Skip to main content

AFC Roster Reset: Biggest signings/losses, burning question for each team ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft

Our Roster Reset series takes a look at where things stand across the league heading into the 2024 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: Will the Bills pack enough punch to keep pace in the AFC East?

We all know what it took for the Bills to reach the playoffs last season, and Buffalo’s fans should find some optimism in those results. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady returned the team to a more balanced attack, freeing a previously seized-up run game and allowing the Bills to find a much-needed stride down the stretch. Now, though, Josh Allen will enter 2024 without his top target, stat-stuffing receiver Stefon Diggs, who has since been traded to Houston. Buffalo’s top two remaining wideouts are the recently signed Curtis Samuel and Khalil Shakir, who finished with 39 catches for 611 yards and two touchdowns in a secondary role last season. It's fair to expect the Bills to draft one receiver, if not two receivers, in this year's receiver-heavy class. That doesn’t guarantee Buffalo will be able to produce at a high level instantly, though, which is reason for concern entering a season in which the Bills should anticipate stiff competition from Miami and New York. Buffalo has capital at its disposal and will need to use it, especially considering the Bills are up against the salary cap. Banking on rookies to contribute immediately, though, is a dangerous game. 

BURNING QUESTION: Will the Dolphins’ defense be able to withstand offseason turnover?

We can sleep soundly at night knowing Mike McDaniel’s offense will produce at a high level. The more concerning portion of Miami’s roster remains its defense, which is on its third defensive coordinator in as many seasons and said goodbye to a number of key members this spring. It seems like general manager Chris Grier opted to replace Christian Wilkins, Andrew Van Ginkel, Melvin Ingram and Emmanuel Ogbah with a half-dozen defenders -- Shaquil Barrett, defensive tackles Neville Gallimore, Jonathan Harris, Benito Jones and Teair Tart, plus defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand -- in the hope that sheer volume will breed competitive depth along the defensive front. He did the same at the next level of the defense, replacing Jerome Baker with Jordyn Brooks and Anthony Walker, while turning to Jordan Poyer and Kendall Fuller to replace Brandon Jones and Xavien Howard in the secondary. That’s a lot of new faces to integrate into a new scheme under Anthony Weaver, who is certainly capable of making it work. But Miami likely will also be without Jaelan Phillips for much of the year as he recovers from the Achilles injury he sustained in November, leaving one big question mark slapped across the entire unit. That’s not to say this will be a bad group; it’s just a difficult one to project as we stand in April. That can be a quiet advantage, as no one knows what to expect. But it’s certainly far from a guaranteed strength at this point.

BURNING QUESTION: Are the Patriots married to taking a quarterback at No. 3, or will they go with the best player available?

This question will be answered in a few weeks, but it’s about more than just how the Patriots spend their highly valuable draft selection -- it’s about the future course of the franchise. Bill Belichick is gone, Jerod Mayo is in as his replacement, and Eliot Wolf is effectively the team’s general manager, making for an unpredictable regime as it currently stands. Wolf has history in high places around the NFL, but this is his first job as the final decision-maker, and boy, does he have a decision ahead of him. Will the remaining quarterbacks after Nos. 1 and 2 are (presumably) spent on signal-callers be good enough for Wolf to use a pick on one of them? Or are Jacoby Brissett, Bailey Zappe and Nathan Rourke good enough options for Wolf to look elsewhere (i.e., Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.) at No. 3? As we all know, the NFL starts and ends at quarterback, but we don’t know how Mayo, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and Wolf feel about their current depth chart. We do know the Patriots haven’t had a quality option under center since Tom Brady left, and they have an opportunity to change that -- if they believe in one of the available passers strongly enough. Otherwise, with so much change having already taken place in Foxborough, it will be interesting to see what type of product Mayo puts out in his first year as a head coach.

BURNING QUESTION: Are the Jets just an Aaron Rodgers return away from becoming a contender?

Last year’s hype train derailed after just four snaps, sending the Jets into the abyss of a quarterback wasteland. They paid dearly for not foreseeing such an outcome and have already proven they’ve learned from their mistakes, signing Tyrod Taylor to back up Rodgers in the event another catastrophe occurs. But that’s not the plan, after all: 2024 is all about getting a healthy Rodgers back and proving the hype was worth it. Adding Mike Williams and Haason Reddick to the mix shows GM Joe Douglas is very serious about winning now, and if everyone can stay generally healthy, the results should come. We already know Robert Saleh’s defense will be stifling; it’s now the offense’s time to carry its share of the load. It can do that by protecting Rodgers effectively, a goal Douglas worked toward achieving with his additions along the offensive line. If that happens, watch out.


BURNING QUESTION: Can the Ravens’ new-look offensive line get the job done after losing three starters?

Baltimore had a lot of departures this spring, including nearly its entire running backs room. But the Ravens are used to adjusting on the fly when it comes to their backfield, thanks in part to their ability to get the job done up front. That is now in question, though, after three veterans left Charm City, thinning out the depth chart as we near May. The good news: This draft is filled with offensive line talent. But there’s a risk in drafting and immediately depending on rookie linemen in today’s NFL, especially with how little experience most collegiate linemen gain before jumping to the next level. If ever there was a quarterback suited to deal with constant pressure, it’s Lamar Jackson, but he needs to stay healthy -- something he struggled to accomplish in two straight seasons before roaring back with an MVP campaign in 2023. That O-line will also matter to Baltimore’s big new addition, Derrick Henry, who still has the juice but can’t carry the opposing team's entire defensive front on his back, even if his stature suggests otherwise. The offensive line will be the linchpin for the Ravens, a team that boasted depth as its strength in 2023 and will need to try to build it again to remain atop the AFC.

BURNING QUESTION: Can Joe Burrow stay healthy and get the Bengals back on top of a competitive AFC North?

Last season lived and died with Burrow’s health. Sure, Jake Browning’s efforts were certainly commendable, but we all felt the wind leave Cincinnati’s sails as soon as Burrow suffered his season-ending wrist injury in a road loss to Baltimore. That happened after Burrow had to labor through a month of less-than-100-percent play with a calf injury before rediscovering his abilities, teasing all of Who Dey nation with a few weeks of stellar play before it all came to a halt. That alone explained why Cincinnati missed the playoffs. If Burrow can stay upright and healthy, this roster is good enough to win the AFC North. Sure, the Bengals lost Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd, but they kept Tee Higgins via the franchise tag, replaced Irv Smith with Mike Gesicki, added veteran Trent Brown to shore up the right side of the O-line and built a rather deep secondary with the pickups of Vonn Bell and Geno Stone. Everything looks good enough on paper right now, provided Burrow is available for the long haul.

BURNING QUESTION: Can Deshaun Watson finally meet expectations and stay healthy for a full season?

The Browns are in a position that looks remarkably similar to that of their in-state rivals. Their hopes depend heavily on their quarterback, but whereas the Bengals know Burrow's ceiling, Watson hasn’t proven he was worth the trade that brought him to Cleveland. He missed a majority of the 2022 season, then struggled with multiple injuries throughout an abbreviated 2023, which ended painfully, with Watson putting together his best performance as a Brown and suffering a season-ending injury in the same game, a road win over Baltimore. That forced Kevin Stefanski to cycle through four more starting quarterbacks and find a way to will the Browns to the playoffs with Joe Flacco out in front, but we all know that’s not a sustainable approach. Therefore -- and this might give you some feelings of déjà vu -- the Browns’ hopes once again rest on the shoulders of Watson. Otherwise, the Browns had a productive offseason. They added Jerry Jeudy for the low cost of fifth- and sixth-round picks, retained most of the defensive line, loaded up on depth at quarterback and running back (in preparation for an uncertain timeline for Nick Chubb), and filled out the linebacking corps with capable veterans. Ultimately, they won’t reach their full potential unless Watson can stay healthy and finally deliver.

BURNING QUESTION: Is the rebuilt QB room good enough to answer Pittsburgh’s questions under center?

Honestly, this question could be distilled down to a simpler query: Will Russell Wilson or Justin Fields be under center in Week 1? The Steelers deserve credit for admitting defeat at the position and aggressively revamping the depth chart this offseason, topped off by GM Omar Khan’s decision to send Kenny Pickett to Philadelphia and swing a deal for Fields less than 24 hours later. But now, they must to determine how to proceed. Most believe it will be Wilson starting camp as the presumptive QB1, but if Wilson’s last few years are any indicator, he's not guaranteed to hold onto that job forever. Because Fields is entering the final year of his rookie deal, there’s also incentive to get him on the field at some point this fall. It would truly be a delight to see Fields enjoy success in Pittsburgh, especially after what he went through in Chicago. But with Wilson also on the roster, I tend to expect Mike Tomlin to prefer the veteran to start. Regardless, I’m sure the situation will be a headline magnet for months -- and could determine Pittsburgh’s fate in 2024.


