Wednesday, January 25, 2012
One free agent: AFC East
By James Walker
There is one game remaining, which is the Super Bowl. But for the other 30 teams it is time to start rebuilding for 2012.
Teams around the league are deciding on which pending free agents to target. The AFC East blog is happy to offer the division some free advice.
Based on need, here is one free agent for each team we think should be on the radar:
Miami Dolphins (6-10)
Free agent: QB Matt Flynn (Packers)
2011 stats: 518 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions, 124.8 passer rating
Analysis: The Dolphins have made it no secret they are looking for a franchise quarterback. The most realistic option is Flynn, who came from new Miami coach Joe Philbin's system in Green Bay. Flynn would have a seamless transition running Philbin's offense. Flynn showed he can put up big numbers in limited playing time. His six-touchdown performance to beat the Detroit Lions in Week 17 was one of the top games for any quarterback this season. Peyton Manning's health is still an issue and Miami doesn't have the right draft pick to select Robert Griffin III. Despite limited experience, Flynn's price tag won't be cheap. He might be the next Kevin Kolb or the next Matt Schaub. But it's a worthy risk for the Dolphins.
Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Free agent: DE/LB Mario Williams (Texans)
2011 stats: 11 tackles, five sacks
Analysis: Buffalo needs somebody to get to the quarterback, and Williams could be the most qualified pass rusher on the market. Williams had five sacks in five games this past season before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury. Houston has a plethora of good pass rushers and was No. 2 in total defense without Williams. The Texans don't need to throw the money truck at the former No. 1 overall pick, who is looking for a huge payday despite his injury. But the Bills can definitely use Williams. The biggest question is could the team convince Williams to come to Buffalo? That could be a long shot, but if the Bills are willing to spend more than anyone else, that would help their chances. Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix said the Bills will spend to the cap this year.
New York Jets (8-8)
Free agent: S Michael Griffin (Titans)
2011 stats: 75 tackles, two interceptions
Analysis: There is no way around it. The Jets need two starting safeties next season. Jim Leonhard is a free agent coming off a season-ending knee injury and Eric Smith struggled last season. New York must patch up this weakness, which continually was exposed last season. One could come from the draft and the other in free agency. I think Griffin is the best veteran safety on the market, although some may argue for hard-hitting LaRon Landry of the Washington Redskins. It's a valid debate. But Griffin is more consistent and a better all-around player, and versatility is needed in New York's defense. Griffin also is durable. He's never missed a game for Tennessee in five seasons. I would assume the Titans will try to keep Griffin. But I think the Jets should make a push to outbid for the unrestricted free agent.
New England Patriots (13-3)
Free agent: WR Brandon Lloyd (Rams)
2011 stats: 70 receptions, 966 yards, five touchdowns
Analysis: Lloyd would be a great fit and a classic Patriots free agent. Similar to 2011 additions Brian Waters and Andre Carter, Lloyd is not the sexiest name on the market, but he could make a big impact. Lloyd put up solid numbers despite being traded from the Denver Broncos to the Rams during the season and dealing with different quarterbacks. Two seasons ago Lloyd led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards. Lloyd had his best seasons under Josh McDaniels in Denver and St. Louis, and McDaniels is taking over as New England's offensive coordinator in 2012. Chad Ochocinco is a non-factor and Deion Branch may be on his last legs. Lloyd would happily join the reigning AFC champions and provide the deep threat New England is looking for.