NFL Free Agency: AFC East Update 1


Buffalo Bills

Key additions:

RB LeSean McCoy (via trade), DE Jerry Hughes (re-signed), FB Jerome Felton, QB Tyrod Taylor

Key losses:

LB Kiko Alonso (via trade), SS Da’Norris Searcy, TE Lee Smith
——

For the Bills thus far in the offseason, their most important acquisition came via a trade with the Eagles, as they sent LB Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia in exchange for RB LeSean McCoy. With running back C.J. Spiller hitting the free agent market, Buffalo needed to find a replacement, and in McCoy, they acquire a reliable back who has rushed for over 1,000 yards in four of his six NFL seasons. The 26 year-old McCoy took 312 carries for 1,319 yards and five touchdowns in 2014, and will be an upgrade for the Bills, over Spiller.

Beyond the addition of McCoy, the Bills also re-signed defensive end Jerry Hughes, who provided 53 tackles, 10 sacks, and three forced fumbles in 2014. Hughes agreed to a 5-year, $45 million deal to remain in Buffalo.

From the free agent market, the Bills have signed fullback Jerome Felton and quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Felton spent last season with the Vikings. In five NFL seasons, he has amassed 163 yards rushing on 46 carries. He will likely be asked to provide blocking for McCoy and running back Fred Jackson. Taylor was the Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback in 2014, and joins a crowded group in Buffalo with E.J. Manuel, and Matt Cassel, who the Bills acquired via trade from the Vikings.

The addition of McCoy greatly upgrades the Bills running game, and Cassel can be expected to compete with Manuel for the starting quarterback job. The Bills did lose safety Da’Norris Searcy, who signed with the Tennessee Titans, after four seasons in Buffalo. He tallied 65 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions last season, and leaves a sizable void in the Buffalo secondary.

——

Miami Dolphins

Key additions:

DT Ndamukong Suh, CB Brice McCain, TE Jordan Cameron

Key losses:

WR Brian Hartline, DT Jared Odrick, WR Brandon Gibson
——

And the winner of the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes- the Miami Dolphins. The top-rated free agent on the market, Suh joins the Dolphins on a massive 6-year, $114 million deal, making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, surpassing the 6-year, $100 million extension Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt signed last season. The 28 year-old Suh has had some on-the-field issues over the course of his career, including multiple fines for illegal hits on opposing quarterbacks, and two stomping incidences, but his talent is undeniable. Suh has recorded at least five sacks in four of his first five NFL seasons. A powerful run-stopper who also uses his size, speed, and agility to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Suh collected 53 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 2014 and will bolster a Dolphins defensive line that already includes four-time Pro-Bowler Cameron Wake, Earl Mitchell, and Olivier Vernon.

Another new face on the Dolphins defense next season will be cornerback Brice McCain, coming to Miami on a free agent deal after one year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. McCain agreed to a 2-year, $5.5 million contract with the Dolphins. He recorded 25 tackles and a career-high three interceptions last season. With the retirement of veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan, McCain has a chance to step in and win a starting job across from Brent Grimes in the Miami secondary.

The Dolphins, who placed the transition tag on free agent tight end Charles Clay, signed free agent tight end Jordan Cameron Thursday night. Cameron, 26, emerged as a major offensive threat for the Cleveland Browns in 2013, pulling down 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He missed six games in 2010, due to a shoulder injury, but has proven to be a highly athletic offensive threat with size and good hands. Whether Clay leaves Miami or stays, Cameron likely will step directly into the starting tight end job for the Dolphins, giving quarterback Ryan Tannehill another weapon to go along with wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Mike Wallace.

The defensive line may have grown stronger with the addition of Suh, but loses a key member with the departure of defensive tackle Jared Odrick. Odrick, who appeared in all 64 of the Dolphins games over the past four seasons, saw his statistics drop last season, recording 29 tackles and a career-low of just one sack. Even with the statistical drop-off, Odrick still played an important role on the Dolphins defensive line, and will look to improve on this past season, next year with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Dolphins offense also took a hit already this offseason with two wide receivers departing- Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. Hartline saw a dip in production last season with the emergence of rookie Jarvis Landry, who became Ryan Tannehill’s favorite target, but Hartline still hauled in 39 receptions for 474 yards and two touchdowns. Hartline has the ability to pull in 70+ catches, as he showcased in 2012 and 2013, and will aim to record his third 1,000 yard receiving season in 2015 as a member of the Cleveland Browns.

Gibson, a smaller part of the Dolphins offense, had 29 catches in 2014 for 295 yards and one touchdown. He leaves Miami to join the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots on a one-year deal. With their departures, Tannehill will simply have to make due with the newly acquired Cameron, along with Landry and Wallace.

——

New England Patriots

Key additions:

FS Devin McCourty (re-signed), WR Brandon Gibson, OLB Jabaal Sheard

Key losses:

CB Darrelle Revis, CB Brandon Browner, RB Shane Vereen
——

In the first three days of free agency, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have watched their secondary be dismantled, as cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner were signed away, as was running back Shane Vereen. The Patriots did, prior to the beginning of the free agency signing period, lock down safety Devin McCourty, giving him a 5-year, $47.5 million deal. Thus far, there have been no major additions to offset the losses of Revis and Browner, but Patriots GM and head coach Bill Belichick always has some plan up his sleeve that can be expected to come to fruition soon enough.