BURNING QUESTION: Can the Texans take the next step after a thrilling turnaround season?

With the completion of the Stefon Diggs trade, the Texans officially emerged from free agency as the offseason champions. They are likely to lead a number of programming blocks on the most prominent debate shows, and they just might grace the covers of whichever prominent sports magazines are still in print. The hype train is being fueled, folks, and while you don’t have to buy a ticket right now, you definitely won’t be able to avoid the buzz. It’s for good reason: C.J. Stroud took off like a rocket ship (fitting for Houston’s NASA history) in 2023, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and leading the Texans to a blowout playoff win over Cleveland. Now, though, Houston won’t shock anyone. It’ll have a target on its back every week and will carry the weight of expectation throughout the coming season. Luckily, it has loaded up accordingly. Can Stroud and Diggs quickly establish a rapport and take flight? Will key veteran additions Joe Mixon and Danielle Hunter deliver? If so, buckle up, because the Texans are going to be a beast.

BURNING QUESTION: Is Anthony Richardson all the Colts need to return to the playoffs?

A quiet offseason isn’t always a bad thing. Indianapolis was, after all, a competitive team in 2023, managing to stay in the playoff race all the way through the final week of the season, and it did so without its emerging star quarterback, whose season ended after just one month with a shoulder injury. Coach Shane Steichen did a fantastic job in his first season, turning the Colts into a tough out on a weekly basis despite lacking his starting QB. If you add Richardson back into the mix, logically, the Colts are a playoff team. They could use some depth at running back, but most of their 2023 roster returns this fall. Should Richardson pick up where he left off, the Colts should be a fun team to watch.

BURNING QUESTION: Can the Jaguars get back on track with key additions after their 2023 collapse?

Last season was full of almosts for the Jaguars: They almost won the division, Trevor Lawrence threw a number of passes that were almost big completions, but ultimately, Jacksonville did not live up to their heightened expectations after a 2022 run to the Divisional Round. Almost will no longer cut it for Jacksonville, a team that experienced largely typical roster turnover but will be held to the same expectation that followed the Jags into 2023: win the division and at least one playoff game. Much of that will fall on the shoulders of Lawrence, who wasn’t quite good enough for most of last season. It will be interesting to see how the Jaguars retool after losing a few key defenders. Arik Armstead was a big pickup, as was Darnell Savage, but the losses of Darious Williams and Rayshawn Jenkins might linger for a unit that finished 22nd in total defense (and gave up 28-plus points in all but one of its final five losses). Gabe Davis will be expected to play an important role, too, which will depend as much on Lawrence as it does the veteran receiver. It feels as if 2024 might be a pivotal season for Doug Pederson’s crew; we’ll see if this offseason was productive enough to make it a good one.

BURNING QUESTION: Are the Titans the sneaky competitor no one sees coming?

It’s been an uninspiring year or so for Tennessee, where the Mike Vrabel era ended with a thud. Plenty of quietly good developments have happened this offseason in Nashville, though (including the planning for their new stadium). Sure, Brian Callahan’s name didn’t move the needle a ton in the coaching cycle, but he’s the face of a new era that has included a ton of aggressive roster changes. Deals for L'Jarius Sneed, Tony Pollard, Chidobe Awuzie and Sebastian Joseph-Day bring a handful of quality veterans to a Titans team that needed them. Plus the Titans’ coup of Calvin Ridley makes for an appealing roster -- at least on paper. Tennessee added a notable name at every level of its defense, will insert Ridley into a receiving corps that is suddenly (and surprisingly) appealing, and has given second-year quarterback Will Levis a much better situation than the one into which he was thrust last season. Sure, losing Derrick Henry hurts, and there’s no guarantee Pollard will ever be worth the three-year deal he signed, but I have to say, I like this roster a lot more than I thought I would. Here’s to hoping they stay healthy as they venture into the future with Callahan.


BURNING QUESTION: Who will lead the rebuilding Broncos under center?

The Russell Wilson experiment flopped -- hard. Now it's time for Denver to pick up the pieces. Jarrett Stidham is still on the team, but unless Denver sees something in him that the rest of the league has missed, the Broncos will likely be in the market for a quarterback soon. They're picking 12th in this month's draft, and if they stay there, there's a chance they lose out on all five of the top quarterbacks and are left with Stidham (who started the final two games last season) and Ben DiNucci. No matter how much one might revere Sean Payton, that's not an ideal situation entering a regular season. So where might the Broncos turn? Do they try to move up? Do they hope a QB falls in their lap? Or do they find a way to squeeze a veteran into their remaining $17 million of cap space? If all else fails, a year with Stidham isn't any worse than, say, a year with Brian Hoyer. It just won't be pleasant.

BURNING QUESTION: Can the Chiefs ride their roster reloading system to another title?

When you've won back-to-back Super Bowls, you don't need to change much. To GM Brett Veach's credit, the Chiefs did a great job retaining almost every key player who could have left this offseason. Chris Jones is back, along with Derrick Nnadi, Drue Tranquill and Mike Danna. The only big fish who had to go because of cost issues was L'Jarius Sneed, and even then, Kansas City was able to net a return on its investment, snagging a 2025 third-rounder in the deal that sent Sneed to the Titans. The team should be just fine with All-Pro Trent McDuffie picking up the slack in the secondary. The Chiefs also upgraded at TE2 with Smith and at receiver with Marquise Brown, a deep threat who should fit perfectly with Patrick Mahomes' big arm. Perhaps that addition might help unlock an offense for which the average depth of target fell below 7.0 in the team's second season without Tyreek Hill. I see no reason to be concerned about the Chiefs, who once again ignored the doubts of others to make another run to the Super Bowl. Long live the kings.

BURNING QUESTION: Can the offense create enough juice to hold up its end of the bargain under Antonio Pierce?

When the Raiders named Pierce interim head coach following the firing of Josh McDaniels last season, one of Pierce's first moves was to replace Jimmy Garoppolo -- who clearly couldn't hack it anymore -- with rookie Aidan O'Connell at starting quarterback. Las Vegas won enough to convince Mark Davis to make Pierce his permanent head coach. Pierce enters his first full season at the helm with a new problem: His offense lacks a feature back with shoulders big enough to carry the load on the ground after Josh Jacobs left for Green Bay. Can a committee headlined by youngster Zamir White help keep this offense afloat -- and keep pass rushers from pinning their ears back and hunting O'Connell? It's a big year for the QB, too. He will undoubtedly be pushed (if not usurped) in training camp by Gardner Minshew, who proved in 2023 he's a plus backup capable of making a team competitive without hurting it too much. Defensively, Pierce landed a stud in Christian Wilkins, shoring up a front that could still welcome a promising rookie via the draft (Jared Verse, anyone?). This roster doesn't look perfect by any means, but new GM Tom Telesco could only do so much in one offseason after the ouster of the McDaniels-Dave Ziegler regime. We'll see what Telesco digs up in the draft.

BURNING QUESTION: Can Justin Herbert make up for the mass exodus on offense?

With nine picks in this month's draft, coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Joe Hortiz have plenty of opportunities to improve this roster. Fortunately for the Chargers, they already have their franchise quarterback. But who is Herbert going to throw to? Quentin Johnston struggled mightily as a rookie to make a play when the Chargers needed him most; Joshua Palmer is the Bolts' most reliable option at this point. Luckily, this class has plenty of talent at receiver, and it might also provide a long-term solution at right tackle: Notre Dame's Joe Alt. Protecting Herbert has been a primary issue over the last few years, as evidenced by the multiple injuries that undercut his 2023 season -- so taking a top-flight tackle would be a wise move. Then again, a receiver isn't a bad play at fifth overall, either. I just know that when I look at this roster, I see weaknesses, and Herbert deserves better. Luckily, he got a workhorse in Gus Edwards, and although swapping out Gerald Everett for Will Dissly and Hayden Hurst costs the team some athleticism, I have a feeling Harbaugh and new offensive coordinator Greg Roman will find a way to make them work (much like Roman once did with Mark Andrews in Baltimore). Defensively, well, the Chargers need to be better overall, and they could probably still use some additional reinforcements, even after adding Kristian Fulton and Poona Ford and welcoming Denzel Perryman back to the club. This draft definitely matters. A fix won't come overnight, but Bolts fans should trust the process.

Related Content