Monday, March 10, 2014
Top free-agent roundup: AFC East
By Mike Rodak
In years past, our ESPN NFL divisional bloggers would compile lists of the top free agents within their respective divisions. We're continuing that tradition this offseason, but with a twist: We asked each of our ESPN NFL Nation bloggers to rank their team's free agents, which then were compiled into a master list for each division.
With the free-agent signing period opening Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, here's our AFC East free-agent ranking:
1. Jairus Byrd, Bills S: Ball-hawking safety had four interceptions last season and was named to his third Pro Bowl in five years.
2. Aqib Talib, Patriots CB: Matchup man-to-man cornerback was a centerpiece in the Patriots' game plans in 2013, with injuries the only real blemish on his resume.
3. Julian Edelman, Patriots WR: Coming off a career-high 105-catch season -- staying healthy for all 16 games for the first time -- the receiver is poised to cash in.
4. Austin Howard, Jets T: An ascending player who would generate significant interest if he hits the open market.
5. Paul Soliai, Dolphins DT: He is one of the top run-stuffers on the market. Soliai can fit in the middle of a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense, which adds value.
6. Scott Chandler, Bills TE: A 6-foot-7 tight end who posted career highs in receptions (53) and receiving yards (655) but was a non-factor in the red zone.
7. Randy Starks, Dolphins DT: The Dolphins used the franchise tag on Starks in 2013 but only used him as a rotational player. A change of scenery is probably best for him.
8. LeGarrette Blount, Patriots RB: The 250-pound running back was tough to bring down once he got rolling late last season; deserving of an upgraded contract.
9. Ryan Wendell, Patriots C: Undersized center has the smarts and durability that could appeal to a team looking to fill a void in the pivot, but sometimes gets overpowered.
10. Brandon Spikes, Patriots LB: Hard-hitting linebacker is a top player against the run, but struggles at times in coverage.
11. Calvin Pace, Jets LB: Recorded a career-high 10 sacks last season, but there will be a limited market because he'll be 34.
12. Chris Clemons, Dolphins S: He's a decent safety with plenty of starting experience. Clemons is strong in run support and a sure tackler, but he struggles at times in pass coverage.
13. Nick Folk, Jets K: Designated as a franchise player.
14. Dan Carpenter, Bills K: Kicker is coming off his best season as a pro, converting 91.7 percent of his field goals, including every kick in the second quarter or later.
15. Alex Carrington, Bills DL: Versatile lineman can play tackle in a 4-3 or end in a 3-4; started first three games in 2013 before an injury ended his season.