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2020 NFL free agency: Three biggest needs for each AFC team

The free agency market officially opens at 4 p.m. ET on March 18. Before the cavalcade of comings and goings gets rolling, Adam Maya provides three big needs for each AFC team (listed in alphabetical order) below.

NOTE: Projected cap-space figures were gathered from Over The Cap on March 5.

Baltimore Ravens: Edge rusher, defensive tackle, inside linebacker

Projected cap space: $30.7 million

The Ravens again boasted one of the league's best defenses, despite reshuffling the veteran nucleus from 2018. About half of their defensive starters will be free agents, however, so more turnover can be expected. The biggest priority should be adding an edge rusher, and that's even if they come to terms with Matt Judon. Baltimore registered a modest 37 sacks in 2019. The coming draft appears flush with pass rushers, but the Ravens might not wait that long. They also need more production at nose tackle and inside linebacker after Michael Pierce and Patrick Onwuasor proved underwhelming in their contract year. (UPDATE: The Ravens placed the franchise tag on Judon and are trading for defensive end Calais Campbell.)

Buffalo Bills: Edge rusher, offensive line, wide receiver

Projected cap space: $82.3 million

The Bills are the rare playoff team with a lot of money to spend. A good chunk of it should go to obtaining reinforcements on offense. The O-line needs attention, as veteran guard Quinton Spain could be moving on, and there doesn't appear to be a long-term solution at right tackle. Upgrading the receiving corps should be a priority, as well, although a go-to target for Josh Allen is more likely to be available in the draft. There obviously aren't too many weaknesses on this Bills defense, yet there is a glaring need: pass rusher. Shaq Lawson will test the market after his fifth-year option wasn't exercised, and even if he returns, it won't be enough. Buffalo, which has lacked an elite edge rusher for years, has the means to swing big this offseason.

Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive line, defensive line, tight end

Projected cap space: $44.9 million

Before the Bengals draft their QB of the future cough Joe Burrow cough, they'll seemingly look to bolster their offensive line. The unit was rated third-worst in the league by Pro Football Focus last season. The defensive line as a whole also needs improving, as Cincinnati struggled to stop the run or pressure the QB. Amid reports that the Bengalsintend to tag A.J. Green, they could use another pass catcher at tight end. Impending free agent Tyler Eifert looks to be on his way out after having a limited role last year under first-year coach Zac Taylor. There will be a few notable options on the open market.

Cleveland Browns: Offensive tackle, linebacker, safety

Projected cap space: $62 million

It remains to be seen how aggressive a(nother) new regime in Cleveland will be in free agency. But the needs are abundant. For as much blame as Baker Mayfield assumed for his sophomore slump, and deservedly so, it's also true that he often lacked protection on the perimeter. It's possible the Browns will replace both of their starting tackles from a year ago. Linebacker Joe Schobert isn't expected back, which would weaken an already thin unit in the middle of Cleveland's defense. The team might also be in the market for a pair of starting safeties, with Damarious Randall likely leaving.

Denver Broncos: Defensive line, wide receiver, offensive line

Projected cap space: $57.1 million

We could see a pretty substantial overhaul on the defensive line. None of the Broncos' 2019 starters are under contract, with only Derek Wolfe projected to return. The trade for cornerback A.J. Bouye likely signals the end of Chris Harris Jr.'s time in Denver. That's not the case with safety Justin Simmons, whom John Elway said will be tagged if the two sides can't agree on a long-term deal. The Broncos should add a pass catcher or two to play alongside budding star Courtland Sutton. The offensive line could look quite different next season. Denver declined guard Ron Leary's option, center Connor McGovern is a free agent and Garett Bolles' tenure at left tackle is not aging well. (UPDATE: The Broncos applied the franchise tag to Simmons.)

Houston Texans: Running back, cornerback, tight end

Projected cap space: $61.3 million

The Texans have money to spend and a couple positions that need serious attention. It begins with retooling what was a top-10 rushing outfit. Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde are free agents, and Duke Johnson isn't feature-back material. The turnover could be even greater at cornerback, as Bradley Roby, Phillip Gaines and Johnathan Joseph all come off the books. This might also be an opportune time to flank Deshaun Watson with another receiving threat at tight end, as impending FA Darren Fells looks to have parlayed a seven-TD campaign into a larger role elsewhere. (UPDATE: Rapoport reports that Fells has agreed to a two-year, $7 million extension with Houston. The team has also agreed to re-sign Roby to a three-year, $36 million contract.)

Indianapolis Colts: Quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line

Projected cap space: $86.2 million

The biggest question, and perhaps biggest allocation of cap space, concerns the quarterback. The Colts brass is keeping an open mind about incumbent Jacoby Brissett being the starter in 2020, which means he might not be. The option Indianapolis is most often linked to -- Philip Rivers -- has worked with HC Frank Reich and OC Nick Sirianni in the past. An upgrade, if Rivers is one, would be welcomed by a franchise one year removed from the playoffs with several core pieces intact. With left tackle Anthony Castonzo expected back, Indy would be well-served to provide its QB with another quality receiver. The Colts could also use a boost to their pass rush, which last year relied too much on the aging but productive Justin Houston. (UPDATE: The Colts are re-signing Castonzo to a two-year, $33 million contract, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.)

Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive line, cornerback, safety

Projected cap space: $32.3 million

Nearly every significant member of Jacksonville's vaunted defense from 2017 could be gone by spring. The Jaguars will have to get creative if they're going to effectively replace those still on their way out. They created cap space by unloading cornerback A.J. Bouye and could do the same with veteran defensive end Calais Campbell. The front office already declined DT Marcell Dareus' option and plans to tag DE Yannick Ngakoue, who made it clear he plans to play elsewhere. The Jags' corner situation was lacking before parting ways with Bouye. They also need more from the safety spot that isn't being manned by Jarrod Wilson. (UPDATE: The Jaguars applied the franchise tag to Ngakoue and have agreed to trade Campbell to the Ravens.)

Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerback, defensive tackle, interior offensive line

Projected cap space: $13.7 million

The Chiefs look primed to compete for years to come thanks to wunderkind QB Patrick Mahomes, who will reset the market whenever that extension comes. Bringing back all the core starters from last year's title team won't be as straightforward. Re-signing star DT Chris Jones is a must, but it requires shedding payroll first (hi, Sammy Watkins). Kansas City is set to lose both of its starting cornerbacks, neither of whom are essential. The interior offensive line was a liability in the run game and features a pair of cut candidates in Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Austin Reiter, while 30-year-old Stefen Wisniewski is a free agent.

Las Vegas Raiders: Linebacker, wide receiver, secondary

Projected cap space: $50.3 million

The Raiders have a decent amount of money to work with, but they will likely need to make room to address their most pressing needs. At $11 million, the decision to retain Tyrell Williams is a curious and costly one. The Las Vegas transplants have yet to replace Amari Cooper's production at wide receiver after jettisoning him in the middle of the 2018 season. The situation is even more dire on defense. A linebacking corps that featured Vontaze Burfict and Tahir Whitehead to begin last season needs to be overhauled. The secondary might be due for a makeover, too, as cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph are free agents, and the existing roster alternatives leave much to be desired.

Los Angeles Chargers: Quarterback, offensive tackle, cornerback

Projected cap space: $49.1 million

Los Angeles is still very much a new city for the Chargers, and the move to a new stadium would seem to necessitate a new quarterback (sorry, Tyrod Taylor). There are still just too many variables to say whether that addition will come via the draft or free agency. How the Chargers reshuffle their offensive line could also determine if they're contenders in 2020. They got a head start by agreeing to trade left tackle Russell Okung for Panthers guard Trai Turner. The next step will be replenishing both tackle spots. (Having a healthy Mike Pouncey would also help stabilize things.) Assuming the Chargers place the franchise tag on tight end Hunter Henry, the next priority should be bringing in a good cornerback to play opposite Casey Hayward. (UPDATE: The Chargers applied the franchise tag to Henry.)

Miami Dolphins: Offensive line, defensive line, secondary

Projected cap space: $88.1 million

The Dolphins winning five games last year was more emblematic of good coaching than it was a sign of underrated talent. This is still very much a team in need. With no plans of acquiring a franchise QB in free agency, the top priority should be the offensive line. Everyone not named Jesse Davis is expendable. Miami's defensive line was arguably the league's worst last year, leaving multiple spots up for grabs. Cornerback Aqib Talib won't be back, and safety Reshad Jones is a cut candidate. For a Dolphins team that has the financial means to upgrade just about everywhere it sees fit, the secondary cannot be ignored.

New England Patriots: Quarterback, receiver, offensive line

Projected cap space: $41.7 million

There's a real chance the Patriots could lose their starting quarterback from the past two decades. You might have heard about this. Someone (probably Tom Brady) has to play quarterback for New England this year, and there are several alternatives via free agency or trade if the G.O.A.T. is indeed moving on. Regardless of who's under center, major upgrades are needed at wide receiver, which has been one of Brady's main points of contention. The offensive line also has some holes. Guard Joe Thuney, perhaps New England's best lineman last season, is a free agent. Center David Andrews is a question mark after missing all of last season because of a blood clot in his lung, while his replacement, Ted Karras, is also unsigned.

New York Jets: Wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback

Projected cap space: $49.4 million

That the Jets crept up on some teams and finished the year with seven wins doesn't necessarily mean they're trending in the right direction. They still have a lot of work to do this offseason. Sam Darnold can't be properly evaluated until he's working with something closer to a full deck of cards on offense. He's yet to play with anything close to a Pro Bowl wideout, and one of his better assets, Robby Anderson, is probably leaving. The offensive line needs rebuilding, as guard Brian Winters is the only starter who wasn't on an expiring contract last season. Cornerbacks Darryl Roberts, Brian Poole and Trumaine Johnson are still under contract but were subpar last season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cornerback, defensive tackle, running back

Projected cap space: $1.6 million

OK, so the Steelers have virtually no cap space. A few players have to be cut for Pittsburgh to even get involved in free agency. Offensive lineman Ramon Foster and linebacker Anthony Chickillo have been rumored as prime candidates. If the Steelers clear some room, they really need to upgrade their cornerback depth. The reported decision to tag Bud Dupree means Javon Hargrave will hit the market. That leaves the Steelers without a starting defensive tackle. They'll also be looking to improve their running back depth this offseason, although that will more than likely be done through the draft.

Tennessee Titans: Quarterback, running back, cornerback

Projected cap space: $50.4 million

Will the Titans simply run it back? They rode the combination of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and Derrick Henry as a workhorse running back all the way to the AFC title game. It would be hard to let Henry go, but that will be a costly negotiation after he emerged as arguably the league's best RB over the past season and a half. With Tannehill and Marcus Mariota hitting free agency, Tennessee could make a play for one of the many veteran QBs on the market. Cornerback is another position that has to be resolved. Logan Ryan's contract is expiring and Malcolm Butler isn't an NFL starter anymore. (UPDATE: Tannehill has agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in Tennessee.)

Follow Adam Maya on Twitter @AdamJMaya.

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