Let's take a look at whose stock is rising and falling this offseason in the AFC East.
1. New England Patriots tight ends: It was no secret that New England Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski was on the mend after three surgeries on his broken left arm. But this week's report of recent shoulder surgery for fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez was surprising. Hernandez did not miss any time with a shoulder injury during the season. However, this surgery is expected to keep Hernandez out until training camp. New England has the best tight-end duo in the NFL, but both are injury-prone players. Patriots backup Jake Ballard better be ready, because history shows Gronkowski or Hernandez cannot stay healthy for all 16 games.
2. New York Jets offseason program: The Jets put up the circus tent once again with the arrival of cornerback Darrelle Revis and popular backup quarterback Tim Tebow for offseason workouts. Neither player is expected to be on the team next season, but the Jets have not found a way to trade Revis and release Tebow. Revis is unhappy after being put on the trading block, and Tebow already is eying his next move. The Jets would’ve been wise to get rid of both players before this point. The sooner the better.
3. Jeff Demps, Patriots tailback: Demps NFL future with New England doesn’t appear promising. First, Demps said he was willing to miss the start of football season to focus more on track this year. That probably upset the Patriots’ brass, which led to the Boston Herald’s recent report of New England having trade talks with Demps. The Patriots are a staunch football culture that doesn’t like distracted players. Demps’ heart doesn’t appear to be all the way into football. I would be surprised if Demps lasts very long in New England.
1. Tavon Austin, West Virginia receiver: Is any prospect in the NFL draft hotter right now than Austin? Just a few months ago he was considered a late first-round pick due to his size. Now, teams like the Buffalo Bills and Jets are considered possible targets for Austin in the top 10. I’m skeptical whether the Bills or Jets would really grab Austin that high. But whichever team gets him, it will get an electric playmaker. Austin’s playmaking ability would be a good fit for any team in the AFC East.
2. Miami Dolphins’ draft capital: The Dolphins head into next week’s NFL draft with 11 total draft picks, which is tied for third most in the NFL. This is a good year to have a bevy of picks. This year’s draft is considered very deep at a lot of positions but not top-heavy. Miami should be able to snag some solid prospects with five picks in the first three rounds. This is due to recent trades involving former receiver Brandon Marshall and former cornerback Vontae Davis. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland needs to cash in on this opportunity to improve Miami’s chances of taking the next step this upcoming season.
3. NFL schedule release: The league will announce its much-anticipated 2013 schedule on Thursday. We will find out when marquee matchups will take place in the AFC East and which teams will get primetime games. New England certainly will get national games. But will the up-and-coming Dolphins? We will find out on Thursday.