AFC East: 2014 Free Agency Week 1 Recap

Free-agency review: Bills

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
We've reached the end of the first week of free agency.

How have the Buffalo Bills fared? Let's break it down:

Spikes
Most significant signing: From a money standpoint, the Bills' most significant deal was their four-year pact with cornerback Corey Graham, which averages more than $4 million per season. But in terms of an immediate impact to the team, Brandon Spikes' one-year deal could deliver the biggest bang for the Bills' buck. Spikes is a thumper who fills a more pressing need: a big middle linebacker who can defend against the run. The Bills were solid against the pass last season, so Graham only adds to that phase of the game. The Bills needed help against the run and Spikes was one of the best options available.

Most significant loss: There's no doubt here. The only free agent the Bills have lost also happened to be one of the biggest names on the market: safety Jairus Byrd. This is one that will sting. Byrd received $9 million per year from the New Orleans Saints, which makes him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. The Bills showed some financial discipline by not going to that price with the three-time Pro Bowler, but his absence still leaves a void in the defensive backfield. The Bills' current plan is to try in-house options to replace Byrd. We'll see how that works out.

Biggest surprise: The Bills' most surprising addition is guard Chris Williams, not because of his position -- the Bills had a glaring need at left guard -- but because of the money they gave him. At $13.5 million over four seasons, including $5 million guaranteed, it's pricey for a player who has struggled to settle in as a starter during his career. The feeling from this end is the Bills could have signed Williams for a lesser price and had him compete for a role. With the deal they gave him, Williams better be the starter.

What’s next? The big-money phase of free agency is over. It would hardly be shocking if the Bills continued to make some minor signings, but they aren't expected to be in the market for any of the bigger-name players who remain on the market. That isn't to say the Bills don't have holes. They could use a backup quarterback and a starting safety, but general manager Doug Whaley said Friday he isn't looking to add either right now. They'll be looking for more offensive pieces in the draft, potentially targeting a wide receiver, tight end, or tackle.

Free-agency review: Dolphins

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
[+] EnlargeBranden Albert
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBranden Albert should help stabilize Miami's porous offensive line.
Most significant signing: Left tackle Branden Albert is clearly the biggest free-agent addition to the Miami Dolphins' roster this offseason. Miami paid handsomely. Albert is making $47 million over the next five seasons. However, it was a signing the Dolphins needed to make after allowing a franchise-record 58 sacks in 2013. Miami needs to know if young quarterback Ryan Tannehill is the long-term solution, and the Dolphins can't determine that if Tannehill spends too much time getting hit and laying on his back. Albert, who made the Pro Bowl last year, should buy Tannehill more time next season protecting the blindside.

Most significant loss: The Dolphins' haven't suffered any debilitating losses in free agency. But if I had to pick the biggest loss to this point, it would be starting defensive tackle Paul Soliai. He was a homegrown talent as a former fourth-round pick. Soliai worked hard to become a one-time Pro Bowler, but the Dolphins didn't want to spend too much to keep him. He signed a $33 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. The Dolphins lessened the loss by signing Earl Mitchell ($16 million) and bringing back Randy Starks ($12 million) at more affordable rates.

Biggest surprise: It was the worst-kept secret in sports that Jonathan Martin could not return to the Dolphins following last year's high-profile bullying scandal. But what was a surprise was how quickly the Dolphins were able to ship Martin to another team and at least get some value in return. Miami traded Martin to the San Francisco 49ers on the first night of free agency for a conditional late-round pick. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, who coached and recruited Martin at Stanford, felt he could make the most out of the former second-round pick. The list of suitors was not long, and the Dolphins were fortunate to get something instead of an outright release.

What's next: The Dolphins did most of their big spending on positions such as left tackle (Albert), defensive tackle (Mitchell, Starks) and cornerback (Cortland Finnegan). Now, look for Miami to bargain hunt to see if it can fill any remaining needs on its roster. The Dolphins still have two starting jobs available on the offensive line at right tackle and guard. They could also use another threat at running back to boost their 26th-ranked rushing attack from last season.

Free-agency review: Jets

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Decker
Most significant signing: Obviously, it's wide receiver Eric Decker (five years, $36.25 million), the biggest veteran acquisition of the John Idzik era. The Jets identified him as the No. 1 receiver on the market, and they made it happen. Decker becomes the top receiver on the team (did you see their receivers last season?), but he's not a true No. 1. His 2013 numbers (87 catches, 1,288 yards) were inflated because he played in the most prolific passing offense in history, with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Unless he's paired with a difference-maker on the other side, Decker won't approach those numbers with the Jets. He's a complementary player; he won't force opponents to alter their game plan.

Howard
Most significant loss: They had hoped to lock up right tackle Austin Howard before free agency, but talks stalled, he hit the market and signed immediately with the Oakland Raiders (five years, $30 million). Howard is the kind of guy you want in your program, a former bottom-of-the-roster player who worked his way into a starting role, demonstrating real potential. But Idzik, with a replacement already lined up, refused to budge on Howard's demands. That replacement turned out to be Breno Giacomini, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks. He's a proficient right tackle and they got him for $18 million over four years, saving money in the swap. But he's not better than Howard. At best, it's a wash.

Biggest surprise: After cutting high-priced vets Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes, giving them nearly $40 million in cap space, the Jets figured to be aggressive players in free agency. But it hasn't worked out that way, as Idzik has reinforced his reputation as a deliberate -- some might say stubborn -- shopper. He re-signed a few complementary starters, namely linebacker Calvin Pace, tight end Jeff Cumberland and kicker Nick Folk, but he hasn't addressed needs at cornerback, quarterback and receiver. Bargain hunting is fine, but you don't want to be too cautious. Clearly, Idzik is refusing to deviate from his long-term plan.

What's next? They have to find a replacement for Cromartie before the draft. It could be Cromartie, who wants to return. They may have no other choice because the current free-agent market for corners is thin, to say the least. Rex Ryan needs cornerback depth to play his defense, which is predicated on man-to-man coverage, and his general manager isn't making it easy on him. They also have needs at quarterback, wide receiver (yes, another one) and tight end, among other positions. At this point, there's not much left in free agency.

Free-agency review: Patriots

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Most significant signing: Darrelle Revis. The plan all along was to hopefully retain cornerback Aqib Talib, but the stars aligned for the Patriots to land Revis, one of the NFL's premier defensive players. Between Revis and Brandon Browner, the Patriots landed two physical cornerbacks who excel at playing physical at the line of scrimmage and matching up in man coverage.

Revis
Most significant loss: Harmony with Vince Wilfork. The defensive captain has asked the team to release him, potentially leaving a big void to fill at the line of scrimmage if the team follows through with it.

Biggest surprise: Revis. General fan reaction and media-based discussion surrounding the Patriots on a quiet first day of free agency bordered on panic. Then came the addition of Revis, which changed everything.

What’s next? Running back LeGarrette Blount remains a free agent and there seems to be mutual interest in his return. The Patriots have also explored options along the interior of the offensive line, but haven't made any additions, as starting center Ryan Wendell remains a free agent as well.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider