Much of the 2022 offseason is in the rearview mirror, with a number of top NFL free agents off the market and the NFL draft complete. However, there are still pressing matters for each team to address before the 2022 NFL season kicks off on Sept. 8.
Marc Sessler identifies the top remaining offseason priority for each AFC team below.
Top priority: Add proven help at wideout
Trading away Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to Arizona left the Ravens wanting at wideout. The team believes second-year target Rashod Bateman can step into the top spot, especially with star tight end Mark Andrews drawing heavy attention as a chaos-causing red-zone machine. The next guys up, Devin Duvernay and James Proche, combined for sub-500 yards a year ago. Tylan Wallace notched two grabs as a rookie. How about adding Will Fuller to the mix to recapture some of Brown's deep-threat speed? Baltimore remains a tricky landing spot for wideouts -- Hollywood begged out of Greg Roman's run-heavy system -- but the Ravens of today are leaning heavily on potential over proof.
Top priority: Fitting Ken Dorsey into Brian Daboll's shoes
The Bills do things right. When Brian Daboll left his perch as master play-caller to take over as head coach of the Giants, Buffalo refused to flinch. Instead of bringing in a brain from outside, quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Ken Dorsey was handed the reins. It suggests a smooth transition as Dorsey has been joined at the hip with MVP candidate Josh Allen since 2019. Still, unknowns linger. Will Dorsey's in-game play-calling match Daboll's stretches of magic? Will he opt for more balance with rookie runner James Cook joining Devin Singletary in the backfield? How will Dorsey respond to nitpicking if the Bills -- considered top dogs in the AFC -- stumble early on offense? Asked to keep the machine humming, Buffalo's new play-caller is under pressure to thrive right away.
Top priority: Mesh the heavies up front
The Bengals attacked free agency with admirable precision, turning their shaky offensive line into a strength. Now comes the on-field portion of the exercise, where the newly added pieces -- center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins -- must collaborate with returning bookend Jonah Williams and whoever wins the left guard fight between 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman and fourth-round rookie Cordell Volson. If Volson prevails, you're looking at five starters with zero shared playing experience. Health, availability and reps become paramount as we forge into the summer. If this unit becomes one, Joe Burrow lives on a cloud.
Top priority: Jadeveon Clowney to Browns -- Call Me Maybe?
The Browns overtly lack a fear-inducing pass rusher across from Myles Garrett. Jadeveon Clowney's return is something of an assumption by fans, but what if he signs elsewhere? That would leave Cleveland with a gaping void on the edge to pair with a distinct lack of juice at defensive tackle. The Browns need a veteran wideout, too -- this is another possibility for Will Fuller -- but missing on Clowney would leave the team in a bind that Chase Winovich and a scattering of rookie projects aren't about to solve on their own.
UPDATE: Clowney has agreed to a deal with the Browns, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Top priority: Russ & Nathaniel sitting in a tree ...
Russell Wilson landing in Denver has created one basic assumption among most football-loving humans: The Broncos are zooming to the playoffs. It's a theory with legs, but there's another reality where the entire thing flies off the rails. Denver must escape its own monstrous division while battling the NFC West out of conference. In house, you have a first-year coach in Nathaniel Hackett handing Russ a brand new playbook. One trusts Wilson to absorb and attack the newness, but it's different than Matthew Stafford air-dropping into a well-defined culture and proven system with Sean McVay's Rams. I certainly dig Hackett's smarts, weirdness and communication style -- so maybe they just glide to 13-4?
Top priority: Put Davis Mills under the microscope
The Texans are all about tomorrow. With four first-round picks over the next two drafts -- two of those acquired from Cleveland via the Deshaun Watson swap -- Houston sits in prime territory to find its quarterback of the future in next year’s potentially passer-rich draft. Maybe that's why the Texans have stayed away from nabbing Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. Why not use 2022 to gain a full appreciation for what Davis Mills brings to the table? Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is an ideal tutor for the second-year passer, who looked better as a rookie than quite a few of the QBs drafted ahead of him in 2021. It won't be a joyride -- Houston's roster remains a shambles -- but nobody's expecting Mills to save the earth.
