What to watch for in AFC East this offseason

Posted Feb 17, 2017

The Bills aren't the only ones with a host of difficult decisions to make this offseason. The Jets and Dolphins are also looking for ways to improve to close the gap with the Patriots. Even New England has some tricky roster calls to make when it comes to free agency.

The Bills under new head coach Sean McDermott certainly have a lot of work to do implementing new offensive and defensive schemes. There are also a lot of roster decisions to be made with 22 unrestricted free agents and six draft choices. The rest of the AFC East will also be making some difficult decisions and changes. We examine how Buffalo’s division opponents will be navigating their way through some of their own offseason challenges.

Veteran departures for the Dolphins
The Dolphins have already begun the process of cutting veterans whose cap figures did not match their performance or time on the field. LT Branden Albert will be cut or traded. DE Mario Williams and DL Earl Mitchell were both clipped Thursday. TE Jordan Cameron, who was plagued by concussions is another likely candidate.

Former draft choice DE Dion Jordan is an almost certain cap cut with substance abuse keeping him off the field. LB Koa Misi may also be shown the door.

Miami would be wise to invest in free agent to be DE Andre Branch, knowing that Pro Bowl DE Cameron Wake can’t be expected to have many more renaissance seasons like he did in 2016.

It’s expected that the Dolphins will pick up the option on Ryan Tannehill’s contract after his strong second half of the season prior to his ACL knee injury, despite the fact that his $20.3M cap hit will sting a bit.

The Dolphins have a big decision to make on free agent WR Kenny Stills. After a disappointing 2015, Stills led all Dolphins receivers with eight touchdowns. Do they give Stills a long term deal or do they let him walk so younger wideouts on the roster like Devante Parker and Leonte Caroo can make a bigger impact? Top receiver Jarvis Landry is entering the final year of his rookie deal.

If there’s one area where Miami needs upgrades in terms of talent it’s at linebacker.

Free agents Donald Butler, Jelani Jenkins and Spencer Paysinger are not expected back. Kiko Alonso is a restricted free agent and though productive, battled through injuries most of the season. He’s expected back, but the Dolphins will be looking to improve the playmaking ability at linebacker in free agency.

Miami could be targeting some of the same players the Bills could have an interest in knowing they’ll need a weak side linebacker much like Buffalo.

Cornerback, linebacker, offensive line, safety and tight end could all be seen as need positions come draft time in late April.


Double trouble at cornerback and tight end for Pats
While it’s widely expected that the Patriots will franchise LB Dont’a Hightower, what to do with TE Martellus Bennett is a bit more complicated. There’s incentive to sign Bennett long term knowing Rob Gronkowski’s injury history, but a big contract could complicate the team’s standing with Gronk, who will make just $4.25M in 2017. A short term agreement is more likely.

There are also some difficult decisions to be made at receiver and cornerback. The Patriots will be a healthy $60-plus million under the cap, but they don’t like overinvesting in one position. Do they pony up big money for free agent CB Logan Ryan after one of the best seasons of his career, or is restricted free agent CB Malcolm Butler the man who gets paid?

Does New England clip Danny Amendola ($7.7M cap figure) to invest in the size and playmaking ability of late season pickup and free agent Michael Floyd?

Finally do they trade Jimmy Garoppolo in an effort to fill some of the holes on their roster to go for a sixth Super Bowl title in 2017, or hold onto him to plan for the future when Tom Brady’s body finally betrays him?

Veteran RB LeGarrette Blount, DL Alan Branch and DE Chris Long are also free agents. OT Sebastian Vollmer is not expected back as his body is breaking down at age 32.

Their most pressing positional needs appear to be defensive line along with running back and defensive back depending on free agent departures.


Jets to hit the reset button
With a roster littered with overpaid veterans and no viable ‘win now’ plan at quarterback it’s time for the Jets to start over. That means cutting big cap hit veterans like LT Ryan Clady, WR Brandon Marshall and CB Darrelle Revis. C Nick Mangold is another possible cap casualty.

Neither QB Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Geno Smith are expected back. An affordable bridge option in free agency at quarterback would be a competent move while New York sees what they truly have in Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenburg.

Troubled DL Sheldon Richardson is still a talent and potential trade commodity that could yield a second-round pick in return or perhaps a pair of threes despite his league-imposed suspensions the past two seasons.

New York needs an influx of youth on the offensive line and in the secondary.