Which move in the division during free agency was most surprising? ESPN’s AFC South reporters make their picks:
Sarah Barshop, Texans reporter: I wasn’t surprised that the Texans passed on using the franchise tag on A.J. Bouye or upping their offer to keep him once the deadline passed, and I wasn’t surprised that he stayed in the division. But I was surprised he didn’t end up in Tennessee. The Titans improved their secondary with the addition of cornerback Logan Ryan, who was cheaper at three years, $30 million, but I thought Tennessee was where Bouye was headed. The Titans entered the offseason with more than $50 million in cap room. Taking a player such as Bouye from a division rival and adding him to their already potent defense would have been a difference-maker.
Michael DiRocco, Jaguars reporter: Maybe it’s because I’ve seen every snap he has played, but I did find it curious that Tennessee gave safety Johnathan Cyprien a four-year, $25 million contract with $9 million guaranteed. I don’t understand the attraction. The Jaguars’ second-round pick in 2013 played in and started 60 games in his four seasons with the team but made few impact plays. He had just two interceptions, 15 pass breakups and four forced fumbles. Granted, the Jaguars drafted him to be a box safety in former coach Gus Bradley’s defense (the spot Kam Chancellor plays), and he did make a lot of tackles (442), but he is a problem in coverage. Because of a lack of a quality free safety with the ability to play single high coverage, the Jaguars had to use Cyprien in coverage more than they wanted in his first three seasons, and he did not fare well. If the Titans are going to use him almost exclusively as a box safety, then the move makes sense. If they’re going to give him more than just spot work in coverage — especially against tight ends — then they’re going to have some trouble limiting big plays.
Paul Kuharsky, Titans reporter: Johnathan Cyprien’s jump from the Jaguars to the Titans. He played better than most people know in his final season with the Jaguars. They preferred Barry Church, whom they signed from Dallas. The Titans like Cyprien better than Da’Norris Searcy, who was signed by the previous regime. Searcy has two seasons remaining on a deal with base salaries of $5.625 million and $6.125 million. Now Cyprien is in line for $6.25 million on average. That could mean the end of the line for Searcy, who is not due to be paid anything until Week 1. Or it could mean the Titans have a highly paid third safety, with the hard-hitting, sure-tackling Cyprien shifting to virtual linebacker in nickel and dime packages.
Mike Wells, Colts reporter: This doesn’t go under the category of “free-agent move,” but it can’t be overlooked. Houston’s decision to trade quarterback Brock Osweiler to Cleveland just a year after giving him a four-year, $72 million contract last spring. What Houston’s decision proved is that it felt like it was pointless to keep him because the 15 games he appeared in last season showed that he wasn’t worth the money they spent on him, and he doesn’t have the traits it takes to be a franchise quarterback. Osweiler did lead the Texans past the Colts twice last season. But that doesn’t carry the same weight as in years past because Indianapolis finished with an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs.