Thursday, March 29, 2012
AFC East free-agency assessment
By James Walker
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Key additions: DE Mario Williams, DE Mark Anderson
Key losses: WR Roscoe Parrish, OT Demetrius Bell
What a rush: The Bills entered the offseason identifying their pass-rush as their biggest weakness. As a result, Buffalo went out and spent $127.5 million on a pair of pass-rushing ends who will fit in well with the team’s new 4-3 defense.
Williams ($100 million) and Anderson ($27.5 million) should be the best pass-rushing duo in the division. Williams has 59 career sacks, and Anderson recorded a career-high 10 sacks last season with the New England Patriots. Williams and Anderson will combine with defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus to be one of the NFL’s best defensive lines.
“We know we got push [up the middle],” Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said at the owners meetings this week. “So we were looking for edge-rush guys that can bring the quickness or speed off the edge.”
What’s next: Buffalo still has some needs heading into the draft. The good news is the Bills own a top-10 pick. That should provide one starter with potentially a couple more in the later rounds.
Left tackle was a rotating door last season that needs to be fixed. Three players started there for Buffalo in 2011, and the Bills would like to get one bookend to protect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's blindside. Buffalo also has needs at receiver, linebacker and cornerback that could be addressed in the top half of the draft.
Key additions: CB/S Richard Marshall, QB David Garrard, OT/G Artis Hicks
Key losses: WR Brandon Marshall, S Yeremiah Bell, QB Chad Henne, OT Vernon Carey, OG Marc Colombo, DE Kendall Langford
QB competition: The Dolphins are setting themselves up for another quarterback competition this summer. Garrard and incumbent Matt Moore will battle it out for the right to run rookie head coach Joe Philbin’s new West Coast offense.
Moore will enter camp as the favorite. He played with Miami’s receivers last year and is more familiar with the team. Garrard is 34 hasn’t played since 2010. He’s a bit of a wild card at this stage in his career.
"I envision Matt Moore, and David Garrard, and Pat Devlin at this point and time getting a lot of repetitions in the voluntary minicamp and as things move forward," Philbin said. "Based on what things happen we’ll divide the reps up from there. It’s an open competition. I told both guys [Moore and Garrard] that and we’re very clear about that."
What’s next: The Dolphins still have a lot of work to do. For example, Philbin was asked Tuesday at the owners meetings if his offensive line was set, and he rightly said “No, not at all.” Neither Carey nor Colombo are expected to return. The Dolphins also need a boost at receiver.
Many Miami fans are not happy with the way the front office has handled the team. The Dolphins have traded or released five starters from last year’s team. General manager Jeff Ireland says wait until the full body of work, which is fair. But the Dolphins still have a lot of work to do.
New England Patriots
Key additions: WR Brandon Lloyd, OT Robert Gallery, WR Anthony Gonzalez, WR Donte Stallworth, TE Daniel Fells, DL Trevor Scott.
Key losses: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, DE Mark Anderson
Bargain hunting: The Patriots, as usual, didn’t go crazy in free agency. The reigning AFC champs bided their time, then went bargain hunting for players the Patriots feel have value. Lloyd makes sense on a lot of levels, especially for the relatively modest $12 million he received. Gallery, Scott, Stallworth and Fells are also players who could bring something to the team at a low number.
New England lost a pair of big-name free agents. Green-Ellis led the Patriots in rushing two years in a row, and Anderson was tied for the team lead with 10 sacks. The competition at running back will be interesting with second-year players Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. The Patriots most likely will search for pass-rushers in the draft.
What’s next: The Patriots won’t do much else in free agency, unless something catches their eye. New England’s focus is now on the draft and making good use of its four picks in the first two rounds.
New England hasn’t done much to address the defense. I expect three of its first four picks to be used on last year’s 31st-ranked defense.
New York Jets
Key addition: QB Tim Tebow, S LaRon Landry
Key losses: WR Plaxico Burress, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, S Jim Leonhard
Tebow time: The Jets acquired the most controversial and debated player this offseason. But will Tebow Time be a success? New York seems adamant implementing plenty of Wildcat into its ground-and-pound offense. Tebow will be a big part. He is a strong runner with the ability to run through tackles.
But Tebow also brings the hype and hysteria with him. You can multiply that by 10 since Tebow joined the New York market. So far, everyone is saying the right things. But it will be up to Tebow and quarterback Mark Sanchez to make this pairing work.
What’s next: The Jets still have big questions at wide receiver, right tackle and safety. Burress’ departure leaves a starting job open opposite receiver Santonio Holmes. New York also has a pair of struggling starters in right tackle Wayne Hunter and safety Eric Smith.
The Jets don’t have much cap room remaining. That leaves the draft as the most likely option, unless New York is able to find a cheap upgrade. There are more quality receivers and offensive tackles available in the first round than safeties. That may provide a clue to where the Jets are leaning.