How these free agency moves have changed the AFC East landscape

DL Michael Bennett (top left) joined New England via trade. RB Le'Veon Bell (top right) was signed by the NY Jets. One-time Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (bottom left) signed with Miami. WR Cole Beasley (bottom right) joined Buffalo's wide receiver group.
DL Michael Bennett (top left) joined New England via trade. RB Le'Veon Bell (top right) was signed by the NY Jets. One-time Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (bottom left) signed with Miami. WR Cole Beasley (bottom right) joined Buffalo's wide receiver group.

Here’s a breakdown on all the moves made by the four teams in the AFC East and what it all might mean for the 2019 NFL season.

BUFFALO BILLS

What’s new:

  • Key additions: C/G Spencer Long, C Mitch Morse, T Ty Nsekhe, WR John Brown, WR Cole Beasley, TE Tyler Kroft, RB Frank Gore, CB Kevin Johnson, T LaAdrian Waddle
  • Key departures: DT Kyle Williams, G John Miller, TE Charles Clay

What’s changed the most since 2018:

Buffalo had the 30th ranked offense in the NFL last season and averaged under 300 total yards per game. Just two weeks into the start of a new NFL calendar year it’s clear things will be different after head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have completely overhauled the offense.

The Bills have already signed five new offensive linemen, three wide receivers, a couple of tight ends and a running back. The unit that has seen the most change has been the offensive line. Center Mitch Morse from Kansas City has proven to be a stud when healthy and the team has added depth with the signings of the versatile Spencer Long, tackle and physical freak of nature Ty Nsekhe, former Oakland guard Jon Feliciano and former New England Patriots lineman LaAdrian Waddle.

NFL analyst overview:

“The Bills have laid a plan. When I evaluate what teams do in free agency, it’s not about who added the most talent, who spent the most money, who signed the most players, but whose vision was executed. … The Bills have done an awesome job of evaluating players who will be core pieces to the roster going forward and spending commiserate to their value. … I just have a lot of respect for the way they are going about their business.”

What they’re saying about the draft:

MMQB’s Conor Orr predicts the Bills will address the defensive line with the No. 9 pick overall

No. 9: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
... Oliver gives Sean McDermott a lot of moving parts up front. His 84 pressures over three seasons (a number that got better each year) is pretty significant. He averaged almost two tackles for loss and four pressures per game during his final year in Houston. I suppose receiver works here too, though D.K. Metcalf would work best with a seasoned quarterback in my opinion.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

What’s new:

  • Key additions: DE Michael Bennett
  • Key departures: LT Trent Brown, DE Trey Flowers, DT Malcom Brown, TE Dwayne Allen, WR Cordarrelle Patterson

What’s changed the most since 2018:

The Super Bowl champs are going to have some holes to fill this season whether it be in the trenches or in the coaching staff. The Patriots lost starting left tackle Trent Brown and top defensive end Trey Flowers to free agency and Bill Belichick will have some new faces in his coaching staff with the departure of defensive coordinator Brian Flores to Miami and defensive line coach Brendan Daly to the Chiefs.

The Patriots have yet to formally announced a formal replacement at defensive coordinator but media reports have linked Greg Schiano to the position.

NFL analyst overview:

The Patriots will be the AFC favorites as long as they have Tom Brady. Period. He and Bill Belichick are unlike any pair the football world has ever seen. Belichick is a mastermind at building championship teams (even if his moves aren't splashy), and he seems to lose great players every season, especially in the offseasons following a Super Bowl win. From the Super Bowl LIII team, the Patriots lost Trey Flowers(signing with Detroit) and Trent Brown (signing with Oakland), yet Belichick always fills the voids. So until the NFL season has a different ending, the Pats continue to be the favorite.

What they’re saying about the draft:

NESN’s Doug Kyed predicts New England will make the following pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

First round, 32nd overall: DL Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame

One of the Patriots’ biggest needs is on their defensive line, and Tillery, at 6-foot-6, 295 pounds, has the versatility to move around the front seven. He could essentially fill multiple needs with one draft pick.

NEW YORK JETS

What’s new:

  • Key additions: ILB C.J. Mosley, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Jamison Crowder, G Kelechi Osemele
  • Key departures: G James Carpenter, CB Buster Skrine, K Jason Myers, WR Andre Roberts, C/G Spencer Long

What’s changed the most since 2018:

The Jets found themselves in an almost identical situation as the Bills. A young quarterback about to enter his second year in the NFL, tons of cap space, an early draft pick and they’re coming off a disappointing 2018. Unlike the Bills, the Jets have brought in a completely different coaching staff and paid a premium for some of the top players in this year’s free agency class.

