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AFC Roster Reset: Biggest signings/losses, burning question for each team ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft

Our Roster Reset series takes a look at where things stand across the league heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. Nick Shook examines the current makeup of the AFC below, addressing each team's biggest additions, losses and one burning question.


BURNING QUESTION: Can the Bills finally make that Super Bowl run?

Buffalo addressed its biggest need by signing Connor McGovern, which should help an offensive line that degraded in performance over the last year or so. But will McGovern and the handful of other additions push the Bills over a hump that has grown increasingly daunting? The AFC has become quite challenging: Cincinnati isn't going anywhere, Kansas City remains king and a collection of other squads want to have their say in how things shake out in 2023. Can the Bills separate from the pack after failing to reach the Super Bowl in four straight postseason appearances? Their six picks could produce another valued contributor or two, but much of this team will likely remain familiar. Is it enough?

BURNING QUESTION: Can the Dolphins get a full season out of Tua Tagovailoa?

After two years of uncertainty, Tagovailoa proved in his first season under Mike McDaniel that he could achieve at a level near what was expected from him when he was selected fifth overall out of Alabama. But he still has yet to make it through a full season unscathed. Concussions forced him to miss four games in 2022, as well as Miami's Wild Card Round loss. The Dolphins must know they cannot take the next step without a healthy Tagovailoa. He's focused on avoiding availability issues in 2023, so much that he's training in jiu-jitsu to learn how to minimize his risk of injury when falling. Regardless of other personnel moves, Miami's season depends on having Tagovailoa on the field.

BURNING QUESTION: Can the Patriots prove 2022 was just a bump in the road?

After surprising most everyone with a playoff appearance in 2021, the Patriots took a step or two backward. With Bill O'Brien back in the fold as offensive play-caller after the uninspiring stewardship of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, New England will try to get on track again. And the time is now for Mac Jones, who struggled under Patricia, to take his next positive step. Year 3 tends to be a crucial one for most young quarterbacks; accordingly, the Pats added a couple of pass-catchers who should help Jones. (Unless the recent report that Bill Belichick shopped Jones becomes something more.) Soon we will learn whether the team can turn toward better days and shake the surprising sloppiness of recent years, or if New England is simply treading water.

BURNING QUESTION: Can the Jets make sure the Aaron Rodgers era is worth the hassle?

Note that Rodgers' name is missing from the list of additions. It will be the no-doubt headliner when the Jets complete their trade for him with the Packers, which will happen eventually -- the alternative would be disastrous. But when Rodgers officially arrives, the clock will start ticking. Like LeBron James in the NBA, Rodgers' presence on a team demands that the decision-makers devote every available resource to the pursuit of one, sole goal: winning. Will it be worth it for the Jets? Rodgers has flirted with retirement in each of the last few offseasons and even admitted his was leaning toward walking away earlier this year. New York is likely to be a top contender in the AFC with Rodgers on the roster in 2023. Whenever Rodgers' Jets tenure ends, Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas must ensure they do everything in their power to make the most of this move.


BURNING QUESTION: What's next with Lamar Jackson?

Reading the tea leaves, we might have an inkling that the franchise-tagged Jackson will remain in Baltimore, but we don't have a guarantee. The addition of Odell Beckham -- at the surprisingly high price of $15 million (with the chance to increase up to $18 million) on a one-year deal -- might help the Ravens sell Jackson on withdrawing his trade request, but even if Jackson stays, there will likely continue to be tension between team and quarterback. Baltimore will have to move forward and ensure the added pieces produce in new coordinator Todd Monken's offense. The Ravens have selected eight or more players in each of the past five drafts; if they don't add to their current collection of picks, this year's class will be the franchise's smallest since the four-player group of 1999. Which means Baltimore will have to extract the most from its existing roster and hope the first few picks acclimate quickly. Most importantly, they'll have to hope Jackson stays healthy -- unless Jackson ends up playing elsewhere, in which case executing a succession plan at QB becomes paramount.

BURNING QUESTION: Can the O-line stay healthy enough to push the Bengals back to the Super Bowl?

