AFC East: 2014 next big thing

The next big thing: Jets

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
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Top priorities for the New York Jets over the next few months:

1. Trim the fat: The Jets are likely to dump three big contracts before the March 11 start to free agency -- wide receiver Santonio Holmes ($10.8 million cap charge), quarterback Mark Sanchez ($13.1 million) and cornerback Antonio Cromartie ($15 million). By cutting those three players, the Jets would create $26.1 million in additional cap room, putting them more than $40 million over the salary cap. There probably will be interest in re-signing Cromartie for a lesser amount.

2. Money to burn: After a year of coping with a salary-cap squeeze, John Idzik finally has the flexibility that every general manager covets. Let's see if he uses the money wisely. His philosophy is to build through the draft, but he'd be crazy not to be active in the free-agent market. First, he should re-sign right tackle Austin Howard and kicker Nick Folk, both of whom will be unrestricted free agents. After that, he needs to find a wide receiver, a tight end and a safety. Names on the radar will be Eric Decker, Brandon Pettigrew and Jairus Byrd, respectively.

3. Draft for offense: The Jets picked a defensive player with their last five first-round picks. That has to change. With the 18th pick, they need to focus on offensive playmakers. Three names to watch: wide receivers Marqise Lee and Mike Evans and tight end Eric Ebron. If one of the Big Three at quarterbacks falls to 18 -- Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater -- they'd have to think hard about going in that direction.

The next big thing: Dolphins

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
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Senior Bowl Week is in full force, and the Miami Dolphins have yet to hire a general manager to replace Jeff Ireland. That is the next big thing on Miami’s agenda as the team heads into a crucial 2014 offseason.

This upcoming year is important for many members of the Dolphins’ organization. Head coach Joe Philbin is on the hot seat after going 15-17 in two seasons. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill also is entering an important third year to determine if he’s the long-term solution. The Dolphins’ decision on their next general manager is an important piece that could help bring the team together and get everyone on the same page.

The Dolphins have interviewed seven candidates so far for their opening. I am hearing Ray Farmer of the Cleveland Browns and former Denver Broncos general manager Brain Xanders are the early favorites. But Miami may continue to bring in additional candidates over the next several days who could change its thinking.

Either way, time is running short for Miami. Following the Senior Bowl, the NFL combine is up next. The Dolphins would be in total dysfunction not to have a GM in place by that time.

The next big thing: Bills

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
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The Buffalo Bills' season has been over for more than three weeks now.

In turning the page forward, we're asking the question: What's on the horizon for the Bills this offseason, as they begin to prepare for their second season under coach Doug Marrone?

While Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley are in Mobile, Ala., this week for the Senior Bowl, their focus will soon turn to making a decision on safety Jairus Byrd, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 11.

Do they assign Byrd the franchise tag for a second consecutive season? It would cost the Bills more than $8 million if Byrd signs his one-year guaranteed tender, which would be a significant hit to the salary cap. Byrd could also choose to sit out training camp before signing the tender, leaving some uncertainty at that position.

If the Bills let Byrd hit the open market, the chances of him returning seem slim. That would create a need at safety that the Bills could fill through the draft, free agency or other means.

Speaking of the draft, this is a season where it appears the Bills could go one of several directions. Do they look for offensive line help? Do they try to add an explosive weapon on offense at wide receiver or tight end? Do they continue to add to their improving defense?

Luckily, with the draft pushed back to May, we'll have plenty of time to ponder their plans in the coming months.

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