With free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft in the books, most AFC teams still have at least one need remaining on their roster. Luckily, there is a solid assortment of veterans available on the open market, and clubs can also pursue trades for players who may have fallen out of favor with their incumbent franchises. Let’s run through each AFC team, identify their most obvious need, and offer a potential solution.
Biggest remaining team needs in the AFC
We’ll try to make these possible additions realistic. Teams may have readily apparent need areas, but if they seem intent on allowing young players to fill those spots, for example, we won’t force a veteran signing.
At this point in the offseason, many clubs have filled the majority of their roster holes. That not’s to say they don’t have weaknesses. But if a team has locked-in starters — or enough candidates for a competition — at most positions, we’ll turn our focus to depth.
Baltimore Ravens: Wide receiver
Solution: Sign Julio Jones
The Ravens filled most of their needs through free agency and the draft, but wide receiver remains a glaring issue. 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman will ascend to Baltimore’s No. 1 role after the club traded Marquise Brown to the Cardinals. Behind Bateman, the Ravens have a cadre of young, unproven pass catchers in Devin Duvernay, James Proche, and Tylan Wallace.
A veteran receiver makes sense for the Ravens, and Jones would give them a contested-catch threat on the outside. Julio hasn’t been able to stay healthy in recent years, missing 14 games over the past two seasons. Still, Baltimore can afford to take on that risk, given that the 33-year-old shouldn’t command a significant salary.
Buffalo Bills: Safety depth
Solution: Trade for Johnathan Abram
The Bills are probably the most complete team in the NFL, so they don’t have many apparent needs. They have the league’s best safety tandem in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, but they could use more depth behind that duo. Damar Hamlin and Jaquan Johnson are Buffalo’s current safety backups. Neither has seen much playing time, largely because Hyde and Poyer have remained healthy.
If Buffalo wants to add another body to their defensive backfield, they could send a late-round pick to the Raiders in exchange for Abram. There’s no question Abram hasn’t been productive since Las Vegas took him in the first round of the 2019 draft, and they’ve already declined his fifth-year option for 2023. However, the Bills’ coaching staff can rehabilitate distressed assets, and Abram will only cost $2.1 million this season.
Cincinnati Bengals: Pass-rushing depth
Solution: Sign Trey Flowers
After refurbishing their offensive line in free agency and sprucing up their defense in the draft, the Bengals’ biggest need is on the defensive line. They’ve been searching for a third edge rusher to play behind Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. 2021 third-rounder Joseph Ossai is penciled into that role, but he has no NFL experience after tearing his meniscus in last year’s preseason.
Cincinnati could also use help at defensive tackle, where they re-signed B.J. Hill but lost Larry Ogunjobi. If the Bengals sign Flowers, he’d spent most of his time as a rotational edge defender, but he could also slide inside on obvious passing downs. Ryan Kerrigan, who met with Cincinnati in March 2021 before signing with the Eagles, is another free agent option who could be the Bengals’ EDGE3.
Cleveland Browns: Wide receiver
Solution: Sign Will Fuller
In an offseason where wide receiver prices went through the roof, the Browns wisely acquired Amari Cooper at a discount before the market went crazy. They also added Purdue’s David Bell — a candidate to start in the slot on Day 1 — in the third round. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, and Jakeem Grant (primarily a returner) fill out the rest of the depth chart, so there’s room for another veteran in Cleveland.
Fuller has never been able to stay on the field, but he’s still only 28 years old. Although 2021 was a lost season, he posted 16.6 yards per reception and eight touchdowns as recently as 2020. Fuller’s relationship with Deshaun Watson probably doesn’t hold much weight for the Browns, given that Watson is staring at a lengthy suspension. Yet, Fuller should be able to provide a downfield weapon for whoever is under center in Cleveland.
Denver Broncos: Linebacker
Solution: Re-sign Alexander Johnson
Denver could also use a little assistance along the offensive and defensive lines, but re-signing Johnson to start at linebacker is the most obvious move for the Broncos. General manager George Paton brought back Josey Jewell and signed Alex Singleton, but Johnson would add another physical body to the team’s linebacker room.
Jewell is the better coverage defender, so he’d still be out there in 1LB subpackages. Johnson’s run-defending abilities shouldn’t be taken for granted, and he’d likely welcome a return to Denver after generating next to no interest in free agency.
Houston Texans: Tight end
Solution: Sign Jared Cook
The Texans have holes all over their roster. They could conceivably use reinforcements at nearly any position. But we’ll focus on tight end, where 2021 fifth-round choice Brevin Jordan is projected to start. Despite their noncompetitive status, Houston hasn’t been afraid to sign veterans. Just this offseason, they’ve added A.J. Cann, Jerry Hughes, and Mario Addison, all of whom are at least 30 years old.
If the Texans are looking for more leadership, Cook would fit the bill. He’s seen it all through 13 pro seasons, and Houston would become his seventh NFL team. And it’s not like Cook wasn’t productive last year. Even in his age-34 season, he managed a 48-564-4 line in the Chargers’ high-powered offense.
Indianapolis Colts: Left tackle
Solution: Sign Duane Brown
The Colts have tried to paper over their left tackle issue by signing Dennis Kelly and Matt Pryor and drafting Bernhard Raimann. Indy could probably get by with some combination of those options, especially given how talented the rest of their offensive line is.
Still, why not go after one of the best free agents remaining on the open market? Brown will be 37 when the 2022 season begins, but there’s no question he’s still a top-50 tackle in the NFL. If his 2021 level of play is any indication, Brown is nowhere near falling off a cliff. His addition would push Kelly and Pryor into reserve roles and allow Raimann to redshirt in his rookie season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive tackle
Solution: Sign Brandon Williams
After spending $80 million more than any other team in free agency, the Jaguars don’t have a ton of room for veteran additions. Sure, they could always use another offensive lineman, and safety help might make sense. But we landed on defensive tackle, where Williams could offer support for Folorunso Fatukasi, Da’Von Hamilton, and Roy Robertson-Harris.
Williams is 33, so Jacksonville may have to convince him to sign, given that they’re probably not ready to contend just yet. He could slide right in as the Jaguars’ starting nose tackle.