It was an interesting year in the AFC South. Heading into the season, most expected the Texans and Colts to battle for first place. Indianapolis lived up to expectations, finishing 11-5 and winning the division. The Texans, however, lost their final 14 games and finished with the worst record in the NFL. The Titans came up short of the playoffs and fired head coach Mike Munchak after the season. Jacksonville started 0-8, but finished the year 4-4.
Now, headed into the offseason, all four teams have a lot of work to do. The Texans hold the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft while the Jaguars will pick third. Before they get there, the teams will first go through free agency. All four AFC South teams have notable players scheduled to hit free agency. Here's a look at a few of the top from each team.
The Colts made the playoffs for the second straight season, an impressive feat when you consider they are still in the early stages of rebuilding the roster. Their historic comeback in the playoffs against Kansas City only added to what was a very solid year. Indianapolis was one of the most active teams in free agency last year and has salary cap space again this season. The Colts may use some of it to re-sign a few key contributors.
Bethea has been one of the Colts' top defenders over the years, and finished 2013 with over 100 tackles for the fourth straight season. He doesn't turn 30 until July and the Colts should have plenty of cap space if they choose to keep him.
CB Vontae Davis
Davis played the role of No. 1 corner for the Colts last season and played it well. The 25-year-old finished with just one interception, but did an excellent job of locking down opposing teams' top threats. He finished the season as the No. 3 corner in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. There were conflicting reports surrounding him leading up to free agency. Some were saying he was close to re-signing while others said he was nearing a deal with another team.
Even at 41, Vinatieri remains a reliable and effective kicker. He connected on 87.5 percent of his field goal attempts last season. He continues to be an effective long-range kicker, hitting 19-of-23 attempts from 40 or more yards, including 4-of-6 from 50+. He signed a three-year deal in 2011 and could be in line for a similar extension.
RB Donald Brown
The former first-round pick set a career high in 2013 by averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He was much more effective than Trent Richardson and finished the season with 537 rushing yards while splitting time. At 26, he's still relatively young and contributes as a runner and receiver.
Other FAs of note: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, G Mike McGlynn
Team needs: OL, WR, CB
SB Nation NFL
SB Nation NFL
Coming off a disappointing 7-9 season, things will look very different in Tennessee next season. Ken Whisenhunt takes over for Munchak on the sidelines. Tennessee has its work cut out for it this offseason with limited salary cap room, but a number of holes to fill. Before they can add to the roster, the Titans need to retain one of their best players.
CB Alterraun Verner
Verner has improved every season and joined the ranks of the elite cornerbacks last year. He was named a second-team All-Pro and voted to his first Pro Bowl. At 25, he'll be arguably the top corner on the free agent market. Tennessee opted against using the franchise tag to retain him and now risk losing him on the open market. His new deal could top $10 million in annual salary. The Patriots, Steelers, Lions, Rams and others have been talked about as interested teams.
WR Damian Williams
Williams finished the year with very modest numbers. He caught 15 passes for 178 yards, and his totals have declined for two straight seasons. That isn't entirely his fault as the Titans struggled to throw the ball effectively last season. The former third-round pick is a solid blocker and should draw interest from teams looking for wide receiver depth.
Other FAs of note: WR Kenny Britt, C Robert Turner, DT Antonio Johnson
Team needs: OLB (3-4), OT, S, RB, CB
SB Nation NFL
SB Nation NFL
After being far and away the worst team in the league during the first half of the season, things started to click for the Jaguars during the second half. They won three in a row at one point and were significantly more competitive in losses. Despite the improvement, the Jaguars still finished with the worst point differential in the NFL and will need a productive offseason as they head into year two of the rebuilding process under Gus Bradley. Jacksonville already made its first major moves, inking Red Bryant to a four-year deal and re-signing Chad Henne to a two-year deal.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Jones-Drew was able to recover from a foot injury that kept him out of 10 games in 2012. He struggled, however, to regain his previous form and averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry. He'll turn 29 in late March and the Jaguars have said they'll let him test free agency. With declining production and recent injury issues, he may be forced to take a short-term, incentive-laden deal.
CB Will Blackmon
Released by Seattle at the end of training camp, Blackmon landed in Jacksonville and had a solid season. He started eight games, finishing the year with 10 passes defended and an interception. He graded out well according to Pro Football Focus, receiving a plus-7.2 grade, the second best of any Jaguar defender.
Team needs: QB, DE, OG, WR, LB
Things unraveled in a hurry for Houston last season with the Texans dropping 14 straight games following a 2-0 start. The No. 1 priority for the Texans this offseason will be finding a long-term solution at quarterback after Matt Schaub lost his starting job. Houston will also have to make a few decisions on free agents, led by a key defensive lineman.
DE Antonio Smith
J.J. Watt draws most of the attention along the Texans defensive line, but Smith is a very solid player. Even at 32, he remains productive and notched 5.0 sacks last season. An ideal fit for a 3-4 defense, Smith should draw significant interest on a short-term deal.
RB Ben Tate
After backing up Arian Foster earlier in his career, Tate got a chance to start this season when Foster went down with injury. He rushed for 771 yards, playing much of the season through a rib injury. Houston is unlikely to have the salary cap space to afford Tate and at 25, he could be an attractive option for teams in the market for a running back. Various insiders have pointed to the Jets and Browns as possibilities for Tate, but there's yet to be anything solid.
G Wade Smith
The 32-year-old Smith will hit free agency after starting 64 straight games for the Texans. He didn't have a great 2013 season, according to Pro Football Focus, receiving a minus-10.7 grade. According to its tracking, he allowed 29 quarterback hurries last season.
Other FAs of note: LB Joe Mays, DT Earl Mitchell, TE Garrett Graham, OT Ryan Harris
Team needs: QB, NT, LT, DE, ILB