Top priority: Explore the concept of Odell Beckham Jr.
Taking Alec Pierce in the second round addressed a tangible need for the Colts. Beyond the rookie, Michael Pittman Jr. is a pleasure to watch, but injuries have limited Parris Campbell to 15 games in three seasons. Depth is a concern. With Matt Ryan at the motherboard, Indy looms as a potential tractor beam for Odell Beckham Jr., who is coming off the knee injury he suffered in the Super Bowl. The Rams are interested in bringing him back, but Beckham went out of his way in March to issue a glowing review of the Ryan acquisition. With more than enough cap space in a winnable AFC South, why not spend the requisite dead presidents to lure in a veteran pass-catcher who can mentor Pierce and add holy fire to Indy's air attack?
Top priority: CTRL+ALT+DEL on last year’s apocalypse
Urban Meyer left a stink on this team. His bizarre and chaotic foray into pro football wiped out Trevor Lawrence's rookie campaign and cast a darkness over the Jaguars’ locker room. CUT TO: Doug Pederson, fresh off a one-year sojourn and hired to bring a sense of stability. Developing Lawrence and building a competent operation come next, but Pederson's first order of business is operating as a change agent. "I do believe there has to be some kind of healing with the situation and everything that transpired last year because it's just there's a lack of trust that was broken, I think," Pederson said last week. "For me, it's about gaining the trust back and they have to see it through me. They have to see the transparency, the honesty. I've always said I'm going to be open with them and I want them to be open with me."
Ladies and gentlemen: We've got an adult in the room.
Top priority: Adjust to life after Tyreek Hill
Narratives. We might have one in Kansas City. There’s this notion that Tyreek Hill can be replaced by a committee of lesser players who -- when added up like four quarters -- equal a dollar. Hill's physical gifts represent a rare cauldron of athletic DNA, which danced in perfect harmony with the titanic arm of Patrick Mahomes. That chemistry won't easily be mimicked in Hill's new home of Miami (more on that below) -- or back at Arrowhead. Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster and second-round rookie Skyy Moore offer a workable assortment of skill sets. I trust the Chiefs will succeed less because of the foursome and more because Andy Reid has managed deep-cutting transition on offense roughly 777 times in his career. I trust Mahomes to maximize his weapons. The Chiefs, though, can't be afraid to look different.
Top priority: The Carr-McDaniels relationship
Handed a fresh extension through 2025, Derek Carr can waltz into the summer minus chatter and whispers over his future. After years spent with Tom Brady as offensive coordinator in New England, Josh McDaniels’ second head-coaching stint boils down to getting the best out of Carr, a signal-caller who mixes top-shelf leadership and inspired stretches of play with the occasional meltdown. McDaniels and new general manager Dave Ziegler did Carr the biggest solid ever by trading for his BFF Davante Adams. The shocking swap sets Vegas up to attack defenses with Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow through the air. I’d also expect a heavy dose of the run game if McDaniels sticks to his New England roots. The friendship is off to a good start, but these are the easy days. All eyes on the duo when times get tough.
Top priority: Tipping-point time on defense
The Chargers have a chance to be special on offense for years to come with fireball Justin Herbert at the motherboard. His presence takes attention away from L.A.'s defense, a Brandon Staley-led/Vic Fangio-inspired scheme that underwhelmed in Year 1 of the regime. The front office went to work this offseason adding pieces that fit. The Bolts made waves by trading for Khalil Mack, a player Staley knows well -- and knows how to unleash. J.C. Jackson was signed as a smart, ball-hawking corner set to create havoc with safety Derwin James. The Chargers also added longtime Fangio pupil Bryce Callahan at corner and ex-Patriots edge rusher Kyle Van Noy. There are plenty of new faces, but also a flock of returning defenders who rolled into this offseason in a state of calm, as linebacker Drue Tranquill told The Athletic: “We all know the install by now and we were really able to dig into the techniques. Where are we aligning here and what are we trying to get the offensive line to do so that we can then make this play? Going into that second and third level, you’re able to do that in the second year of the defense."
Top priority: Get freaky, Mr. McDaniel
Is Mike McDaniel the real deal? Plucked from the Shanahan tree after his wizardry helped unleash Deebo Samuel’s “wide-back” attack, the 39-year-old head coach now takes over a Miami offense that appears formidable after March’s monster trade for laser-fast wideout Tyreek Hill. Last year’s troubled O-line is now bolstered by Terron Armstead and Connor Williams. The backfield screams Niners-esque committee madness with Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel and Myles Gaskin at the wheel. Mike Gesicki steps into a fortuitous scheme for tight ends. Jaylen Waddle and Hill boast the spice and speed to befuddle opponents. It all looks good on paper in May. By October, though, we might be looking at Teddy Bridgewater bumping Tua Tagovailoa out of the lineup if the latter stumbles. It boils down to McDaniel -- huddled away in a basement drawing up mad-scientist schemes -- to overcome a grueling schedule with his tantalizing collection of talent. Boy genius? The next Shanahan? Or the ‘Fins flying too close to the sun? TBD.
Top priority: Who's calling plays?
Is Bill Belichick simply punking society for giggles?
The Patriots have yet to name an offensive coordinator following Josh McDaniels’ departure for the Raiders. Belichick could have Joe Judge and Matt Patricia battling it out for the role. Patricia, though, hasn't coached offense since 2005. Judge offers zero offensive experience save for doubling as New England's special teams coordinator/receivers coach in 2019. "I’d say all of us are working collectively as a coaching unit with the entire offense," Judge said on Monday. Sounds like a lot of extra work -- and a somewhat bizarre handling of quarterback Mac Jones as he heads into a critical second season. Who's to say it can't work, but I smell a whiff of hubris out of Foxborough.
Top priority: Pray Mt. Becton arrives in shape
After a rough-and-tumble rookie campaign, Zach Wilson opens Act 2 in a friendlier ecosystem. The Jets used free agency to add a rugged guard in Laken Tomlinson and a proven weapon in tight end in C.J. Uzomah. The receiving corps looks better than it has in eons after drafting Ohio State's Garrett Wilson at No. 10 overall. It’s strange to type this, but the New York Jets threaten to be watchable. One nagging concern? Getting 17 games out of offensive tackle Mekhi Becton. After a promising start in 2020, the (potentially too) big man suffered a dislocated kneecap and sprained his MCL in the opener last season before vanishing into the void. He reportedly ballooned to 400 pounds during rehab. The Jets, though, looked elsewhere in the draft until Day 3, leaving Becton lodged as a likely starter with little depth behind him. General manager Joe Douglas might not be done adding pieces.
Top priority: Pinpoint pass-rushing help
The Steelers spent their draft reloading on offense, grabbing quarterback Kenny Pickett at No. 20 overall before selecting a pair of wideouts in Georgia's George Pickens and Calvin Austin III out of Memphis. The overhaul of Pittsburgh's attack is underway, but roster holes remain on the other side of the ball. The Steelers are paper thin at outside linebacker beyond T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Were either to miss time, the Steelers can't count on Genard Avery or Derrek Tuszka to fill the gap. It's a tough time of year to find help, but camp cuts could bring an answer. The Steelers specialize at filling gaps with chip-on-their-shoulder veterans.
Top priority: Find competition along the O-line
If Ryan Tannehill is piqued, I don't blame him. The Titans traded away star wideout A.J. Brown, drafted the quarterback's potential successor in Malik Willis and failed to adequately address an offensive line with issues. It's the last item that might cause Tannehill immediate headaches. Voids with few clear answers remain at left guard and right tackle. Aaron Brewer and Jamarco Jones (both the opposite of Pro Football Focus darlings) are in line to tussle for the guard spot after the Titans failed to land a rock-solid interior lineman in the draft. Dillon Radunz is another candidate at guard, but last year's second-round disappointment will also battle it out at right tackle with 2022 third-rounder Nicholas Petit-Frere, described by one AFC scout as "talented but there are a lot of holes to fill." Same goes for this front five.