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Beat Writers Breakdown AFC East


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While the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on NCAA basketball tournaments, the NBA and NHL campaigns and the start of the MLB season, NFL free agency is set to begin on time next Wednesday. The league canceled its annual meetings scheduled for later this month and teams are changing how they’re scouting prospects for the upcoming draft, but the rest of the offseason calendar remains intact — for now.

With the virus lurking in the background amid the uncertainty surrounding the players’ vote on the owners’ CBA proposal, teams are preparing for a free-agency period unlike any other. We asked our beat writers around the country to analyze their teams and offer predictions ahead of the opening of the legal tampering window on Monday for division-by-division looks at the league heading into what should be a memorable week.

Buffalo Bills

Key free agents:

  • Edge Shaq Lawson (UFA)
  • DT Jordan Phillips (UFA)
  • LG Quinton Spain (UFA)
  • CB Kevin Johnson (UFA)
  • CB Levi Wallace (ERFA)

State of the roster: The Bills saw growth on both sides of the ball in 2019, and it led to their second playoff berth in three seasons. Armed with over $80 million in cap space and the core of a playoff roster that is mostly returning, the Bills are in a prime position to add both impact and depth players to try and turn them into a contender.

Wish list: If Lawson signs elsewhere, the Bills will firmly be in the defensive end market — even if it isn’t at the top end. Buffalo will also need to decide if second-round pick Cody Ford is a guard or tackle and then potentially look to free agency to find a reinforcement along the offensive line. The Bills should also look to add a cost-efficient wide receiver, running back, linebacker and cornerback.

Prediction: Despite having all of that cap space, GM Brandon Beane will focus on keeping the franchise cap sound for the future as its young, core players reach the end of their rookie contracts. The Bills will likely attack the middle tier of free agency with their biggest swings coming on the lines. A base linebacker with pass-rushing ability will also be a heavy consideration.

– Joe Buscaglia

Miami Dolphins

Key free agents:

  • S Walt Aikens (UFA)
  • LB Vince Biegel (RFA)
  • P Matt Haack (RFA)
  • DT John Jenkins (UFA)
  • LT J’Marcus Webb (UFA)

State of the roster: Miami has lots of holes to fill starting with quarterback, but also high on the list are defensive end/pass rusher, left tackle, running back and cornerback (boundary and slot). General manager Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores have about $94 million to spend and 14 draft picks — including three first-rounders — so Miami is primed to make a big splash, but look for Grier and Flores to take a more conservative, long-term approach. This offseason is part of a rebuild, not a title run.

Wish list: The Dolphins must fill at least two crucial needs among quarterback, defensive end/pass rusher, left tackle, running back and cornerback. Quarterback could happen in the draft if Miami likes Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. It’s essential the Dolphins begin to establish a pass rush. They’ll do their due diligence for a possible tag-and-trade deal with Jacksonville defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, but it’s unclear whether Miami is willing to commit more than $20 million a year to a player right now. Fortunately, a number of quality defensive ends and outside linebackers are available in the first two rounds of the draft. The same is true at left tackle.

Prediction: Grier and Flores will make a move toward one or two younger, top-tier free agents — perhaps Ngakoue is on that list — but overall, the Dolphins will build judiciously. They should fare well in the draft. In free agency, they’ll look for young, hard-working bargains over flashy, big-name players. Again, this remains a rebuild.

– Chris Perkins

New York Jets

Key free agents:

  • WR Robby Anderson
  • OLB Jordan Jenkins
  • CB Brian Poole
  • OT Kelvin Beachum
  • OG Alex Lewis

State of the roster: The Jets haven’t made the playoffs in nearly a decade, and their roster is indicative of that. Their offensive line is in dire need of a full-on rebuild. Just one of their Week 1 starters is under contract for 2020, and that player, Brian Winters, is expected to be a cap casualty. The Jets also need a pass rusher, two corners, and a No. 1 receiver. GM Joe Douglas has his work cut out for him.

