Best move by each AFC team in offseason: Ravens, Texans win in free agency; Chiefs fix position of weakness

There were moments where the back-to-back Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs were on the brink of postseason elimination in each of the last two seasons during their road through the AFC. 

The 2022 AFC divisional round vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, the 2022 AFC Championship vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, the 2023 AFC divisional round at the Buffalo Bills and the 2023 AFC Championship vs. the Baltimore Ravens all come to mind when looking back at moments the Chiefs could have stumbled on their path to each of the last two Super Bowls. 

Both Buffalo and Baltimore remain as contenders to Kansas City’s throne. Cincy could return to that level with better health in 2024, and the Houston Texans could definitely rise to true contender status after their “all in” offseason. The 2024 AFC race should be another neck-and-neck battle to the finish line.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best move made this offseason by every team in the AFC to position itself for a playoff push in 2024 or in future years. Each of the 16 teams will be listed below in alphabetical order. Here we go! 

Baltimore Ravens

Signing RB Derrick Henry to a two-year, $16 million contract ($9 million fully guaranteed) in free agency

player headshot

Did you know that two-time NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson has been tasked with being the Ravens rushing yards leader in all five of his years as the Ravens’ primary starting quarterback since 2019?

On a related note, he totaled his fifth consecutive season with at least 750 rushing yards, the most such seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. That’s an incredible physical and mental burden to carry knowing your body is going to take the high volume of hits that comes with being that regular of a ball-carrier on top of leading an offense and being focused on reading a defense every play pre-snap and every pass play post-snap.

That takes a toll on Jackson, which could easily explain why there is such a stark contrast in Baltimore’s scoring in the postseason (12.3 points per game in the Ravens’ six playoff games of the Jackson era).

Lamar Jackson career




Team PPG



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*Fewest by any QB since 2000 (min. 5 starts)

That’s why the Ravens’ signing of 2020 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry is the pick for their top move of the 2024 offseason. Henry, a four-time Pro Bowler, has finished in the top two of the entire NFL in both carries and rushing yards in four of the last five seasons, which makes him only the 10th player ever to finish in the top two in the league in rushing yards four or more times. Henry’s 280 carries led the league in 2023 while he ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards (1,167) behind only NFL Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey. 

Sure, Henry registered a career-low 4.2 yards per carry last season at age 29, but that was still an above-average figure league wide (his 4.2 yards per carry ranked 18th among 44 qualified running backs last season.) Plus, Henry did that in a Titans offense that didn’t have a scary passing attack with Ryan Tannehill injured and rookie Will Levis experiencing growing pains, as his 58.4% completion percentage was the worst in the entire NFL.

In an offense with Jackson, Henry can remove the weight of powering the Ravens run game from the quarterback, which should allow Jackson to remain fresh deeper into the season — thus improving their playoff performance on offense. Jackson did lead the league in yards per carry last season (5.5), but with Henry in the backfield, he can save his legs for the postseason, which could allow his regular-season yards-per-carry rate to increase with his rushing usage decreasing. 

Buffalo Bills

Drafting Florida State WR Keon Coleman 33rd overall in the 2023 NFL Draft

The Buffalo Bills are oh-so-close to breaking through for a Super Bowl title: they lead the NFL in both scoring offense (28.6 PPG) and scoring defense (19.1 PPG) since the 2020s decade began. They did lose top wideout Stefon Diggs by trading him away to the Houston Texans for a 2025 second-round pick, but his production is currently on the downswing. Diggs’ streak of 13 consecutive games with under 100 receiving yards is the longest streak of his career including the postseason.

Naturally, Buffalo used its first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft to select Keon Coleman, a dynamic 6-foot-4 wideout who weighs 215 pounds, to fill the void left by Diggs’ departure. Coleman led the ACC in both touchdown catches (11) and punt return yards (300) last season at Florida State. He provides a wide catch radius and some wiggle after the catch for Bills Pro Bowl quarterback Josh Allen, something they desperately needed.  

