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Tuesday, March 19, 2013
AFC East offseason stock watch

By James Walker

The NFL offseason is in full swing following last week’s start to free agency. Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and whose stock is down in the AFC East:

Falling

Brandon Lloyd
Patriots lost both Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd from its receiving corps this offseason.
1. New York Jets: The 2013 season could be a long one for the Jets. New York continued its tough rebuild in free agency last week. The Jets lost starting tailback Shonn Greene, tight end Dustin Keller and safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell to other teams. Backup Mike DeVito also signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets tried to fill a few spots with small signings like guard Willie Colon, linebacker Antwan Barnes and tailback Mike Goodson. But New York can only afford to bargain hunt in free agency. The Jets are losing talent faster than they are gaining it and are quickly falling behind in the AFC East.

2. New England Patriots receivers: The defending AFC East champions will have a much different look at wide receiver in 2013. First, New England failed to re-sign Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker, who left for the Denver Broncos. Then, the Patriots cut fellow starting receiver Brandon Lloyd last weekend before his $3 million roster bonus was due. Lloyd and Welker combined for 192 receptions, 2,265 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. That's a lot of lost production that Danny Amendola and others have to fill next season.

3. Jets quarterback Tim Tebow: After a much-hyped regular season, Tebow news has been relatively quiet this offseason. But for some reason other football leagues have been making headlines by encouraging Tebow to leave the NFL. First, it was the CFL which expressed interest in Tebow. Now, it's the Arena Football League. The Orlando Predators offered Tebow a spot on the team if he can’t get a job in the NFL. A year ago Tebow was coming off a successful playoff win with the Denver Broncos. This year, there are questions about Tebow simply making an NFL roster. Tebow probably won’t get a chance with the Jets. They are expected to release Tebow if they cannot find a trade partner this offseason.

Rising

1. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are the biggest winners thus far in free agency. They acquired the top-rated receiver (Mike Wallace) and top-rated linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe). Miami also signed a pass-catching tight end with Keller and linebacker Philip Wheeler. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland did a good job of identifying targets and going after them. Miami entered the offseason with more than $40 million of cap room, and the team hasn’t been afraid to spend it. The Dolphins also kept some of their own free agents, such as receiver Brian Hartline, defensive tackle Randy Starks and backup quarterback Matt Moore.

2. Patriots secondary: New England was 29th in pass defense last season. Those numbers likely will improve after the team re-signed No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib and free-agent safety Adrian Wilson. The Patriots now have two playmakers in the secondary. Talib is a good cover corner and Wilson is a physical safety who adds an intimidating presence. The Patriots did a good job of strengthening one of the weakest areas of the team last season.

3. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith: The draft stock for Smith is on the rise after a tremendous pro day last week. He went 60-of-64 passing, which created a buzz and could solidify a spot in the top 10. The Bills and Jets are both potential targets for Smith at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively. Smith said he has a private workout scheduled for the Bills, who are desperate for another quarterback after cutting former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Smith also could be a draft target for other top-10 teams like the Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns.