While Colts wait, early returns show rest of AFC South has improved

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The early returns from the NFL’s free-agent market – premature returns, actually – indicate the AFC South has gotten better.

At least three-fourths of the division has gotten better.

Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee have been among the more active shoppers. The Indianapolis Colts, who are coming off a 4-12 record that was good for third in the AFC South because of their seasonal sweep of the Texans, have been silent.

Here’s where we remind everyone we’re still so very early in the roster-building process. The new league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m., which is when all of the announced deals and trades become official.

Still to come is the second wave of free agency when prices drop exponentially – in many cases, so does the talent level – followed by the April 26-28 draft.

Before criticism of Chris Ballard’s passive approach reaches DEFCON 1 level, let’s allow things to play out. If the Colts’ roster isn’t significantly improved when September rolls around, and we’re not talking about the return of Andrew Luck, then any censure is warranted considering Indy enjoys more than $70 million in cap space and an owner willing to spent to the cap.

That being said, we’re living in the age of instant gratification. Here’s a look at significant comings and goings in the AFC South.

Colts:

  • 2017: 4-12. Missed playoffs for third straight season.
  • Additions: None.
  • Subtractions: RB Frank Gore was informed he isn’t part of the future and WR Donte Moncrief agreed to 1-year, $7 million contact with Jacksonville. Among others who’ll hit the open market are CB Rashaan Melvin, G Jack Mewhort, S Darius Butler, LB Barkevious Mingo, LB Jon Bostic, WR Kamar Aiken.
  • Re-signed: Adam Vinatieri’s coming back with a 1-year, $3.625 million deal.

Houston: 

  • 2017: 4-12; lost 8 of last 9 after rookie QB DeShaun Watson suffered season-ending knee injury.
  • Additions: OT Seantrel Henderson (from Buffalo) for 1-year, $4 million; CB Aaron Colvin (Jacksonville) for 4 years, $34 million; OL Zach Fulton (Kansas City) for an average of $7.5 million on multi-year deal.
  • Subtractions: Released LB Brian Cushing.
  • Re-signed: P Shane Lechler to 1-year, $1.4 million contract.

Jacksonville:

  • 2017: 10-6; first winning record since 2007; earned first playoff berth since ’07 and reached AFC Championship game.
  • Additions: G Andrew Norwell (Carolina) with 5-year, $66.5 million contract; CB D.J. Hayden (Detroit) with 3-year, $19 million contract; WR Donte Moncrief (Colts) with 1-year, $7 million contract.
  • Subtractions: WR Allen Robinson to Chicago with 3-year, $42 million contract; LB Paul Posluszny retired.
  • Re-signed: QB Blake Bortles to 3-year, $54 million extension; WR Marqise Lee to 4-year, $38 million contract.

Tennessee: 

  • 2017: 9-7 and earned wild-card playoff berth.
  • Additions: RB Dion Lewis (New England) to 4-year, $23 million contract; CB Malcolm Butler to 5-year, $61 million contract.
  • Subtractions: LB Avery Williamson to Jets with 3-year, $22.5 million contract; cut RB DeMarco Murray, QB Matt Cassel.
  • Re-signed: G Josh Kline to 4-year, $26 million contract; PK Ryan Succop to 5-year, $20 million contract; DE David King.

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