AFC East: Ryan Grant

The New England Patriots have just about everything you want on offense. They have an elite quarterback, two stud tight ends and a good collection of wide receivers, led by Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd.

But the one thing New England's offense lacks is a solid veteran presence at running back. That is why the reigning AFC champs are wise to kick the tires on free agent tailbacks Ryan Grant and Tim Hightower.

Grant is entering his sixth season, and Hightower is entering his fifth. Either choice would add experience to a young group that includes 2011 draft picks Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

Grant, in particular, would be a solid signing if it's at a bargain rate. His best years were in 2008 and 2009, but the Patriots are not a run-heavy team, and only need a complementary rusher. Grant averages 4.3 yards for his career, and could do well in role like the one BenJarvus Green-Ellis filled for the Patriots. Ridley, Vereen and Danny Woodhead also would provide support. The Patriots can continue riding the hot hand out of this group, week to week in 2012.

What the Patriots do not need is another young running back. So don't expect New England to take one high in next week's NFL draft.
Here is a potential clue to tracking the Miami Dolphins in free agency: Watch the Green Bay Packers.

Yes, general manager Jeff Ireland is running the show in Miami. But that doesn't mean Dolphins rookie head coach Joe Philbin won't add some influence about the players he's most familiar with.

Green Bay went 15-1 this season. Here are some key pending free agents for the Packers to keep an eye on:
Philbin worked directly with this group day-to-day as Green Bay's offensive coordinator.

It's no secret Philbin likes Flynn, who was Aaron Rodgers' backup for four seasons. Perhaps no coach outside of the Packers’ staff knows Flynn better than Miami’s rookie head coach. I fully expect Miami to be in the Flynn sweepstakes if Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is out of the equation.

Finley and Grant are interesting cases. I doubt Finley is going anywhere. He is one of Rodgers' favorite targets and most likely will get an extension or the franchise tag. Grant might be someone of interest, although Miami has 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Bush and budding rookie Daniel Thomas. Wells is Green Bay's starting center, and Mike Pouncey is Miami's long-term solution there.

Wrap-up: Packers 34, Bills 7

September, 19, 2010
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What it means: Unlike last week, the Bills committed themselves to the run but still had another awful day offensively. Cue the shouts for Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm.

Big revelation: New head coach Chan Gailey, regardless of his reputation, can't figure out how to get the Bills' offense moving. He hasn't been able to coax plays out of quarterback Trent Edwards (62 net yards passing, two interceptions), get high-paid receiver Lee Evans into the game (zero catches) or generate production from prized running back C.J. Spiller (see below).

Trending: Spiller was a non-factor again. In his NFL debut he had 11 offensive touches for 14 yards. Against the Packers, he had didn't have any carries until the final, meaningless minutes. He finished with one carry for 3 yards and four receptions for 23 yards.

Tomorrow's talker: Were the Bills leaning on Marshawn Lynch because they're about to move him? He had almost twice as many attempts as Fred Jackson. The Bills denied persistent rumors they're on the verge of dealing him, maybe even to the Packers in light of Ryan Grant's season-ending ankle injury. Grant's replacement, Brandon Jackson, had 11 carries for 29 yards and a touchdown.

Heroes: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 19 of 29 for 255 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Bills' respected pass defense. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews had three sacks, four tackles for losses and five quarterback hits.

Goat: Edwards was 11 for 18 for 102 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions. He couldn't complete a pass to Evans the whole game?

What's next: The Bills' schedule doesn't let up. They'll play the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium next Sunday.

Video: Bills at Packers preview

September, 17, 2010
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On the "NFL Live" set, Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi kibbutz about Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Schlereth says the game "really is a tough spot" for the Bills and noted their inability to pass downfield in their opener despite an emphasis on throwing. Bruschi predicts the Bills "will lose big."

Rodgers would love to reunite with Lynch

September, 15, 2010
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There has been talk about the Buffalo Bills trading Marshawn Lynch since he finished last season second on the depth chart behind Fred Jackson.

Rumblings got louder throughout the offseason, when the Bills used the ninth draft choice on C.J. Spiller and Lynch declined to show up for most workouts.

Turns out, this week's opponents need a running back. The Green Bay Packers lost Ryan Grant for the year with an ankle injury, and their quarterback happens to be a huge Lynch fan.

Aaron Rodgers and Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop played with Lynch at the University of California. When Rodgers was asked Wednesday what his response would be if Green Bay's front office solicited his opinion about Lynch, the quarterback replied "Bring him on."

Rodgers isn't bothered by Lynch's track record of bad behavior. The NFL suspended Lynch for the first three games last year for multiple problems with the law.

"He's a great player," Rodgers said. "And any character issues the team might see, I think in a situation like that, and I think you've seen that with other players across the league, when you give a guy a change of scenery and a guy like that who feels he might have something to prove, and surround him with two guys, Bishop and myself who played with him, I think that can only help him feel comfortable and see a lot of production."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Greg A. Bedard blogged Rodgers' comments and added any trade would be "a long shot" and that "even a third-round pick would likely be too rich for [Packers general manager] Ted Thompson."

Earlier on Wednesday, I wrote about how the New England Patriots' decision to trade their former first-round back, Laurence Maroney, might impact the market for a potential Lynch trade.

Bills coach Chan Gailey on Wednesday reiterated his preference to keep Lynch.

"Opinions vary of whether it's too many" running backs in Buffalo's backfield, Gailey said. "In preseason, we didn't have too many. I know Green Bay wishes they had one more.

"Everybody's got opinions on what's right. We feel that having the three that we have right now is a very good situation for us. We've got to continue to get better with each one of them and see how their roles play out as the year goes on. This is a situation in the NFL where you can't have too many good running backs."

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