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Friday, June 7, 2013
AFC East offseason grades

By James Walker

ESPN.com’s Matt Williamson caused a stir in the AFC East blog earlier this week with his thoughts on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He may cause another stir Wednesday with his offseason report card on teams in the division.

Let’s take a look at Williamson’s grades for draft and free agency in the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

Williamson’s grade: C-plus

Quotable: “The Bills have made a concerted effort this offseason to improve at the most important position on the field -- quarterback. I feel that [Kevin] Kolb. ... is an upgrade over [Ryan] Fitzpatrick, while [EJ] Manuel has all the ability in the world to develop into a Cam Newton-like signal-caller.”

Analysis: After spending tons of money in free agency in 2012, the Bills took the safe approach this year. Buffalo made low-profile signings such as Kolb, defensive lineman Alan Branch and outside linebacker Manny Lawson who can make an impact. It’s very different from the $100 million signing of Mario Williams last season. The Bills really attacked the offense in the draft, which was a wise move. The Bills are counting on Manuel to develop into a franchise quarterback, and receivers Robert Wood, Marquise Goodwin and Da’Rick Rogers are all young and explosive. The Bills have talent at a lot of positions but must figure out the quarterback position.

Miami Dolphins

Williamson’s grade: C-plus

Quotable: “Everyone is talking about all the great additions that Miami made to its roster this offseason, but the Dolphins' departures are significant as well.”

Analysis: Williamson was not impressed with the Dolphins’ offseason moves. The Dolphins spent more than $100 million in guaranteed money to upgrade their roster, and some feel they positioned themselves to make a push for the playoffs. But Williamson handed out a mediocre grade for Miami. He mentioned questions on the offensive line and potential holes in the secondary. I think this grade is low for Miami. Time will tell if the Dolphins’ spending and draft picks were worth it.

New England Patriots

Williamson’s grade: C

Quotable: “The biggest turnover here is at WR, as [Wes] Welker, who has been a rock of consistent production, is now in Denver. [Danny] Amendola is younger and appears to be a suitable replacement, but true slot receivers take a beating and Amendola hasn't been able to stay on the field.”

Analysis: I think this grade was spot on for New England. In my opinion, the Patriots should get a poor grade for what they’ve done on offense this offseason and a good grade for getting better on defense. The result is an average grade overall. The Patriots remain the favorites in the AFC East. But they may have taken a step back, especially in the passing game.

New York Jets

Williamson’s grade: B-minus

Quotable: “Many criticize the Jets and what seems like a circus-like environment around this organization, but I think this front office has done a solid job this offseason. The Jets did lose a lot, but many of these players needed to go.”

Analysis: I thought this grade was high for the Jets, but I understand Williamson's thinking. New York was in such a bad spot when new general manager John Idzik arrived that you almost have to grade on a curve. Idzik immediately got younger and under the salary cap. He made a shrewd decision to trade star cornerback Darrelle Revis, but that was the right decision. Idzik also made a couple of gaffes with the signing of quarterback David Garrard, who couldn’t make it through the spring, and tailback Mike Goodson, who already has off-the-field issues. The Jets are in full rebuilding mode and it will be a while before this team is a contender again.