Wish list: The Jets are in on guards Joe Thuney and Graham Glasgow, sources told The Athletic. They also like tackle Jack Conklin, but the market will likely price him out of their range. Hoping to go offensive line-receiver in the draft, the Jets would love to sign a pass rusher (like Dante Fowler) and a corner (like James Bradberry) in free agency.

Prediction: The Dolphins sign Thuney, so the Jets come away with Glasgow. They also shore up their secondary by adding both Bradberry and Philly corner Jalen Mills. If Fowler isn’t tagged by the Rams, he ends up in New York, too.

– Connor Hughes

New England Patriots

Key free agents:

  • QB Tom Brady (contract set to void March 17)
  • LG Joe Thuney (UFA)
  • S Devin McCourty (UFA)
  • LB Kyle Van Noy (UFA)
  • LB Jamie Collins (UFA)

State of the roster: With Brady, the Patriots will remain a Super Bowl contender. Without him? As promising as Jarrett Stidham may be, he’s an unknown until he hits the field as a full-time starter. New England’s biggest issue might be on the offensive line, where Thuney and center Ted Karras will draw huge offers to sign elsewhere and right tackle Marcus Cannon’s performance dropped off in 2019. Is Isaiah Wynn a left tackle, right tackle or guard? And will center David Andrews get clearance after missing the season with blood clots in his lungs? If all that wasn’t ominous enough, O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired, too. The Pats also need to overhaul the depth chart at tight end, and their front seven is going to look much different with Van Noy, Collins and defensive tackle Danny Shelton among the free agents.

Wish list: The Patriots should keep Brady, assuming the asking price is in the ballpark of $25 million annually, add two starting-caliber tight ends through free agency or trades, at least one starting-caliber receiver in free agency and a burner in the draft. They’ve also got to stabilize the offensive line by adding at least one starter at tackle and guard through the draft and free agency. They’ll probably have to win a few more shootouts than last season when the defense was historically dominant for much of the way. McCourty should be the priority among their free agents, and Collins might be retainable if his market doesn’t suddenly explode.

Prediction: It’s impossible to get a great read on the Brady situation until the two sides heighten their dedication to exchanging real numbers. But if you need a prediction, I feel like cooler heads will prevail and they’ll get it done together while beefing up the skill position players and getting back to the days of routinely scoring in the 30s.

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So the Bills, who made the playoffs last season have $80 mil in cap space? The Dolphins with their expansion roster have $94 mil? Both teams are targeting to fix the OL similar to the Jets. We'll be lucky to overpay any linemen at this point with the amount of competition in the division. 

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6 minutes ago, LAD_Brooklyn said:

So the Bills, who made the playoffs last season have $80 mil in cap space? The Dolphins with their expansion roster have $94 mil? Both teams are targeting to fix the OL similar to the Jets. We'll be lucky to overpay any linemen at this point with the amount of competition in the division. 

That is just in our division as well.  This is why the annual "Oh we can sign olineman X, Y and Z!  Almost never comes to fruition.  We will be VERY lucky to land even one of these guys we are talking about on here.

You build the oline via the draft.

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33 minutes ago, Beerfish said:

That is just in our division as well.  This is why the annual "Oh we can sign olineman X, Y and Z!  Almost never comes to fruition.  We will be VERY lucky to land even one of these guys we are talking about on here.

You build the oline via the draft.

You may be right. If so, I hope it's Fowler, an edge guy. Fix the line in the draft as you said.

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3 hours ago, peekskill68 said:

Man this is a huge year for the Fins.  $94 mil to spend and 14 draft picks including three first rounders.  They get this right and they could be worst to first like the 49ers...

They're having the equivalent of our offseason last year. Luckily for them Mike Macagnan isnt their GM

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1 hour ago, 82nd Airborne said:

Buffalo is in great position following a playoff season.  Miami will fill many holes through draft and has the most cap space.  

