Skip to main content

Biggest remaining offseason priority for each AFC team: QB1 for Raiders? WR help for Steelers?

Much of the 2024 offseason is in the rearview mirror, with a majority of top free agents off the market and the draft complete. However, there are still pressing matters for each team to address before the '24 NFL season kicks off on Sept. 5.

Kevin Patra identifies the top remaining offseason priority for each AFC team below.

Top priority: Add to the offensive line.

It's foolhardy to judge a Ravens roster until much closer to the start of the season. No one does a better job of continuing to find cheap, capable talent deep into the process than Baltimore's front office. If one area stands out as a question mark at this stage, it's the offensive line, where the right tackle job and both guard spots appear up for grabs. Andrew Vorhees, who sat out his rookie season with an injury, and Ben Cleveland (seven starts in three years) are currently in line for the guard spots. Second-round pick Roger Rosengarten could start at right tackle. Josh Jones, who can play guard and tackle, could swipe one of the starting spots or play a swing role. Even if some of these options prove viable, the depth is a concern. If Ronnie Stanley, who hasn't played more than 13 games in a season since 2019, goes down, things could get dire. GM Eric DeCosta should add veteran help before Week 1. 

Top priority: Decide if Von Miller can recapture his previous form.

Miller took a pay cut to remain in Buffalo this offseason, but even with $8.5 million guaranteed, he's no lock to make the final roster if the club doesn't see improvement from the future Hall of Famer. Things move swiftly in the NFL, and Miller hasn't earned a Pro Bowl nod since 2019. In 12 games last season, he didn't generate a sack, earned 12 pressures on 164 pass-rush snaps and had three tackles. The hope is that being further removed from his 2022 knee injury can get the edge rusher back into form, but it's no guarantee for a 35-year-old player. If Miller can't be productive in a rotational role behind Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa, it could be time to move on for Buffalo. 

Top priority: For the love of Pete, stay healthy.

Last offseason, Cincinnati spent the summer concerned about Joe Burrow's calf injury, which lingered into the season and aided in the Bengals’ wobbly start. As fate would have it, just as Burrow's calf got healthy, he injured his wrist, ending his season. Is it too much to ask, football gods, that one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL stay healthy before games are even played? Injuries happen, but the 2023 Bengals were riddled on both sides of the ball, ultimately leading them to miss the postseason. The last time Burrow suffered a season-ending injury, he bounced back to lead Cincy to a Super Bowl the following year. Despite some attrition, the Bengals have the talent on the roster to make a similar run -- provided the key parts stay healthy. 

Top priority: Get Deshaun Watson acclimated to new OC Ken Dorsey.

Yes, head coach Kevin Stefanski remains the play-caller and offensive leader, but Cleveland expects Dorsey to play a more significant role with Watson. It's no secret that, in two (abbreviated) seasons with the Browns, the QB has been a big disappointment. From raggedy rust in 2022 to a wobbly start in 2023 to the season-ending injury, nothing has gone well. The fact that last year's offense ran better with Joe Flacco than Watson pre-injury spoke volumes. Dorsey helped usher Josh Allen's development in Buffalo as quarterback coach and passing game coordinator. With Stefanski calling plays, Dorsey can focus on getting the best out of Watson in 2024. More struggles from the highly paid QB, and it'll be panic-button time in Cleveland. 

Top priority: Get Bo Nix up to speed.

Sure, Denver could elect to start Jarrett Stidham under center for a few weeks, but the way Sean Payton has talked about Nix since the draft, I expect the Broncos to ride the rookie from Day 1. The 24-year-old started 61 games in college. He's not a duckling who needs time to get his feet wet. Yes, there will be growing pains -- like with all players transitioning to the NFL -- but Denver selected Nix 12th overall to help turn around a club that hasn't been to the postseason since Peyton Manning retired. The Oregon product fits Payton's offense as a quick decision-maker with pinpoint accuracy. The Broncos would be wise to give the rookie as many reps this offseason and in training camp as possible so he can hit the ground running in Payton's offense.  

Top priority: Figure out if Blake Fisher can handle starting RT duties.

The Texans' offense looks fantastic on paper, but questions remain along a line that dealt with injuries last season. The group could be more solidified if Fisher, a second-round pick this year, shows enough promise in offseason workouts and training camp to start the season at right tackle. If he can, that would allow Tytus Howard to play inside and stabilize the front five. If Fisher is not ready, we could see more midseason shuffling again. Despite constant changes along the line last season, C.J. Stroud shined, showing his ability to overcome blocking deficiencies. Imagine what he could do with improved protection. 

Top priority: Add a veteran corner to the mix.

The Colts' defensive front seven is deep and potentially dynamic. The back end, however, harbors questions as it leans on youth. Second-year pro JuJu Brents and undrafted third-year corner Dallis Flowers are in line to start on the outside alongside slot maven Kenny Moore II. Tack on Nick Cross, potentially taking on a bigger role in safety, and there could be growing pains in the secondary. Adding a veteran corner to help shepherd the group would make sense. Might Indy consider bringing Stephon Gilmore back to help stabilize a young corner crew in a hotly contested division? 

Top priority: Help the cornerback room.

Ryan Nielsen brings a defense that should be an upgrade, but the question is whether the Jaguars have the corners to play the new DC's desired system. Ronald Darby was signed this offseason and could be a starter. Third-round pick Jarrian Jones might be the nickel starter, and fifth-rounder Deantre Prince is in line to play a key reserve role. I don't question the Jags' decision to draft wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. in Round 1 instead of picking one of the corners sitting on the board, but doing so certainly left question marks on the defense's back end. At this point, Jacksonville appears to be counting on Nielsen to scheme around any roster concerns. 

Top priority: Find out if rookie Kingsley Suamataia can start at left tackle.

Remember last offseason, when the Chiefs signed Jawaan Taylor to a big-money deal with the plan to move him to left tackle, then changed their minds less than two months later, inked Donovan Smith and flipped Taylor back to the right side? I wonder if Brett Veach and Andy Reid are similarly in a play-it-by-ear mode at left tackle this year. Suamataia and second-year tackle Wanya Morris are set to compete for LT duties. Do the Chiefs love youth protecting Patrick Mahomes' blind side, trusting the MVP QB to make it work? Or might they bring in a veteran -- perhaps Smith -- closer to training camp? It could depend on how Suamataia and Morris look in the coming months. 

Top priority: Settle on a QB.

Antonio Pierce said Aidan O'Connell earned the right to get the first snaps of this offseason. The question is whether the second-year pro can hang on to the gig. Vegas paid Gardner Minshew the salary of a premium bridge quarterback but was shut out of the first-round signal-caller market in the draft. Heading into his first full campaign as head coach, Pierce has a massive decision: ride the youngster he showed faith in last season through the QB's peaks and valleys, or hand the reins to Minshew, who showed he can run an offense and keep a team in the playoff hunt? The outcome likely depends on whether O'Connell makes significant strides this offseason. If it's close, Minshew likely wins out.

Top priority: Figure out a WR pecking order.

Listening to general manager Joe Hortiz talk about his WR room, you can sense he likes the group more than the outside world does. Ladd McConkey has a chance to get a massive target share as a rookie. If he can stay healthy, Josh Palmer is a solid No. 2. 2023 first-round pick Quentin Johnston will have to show significant improvement to live up to the hype after living in Strugglesville last season. D.J. Chark is a serviceable veteran on the downslope of his career. Is there a No. 1 option? For my money, McConkey would seem to be the likeliest choice out of this group, but is a rookie slot going to pace Greg Roman's offense?

Top priority: Pay Tua

The Dolphins have said all the right things about wanting to lock down Tua Tagovailoa long term as the quarterback enters the final year of his rookie contract. Jared Goff's recent four-year, $212 million extension with the Lions likely sets the parameters around where Tua should land on a new deal. Some outside the building might scoff at paying that much to a quarterback with an injury history who also lacks postseason success, but it's the going rate at the most important position in sports. The usual timeline for new quarterback deals is that they are done leading up to training camp. If Tua (who has missed "some" offseason activities, according to coach Mike McDaniel) isn't given an extension by July, that will speak louder than all the flowery words GM Chris Grier uses to praise the QB. The Fins could take it year by year, electing to play out the fifth-year option in 2024 and tag Tua for the next two seasons. But that strategy would come with risks, in the interest of saving a few bucks, and cast a pall over a team that expects to compete in the AFC East. 

Top priority: Grow Drake Maye and the young WR corps together.

The reported chatter out of New England is that the No. 3 overall pick could back up Jacoby Brissett to open the season. While I'm not in favor of sitting top-five QBs (playing is the best educator), I understand the logic, with a sturdy veteran mentor in place. What I want to see is the Patriots grooming Maye to take over within the first month by ensuring he gets plenty of reps with the young WRs. Ja'Lynn Polk, Javon Baker, Demario Douglas and Kendrick Bourne (coming off injury) profile as the future of this receiving corps. If Jerod Mayo's first season as the head ball coach in New England is about setting up stepping stones back to the top of the AFC East, it's paramount that the franchise QB develops a rapport with his top targets -- regardless of when he first sees the field. 

Top priority: Make it to Week 1 healthy.

Aaron Rodgers is on pace to be ready for the regular season. He is clearly not hindered if he's doing all the work in voluntary OTAs. The key is keeping the QB upright -- without, say, having him be waylaid by a random ankle tweak or herniated L5-S1 disc in mid-July. And Rodgers isn't the only injury concern. Receiver Mike Williams is in line to play a crucial role opposite Garrett Wilson, but he hasn't yet been cleared for football activities coming off a torn ACL. Presuming he's ready for Week 1, as he expects, what kind of shape will he be in? Will Rodgers trust the field stretcher off the bat? Then there are offensive tackles Tyron Smith (33) and Morgan Moses (33), both aging and with an injury history. Gang Green needs them to at least start the season healthy, even if rookie Olu Fashanu is there to sub in when issues pop up. 

Top priority: Add to the WR room.

The Diontae Johnson trade in March thrust George Pickens into a clear No. 1 role, and the Steelers have not added a veteran of consequence to make up for the loss in an already thin WR corps. Third-round pick Roman Wilson is in line for the No. 2 job out of the slot. Wilson has the talent to contribute immediately, but immediately picking up the production Johnson left behind is a lot to ask of the rookie. Van Jefferson has been a disappointment with the Rams and Falcons and shouldn’t be counted on for a big role. Calvin Austin III and Quez Watkins are more gadget players than every-down weapons. Steelers fans have been pining for the club to make a big splash at the position. To date, they've been disappointed. The most significant move was drafting Wilson. Whether it's Russell Wilson or Justin Fields under center, the Steelers need more help. 

Top priority: Immerse Will Levis in Brian Callahan's system.

No one questions Levis' big arm or willingness to stand in and take a hit, but will he be able to make the mundane throws that keep an offense on schedule? Last year, Levis averaged 10.5 air yards per attempt, the highest mark for any quarterback since 2020 (min. 200 attempts), per Next Gen Stats. In a quick-pass league, can Levis keep the chains moving when the big shots aren't there? In Callahan's five years as offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, the highest single-season air-yards-per-attempt figure registered by any Bengals quarterback was Joe Burrow's mark of 8.8 in his rookie season. From that point forward, the number dwindled, much like it has for many teams across the league. In the past two seasons, Burrow's AY/A figures were 7.2 and 6.5, respectively. Jake Browning's AY/A after taking over for JB in 2023 was 6.3. Yes, Burrow would have his "Whatever, Ja'Marr Chase is down there somewhere" moments, but at its core, Cincinnati's attack was a station-to-station offense under Callahan. Levis will need to master that ability this offseason as he prepares to play for his new head coach. The Titans have brought in the veteran receivers to help him accomplish that goal. If he struggles through the first few months of the season, perhaps we could see Mason Rudolph -- who can lead that type of timing offense -- come out of the bullpen. 

Related Content