AFC East: Stock Watch AFC

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

May, 13, 2010
5/13/10
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Falling

Adalius Thomas, free-agent outside linebacker: Almost three weeks after the Patriots released him, Thomas remains unemployed.

It seemed certain Thomas would reunite with Rex Ryan and join the New York Jets. The last time Thomas was effective was with Baltimore in 2006, when Ryan was defensive coordinator. But the Patriots held onto Thomas long enough that the Jets signed former Dolphins star Jason Taylor. As a result, there also was speculation the Dolphins would pursue Thomas to fortify the edge in their 3-4 defense.

"With him we'll end up first in the league in defense, and without him we'll end up first in the league in defense," Ryan recently said. "If we get him, great. I'm not worried about him."

Nobody seems to be. Thomas will turn 33 in training camp. He had 20 sacks in his final two seasons with Baltimore. He had 14.5 in his three seasons in New England and just three last year. Bill Belichick benched him for a pair of games.

Rising

Brandon Tate, Patriots receiver: Tate's name hadn't been mentioned much this offseason. The third-round pick from North Carolina appeared in two games and had zero receptions as a rookie last year and plays on a team that features Randy Moss, added Torry Holt and is more concerned with how Julian Edelman will fill in while Wes Welker recovers from knee and shoulder surgery.

But Patriots quarterback Tom Brady thrust Tate's name into the conversation this week, making a point to rave about Tate's offseason in a pair of interviews.

"I like Brandon Tate a lot," Brady told Sports Illustrated. Brady later told Boston sports-radio station WEEI that Tate "has had a great offseason."

That's quite a blessing for a player otherwise known as a project. The Patriots were criticized for drafting Tate so early because he was rehabbing a knee injury that was expected to limit him for much of 2009. They activated him in Week 7, and he suffered another season-ending knee injury in Week 9.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

May, 6, 2010
5/06/10
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Falling

Joe McKnight, Jets running back: The fourth-round draft pick out of USC had a rough start at rookie minicamp. McKnight wasn't sure if it was his nerves, the heat or the aggressive pace compared to what he went through with the Trojans, but he struggled to hold onto the ball and his stomach contents. He repeatedly dropped passes in drills, needed extra medical attention, suffered from cramps and generally looked exhausted.

Rising

Logan Mankins, Patriots guard: Mankins had to like what he learned Wednesday, when New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans signed a seven-year contract worth $56.7 million. That sets the bar for the game's elite guards and Mankins qualifies. He's an unsigned restricted free agent. He would've been an unrestricted free agent this year if not for special rules for the uncapped season. Mankins was New England's first-round pick in 2005 and has been to a pair of Pro Bowls. Evans, a fourth-round draft choice, is entering his fifth season. He's coming of his first Pro Bowl campaign and was first-team All-Pro, too.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

April, 29, 2010
4/29/10
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Falling

Paul Soliai, Dolphins nose tackle: Next on the depth chart at nose tackle, Soliai was in position to be the starter until Jason Ferguson returned from his eight-game suspension. But the Dolphins made moves that will make it much more difficult for Soliai, a fourth-year pro, to assume the gig. The Dolphins drafted defensive lineman Jared Odrick with the 28th pick and announced afterward they would move defensive end Randy Starks to the nose. In fact, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland didn't even mention Soliai's name when breaking down what their plans were at nose tackle after drafting Odrick.

Rising

Trent Edwards, Bills quarterback: Edwards enters his fourth pro season on shaky ground. He was Buffalo's opening-day starter the past two seasons but lost his job last year to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now Edwards is in an open competition, but at least he knows the Bills haven't added an immediate threat. Edwards over the weekend learned a lot about what lies ahead when the Bills declined to draft Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy but selected Levi Brown in the seventh round. Bills GM Buddy Nix called Brown a "developmental" quarterback, and head coach Chan Gailey all but confirmed the Bills wouldn't sign a veteran free agent. That gives Edwards the greatest odds possible of winning his job back.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

April, 15, 2010
4/15/10
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Falling

Ted Ginn, Dolphins receiver: It can be argued that if the Dolphins keep Ginn on the roster his stock will go up because of the Brandon Marshall acquisition. Marshall's presence prevents any other receiver from being double covered. Ginn can get behind defenses more easily. But the Marshall move also shows the Dolphins have given up on the idea Ginn, the ninth overall draft pick in 2007, can be a No. 1 receiver. He's skittish and drops too many passes. NFL.com's Jason La Canfora reported Tuesday the Dolphins were trying to unload Ginn.

Rising

Chad Henne, Dolphins quarterback: Henne finally got the big target every quarterback dreams about. Marshall is the type of receiver who makes a quarterback appear to be better than he is. Marshall attacks the ball, outmuscles defenders and is great on jump balls. Henne doesn't need to throw Marshall a pinpoint pass. Just get it close, and Marshall probably will snag it. Henne now has one of the NFL's best red-zone options at his disposal. Miami receivers scored six touchdowns last year. Marshall scored 10.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

April, 8, 2010
4/08/10
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Falling

Vernon Gholston, Jets outside linebacker: Whether or not the Jets are able to convince free-agent Jason Taylor to sign with them, the courtship says all you need to know about what the club thinks of Gholston. The Jets drafted him sixth overall in 2008 to get after opposing quarterbacks. Two seasons later, he has zero sacks. Gholston has started three games. He has been a healthy scratch for three games. The Jets apparently don't expect him to break out in 2010. The Jets' interest in Taylor doesn't bode well for outside linebacker Bryan Thomas, either.