“I think this guy [Coleman] is all ball, and I think Josh [Allen] knows that we’re going to need to get up to speed,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said in a post draft press conference. “We’re going to be counting on him early. In his role, sometimes you’re bringing in rookies, and you’re just saying ‘hey, barring injury you’re not going to start, help us on special teams or something else like that.’ In this case, it’s no secret we needed to add a guy like him to fill our this X role that is vacant [following the Diggs trade]. That’s part of what you’re considering. We’re not going to try to push him too fast, but we’re going to press him.”

Cincinnati Bengals 

Selecting Georgia OT Amarius Mims 18th overall in the 2024 NFL Draft

Keeping Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow upright is of the utmost importance for the Cincinnati Bengals. The seasons in which he has made it to the end of the year healthy have resulted in the Bengals either reaching the Super Bowl (2021) or the AFC Championship (2022). 

In 2020, he suffered a season-ending knee injury as a rookie in Week 11, and in 2023 he suffered a season-ending wrist injury, also in Week 11. Naturally, the Bengals missed the postseason in each of those years. Cincy is 8-22 and averages 18.6 points per game under coach Zac Taylor without Burrow, and they are 29-22-1 while averaging 24.6 points per game with Burrow under center. That’s a massive difference, obviously.

Therefore, using their first-round pick (18th overall) to reinforce Burrow’s protection up front by drafting Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims was their best move of the offseason. He is a behemoth (6-foot-7, 340 pounds), but he appears to be built proportionately with a slender waistline and plenty of fluidity athletically. The only questions with Mims are his youth (21 years old), and his football experience (eight starts in 30 career games as a Bulldog). However, he did not allow a sack in 377 career pass-blocking snaps, and Mims started both of Georgia’s College Football Playoff games in 2022 en route to back-to-back national championships. 

A young, athletic marvel up front is exactly what the Bengals needed to insure Burrow’s health going forward. 

Signing QB Jameis Winston to a one-year, $4 million contract in free agency

Deshaun Watson’s production, or lack thereof, as a Cleveland Brown has his performance since 2022 ranking as one of the worst among all of the league’s quarterbacks. 

Deshaun Watson as a Brown (since 2022)

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Pass Yards/Att






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* Among 45 QBs with 300+ pass attempts

He is also coming off of surgery on his throwing shoulder that cut his 2023 season short. Watson’s first season back for this kind of procedure would make it seem more likely that he is going to regress rather than improve in 2024. Thus, Browns general manager Andrew Berry securing a Watson insurance policy in the form of Jameis Winston, the first overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, on a one-year deal worth $4 million is a great bargain. 

Cleveland needed an aging Joe Flacco to come off the couch and save their season a year ago, which he did, but the then-38-year-old’s physical limitations were exposed in the Browns’ 45-14 blowout defeat against the Houston Texans in the opening round of the playoffs. Winston just turned 30 in January, which is young for a quarterback in today’s NFL. With Nick Chubb returning to the backfield and throwing to Amari Cooper and David Njoku, perhaps he can lead the Browns offense to greater heights than Flacco did a year ago should he be required to come off the bench and play for an extended stretch this upcoming season. 

Selecting Oregon QB Bo Nix 12th overall in the 2024 NFL Draft

Sure, there’s a chance the Broncos selecting Nix 12th overall was a reach. They may have easily been able to trade back and still land him near the tail end of the first round or perhaps early in the second round. 

However, they had to acquire a quarterback for coach Sean Payton to develop after cutting Russell Wilson and incurring a historic $85 million cap hit, which will be spread out over the next two seasons. Nix does fit the mold of what Payton liked to with Drew Brees leading his New Orleans Saints passing: a quarterback willing to make short, quick passes. 

Nix broke college football’s single-season completion percentage record (77.4%) in 2023 at Oregon while having the eighth-fastest time to throw (2.48 seconds). He tossed 22 touchdowns and no interceptions on throws that he released in under 2.5 seconds last season. Brees is the holder of five of the top seven best NFL single-season completion percentages in NFL history, a collection that includes each of the best three single-season completion rates all time. 

While at Oregon in 2022 and 2023, Nix’s 6.6 air yards per pass attempt at Oregon from 2022 to 2023 ranked 105th out of 109 qualified FBS passers in that span. That is probably a byproduct of throwing screens on 12.4% of passes with Nix under center the last two seasons, the fifth-highest rate among Power Five teams and the eighth-highest rate in all of college football. If Payton can eventually coax a similar efficiency out of Nix, he might have his guy long-term. 