The AFC will shift power: 

The new order will be Bills. Dolphins, Patriots and the Jets. 

Jets will have the best QB in the division. Joey D needs to protect him so he can tear up these AFC defenses. Bills just signed freaking Josh Norman. Guy is toast, protect Sam, get some WRs in here & send him into retirement! 

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16 minutes ago, Jetster said:

Jets will have the best QB in the division. Joey D needs to protect him so he can tear up these AFC defenses. Bills just signed freaking Josh Norman. Guy is toast, protect Sam, get some WRs in here & send him into retirement! 

I get is as a Jets fan. However, the odds are really against us this offseason (post corona virus delays). Miami has 5 picks in the first two rounds alone with most cap space. Bills have tons of cap space and building from a playoff season.  Patriots are done and too many question marks for the Jets. 

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4 hours ago, LAD_Brooklyn said:

So the Bills, who made the playoffs last season have $80 mil in cap space? The Dolphins with their expansion roster have $94 mil? Both teams are targeting to fix the OL similar to the Jets. We'll be lucky to overpay any linemen at this point with the amount of competition in the division. 

The dolphins are like us from 2017 where everyone thought we were tanking and could go 0-16 but a veteran QB overachieved for us and we won 5 while they had a vet QB overachieve and won 4.  The dolphins still have a lot of work to do.

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7 minutes ago, nyjunc said:

The dolphins are like us from 2017 where everyone thought we were tanking and could go 0-16 but a veteran QB overachieved for us and we won 5 while they had a vet QB overachieve and won 4.  The dolphins still have a lot of work to do.

Yeah, just like us, except they have 3 1st rounders. 

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4 hours ago, peekskill68 said:

Man this is a huge year for the Fins.  $94 mil to spend and 14 draft picks including three first rounders.  They get this right and they could be worst to first like the 49ers...

i hope they fail but their coach seems like he doesn't take any crap and knows a thing or two about how to coach and motivate the team.  they could be very interesting and dangerous.

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8 minutes ago, rangerous said:

i hope they fail but their coach seems like he doesn't take any crap and knows a thing or two about how to coach and motivate the team.  they could be very interesting and dangerous.

He had an excellent rookie season with no expectations, the job gets harder with expectations.  Again, Todd Bowles won 5 games in a similar situation in 2017.

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5 minutes ago, nyjunc said:

As we know all first rounders are guaranteed to be great players.  Remember when we had a talented team and FOUR 1st rounders?  

Yeah.  I remember making the playoffs for the better part of a decade with substandard coaching and a roster salary cap handcuffed with guys overpaid because Parcells.

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3 hours ago, Ohhthepain said:

They're having the equivalent of our offseason last year. Luckily for them Mike Macagnan isnt their GM

????

We didn't have THREE 1st round picks, in fact we didn't even have a 2nd round pick. We were nowhere near where the Dolphins now are in regard to # of picks either.

The one similarity  would be amount of cap space available, yet Miami probably won't be looking for higher end FA's like we did at RB and ILB.

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7 minutes ago, 14 in Green said:

????

We didn't have THREE 1st round picks, in fact we didn't even have a 2nd round pick. We were nowhere near where the Dolphins now are in regard to # of picks either.

The one similarity  would be amount of cap space available, yet Miami probably won't be looking for higher end FA's like we did at RB and ILB.

That and we had our franchise QB already, they are hoping to get their fray QB.

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6 minutes ago, 14 in Green said:

????

We didn't have THREE 1st round picks, in fact we didn't even have a 2nd round pick. We were nowhere near where the Dolphins now are in regard to # of picks either.

The one similarity  would be amount of cap space available, yet Miami probably won't be looking for higher end FA's like we did at RB and ILB.

That's true, the only position that has been leaked and confirm are the Phins being aggressive to fix the OL. Smart move to protect a rookie QB.