New York brought in Le’Veon Bell after he decided to sit out a year as he was unhappy with his contract situation in Pittsburgh. Bell has been a top running back in the league since he joined and should immediately be the Jets’ number one offensive player. Jamison Crowder signed a three-year deal and will join Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson as Darnold’s top targets in New York.

Defensively, the Jets added C.J. Mosley to their linebacker group. Mosley was a four-time pro bowler for the Ravens. Now, he will solidify the middle of a defense that gave up the 25th-most yards last season per game.

Adam Gase spent the last three years as the coach of Miami accumulating a 23-25 head coaching record. The Jets brought him in because they felt he was someone who could best help develop Darnold into the franchise quarterback they’ve been searching for since Joe Namath retired.

NFL analyst overview:

As the Jets entered the offseason, one thing was clear: They had to surround Darnold with more weapons. That's precisely what they did. The Jets signed receiver Jamison Crowder to be their new slot receiver. … When he is healthy, he is one of the more dynamic slot receivers in the league, getting open with ease and making plays after the catch. … And last, but not least is Le'Veon Bell. While his contract has been discussed ad nauseam, his fit in New York is perfect. Bell is arguably the best receiving running back in the game, with a career average of five receptions for 43 yards per game.

What they’re saying about the draft:

GM Mike Maccagnan says he is open to moving down in this year’s draft

“If we end up picking a player at No. 3, we’ll feel very good. But if there’s an opportunity for us to move back and acquire more picks, that’s definitely something we’d be potentially interested in if it’s the right kind of deal,” Maccagnan told reporters on the first day of the 2019 NFL Combine. “I definitely wouldn’t rule anything out at this point. Whatever we can do to help build the team to the vision we have for it — either one guy at (No.) 3 or multiple options if you move back with other opportunities — that would bode well for us.”

MIAMI DOLPHINS

What’s new:

  • Key additions: TE Dwayne Allen, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Key departures: QB Ryan Tannehill, RT Ja’Wuan James, DE Cameron Wake, WR Danny Amendola, RB Frank Gore

What’s changed the most since 2018:

The Miami Dolphins managed to finish second in the AFC East last season with a 7-9 record. After firing former head coach Adam Gase, the Dolphins snagged Patriots’ defensive coordinator Brian Flores as their new head coach.

The Dolphins lost more than they have been able to get in free agency so far. The loss of Ja’Wuan James along the offensive line leaves Zach Sterup as the starting right tackle. Sterup has appeared in 12 games over his first two seasons, starting two. They also lost running back Frank Gore. After trading long-time quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins added one-time Bills quarterback and career journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins might have to rely on a lot of “Fitzmagic” to get them back to the 7-9 mark this season. The Dolphins reportedly did work out Kyler Murray after his pro day in Norman, OK and could be a sign of a potential trade up in the NFL draft to get the Heisman winner.

Flores hired Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea as his offensive coordinator. He also hired former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell as his assistant head coach and former Green Bay linebackers coach Patrick Graham as his defensive coordinator as the Miami coaching staff gets a completely new look for next season.

NFL analyst overview:

The plan is well in place. We see signs of it in everything the Dolphins have done so far. They are reducing payroll and collecting draft picks. They are making smart, well-calculated decisions with a long-term view. Some are already projecting the Dolphins will have more than $120 million in salary cap space next year and, as of right now, they’ll have an extra draft pick in the fourth and seventh rounds. But you just know more picks are coming, probably at least one or two compensatory picks. That’s the mindset of General Manager Chris Grier. He is building this piece by piece, draft pick by draft pick, acquiring as many as possible to fortify this roster and further his options

What they’re saying about the draft:

No. 13 – Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

While the Miami Dolphins could still reach for a quarterback at No. 13, it seems unlikely after the team signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal in free agency. Fitzpatrick isn't the long-term answer for the Dolphins, but he can guide them through what is quite possibly going to be a tanking season.

It would make sense to go edge-rusher here—the Dolphins parted with Cameron Wake—but Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver is too talented of a prospect to pass up.

Related Content

Advertising