The Bengals' downfall in each of the last two seasons has been a lack of reliable offensive line play. They dedicated plenty of resources to the group last offseason, and it worked out well -- until injuries undercut the team's hopes at the worst time once again. This offseason, Cincinnati pushed its financial chips to the center of the table to snag Orlando Brown (while upsetting incumbent left tackle Jonah Williams). They likely aren't done making moves, not if they are willing to fulfill Williams' request to be traded elsewhere, making this an all-in season of sorts. An extension for star quarterback Joe Burrow could be on the horizon -- but ensuring Burrow's protection is key to this squad's immediate Super Bowl hopes.

BURNING QUESTION: Have the Browns succeeded in bringing their front seven up to snuff?

Cleveland's defense gave its own fans nightmares far too often in 2022 for the team to accept the status quo entering 2023. Jim Schwartz replaced Joe Woods as defensive coordinator, and the Browns' front office dedicated significant resources to beefing up the defensive line while retaining two key linebackers. But there is still room for a premier bookend pass rusher opposite Myles Garrett, even after Jadeveon Clowney was replaced by Ogbo Okoronkwo. Cleveland didn't make a splash at linebacker, either, essentially running it back with Anthony Walker (who is coming off an injury), Sione Takitaki and promising youngster Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Schwartz prioritizes his front seven in his approach. Will the Browns make another addition or two to the group to truly fill it out in the draft? Or will they trust Schwartz to work his magic with the personnel on hand?

BURNING QUESTION: Are the Steelers ready to level up in Kenny Pickett's second season?

The future is bright and optimism runneth over in the Steel City, coming off the promising debut seasons of Pitt product Pickett and receiver George Pickens. The Steelers signed a veteran guard with Super Bowl experience (Isaac Seumalo) and resupplied their defense with a crop of incoming talent headed by difference-making linebacker Cole Holcomb. They also have seven picks to continue building up their roster. Everything seems to be going according to plan, so what could go wrong? (Well, besides injuries.) There are still a few spots where the Steelers could use help on the defensive side of the ball, but as we all know, this ultimately rests on Pickett. He finished 2022 strong after getting off to a rough start, and he'll need to continue moving in the right direction.


BURNING QUESTION: Will an influx of higher-quality veterans help DeMeco Ryans to a faster start than his predecessors?

We know the most important question to answer in Houston concerns which quarterback the team might select in the draft, but beyond that decision lies intrigue regarding the construction of the rest of this roster. Houston has been a place for fringe veterans to take refuge for each of the last two seasons, but this time around, it's different: Five of their signees were among Gregg Rosenthal's top 101 free agents of 2023, with two ranking in the top 40 (Dalton Schultz, No. 16 and Jimmie Ward, No. 36). Players like Robert Woods, Sheldon Rankins, Shaq Mason, Schultz and Ward aren't just hanging on for one more go-around in the NFL. Will the new talent -- plus a new quarterback -- be enough to help Ryans start a much-needed turnaround?

BURNING QUESTION: Can the Colts patch their holes and find a solution at quarterback?

Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan flopped in each of the last two seasons, and the Colts don't seem interested in stepping up to the career-revival plate a third time. Securing a quarterback of the future beyond Gardner Minshew is priority No. 1 entering the draft, with the team possessing the fourth overall pick. New coach Shane Steichen arrives with a roster that boasted a sneaky good defense last season and has a few playmakers on offense, but this likely won't be an overnight turnaround. The offensive line needs to be better than it was in 2022, especially if the Colts plan on inserting a rookie quarterback into the lineup early. They'll need to restock at a few positions in the draft. But most importantly, they must accept they aren't quite in the position to contend for a title. Patience is a virtue and will be essential in Indianapolis.

BURNING QUESTION: Are the Jaguars ready to take the next step?

The Jags are back! Trevor Lawrence took a massive leap forward in his first season under Doug Pederson, and a year after spending lavishly, Jacksonville wisely used its available cap space to retain a key pass-catcher in Engram and make lower-level signings to keep the roster intact. Now, the Jags need to use their nine draft picks wisely to improve from a surprise playoff game winner to more of a threat. With Lawrence headed in the right direction and still under a rookie deal, the time is now -- well, the time is the next year or two -- to truly capitalize. First, though, they'll have to prove 2022 wasn't a fluke. Adding an instant contributor or two in the draft would certainly help this cause.

BURNING QUESTION: Are the Titans approaching a crossroads?