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Just now, nyjunc said:

That and we had our franchise QB already, they are hoping to get their fray QB.

 

Just now, LAD_Brooklyn said:

That's true, the only position that has been leaked and confirm are the Phins being aggressive to fix the OL. Smart move to protect a rookie QB.

Without getting into the Darnold FQB debate, I think that teams like Miami are best served building the Offense starting with the OL, then skill position players before looking for a QB.

I hear the argument that when you have a top 5 pick, that's when you take the QB all the time, but I couldn't disagree more. Those type of teams usually have little to no talent around the QB they draft, and the kid struggles the way Darnold has with little to no help around him. I've said a few times here I think the Bears, Chiefs and Texans are the model. They built a good roster, then made their move for a QB. The Bears had the right idea, they just picked the wrong QB.

Jackson in Baltimore and Allen in Buffalo are examples of young QBs on teams with good rosters, in Jackson's case he's taken them to another level. With Allen, he's been able to progress at a steady pace, without having the pressure of being a savior. 

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5 hours ago, Beerfish said:

That is just in our division as well.  This is why the annual "Oh we can sign olineman X, Y and Z!  Almost never comes to fruition.  We will be VERY lucky to land even one of these guys we are talking about on here.

You build the oline via the draft.

But the Dolphins and Bills can sign OL help?

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36 minutes ago, 14 in Green said:

????

We didn't have THREE 1st round picks, in fact we didn't even have a 2nd round pick. We were nowhere near where the Dolphins now are in regard to # of picks either.

The one similarity  would be amount of cap space available, yet Miami probably won't be looking for higher end FA's like we did at RB and ILB.

You don't need 3 first round pick to rebuild.  Nothing in their recent history says the Dolphins area on their way to contention.  

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Just now, Jet Nut said:

You don't need 3 first round pick to rebuild.  Nothing in their recent history says the Dolphins area on their way to contention.  

No big argument with what you said there, but those picks won't hurt, will they? It would be hard to imagine a roster that was torn down the way theirs was will turn things around in one year. They are in a position where they should be able to start to turn things around this offseason though, if they use their picks and cap space reasonably well.

That said Nut, I think what you said applies to the Jets also. It didn't look like Miami that far behind us (if at all) during the second half of last season.

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21 minutes ago, Beerfish said:

I don;t care about them.  I care about us and the more teams that have cap space and are going after the few good olineman out there the worse for us.

The Bills are really only looking at right tackle. They just re-signed their left guard and are returning their whole starting offensive line from last season. The only place they really have a question is right tackle. I don't see them as 'competition' at center, guard, or left tackle. It's one twisted way that the Jets have an advantage. The Jets need everything while the Bills are looking (and I don't think very hard) for an upgrade at right tackle. 

The Dolphins offensive line is similar to the Jets. They just declined the option for Kilgore so they're looking pretty much everything. Given a need at all 5 positions for the Jets and Dolphins; they're both likely looking at 2nd tier FAs (signing the 1st tier guys is too expensive when you need so many o lineman) and will be competition for the same guys. 

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16 minutes ago, jeremy2020 said:

The Bills are really only looking at right tackle. They just re-signed their left guard and are returning their whole starting offensive line from last season. The only place they really have a question is right tackle. I don't see them as 'competition' at center, guard, or left tackle. It's one twisted way that the Jets have an advantage. The Jets need everything while the Bills are looking (and I don't think very hard) for an upgrade at right tackle. 

Bills drafted Cody Ford last year in the 2nd round out of Oklahoma and kick him in at Guard. Whether they leave him at RG or kick him out to RT depends on what they can do in FA. 

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1 hour ago, 14 in Green said:

 

Without getting into the Darnold FQB debate, I think that teams like Miami are best served building the Offense starting with the OL, then skill position players before looking for a QB.

