With the first heady rush of free agency over and done with it is the perfect time to take a look at home the NFL teams are now shaping up starting with the AFC East where the Dolphins, Bills and Jets are seeking to catch up on the reigning Superbowl champions the New England Patriots.
New England Patriots
Successful teams don't need to build in free agency. They don't need to go chasing glory by overpaying players. As one of the modern day NFL's premier franchises then it is no surprise to see that the Patriots didn't do much in free agency.
Belicheck had a choice to make in the secondary either keeping either cornerback Darelle Revis or safety Devin McCourty. Given the leadership McCourty brings to locker room no one should be shocked that Belicheck plumped for McCourty over Revis. New England also lost their other starting secondary Brandon Browner a move that might gives some hints into the Patriots opaque drafting priorities.
Outisde of the secondary the other big news from New England was the ditching of linchpin defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. With other teams you might question these sort of decisions but history has shown time and again that Belicheck consistently sells high on his players. Wilfork isn't a spent force but you can't criticize the decision to get rid of him.
Grade : A
New York Jets
The business the Jets did in free agency is simultaneously both good sense and frustrating. The big problem the Jets defense had last season was the poverty of talent in the secondary and more specifically at cornerback. Not even Rex Ryan could polish up that piece of excrement. Bringing back Revis Island and Antonio Cromartie therefore is a huge plus for the Jets. It solves the problem at cornerback. Combine those two moves with the acquisition of ex-Charger safety Marcus Gilchrist and it is pretty much guaranteed that the Jets defense will be a top ten unit in 2015.
On the other hand though, this all should have been two seasons ago. Revis is back where he belongs and he got the money he wanted. For Jets fans it must be exasperating that they wasted two years before giving him the money he wanted.
Even more encouraging is the potential signs of life on offense. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall should be a big boost for the Jets offense. In combination with Decker the Jets wide receiver unit now packs a legitimate punch. The problem however is that either Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick will be starting behind center come the autumn. This wasn't a problem that was fixable in this year's free agency but there is no disguising that the situation at QB is a huge handbrake on the Jets' ambitions.
Grade : B+
The Sammy Watkins trade means that the Bills don't have a first round pick with which to try to get a franchise quarterback this season. With that in mind the decision to trade for stud running back LeSean McCoy makes a lot of sense. McCoy had a bit of a down year last season but it was worth grabbing the running back as the Bills defense has proven that it can survive without Alonso at inside linebacker.
Similarly, Matt Cassell may not set pulses racing as a quarterback but you'd take him over EJ Manuel.
After those two acquisitions the moves the Bills have made start to look a bit shaky. Whilst Percy Harvin has talent it shines intermittently at best and he struggles to play nicely with others. Bringing in Harvin may be one thing but bringing in tight end Charles Clay on a deal that pays him more in guaranteed cash than Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski is idiotic. It is the sort of deal that haunts franchises for seasons to come.
Grade : C+
There really is a lot to like about the moves that are being made in Miami. Lets start with the obvious. The signing of Ndamukong 'the one man wrecking crew' Suh. This move may have taken all the thinking of adding together one and one but it is still a great move for the Dolphins.
Without the presence of Suh the Dolphin defensive line was still fearsome. Put in Suh alongside Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon and suddenly the Dolphins will be rivaling the Bills front four for pass rush ability.
The good work doesn't stop there though. In order to pay for Suh the Dolphins have balanced the books by cutting some high priced flops. Wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson won't be missed.
An even better move is to trade away Mike Wallace. Tannehill's deep ball is lacking to say this least so it doesn't make sense to keep around a receiver who is essentially a deep threat and nothing else. Plus his antics last season were beyond the pale.
Miami have also made an interesting move a tight end. Ex-Dolphin Clay was allowed to go the Bills on a contract that seems him paid more in 2015 than Gronkowski or Graham. Needless to say Clay is not worth that. To replace Clay Miami have brought in Jordan Cameron on a two year deal. Cameron's concussion issues are concerning but if he stays on the field Cameron is a clear upgrade.
Overall there is much to like about the Dolphins efforts in free agency.
Grade : A
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