The re-signing of McCourty will keep the 27 year-old safety in New England for another five years, and stabilizes that aspect of the secondary. McCourty recorded 68 tackles, one forced fumble, and two interceptions last season, while playing strong pass defense accompanied by Revis, Browner, and Kyle Arrington, and fellow safety Patrick Chung. The Patriots secondary in 2014 looked to be the team’s strongest unit in years, but will likely see a drop-off in ability with the departures of Browner and Revis. Players like Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, and Arrington will have to step up to fill the voids and maintain the strong pass coverage the team relied on this past season in their run to the Super Bowl.

Outside of re-signing McCourty, the most impactful signing for the Patriots thus far in the offseason is that of outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard. Sheard comes to New England from the Cleveland Browns, for who he started five games and appeared in all 16 games in 2014. He totaled 44 tackles and two sacks, and will look to earn a spot amidst the Patriots crowded linebacker corps. The 25 year-old has a penchant for getting to the quarterback, tallying 23 sacks in his first four years in the league, and will certainly help the Patriots pass rush.

The Patriots signed a few minor additions in wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Kevin Dorsey, and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa. Gibson and Dorsey could provide the Patriots with some offensive value, at limited cost, so they could turn out to be low-risk, high-reward signings. Chekwa will likely make his impact, as he did in Oakland, on special teams.

How the losses of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner will impact the Patriots defense cannot truly be seen until the players are back in action, during the preseason. What Revis brought to the table was position-defining defense. He was, and still is, one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and the New York Jets decided to pay him as such, bringing him back to New York on a five-year deal. But, the Patriots did get what they wanted from Revis in his one year with the team- a Super Bowl. He provided excellent coverage defense in the secondary, covering the top receiver for all opponents.

Browner, after missing the first seven games of the regular season due to suspension, brought a physicality to the Patriots secondary that had been lacking in the past few years, and his presence could strike fear into an opposing receiver. As a tandem, Revis and Browner made the Patriots secondary one of the most talented in the league, and certainly were an upgrade over the results previous secondaries had produced for the Patriots. Their departures leave holes in the New England defense- it will be up to them to fill them, and try not to lose a step moving forward.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots lose running back Shane Vereen, an important weapon in the passing game for quarterback Tom Brady. With running back Stevan Ridley possibly on his way out of New England as well, the Patriots will turn to in-house names such as LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray to carry the load, or seek out help on the free agent market. A good name to replace Vereen- Reggie Bush. Bush provides a similar vertical threat out of the backfield as Vereen did, and the Patriots may be able to sign him on short money. What the Patriots lose in Vereen is an asset on the ground and through the air, but they do have options to replace him, and should be able to minimize the impact of him leaving.

——

New York Jets

Key additions:

CB Darrelle Revis, CB Antonio Cromartie, G James Carpenter

Key losses:

None
——

Apparently all it took was a regime change in New York for the Jets to start heading in the right direction. With new general manager Mike Maccagnan at the helm, the Jets have jumped headfirst into free agency, snatching up former Jet and the second-ranked free agent on the market, cornerback Darrelle Revis. Better yet, the Jets took Revis away from their AFC East division rival, the New England Patriots, improving their defense, and weakening the Patriots secondary just enough.

The Jets signed Revis to a 5-year, $70 million contract, a deal worthy of a player of his caliber. With the Super Bowl winning Patriots, Revis made 47 tackles, forced one fumble, and reeled in two interceptions. But Revis’s impact goes beyond just the simple statistics. He provides nearly unparalleled pass coverage, lined up against an opponent’s top wideouts, and blanketing them for an entire game. For the Jets, getting him back will provide a massive upgrade to their secondary which struggled at times last season.

And what would a Revis reunion in New York be without former teammate and fellow cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who also signed with the Jets. In Arizona last season, Cromartie had 48 tackles and three interceptions. With Revis and Cromartie previously, the Jets had a very solid secondary group; now with the duo back together, the Jets can expect much improved play on the back-end of their defense, which should spark the entire defense to step their game up.

Also bolstering their offense, the Jets landed free agent guard James Carpenter. Carpenter comes over to New York from Seattle on a four-year deal. A member of the 2013 Super Bowl winning Seahawks, Carpenter joins a Jets offensive line that will see the return of veteran guard Willie Colon, who re-signed with the team. Carpenter provided good blocking for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and now will wait to find out who he will be blocking for this coming season- Ryan Fitzpatrick, or possibly draft prospect Marcus Mariota. In any case, Carpenter will strengthen the Jets run-blocking and pass-blocking schemes, and allow time for whoever it is under center. He also provides versatility on the line, having played both guard and tackle with Seattle.


One thought on “NFL Free Agency: AFC East Update

  • The Price Is Wrong, Bob!

    Just a suggestion, key additions might be a better way of showing who teams have picked up than key signings with all of the trades that have happened of late.

Comments are closed.