INDIANAPOLIS — Ahh, franchise tag season is already upon us. Soon, college football’s top prospects will converge in Indianapolis for the annual Scouting Combine, and then not far from that, free agency begins.
The NFL: going seamlessly from one season to the next since 1902.
So as the Colts try to make the moves to get them back on top in the division, their rivals around the AFC South are, of course, doing the same to build the best rosters they can heading into the 2017 season opener.
With that being said, let’s take our weekly look at the latest news around the division:
A.J. Bouye began the 2016 season as the Houston Texans’ No. 4 cornerback, but by the end of the season, his performance had him regarded as one of the top at his position — in the entire league.
Now that he’s heading into the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, the Texans have a big decision to make regarding Bouye, who had 63 tackles, a sack and an interception to go with an impressive 16 passes defensed in 2016.
The issue for Houston is it already has three pretty well-paid cornerbacks in Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and Kevin Jackson. But it was injuries to the three of them that got Bouye on the field so much last season, so should the 25-year-old, who went undrafted out of college, get a nice payday, as well?
If he does, it appears it won’t come from the Texans, as ESPN Staff Writer Sarah Barshop speculates.
The franchise tag is an option for the Texans to use on Bouye, though that would pay him about $14 million for the 2017 season, and it’s not a move the franchise uses often — on any player or position. The only time in franchise history the team used the franchise tag was 2008, and that was on cornerback Dunta Robinson.
With their three other corners signed to decent deals, it’s also believed a long-term deal for Bouye won’t really be on the table for the Texans, either. The team has other financial needs — like getting DeAndre Hopkins signed to an extension, for one — and has other free-agents-to-be it will likely hope to get back.
“We really want him back and hopefully we can get something done where he can be back, but it’s tough,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said of Bouye. “These decisions are personal decisions, but all of them are tough on both sides, but we would love to have A.J. back.”
Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Kelvin Beachum to a one-year deal with a four-year option to be the team’s starting left tackle.
After returning from a torn left ACL, Beachum would play in 15 games throughout his first season with the Jaguars, though the knee still provided its annoyances from time to time, and he reportedly had some issues with his run blocking.
On Wednesday, the Jaguars decided not to pick up Beachum’s four-year option, according to ESPN.
Now, there’s always a chance the two sides could agree on a new contract by March 9, when the NFL’s free agency period begins. But there’s also always a chance Beachum could want to see if he has any other suitors across the league.
As ESPN’s Mike DiRocco notes, the team does have other options should that happen. It could find a tackle in the draft, though the Jags have the No. 4-overall pick this year, and there aren’t really any “can’t-miss” tackle prospects this year that would be selected that high. So maybe they could trade down, get some additional picks, and then take someone like Cam Robinson or Garett Bolles later in the first round?
The team could also utilize free agency to fill the void, or, of course, move one of its current linemen over the left tackle.
If you’re a Colts fan, you’ll want to keep an eye on this important offseason development.
After breaking his leg late in the season, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota’s recovery appears to be right on schedule.
That’s the news via Titans head coach Mike Mularkey, who, according to ESPN Staff Writer Paul Kuharsky, recently texted with Mariota and “saw video of him on a pool treadmill.”
Despite the positive diagnosis, the Titans, understandably, are going to be cautious with their young star. In fact, Mularkey said Mariota will likely be held out until training camp in late-July.
Mariota suffered the injury Week 16, when he fractured the fibula in his right leg right as the Titans were making a late-season playoff push. He underwent surgery to fix the injury.
From now until camp, Mularkey said last month, the team will have to make sure Mariota isn’t doing too much in his recovery.
“I’ll probably have to pull the reins back on him because he is going to go above and beyond, just like he does here, to come back stronger than ever,” he said.
Had it not been for his injury, Mariota would’ve earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2016, his second year in the league, in which he completed 276 of 451 passes (61.2 percent) for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, for a passer rating of 95.6. He also was effective on the ground, running 60 times for 349 yards (5.82 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns.
He’s the key piece to a talented, and young, offense that hopes to give the Colts fits in the AFC South for years to come.
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