We’ve almost seen each of the free agents find new homes, and mostly figured out where each team is at going into the NFL Draft. We’ve got a roundup for each division after almost two full weeks (and most of the big signings in the books), and we’ll be putting them out over the next week or so. According to the NFL’s “Top 101 Free Agents” chart, 83% have found new homes, so we’ve got a solid look at who is going where.
Next up, we’ve got the AFC East. Another Super Bowl for the Patriots means it’s time to move to the next one, and the rest of the division looks to climb up to give them some sort of challenge.
New England Patriots
Starting with what’s gone, the Patriots were never going to keep Kyle Long or Michael Floyd. But seeing LaGarrette Blount remain untouched is surprising. They also lost Bennett, but more on that in a second. They also couldn’t reasonably keep Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, so that wasn’t surprising. But losing Sheard will hurt the line.
However, we’re talking about the Patriots, so of course they didn’t get worse. They traded for Dwayne Allen early in free agency to replace Bennett, which I love, and then took a flyer on Kony Ealy for nothing in Carolina, and then brought in one of the most promising receivers in the league in Brandin Cooks. Oh, and they signed Stephon Gillmore to pair with Butler.
It’s still to be seen what they do with Malcolm Butler, but it looks like he’s staying put. They Patriots got even better in free agency, and kept Jimmy G in the process.
The Bills are a little puzzling this free agency, but they made their biggest move by saying Tyrod Taylor will remain their starter. That’s big for their future and the right move. Beyond that, they lost Stephon Gillmore, and that hurts an already receding defense. Most of their receiving group is gone, and they were one of the biggest in the league.
They upgraded their kicker by bringing in Steven Hauschka, which is big in the NFL now. And Micah Hyde will help their back end at safety, where they needed anyone to help out. They also brought in two All-Pro level fullbacks in Mike Tolbert and Patrick DiMarco, which is fifty different kinds of confusing, unless they decide to use Tolbert as a running back, which makes things even more confusing.
Aside from that, among deals that haven’t gotten done yet: Zach Brown still being a free agent confuses me, as I thought the Bills saw him as an important piece. And ESPN reporting he won’t be brought back.
The Dolphins have been fairly quite in free agency, which is fine for a team that considers itself fairly young and growing. Lawrence Timmons is a fine linebacker, but that contract is a little scary for a guy who is nearing the twilight of his career. Same for Rashad Jones, who is getting more guaranteed money than most safeties in the league for a guy that just isn’t that great.
Andre Branch’s money I don’t mind as much, and Kenny Stills got a pay raise, it seems, based more on what he could do in the offense. Ultimately, it was a big commitment in cap for some players that may not move the needle much.
While I don’t think it’s a big deal, as most free agency moves don’t make or break you, the Dolphins didn’t add any value to the roster. But they still have a chance: ESPN thinks they may be the final suitor for Zach Brown, and that would be a nice upgrade in the linebacker group.
New York Jets
It’s not a free agency without talking about the Jets doing some odd things. They needed to hit reset, and have for the most part. Gone is Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall, effectively rewriting the offense. But right now, they’re starting QB would be Josh McCown. And, of course, they are talking to Jay Cutler.
Morris Claiborne is a nice addition, but I don’t think the defense is fully the issue. Still, getting one side of the ball better is never a bad thing.
But those losses on offense do concern me, even for an offense that was bad. Ryan Clady and Nick Mangold are gone, and while they were older, that’s some big production gone from the O-Line in a very week draft for linemen. There’s just not a lot of punch on this roster, which is why it makes sense to bring in Cutler. Jets gonna Jets. Still, kudos for hitting the reset button, even if it’s deflating.