Houston Texans

Signing DE Danielle Hunter to a two-year, $49 million contract in free agency

The trade for four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs stole a lot of headlines and attention, rightfully so, but the best move the Houston Texans made this offseason was to sign four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter away from the Minnesota Vikings on a two-year, $49 million deal.  

The acquisition of Hunter is a huge deal. His 16.5 sacks were the fifth-most in the NFL last season, and he ranked 10th in quarterback pressures with 80. Since he entered the NFL in 2016, only three-time, First Team All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack has more seasons with at least six sacks (nine) than Hunter’s eight. Finding bona fide pass rusher is difficult, and the Texans being able to haul in Hunter at age 29 is a massive deal.

Even more significant perhaps than what he brings to head coach DeMeco Ryans’ defense on his own is the impact he can have on 2023 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr., whose 59 quarterback pressures were the third-most by a rookie in the last five seasons. Only 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa (80 quarterback pressures in 2019) and three-time All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons (67 quarterback pressures in 2021) were more consistently in opposing quarterback’s faces than Anderson was in 2023. 

The opportunity for him to expand his pass-rush bag by learning from and playing alongside Hunter is a priceless investment in terms of the impact it could have on Anderson’s long-term career development. Houston made this move knowing it will help lift its defense in the present while it can also aide its unit on that side of the ball for years to come through Anderson. 

Selecting UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu 12th overall in the 2024 NFL Draft

The AFC is loaded with top-tier quarterbacks, and the AFC South is full of young, promising passers from 2023 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud (Houston Texans), 2021 first overall pick Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars), 2023 fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson and 2023 33rd overall pick Will Levis (Tennessee Titans).

Thus, the Colts, who finished a game out of first place in the AFC South after a Week 18 loss against the Texans, needed to keep stacking up resources on defense. Indianapolis was fifth in the league in sacks (51) last season, and four different players totaled at least eight sacks. All of them — Samson Ebukam, Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner and Dayo Odeyingbo — are under contract for 2024. 

However, that isn’t a long-term arrangement, and the Colts lucked into being able to select college football’s top pass rusher, UCLA’s Laiatu Latu, 12th overall after offense dominated the draft’s opening picks. Latu recorded the most sacks (23.5) and the highest quarterback pressure rate (21.4%, minimum 250  pass rushes) in the entire sport in 2023. 

Even though the Colts ranked eighth in sack rate last season (8.2%), they weren’t a consistently disruptive group overall, ranking 26th in quarterback pressure rate (32.3%). Latu was obviously the No. 1 pass rusher in college in terms of consistent pressure generation, and he also brings the ability to regularly finish a strong rush with a sack. A great pick for both now and later. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Re-signing DE Josh Allen to a five-year, $141.55 million contract ($76.5 million guaranteed)/Signing DL Arik Armstead

The Jacksonville Jaguars re-signed their two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Josh Allen to a five-year, $141.25 million extension, making him the second-highest-paid edge rusher in football in both total contract value and average per year ($28.25 million) behind only 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa (five-year, $170 million deal). 

Last season, his 17.5 sacks tied for the second-most in the entire league, trailing only T.J. Watt’s 19.0, and his 90 quarterback pressures were the fifth-best in football. Securing their elite pass rusher to a deal through his prime is a big deal. 

They have also empowered him by providing him longtime San Francisco 49ers interior defensive lineman Arik Armstead, whom they signed to a three-year, $43.5 million contract ($28 million fully guaranteed) in free agency. Armstead is someone who lined next to Bosa for all four of his Pro Bowl seasons, including his DPOY campaign. Perhaps his presence next to Allen could allow Jacksonville’s homegrown edge rusher to reach new heights going forward. 

Kansas City Chiefs

Bolstering WR room with signing of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and first-round draft selection of Texas’ Xavier Worthy

Patrick Mahomes’ deep ball disappeared the moment All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Mahomes threw 41 touchdowns of 20 or more air years when Hill was around from 2018 to 2021, but since his departure he has only tossed such scoring strikes in the last two seasons. 