Rising

Patriots' 2011 draft: The Patriots received pleasant news Easter evening: The Eagles traded quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. Either of the two other teams vying for McNabb -- the Bills and Raiders -- would have been problematic for the Patriots. The Patriots would love for the Bills' muddled quarterback situation to remain the same and wouldn't want to face McNabb twice. Had McNabb landed in Oakland, he would've provided a mammoth upgrade over JaMarcus Russell and almost certainly improved its record. The Patriots obtained the Raiders' 2011 first-round draft pick in the Richard Seymour trade.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

April, 1, 2010
4/01/10
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Falling

Marshawn Lynch, Bills running back: A week ago, I asked Bills general manager Buddy Nix if Lynch still had a place on the team. Lynch has a poor reputation when it comes to character, and a new GM and head coach might not be as tolerant as the previous leadership. Nix replied, "That's up to him. He's like everybody else. We expect him to be [in the backfield]. We need two backs. We think that he's a really good player, and we want him to be there. We're all starting new, all starting fresh." Then Lynch, who lost his job as the feature back to Fred Jackson last year, was among the no-shows when the Bills opened their offseason workout program Tuesday. Attendance is voluntary, but that's not the best way to make a first impression on head coach Chan Gailey.

Rising

Tim Tebow, University of Florida quarterback: On consecutive nights, Tebow reportedly dined with Buffalo icon Jim Kelly and New England head coach Bill Belichick. That'll make a guy feel wanted. Tebow offers the most fascinating storyline of the draft -- whether he gets drafted in the first round or not. There is so much intrigue surrounding the collegiate legend and whether his unique talents translate to the NFL game. The Bills and Patriots seem like good fits. The Bills need a quarterback badly and own the ninth and 41st picks. The Patriots own four selections between Nos. 22 and 53. They have the ability to bring Tebow aboard and groom him under Tom Brady.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

March, 25, 2010
3/25/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Justin Smiley, Dolphins left guard: In this space last week, I selected Dolphins right guard Donald Thomas, who lost his starting job late last season and seemed even more on the spot with the signing of free agent Richie Incognito. But it now appears the Dolphins have identified Smiley as the player they can live without. The Dolphins signed him to a five-year, $25 million contract one minute into the 2008 free-agency period. Over the weekend, the Dolphins told Smiley not to show up for the offseason conditioning program because they were trying to trade him.

Rising

Rex Ryan, Jets head coach: He's getting ready for his closeup. Less than two weeks after undergoing lap-band surgery to control his obesity, Ryan said he already had shed 30 pounds, a difference that was obvious at this week's NFL owners meetings. But be prepared to see more of a lesser Ryan. He'll almost certainly be the leading man on "Hard Knocks" this year. HBO has selected the Jets to be the next subject for its behind-the-scenes training camp series, and I have a feeling Ryan will dominate the scenes.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

March, 18, 2010
3/18/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Donald Thomas, Dolphins right guard: He lost his starting job to Nate Garner in Week 14. A few days later, the Dolphins put in a waiver claim for right guard Richie Incognito but were trumped by the Buffalo Bills. On Wednesday, the Dolphins signed Incognito to a one-year deal. Incognito is versatile enough to play other spots, but his presence doesn't seem to bode well for Thomas.

Rising

LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets running back: The former face of the San Diego Chargers went from unemployed and coming off his worst season to landing in the backfield of the NFL's top rushing team. Tomlinson will line up behind an exceptional offensive line that has started the same quintet 37 games in a row and features Pro Bowlers at center, left guard and left tackle. It's a glorious opportunity for Tomlinson to show he still can be a force.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

March, 11, 2010
3/11/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Terrell Owens, free-agent receiver: Any takers? Not yet. The Bills sent out a press release a week before the free-agency period began to announce they wouldn't offer Owens another contract. A week into free agency, he hasn't found employment. Owens has made one visit. The Bengals hosted him and so far have passed. The reason he signed with the starry-eyed Bills last year is because they were the only team that wanted him. Maybe a team desperate for a receiver will bring him aboard eventually, but for a future Hall of Famer to dangle this long is a sign his career is just about over.

Rising

Mike Tannenbaum, Jets general manager: The Jets were supposed to be shackled by the "Final Eight" rules in the uncapped year. That, however, pertained only to unrestricted free agency and couldn't stop Tannenbaum from making one of the splashiest acquisitions of the offseason by trading a 2011 draft pick to San Diego for cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The faded 2007 All-Pro could be a perfect fit in Rex Ryan's defense opposite reigning All-Pro Darrelle Revis. Tannenbaum also traded safety Kerry Rhodes for draft picks and made tough but sensible decisions to cut running back Thomas Jones and cornerback Lito Sheppard.

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