I hear the argument that when you have a top 5 pick, that's when you take the QB all the time, but I couldn't disagree more. Those type of teams usually have little to no talent around the QB they draft, and the kid struggles the way Darnold has with little to no help around him. I've said a few times here I think the Bears, Chiefs and Texans are the model. They built a good roster, then made their move for a QB. The Bears had the right idea, they just picked the wrong QB.

Jackson in Baltimore and Allen in Buffalo are examples of young QBs on teams with good rosters, in Jackson's case he's taken them to another level. With Allen, he's been able to progress at a steady pace, without having the pressure of being a savior. 

I don't disagree (though Allen was a top 10 pick and Jackson a 1st rounder) but I think miami is going to take a QB in the first round.  Hopefully they pick the wrong guy.

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1 hour ago, Beerfish said:

I don;t care about them.  I care about us and the more teams that have cap space and are going after the few good olineman out there the worse for us.

Maybe.  Maybe not

But every team can say the same thing.

And when Macc didn't sign OL help, Paraise and others it was stupid while the Bills were smart

Face it, the argument flips all the time

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1 hour ago, 14 in Green said:

No big argument with what you said there, but those picks won't hurt, will they? It would be hard to imagine a roster that was torn down the way theirs was will turn things around in one year. They are in a position where they should be able to start to turn things around this offseason though, if they use their picks and cap space reasonably well.

That said Nut, I think what you said applies to the Jets also. It didn't look like Miami that far behind us (if at all) during the second half of last season.

hey sure did look like they were.  Add to it they're playing Fitz at QB.  If the rumors are right they're going to use picks to move up to draft a QB who has serious health issues and can't stay on the field.  

Should be interesting

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6 hours ago, peekskill68 said:

Man this is a huge year for the Fins.  $94 mil to spend and 14 draft picks including three first rounders.  They get this right and they could be worst to first like the 49ers...

Can we switch places please?  Cries into root beer.

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All the AFCE teams are in a better position than us. Mac left us in a dire situation with the one exception of a Potential fqb.

The Pats have a lot of assets, very few bad contracts, and the best D in the league.  If Brady walks, they’ll go into a conservative rebuild mode, let their assets walk and get a ton of comp picks.  They can trade away the rest and still get a lot of value whenever they want.   If he stays they still have the most talent in the afce and will win again (although Buffalo will give them a run for their money)

The dolphins have almost zero bad contracts, tons of picks and cap space.  Perfect rebuild scenario.  They’ll be good in a two years if they execute.

buffalo has a young high end playoff caliber roster that will only get better and is probably the best positioned for the future out of everyone.  It’s all about their qb situation

Meanwhile, we have a ton of bad contracts, very few signed long term assets outside Darnold.. Our cap situation is bad and our draft capital is mediocre at best given our record over the least few years.  

The one silver lining is Darnold...  but by every other metric, it’s pretty bad.

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12 hours ago, peekskill68 said:

Man this is a huge year for the Fins.  $94 mil to spend and 14 draft picks including three first rounders.  They get this right and they could be worst to first like the 49ers...

I agree ..and if they take Herbert, who is the best QB in this draft hands down, this division is going to be extremely tough for the next decade no matter what the f****** Patriots do!

That's a lot of money and a lot of draft picks boys!

This is why you HAVE TO TRADE Jamal Adams!!!! We need the picks to move around the board, and build our team!!!

Losing Jamal will absolutely suck! However it is very necessary. The two picks we get probably mean a starting center and cornerback and wide receiver.

 if we re-signed Robby Anderson and Marcus Maye.. who by the way is vastly underrated, we can fill a lot of holes on this team! We will be neck-and-neck in contention with Miami and Buffalo.

Oh yeah and we have Sam Darnold!!!

Suck It!!!!

 

 

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8 hours ago, LAD_Brooklyn said:

Bills drafted Cody Ford last year in the 2nd round out of Oklahoma and kick him in at Guard. Whether they leave him at RG or kick him out to RT depends on what they can do in FA. 

Thank you for saying exactly what I said in my post...again. 

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