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How the landscape of the AFC East has changed in the first week of free agency

Stefon Diggs (top left), Pats S Devin McCourty (top right), former Jets CB Trumaine Johnson (bottom left), former Dolphins S Reshad Jones (bottom right).
Stefon Diggs (top left), Pats S Devin McCourty (top right), former Jets CB Trumaine Johnson (bottom left), former Dolphins S Reshad Jones (bottom right).

Only a week into NFL free agency the landscape in the AFC East has changed dramatically. The player movement involving names like Tom Brady, Stefon Diggs, Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy have led to a significant shift of talent in the division.

Below we take a look at the biggest transaction involving each club, where they've helped themselves and what positional needs still must be addressed.


Biggest transaction: Trade to acquire Stefon Diggs

The Bills didn't just add a quality receiver, they added an elite one. Diggs is a top-five wideout in the league and immediately makes Buffalo's receiving corps the best in the division. His big-play ability and overall production should help to vault the Bills passing game into the top half of the league in 2020.

Moves that helped: DE Mario Addison, DT Vernon Butler, DT Quinton Jefferson, LB AJ Klein, LB Tyler Matakevich, G Quinton Spain

Buffalo added talent to its front seven with Addison and Klein who walk in the door knowing the defensive system, having played in it under head coach Sean McDermott in Carolina.

Matakevich is the most productive special teams tackler in football over the last four years.

Re-signing Quinton Spain means all five starters on the offensive line from last season are back on the roster.

Subtractions: CB Kevin Johnson (Browns), DE Shaq Lawson (Dolphins), DT Jordan Phillips (Cardinals), LB Lorenzo Alexander (retirement)

The Bills sounded resigned to losing Lawson and Phillips on the free agent market. It hurts a bit to know Buffalo will have to face Lawson twice a year as a member of the Dolphins. But his loss was mitigated by the signing of Mario Addison.

But Buffalo got a pair of interior defenders on board in Butler and Jefferson, who together bring run-stuffing ability and can push the pocket inside.

Still to be addressed: Offensive line, receiver, defensive end, cornerback

By re-signing Quinton Spain it's reasonable to think Buffalo will now look to add other offensive linemen at some point in the offseason.

Though Stefon Diggs fills a gigantic hole at receiver, the position group still lacks dominant size and the Bills may need to turn to the draft to find it.

Defensive tackle and cornerback are areas where numbers are still needed and general manager Brandon Beane said himself he'll always be looking for pass-rushing talent.

Outlook: Buffalo's aggressive addition of Diggs via trade should propel Buffalo's passing game forward in a big way. With some bargain adds in free agency and astute drafting the Bills should be in position to contend for the division title.


Biggest transaction: Signing of CB Byron Jones

The Dolphins not only made a big splash in addressing their secondary, they reset the market at cornerback signing Jones to a landmark $82.5 million deal that will average $16.5 million per season.

Moves that helped: RB Jordan Howard, DE Shaq Lawson, LB Elandon Roberts, LB Kyle Van Noy

The Dolphins spent big to help improve a defense that finished 30th in the league last year. Roberts and Van Noy already know the system from playing under Miami head coach Brian Flores in New England and Jones will team with fellow starting CB Xavien Howard to give the Dolphins a corner tandem that's close to what New England has in Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty.

Subtractions: S Reshad Jones

The release of the two-time Pro Bowl safety will be felt from a leadership and performance standpoint.

Still to be addressed: Offensive line, quarterback, safety

The Dolphins still have a long list of positions to address as they work to rebuild their roster. With the release of Jones, Miami needs safety help. They still need to upgrade their linebacker position and offensive line though they did sign C Ted Karras away from the Patriots. Perhaps most important they need to land a franchise quarterback, which most expect will happen in round one of the NFL Draft.

Outlook: On paper the Dolphins certainly upgraded their talent level on defense, but there is still a good deal of work to do on that side of the ball and at the most important position on offense, quarterback. The Dolphins play hard for coach Brian Flores, but they're still in the construction stages of their development.


Biggest transaction: Tom Brady's departure 

The Brady exit from New England has put Patriots fans in a state of mourning. Right now the Pats have a pair of quarterbacks on the roster in journeyman Cody Kessler and Jarrett Stidham, the team's fourth-round pick a year ago.

Moves that helped: G Joe Thuney, S Devin McCourty

New England franchised its most consistent offensive lineman in Thuney and kept their elite secondary intact by re-signing S Devin McCourty. They also added Chargers free agent S Adrian Phillips for depth.

Subtractions: QB Tom Brady, LB Jamie Collins, DB Duron Harmon, C Ted Karras, LB Elandon Roberts, DT Danny Shelton, LB Kyle Van Noy, TE Ben Watson (retirement)

Still to be addressed: Tight end, linebacker, offensive line, receiver

Losing Jamie Collins (Detroit), Elandon Roberts (Miami) and Kyle Van Noy (Miami) leaves the Patriots without three of their four starting linebackers from last year's top ranked defense. Their offensive line and the wide receiver positions could use some reinforcements after many of their recent acquisitions have underachieved or been unable to stay healthy.

Outlook: The Patriots are entering a transitional phase with Tom Brady now in Tampa Bay. The question is can Bill Belichick find a way to keep New England a competitive side that wins more games than it loses in 2020, knowing they're playing a much higher strength of schedule than they did a year ago.


Biggest transaction: Signing of G Greg Van Roten

Moves that helped: G Alex Lewis, G Connor McGovern, CB Brian Poole

The Jets have taken a cautious approach to free agency under new GM Joe Douglas, but they did sign one of the best free agent guards in Greg Van Roten and pivot men in McGovern. New York is hoping they can help anchor a revamped Jets offensive line that simply needs to protect Sam Darnold more effectively and block better for Le'Veon Bell. Slot corner Brian Poole was their most consistent cover player last season.

Subtractions: CB Maurice Canady, G Tom Compton, CB Trumaine Johnson, OT Brandon Shell

For a team that needs help on the offensive line and at cornerback it wasn't surprising to see the Jets allow some of their players on the roster at those positions sign elsewhere.

Still to be addressed: Cornerback, linebacker, offensive line

With the release of Trumaine Johnson and Maurice Canady signing with Dallas, there is a crying need at cornerback for the Jets. Linebacker is another position that is desperate for reinforcements, especially with New York expected to let OLB Jordan Jenkins walk despite a career-best season. The offensive line could use a couple of more bodies to complete the reconstruction project up front.

Outlook: New York was unable to land some of the prized free agent offensive linemen when the market first opened. GM Joe Douglas rebounded well late in the first week of free agency, but may have to put more stock in their seven draft choices to fill some of their other holes. New York will have to make the most of their top four picks, which all sit in the top 80 selections to help fill the numerous openings that remain.

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