Friday, April 5, 2013
Eight in the Box: Under the radar
By James Walker
A look at the top under-the-radar move made by each AFC East team thus far this offseason:
Buffalo Bills: The Bills have been quiet in free agency, especially compared to last year. But the signing of defensive tackle Alan Branch should pay off. Branch, who started for the Seattle Seahawks the past two seasons, is a massive run-stopper added to Buffalo’s defensive line rotation, which already includes tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Branch is versatile enough to play the nose and defensive tackle in Mike Pettine’s defense, which will have 3-4 and 4-3 looks. The Bills were 31st against the run last season but are now a lot tougher up the middle after signing Branch. He’s also durable, missing just one game the past four seasons.
Miami Dolphins: It has been a whirlwind free agency period for Miami. General manager Jeff Ireland was busy spending the Dolphins’ immense cap room this offseason, adding big names such as receiver Mike Wallace, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and tight end Dustin Keller. But the Dolphins' latest signing, cornerback Brent Grimes, is an under-the-radar move that could pay off huge. Grimes was a Pro Bowl cornerback two seasons ago. He suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in 2012 and signed a one-year contract with Miami this season. The Dolphins are banking on Grimes' returning to his preinjury form. It’s a calculated risk. But if rehab goes well, Grimes easily will be Miami’s most talented cornerback.
New England Patriots: The Patriots made a few big-name moves this offseason, signing safety Adrian Wilson, receiver Danny Amendola and re-signing corner Aqib Talib and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. But the signing of wide receiver Michael Jenkins could also pay dividends. Jenkins, 30, has been a consistent producer throughout his 10-year career. He has averaged 45 receptions a year over the past six seasons. That number could increase now that he's playing with future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Jenkins will not have a major role in the offense considering New England has other players like Amendola and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But Jenkins has a track record of producing when his number is called.
New York Jets: The Jets did a lot of bargain-basement shopping in free agency. They were hamstrung by the salary cap this year and were not going to be major players in free agency. However, the Jets made several smart signings. Perhaps their best value of the group was Mike Goodson, who is the favorite to be New York’s starting running back next season. Goodson signed a three-year, $6.9 million contract with the Jets. He finally gets a chance to start after backing up running backs like Darren McFadden in Oakland and Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams in Carolina. Goodson has averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his career and should get plenty of carries for the first time in New York.