Despite struggles, Tennessee remained in the playoff hunt through the final month of the 2022 season. But was that Tennessee's last gasp? Ryan Tannehill isn't getting any younger and hasn't helped himself much in the last two years. Malik Willis still appears to be very far from becoming a viable starter at quarterback, and Derrick Henry is approaching the dreaded 30th birthday. The Titans lost Davis in free agency, and while their defensive additions (Azeez Al-Shaair, Arden Key, Sean Murphy-Bunting) are savvy, they're still lacking on the offensive side of the ball. The days of riding Henry to division titles are likely in the past, and a quick solution doesn't appear to be in sight. So, what will this season be? A last dance of sorts with a veteran quarterback? Or the start of a transition toward a fluid rebuild? The task facing new general manager Ran Carthon isn't easy and might require patience -- unless he has a blockbuster deal up his sleeve.


BURNING QUESTION: Can the Broncos get back on track under Sean Payton?

2022 was a nightmare for Denver. The acquisition of Russell Wilson didn't produce the results anyone expected, the Broncos' offense was a disaster, and coach Nathaniel Hackett didn't make it to the end of his first season. The Broncos can only go up from here, at least according to the mile-high optimist, but are the problems truly going to be fixed by one master mechanic in Payton? The offseason losses aren't all that much, but given that the Broncos have only five draft picks, most of what they will be working with this season is already on this roster. They've addressed the offensive line and made a savvy move with the signing of Zach Allen, which is great, but ultimately, this all comes down to whether Wilson will return to the elite status he claimed throughout his time in Seattle. Payton should mitigate potential internal problems. The rest will be up to Wilson, who has enough talent around him to succeed.

BURNING QUESTION: Has Kansas City made the necessary moves to remain on the mountaintop?

The Chiefs are back on the throne, pulling off an incredible victory to take home their second Super Bowl title in the last four seasons. Credit is due to GM Brett Veach, who has proven himself as a master of restocking the roster while keeping them financially solvent. This year, it required letting Orlando Brown Jr. walk to Cincinnati, but Veach was prepared, signing Jawaan Taylor away from Jacksonville as Brown's replacement. Mike Edwards arrives to supplant Juan Thornill, while Richie James aims to fill the void left by JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman. Ten picks is a lot for a reigning champion, and if we've learned anything from Veach's recent drafts, he'll add a difference-maker or two who might not necessarily arrive as a starter, but will find a way into the lineup. It's what has helped the Chiefs remain elite for the last half decade. On its surface, there might be some lingering weaknesses, but we can expect Veach to address those concerns in the draft. The Chiefs aren't going anywhere any time soon.

BURNING QUESTION: Will New England West turn into a contender after a busy offseason?

Jimmy Garoppolo is the new quarterback in town and the front man of a team that is starting to look a lot like coach Josh McDaniels' former employer. Dumping Derek Carr for Garoppolo seems to be more of a fit-related decision than one dependent upon ceiling, but if it works better than Carr did for McDaniels, then it will be worth it. The Raiders brought in plenty of reinforcements this offseason, and with 12 draft picks in hand, the Raiders likely aren't finished remaking their team in the image of McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler. The question then will be, of course: Is it enough? Las Vegas has the talent necessary to be better than 6-11, a record that could have been closer to .500 had the team found ways to consistently play four full quarters without falling off a cliff in the second half. Time will tell, but for a coach looking to make his imprint on a franchise, McDaniels is certainly on his way.

BURNING QUESTION: Will the Chargers add enough depth in the draft to make it beyond Super Wild Card Weekend?

Los Angeles loaded up in what was an arms race of a 2022 offseason in the AFC West, and it paid off to a degree: The Chargers reached the postseason, surviving enough to post 10 wins and earn a date with the upstart Jaguars as a wild-card team. Then, the wheels fell off, with the Chargers collapsing in epic fashion and exiting via a heartbreaking defeat. Repeating the same finish in 2023 won't be acceptable, but Los Angeles didn't have the same type of financial power to make massive splashes this offseason. They still added a veteran playmaker in Eric Kendricks and kept a few important pieces, largely keeping their core intact. These seven picks will be important for the overall strength of the team, which will be tested in the 2023 season. GM Tom Telesco must draft well to help Brandon Staley push past last season's playoff disappointment.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter.

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