That’s why the Chiefs made the two moves they did to acquire receivers with the ability to stretch defenses downfield. They selected Texas receiver Xavier Worthy, who ran a record 4.21 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, 28th overall in the 2024 NFL Draft and signing Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, a 2019 first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens whose 10 career receiving touchdowns of 20 or more air yards since entering the league are tied for the 12th-most in the NFL in that span.

Allowing the best quarterback in football to reliably throw deep again is a big deal. 

Signing DT Christian Wilkins to a four-year, $110 million contract ($57.5 million guaranteed) in free agency

Raiders three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby is awesome. He and Pro Football Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware are the only players in the last 30 seasons with 12 or more sacks and 80 or more tackles in consecutive seasons. He Crosby’s 27.0 sacks since 2022 also accounted for 37% of Las Vegas’ team sacks in the same span. 

On one hand, it’s great for the Raiders to see Crosby making such a high-level impact. On the other hand, it shows they aren’t getting a ton of help from the rest of their front seven in the pass-rush department. That’s why the signing of former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is so huge. It’s because his presence could allow Crosby to retain a similar impact while not having to work as hard. Wilkins had a breakout year in 2023, racking up nearly as many sacks (nine) and quarterback hits (23) as he did in both categories through the first four years of his career (11.5 sacks and 27 quarterback hits). His quarterback pressure rate also took a dramatic jump last season, up to 11% after averaging a 6.9% rate from 2019-2022. 

Pairing an ascending interior rusher in Wilkins with Crosby could give Antonio Pierce the dynamic duo up front necessary to slow down the many high-flying offenses the AFC has to offer. 

Hiring Jim Harbaugh to be their coach

Poaching Jim Harbaugh from Michigan, his alma mater, fresh off winning the national championship is a massive victory and the best move the Chargers have made this offseason. As the coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014, he went 44-19-1 en route to becoming the only coach in NFL history to reach the conference championship round in each of his first three seasons. He also reached the Super Bowl in his second season in the Bay Area, finishing just a few yards short of winning it all in the 2012 season. 

His .695 winning percentage is the sixth-best in NFL history and the second best in the league since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger behind only Pro Football Hall of Famer John Madden (.759). Harbaugh’s San Francisco thrived in two areas in which Los Angeles has sorely lacked in the Justin Herbert era: running the ball and defense. The Chargers are 28th in the league in rushing yards per game (101.3) since drafting Herbert sixth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, and their defense has allowed 24.8 points per game (28th in the NFL since 2020). 

Herbert’s offenses have averaged 24.4 points per game in his 62 career starts (30-32 record), which is the second-highest team scoring offense for a quarterback whose team has a losing record in his starts since 1950, among quarterbacks with at least 50 starts. Harbaugh has returned to the NFL determined to have a punishing ground game once again and take some of the weight off of Herbert’s shoulders. 

The Chargers chose the 2024 NFL Draft’s top offensive tackle, Notre Dame All-American Joe Alt, fifth overall, hired Greg Roman — his former 49ers OC who also built dominant ground games with Harbaugh’s brother John in Baltimore from 2019-2022– to be their offensive coordinator — and signed two of Roman’s top running backs from the Ravens: JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Everywhere Harbaugh has coached, he has won. Los Angeles couldn’t have made a better hire this offseason.

All he does is win: Jim Harbaugh coaching career

  • Michigan: Three straight CFP appearances (won title in 2023)
  • 49ers: Three straight NFC Championship appearances (lost SB in 2012)*
  • Stanford: Won Orange Bowl in 2010
  • University of San Diego: 11-1 and conference title in each of last two years

*Only coach in NFL history to make conference championship game in each of first three seasons

Miami Dolphins

Signing CB Kendall Fuller to a two-year $15 million ($7.975 million guaranteed)

There’s an argument to be made that the Miami Dolphins signing one of the top cornerbacks on this offseason’s free agency market, Kendall Fuller, to a two-year $15 million contract is one of the best moves of the entire offseason made by any team in the NFL. Fuller is an incredibly well-rounded defensive back, able to hold up in the run game as well as the passing game, which is why Pro Football Focus has him graded (83.1) as their sixth-best cornerback in the NFL, among those who played at least 100 snaps last season. 

