Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

Editors Note: This is the final installment of a two-part series by Brent Beale examining the NFL as it looks ahead to the 2006 season. This week, Brent takes a look at the AFC with an in-depth analysis on what every team should do to improve for 2006.AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: 2005 Record: 5-11 Needs: OL, DL, S

Buffalo constantly lost the battle at the line of scrimmage last year on both sides of the ball. Mike Williams, the fourth pick in 2002, has not played up to his draft status at the tackle spot. He is going to cost the Bills $10 million against the cap this year. Depending on which way they want to go in the draft, he could be looking elsewhere for employment. It is time for Buffalo to look to start grooming replacements for Lawyer Malloy and Troy Vincent, who are both 33 and 35, respectively. Younger and stronger safeties would also aide the Bills weak run defense in the middle.

Miami Dolphins: 2005 Record: 9-7 Needs: QB, OL, CB

Miami needs to find a replacement for Gus Ferotte. Ferotte played admirably last year, but they need a permanent solution. In order to do so, look for big names Junior Seau and Tebucky Jones to be released. With Damien McIntosh’s off-field issues, that is going to speed up the decision to release him. If cap space continues to be a problem, Miami will spend a first day draft pick on a quarterback.

New England Patriots: 2005 Record: 10-6 Needs: K, WR, S

The most sought after kicker since Lou “The Toe” Groza, Adam Vinitari is receiving a lot of interest from many teams. David Givens is an unrestricted free agent who is going to warrant a lot of attention now that Reggie Wayne is off the table. Antwaan Randel El has been discussed as a replacement, and would go a long way in improving the return game. Rodney Harrison said he is going to be better in 2006 after that devastating knee injury last season. If he isn’t ready, the Patriots need an insurance policy.

New York Jets: 2005 Record: 4-12 Needs: QB, DL, OL

The Jets have so many holes to fill, they are going to struggle for at least two more years. With an injured Chad Pennington coming back, the offensive line must be their first concern. Quarterback itself isn’t a sure thing this year for the Jets. With the injuries to Pennington’s shoulder, a veteran backup like Jon Kitna would be a good investment. John Abraham is most likely departing, he is their only legitimate star on the defensive line. Unless N.Y. finds lightning in a bottle by way of superb third or fourth round pick, it is going to be a long season for the Jets.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: 2005 Record:6-10 Needs: QB, RB, CB,

The Ravens have a few interesting decisions to make. Unfortunately, with the level of the talent that is either at the end or nearing the end of their contracts, the decisions might be made for them. Subtract the final two games of the regular season and Kyle Boller’s career has been a bust. Look for Baltimore to bring in a veteran backup as a stop-gap solution until a younger free agent quarterback is available. With Jamaal Lewis’s poor season in 2005, Baltimore will more than likely let him test the free agent market and running back upgrade will most likely come on draft day. Ed Reed has been squawking that he wants more money, so Will Demps will become a salary cap causality in order to give Reed what he wants.

Cincinnati Bengals: 2005 Record: 11-5 Needs: DB

Cincinnati is coming off their first ever division championship, and what are the spoils of their magnificent 2005 campaign? They are a solid team that is not in any sort of cap trouble due to a lack of any big name free agents. The biggest story that will come out of the Bengals camp this offseason will be the eventual release of Chris Perry. His off-field legal trouble is going to cost him a roster spot and a few million dollars. Look for Cincinnati to possibly go after one of the free agent safety’s that will come available.

Cleveland Browns: 2005 Record: 6-10 Needs: LB, WR, DL

On paper, the Browns looked as poor last year as they have in past years. With Romeo Cornell at the helm, and a good young crop of offensive players, look for Cleveland to make definite strides next season. Charlie Frye looks like a solid young quarterback with incredible football IQ. Kellan Winslow and Braylon Edwards are coming back off of injuries. With their second season now playing a base 3-4, Romeo Cornell has had the opportunity to evaluate his mediocre line backing corps. An outside linebacker and wide receiver will come by way of the draft. The Browns are an improving young team and they will continue to build through the draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 2005 Record: 11-5 Needs: WR, KR, QB, RB, DL

The Steelers are coming off their improbable run to the Super Bowl, but have a little work to do in the offseason. Antwaan Randel El is their biggest name free agent. His overall stats won’t blow you away, but with the type of offense Pittsburgh has grown accustomed to running – which is attack you from every conceivable direction – Randel El is the cog for their multifaceted attack. He will draw a lot of interest from teams, so the Steelers need to look for one or two players to fill the potential void. Defensive line will be an area to watch in the offseason with the potential departures of Kimo Von Oelhoffen and Brett Keisel.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: 2005 Record: 2-14 Needs: You Name it!

