Several interesting developments took place while I was away last week leading up to free agency.
Here are my thoughts on the most recent moves in the AFC East:
1. Wes Welker to test free agency
Thoughts: Even with added cap room thanks to quarterback Tom Brady, you knew the negotiations between Welker and the New England Patriots would not be easy. The Patriots rarely overpay for anyone, and that includes a player as successful and productive as Welker. New England has a number in mind for Welker and will stick as close to that number as possible. Welker, who has never been a free agent in his career, believes his five, 100-catch seasons can land a lucrative contract. Both sides are playing poker and appear willing to risk losing each other. This should be one of the most compelling storylines of free agency this week.
2. Miami Dolphins keep three key players
Thoughts: The Dolphins entered this offseason with more than $40 million of cap room, and I like Miami's moves to spend some to keep its own talent. The Dolphins paid receiver Brian Hartline a five-year, $30.775 million contract and backup quarterback Matt Moore $8 million over two years. This plugs two holes on offense. Giving Randy Starks the franchise tag is the only move I question. Starks is a good player, but he's not a top-five defensive tackle and will be paid that way in 2013 unless the Dolphins work out a long-term extension. Starks will make $8.45 million in salary next season. That’s also a big number against the cap.
Thoughts: The Bills re-signed McKelvin to a four-year, $20 million contract. I thought the Bills overpaid for a former first-round pick who underachieved as a cornerback and was a backup. The biggest asset is that McKelvin remains one of the NFL's best kick returners. But an average of $5 million per season seemed steep for a special teamer. Perhaps McKelvin will improve his coverage skills and develop into a better nickel corner under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
4. New York Jets continue search for quarterback
Thoughts: The Jets are still looking for a quarterback to challenge incumbent Mark Sanchez this season and are quickly running out of options. The latest name is former Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami quarterback David Garrard. He provided stiff competition in Miami last year before injuring his knee and getting released. Garrard is 35, injury-prone and in the twilight of his career. It’s unclear how much he has left in the tank.