will be hopefully the rookie coughs up a couple more if he forced to throw a lot. On offense, look for a lot of shorter passes, or at least passes that don’t travel too far in the air. Whitehurst does not have the strongest arm, but he can be very accurate on the short to intermediate distance throws.
The Titans are falling apart while the Jaguars are starting to build some momentum. The Jaguars beat the Giants a few weeks back and had an impressive defensive showing last week in Baltimore. That is not exactly stringing together strong performances but it is a start. Jacksonville will also be looking to avenge a two-point loss to Tennessee earlier this year. The Jaguars have improved since the last matchup as well. Jacksonville’s defensive line has been playing better. Unfortunately, the offense is still sputtering. The offensive line has been abysmal and the running game has faded a bit. However, I still think this team has enough talent to beat Tennessee, whose offensive line, and offense in general is banged up.
Prediction: The Titans have lost two many players on offense to compete. Between the two quarterbacks ahead of Whitehurst, the versatile Dexter McCluster and several offensive linemen out for tonight, I don’t expect much. Jacksonville manages to run the ball enough to keep all of the pressure off of Bortles and the Jaguars win 20-10.