Houston is in an interesting position. Should they scrap the team they have built to this point, or try to improve on what they have? The Texans have said time and time again that David Carr is not the problem, which anyone will agree with. The man isn’t on his feet long enough during the game to warrant any blame. However, Carr is due $8 million in bonuses this year and $25 million in salary over the next three seasons. So, the question in Houston is should they cut Carr, draft Vince Young and start over? The Texans biggest problem besides offensive line play and the issue to end the David Carr era is the defense. The Texans are a bad team right now. They have nothing in the middle; nose tackle and middle linebacker are both suspect; safeties are marginal; outside linebackers are OK at best. With the switch to the 4-3 defense this year, it could get worse. To give marginal-to-poor players a new scheme to learn, watch out. It is going to be a long season in Houston.

Indianapolis Colts: 2005 Record: 14-2 Needs: RB, DT, OLB

It seems that the Colts have the mind set to let Edgerrin James walk this year. This was cemented by the big contract that Reggie Wayne just inked. The Colts have been openly coveting Lawrence Maloney from Minnesota. If Payton Manning thought they had protection issues in last year’s AFC Championship game, wait until he lines up next to a rookie in the shotgun. With Wayne’s big contract, that leaves little left over to resign the four defensive starters that will be free agents this year.If Maloney is unavailable at the 30th pick, this will be a heavy defensive draft for the Colts.

Jacksonville Jaguars: 2005 Record: 12-4 Needs: RB, CB

Jacksonville is in pretty good position this offseason. With an aging Fred Taylor and Edgerrin James’s longing to go home to Florida, this might be a perfect fit. Other than that, the Jags are in great shape. David Garrard will be a name that is thrown around a lot prior to draft day. He played well in Byron Leftwich’s absence, and has some teams showing a lot of interest. Jacksonville needs another corner to line up opposite of Rashean Mathis, but with Mathis’ ability, it doesn’t have to be a big name.

Tennessee Titans: 2005 Record: 4-12 Needs: QB, CB

This year’s big talk will be about Steve McNair. McNair is aging and going to receive $50 million in roster bonuses. Billy Volek has always been a favorite in Nashville and has filled in admirably
in relief of the oft-injured McNair. It is tough to pinpoint the Titans other needs. They have a plethora of young talent from the draft over the past few years and will wait and see if one or two of their young offensive linemen steps up before spending money in free agency. Cornerback needs to be addressed. Tennessee’s secondary play last year was dreadful. This year’s team will hinge on the play of Tennessee’s draft picks from the past two years.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: 2005 Record: 13-3 Needs: Bigger Salary Cap

Denver could be in a potentially dangerous situation. They are currently $26 million over the salary cap. They have quite a few potential free agents, namely the defensive line they acquired from Cleveland in Gerald Warren and Courtney Brown. Trevor Pryce carries a salary cap number of around $10 million. Signing him to an extension would help their number as well. The big free agent talk is about Terrell Owens and Edgerrin James. James’ asking price will be way too high, and no one is really saying much on the Owens front if they are willing to take the chance or not.

Kansas City Chiefs: 2005 Record: 10-6 Needs: OL, LB, WR

The Chiefs are $25 million over the salary cap, just like the Broncos. Kansas City is going to wait on the decisions from Willie Roaf and Will Shields before lining up their draft and free agent priorities. Roaf is likely to return and Shields is probably going to retire. Look for Tony Gonzalez to restructure his contract and Kendrell Bell to be cut. Those moves will aide the Chiefs with some money troubles. Improvements will more than likely come through the draft due to the financial constraints. Kansas City will see what the going price is on Owens, but they will probably pass.

Oakland Raiders: 2005 Record: 4-12 Needs: QB, DL

The possible cap causalities are too many to list here. Kerry Collins and Warren Sapp are the big names that will likely be cut. The Raiders are apparently coveting Daunte Culpepper, but how they will fit his salary is beyond any reasoning. Before addressing any team needs, Oakland needs to figure out how to get back below the cap in order to sign their draft picks this year. So, free agency will come and go without much say so from Oakland.

San Diego Chargers: 2005 Record: 9-7 Needs: WR, CB, QB

The Drew Brees situation is getting interesting. The Chargers set a date of Feb. 23 in order to get a deal struck. There has not been one as of yet, so Phillip Rivers appears to be getting ready for his shot. Even if Brees is tagged with the transition or franchise labels, his injured shoulder brings up a lot of questions. The Chargers, unlike the rest of the division, are not in any sort of cap struggles. So much that they are looking to let Keenan McCardell walk in order to peruse a younger wide receiver. A top-rated corner is also on the Chargers shopping list, so Quentin Jammer can move to the number two corner slot. Jammer mus be more consistent if he hopes to be a top-rated corner.

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