Free agency report card: AFC East

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Get your schoolbags ready boys and girls because were about to go back to school. It’s that time of the off season where we “knowledgeable” and mighty staff writers at dish grades on teams’ offseasons to date.

I will examine my favorite NFL division, the not-so-balanced AFC East.

New England Patriots (13-3, AFC Champion)

Most offseasons New England stays away from making a big splash, and addresses their needs through the draft. However, after another Super Bowl loss it was clear to Bill Belichick and clan that this team needs another playmaker outside.

Josh McDaniels puts money in Brandon Lloyd’s wallet yet again, as the talented and under the radar receiver once again follows the offensive coordinator that rebuilt his career. Lloyd is a perfect fit for the Pats and doesn’t come with the typical diva attitude of most skilled WR’s.

The Patriots also made 4 low key signings which should prove to be interesting this year. Robert Gallery, Will Allen, and Anthony Gonzalez are three players who the Pats have taken a flyer on and while the upside might be there, there is low risk attached to these players.

Steve Gregory is another piece which will help shore up the Pats’ secondary. The loss of the law firm shouldn’t hurt the Pats too much as they will roll with their two sophomore running backs drafted last year, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

That being said, the Patriots still have a major hole that will be needed to fill in the draft. They need to find an elite pass rusher, particularly after losing Mark Anderson. While there is a lot of depth among edge rushers, it will be interesting to see if the Patriots are tempted to trade up in the first round to land a premier talent like Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram.

New signings:


Free agents lost:

FS Will Allen
DB Marquis Cole
DE Jonathan Fanene
TE Daniel Fells
FB Tony Fiametta
G Robert Gallery
WR Anthony Gonzalez
SS Steve Gregory
DT Marcus Harrison
FB Spencer Larson
WR Brandon Lloyd
DE Scott Trevor
FS Matthew Slater
WR Donte Stallworth 

WR Deion Branch
C Dan Connolly
QB Brian Hoyer
FS Matthew Slater
OLB Tracy White 

DE Mark Anderson
RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis

Potential breakout: Brandon Lloyd


New York Jets (8-8)

Well, the circus is back in town as the Jets traded for Tim Tebow. Since I am not Tebow (the messiah), I cannot fully predict how he will affect this team on and off the field. But in the off-season where the Jets whiffed on Peyton and tried to make it up to Sanchez with a fat contract, I don’t think Marky Mark’s confidence can be too high right now.

The Jets also signed the man with the biggest biceps in the league in Laron Landry, who if healthy should fit in perfectly with Rex Ryan’s defense.

That being said the issue with this team has always been on the offensive side of the ball. The Jets failed to find a solid WR to line up opposite Santonio Holmes, and didn’t really do enough for me to help them get over the hump.

The Jets still have a lot of work to do in the draft, including finding a pass rusher.  

New signings:


Free agents lost:

SS Laron Landry
WR Chaz Schillens
QB Drew Stanton
QB Tim Tebow (via trade) 

K Nick Folk
LB Bryan Thomas
QB Mark Sanchez (extended) 

DB Marquis Cole
SS Brodney Pool
LB Jamaal Westerman 

Potential breakout: Tim Tebow 


Miami Dolphins (6-10)

Oy Veh.

The Dolphins fail yet again to find their franchise quarterback, extending their streak of QB futility to fourteen years. The Dolphins went into free agency with a need at QB, pass rusher and OL, and possibly a deep receiver threat. The Dolphins now almost done with free agency are left with needs at QB, WR1, WR2, OL and pass rusher. For those counting at home, yes, they now have more needs than when they started.

I don’t know what else could have gone wrong this off season, as the Dolphins fan base feels used and abused. Stephen Ross and Jeff Ireland have now spent back to back off seasons frustrating their fans.

While Richard Marshall and Jamal Westerman are nice players, it certainly wasn’t the splash Dolphins fans had in mind. And David Garrard is much more of a question than answer at quarterback.

If Ryan Tannehill or Brandon Weeden aren’t in Aqua and Teal, I think it would shock a lot of people. The problem is they still need a WR who can help out the young rookie QB, and couple of other needs.

New signings:


Free agents lost:

QB David Garrard
OT Artis Hicks
CB Richard Marshall
LB Jamaal Westerman 

DE Ryan Baker
DT Philip Merling
OT Lydon Murtha
RB Steve Slaton
NT Paul Soliai 

FS Will Allen
QB Chad Henne
FB Lex Hilliard
DT Kendall Langford
WR Brandon Marshall (via trade) 

Potential breakout: nobody


Buffalo Bills (6-10)

The Buffalo Bills of all teams made a huge splash this off-season, bringing in the best defensive free agent available. After answering the burning question facing the franchise by signing Stevie Johnson long term, the Bills managed to create what might be the best defensive line in football. The Bills Mafia has full reason to be excited and ready to go for the 2012/2013 season.

Opposing QB’s will certainly be afraid when the Bills come to town and that’s something you haven’t heard since the Bruce Smith days. In a league where rushing the QB is valued as much as anything, the Bills have done a great job at creating a defensive line full of elite rushers.

That being said, while it is exciting that Stevie Johnson is back in Buffalo, there are still plenty of questions regarding this team’s offensive ability. The Bills should primarily focus on the offensive side of the ball this draft. If they are able to add a few key pieces, they could potentially become the second best team in this division.

New signings:


Free agents lost:

DE/OLB Mario Williams
DE Mark Anderson

RB Tashard Choice
WR Derek Hagan
WR Stevie Johnson


Potential breakout: Mario Williams