The only ones ahead of him are Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson (90.8), Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland (90.4), Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (88.6), Seahawks corner Devon Witherspoon (84.1) and Panthers corner Jaycee Horn (84.1). That’s who’s who of top players at the position. Miami was able to get him at a discount since he played for a Washington Commanders squad that was the worst defense in football in 2023, but he certainly wasn’t the problem. Big win for the salary cap-strapped Dolphins. 

Rebuilding QB room with Jacoby Brissett (one-year, $8 million contract), Drake Maye (third overall pick in 2024 NFL Draft)

Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe clearly weren’t going to be long-term options at the game’s most valuable position, so the New England Patriots wisely pivoted to a new future. Signing Jacoby Brissett to a one-year deal and then drafting North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye third overall sets up the Patriots for a much brighter future at the position.

A solid case could be made that Maye was the second-best quarterback in the 2024 class behind only Caleb Williams, the draft’s first overall pick. Maye being able to learn from a journeyman like Brissett, who has played for five teams, is the best way to last long term in the NFL is invaluable. Brissett’s presence also allows for Maye to be able to develop for a little bit throughout this season before being thrown into the fire that is playing quarterback in the best football league. 

New York Jets

Heavily investing in their offensive line through various trades, draft picks and free agency signings

No NFL team cycled through more offensive line starters in 2023 than the New York Jets, who had 13 different starters up front in 17 games. Their unit allowed 64 sacks, tied for the third-most in the league, and 280 quarterback pressures, the fourth-most in the league, last season. Part of that was because of injuries, part of that was because of poor play. 

Now, Gang Green has much higher quality group thanks to their wheeling and dealing at the position listed below.

Jets’ offensive line investments this offseason

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers turns 41 in December, is coming off an Achilles injury and is accustomed to strong offensive line play: the Packers ranked inside the top seven in the entire NFL in pass-blocking rank in Rodgers’ final nine seasons in Green Bay. The Jets were bottom five in the league in every pass-blocking metric last season. Their success rides on how Rodgers perform, so they did what they needed to do to keep him healthy in 2024. 

Signing LB Patrick Queen to a three-year, $41 million contract ($13.7 million guaranteed) in free agency

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed to beef up their front seven, particularly at their inside linebacker position, after surrendering 120.3 rushing yards per game in 2023, ranking 17th in the league in that department. 

They were able to come away with 2023 Second Team All-Pro linebacker Patrick Queen, who played his first four seasons with the archrival Baltimore Ravens, signing him to a three-year, $41 million deal with $13.7 million guaranteed. Queen even claimed he took $4M-$5M less a year to join the Steelers. His contract is structured nicely for Pittsburgh as he doesn’t have any guaranteed money on it after the 2024 season, something that could motivate the Pro Bowl linebacker to maintain a high level of play through the life of the deal. 

Queen is one of only six players with at least 450 tackles (454) and double-digit sacks (13.5) since he entered the NFL as the 28th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, joining former teammate and All-Pro Roquan Smith, Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, Demario Davis and Devin White. Getting a quality inside linebacker like Queen at an average-per-year salary that only ranks as the fifth-highest at his position in free agency is a bargain considering teams typically have to overpay for talent on the open market. He turns 25 on Aug. 13, meaning his prime is very much still ahead of him. 

Tennessee Titans

Selecting Alabama OT JC Latham seventh overall in the 2024 NFL Draft

The Tennessee Titans offensive line has been bad for a few years, but it was horrendous in 2023. The unit ranked 30th in quarterback pressure rate (42.3%), 31st in sack rate (11.5%) and tied for 28th in sacks allowed (64). 

Simply put, they needed more blue-chip talent up front. Tennessee made sure of that by selecting 2023 Second Team All-America and First Team All-SEC offensive tackle JC Latham from Alabama seventh overall. He surrendered only three sacks on 970 career pass-blocking snaps. His durability is top shelf as he started all 27 of the Crimson Tide’s games at right tackle the last two seasons. 

The Titans plan on moving him to the other side of the line to left tackle to protect quarterback Will Levis’ blind side, but he is in a position to succeed. Tennessee chose left guard Peter Skoronski 11th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, and new coach Brian Callahan, most recently the Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, hired his dad Bill, a renowned NFL offensive line coach, to be his offensive line coach in Nashville. Tennessee has everything in place to fully maximize the top 10 pick talent they drafted this April. 

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