- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Training camp is about a month away, which means football games are just around the corner.
I figured it was a good time to do another mailbag. So thanks for all the great questions this week in our AFC East inbox and my personal Twitter account.
Let’s get right to it.
Adam from Allentown, N.J., writes: All the pundits continue to mention that both the New York Jets are low on talent and that Rex Ryan is on the hot seat. How would Rex Ryan be evaluated as a coach if his talent is indeed sub-par?
James Walker: The NFL is a cruel and competitive business, Adam. While there is some merit to your statement that Ryan isn’t working with much, he’s still in a must-win year and must impress first-year general manager John Idzik. Most GMs want to hire their own head coach. But Jets owner Woody Johnson insisted that the next GM must work with Ryan for at least another season. This is a one-year tryout to see if the pair can mesh together. This is a tough year to have success in New York. But in reality, Ryan had three seasons to right the ship.
John S from Westchester writes: Any chance the Jets get a veteran wide receiver before the start of camp?
Walker: There’s a decent chance, John. Idzik did a good job of clearing out cap room. It left the Jets with little talent, but at least they have room to make a move next offseason. I thought New York made a wise decision to sign tight end Kellen Winslow last week. He’s a talented player, and I think he’s already New York’s best receiving tight end. Another signing at wide receiver like Brandon Lloyd or Braylon Edwards could at least make the Jets respectable on offense this year.
Bob from Coventry, R.I., writes: It seems pretty obvious to me that Rob Gronkowski’s NFL career is just about over. (Extreme statement? Maybe, but I think the evidence justifies it). What is the situation with his contract?
Walker: That is extreme, Bob. There are questions whether Gronkowski will be the same dominant player, especially this season. But it’s way too premature to call it a career after his fifth surgery since November. As far as Gronkowski’s contract, he’s essentially signed through the 2015 season. The Patriots have a major decision to make after the 2015 season. They can either pick up Gronkowski’s $10 million option bonus that will extend his contract through 2019 season or void the contract. If the injuries continue, it’s doubtful New England will pay the bonus. But let’s see how things play out over the next three seasons.
Walker: I see there’s not a lot of Patriot love this week, RufusP88. Indeed, New England has a lot of issues this offseason, which is unusual for that franchise. Is the ‘Patriot Way’ over? It’s hard to say. I think it’s most defined by winning and the Patriots are still the favorites in the AFC East. But I don’t see the Patriots winning a Super Bowl this season. I think last year’s team was better.
Austin from N.C. writes: Is Vontae Leach going to sign with Miami already or what?!
Walker: Leach is going to take his time to make a decision, Austin. He has several suitors, which is good news for him and bad news for Miami. The Dolphins are definitely interested. They hosted Leach for a visit recently. However, it’s going to come down to money and fit, and I’m not sure Miami is the favorite when you combine the two.
@bluehairspecial18m via Twitter writes: Who is odd man out for Dolphins at DE?
Walker: Why does there have to be an odd man out, BH? Right now it appears Miami has a pretty strong three-man rotation at defensive end with Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and rookie No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan. Wake is starting on one side. Vernon and Jordan will compete for the other starting job, but both will get playing time. The Dolphins have been comfortable this spring moving Jared Odrick inside to defensive tackle. That also strengthens that rotation with Odrick, Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. Miami definitely has some monsters up front this year.
Matt from Arlington, Va., writes: I'd like to hear your thoughts on the Bills linebacker corps, and how they are or aren't improved talent wise from last year's group?
Walker: It’s a definite improvement, Matt. Buffalo’s linebacking play last year was subpar most weeks. The Bills lacked toughness, talent and attitude, and I think they changed some of that with additions Kiko Alonso, Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes. The key is Alonso. The talent is certainly there but he must stay away from off-the-field issues, which was a problem in college. I think Alonso can be a defensive rookie of the year candidate if he stays healthy and focused.
Robert from Long Island writes: Which of the four AFC East teams do you enjoy covering the most? Least?
Walker: I enjoy covering all four teams equally, Robert. I have zero rooting interest in any of these teams. So it doesn’t matter to me who wins or loses. It’s my job to simply explain what’s going on, right or wrong, with each team in the AFC East.